Ready to race?

In an endurance sport as tough as cycling, where you are always fighting to be stronger, leaner, and ultimately faster, you are always surfing the line between being as fit as possible and being ill. Unfortunately, even as a full-time athlete, it is nearly impossible to avoid sickness all the time, especially in the hardest periods of training or racing. It doesn’t seem to matter how much you focus on avoiding any human contact…

As I mentioned in the last blog, a couple of weeks ago I had a crash in a “warm-up” race at the end of the Leopard team training camp in Mallorca and ended up going to hospital to get everything checked over. All was fine with the x-rays but it seems that on this trip to the A&E, I picked up a chest infection that hit me a couple of days later, and in combination with the serious pain in the muscles in my back, I really was stuck in my bed for a while.. This led onto a classic cyclist’s period of illness with the usual questions. When can I get back on the bike? Am I just imagining that it’s now better? Is there anything at all I can do to make this waiting time any shorter? The list goes on.. But it seems I got the answers wrong as I have so many times with this sort of thing..

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Okay, let’s get the story straight… The training camp had gone really well and I was so relieved and excited to be in a strong position in the team after a difficult winter for me. On Sunday the 11th February, the team and I travelled to a local amateur race in Mallorca to get the legs and the mind into gear with the season approaching. Unfortunately, in this, the first race back after my big crash last August that put me off the bike for 3 months, some riders crashed in front of me on a descent and I went flying over the top before landing on my back and ribs. I couldn’t get back on the bike, so after the race was over, my manager and I proceeded to spend a good four hours waiting in hospital to find that luckily nothing was broken. I could walk away with some painkillers to cope with the mess that my muscles were in, and as it turns out, also with a chest infection that I had picked up. Based on my relative fitness at the time, and the fact that my muscles would take only a few days to be able to support me on the bike, I was told that I could go to the Tour of Antalya, a four-day stage race in Turkey, as an opportunity for early results and to get some “race kilometres” in the legs. Starting on the 22nd, travelling out there on the 20th, I could only be excited about this despite the state of my body at that time. So it was 11 days between the crash and the start of the race. No problem!

The illness hit me on the 13th in the form of a chest infection. 9 days to the start of the race. I did everything I could to get this gone as soon as possible, steam-inhalation, baths, expectorant, etc.. This seemed to have an effect and so, by the 17th I had convinced myself that I was ready to get back on the bike, 5 days before the start. The classic mistake of a cyclist. The opportunity was there in front of me and it seems that led me to panic a little bit I think. It’s so important to relax about these things. Another day or two off the bike doesn’t really make a difference, and that’s all it can take to get a bug completely out of the system.

The decision backfired. I made three days of training on the bike before a big travel day, flying to Frankfurt before waiting several hours with my teammates and then flying on down to the Southern coast of Turkey. I lost my voice on the flight, and this was the start of the second attack of the illness. 

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The race started fine with me but it wasn’t until the second day when I was hit properly by the symptoms. I can tell you that breathing issues on a tough mountains day is not ideal! I was involved in the early attacks, as planned, trying to get into the day’s breakaway, but as soon as we hit the climb of the day, a mountain of 1200m on rough roads, I was shot out the back. The situation got worse for me with dropping energy levels combined with the legs just not turning well. I rolled down the long descent and eventually crawled across the line. I ended up missing the time cut on this day by 2 minutes and since then have taken 6 days off the bike. I think I’ve learned my lesson! Relax! I’ll be back soon…

 

Putting the sad story aside, the performance of the team in this first race of the season was very promising.. On stage 1, I was fortunate enough to play a role in a full-on lead out for our newly-signed sprinter Konrad Geßner, taking control from around 10km out and dropping him off in a top position to take 3rd. Along with this, the guys worked together well in several instances, better than I saw it in all of last year. With the good atmosphere in camp we ended up taking a top 10 in GC along with other stage and GC results to be proud of.. Good signs indeed! I couldn’t be more excited to be back on the bike and racing with the fellas!

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Anyway, I need to find my voice now. I’m sure I left it around here somewhere…

1 thought on “Ready to race?”

  1. It can be hard to be objective when you want to race so badly. Take it easy, the season is only just starting so plenty of race days yet to come. Really well written piece, keep it up.

    Liked by 1 person

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