Taken from my Blog at http://www.cyclosport.org/
Despite July being an exceptionally good month for British Cycling in general, for me the sensations and emotions were at the other end of the scale. When your legs fail you, your head is very often not too far behind.
After disappointing myself at two of the big targets of my season, the self doubt, frustration and questioning duly followed. The mind wanders. Seeing endless pictures from friends recently graduated, reading blogs of people cycle touring across the world, receiving the news my girlfriend secured the job she’s spent the last 4 years working to get. It is easy to get down about what I’m missing out on at times like this; thinking about everything I want to achieve in life that doesn’t involve pinning race numbers on.
The Ol’ Poker Face (promise)
Needless to say it was a hard few weeks for me mentally, but as with every other time I hit a trough, I’ve managed to come out the other side again. I kept my feet on the ground, kept my head on my shoulders, and did what was needed to be done to get back on top of things. So after an unofficial mid-season break; a couple of weeks of riding easy, with no real physical or mental stress, I started to rebuild for the rest of the season. Long rides, mixed with motor pacing sessions and a limit of one race per week have seen my condition start to climb again.
Last Monday I did a local Kermis, which on a tough course I suffered around in, clocking an average heart rate of 173bpm over 3 hours. I missed the break, but won the bunch kick by a fair way to clinch 17th. It was a hard day, but I knew it was a turning point. That night me and my housemate Chris Jory drove over to Holland to stay with our housemate from last year, Matt Green, for a few day’s training. Matt is in Geleen, which is in the often forgotten Limburg region, the Dutch land that extends down into Belgium and along the border with Germany. It’s where the Amstel Gold Race is held, and also this year’s World Championships. It really is beautiful scenery, so combined with the immaculate tarmac surfaces and a constant gradient on the roads, also makes for superb riding territory. Admittedly, the fact it was 30 degrees for the entirety of our stay probably contributed a fair amount to the enjoyment factor, but nonetheless I’m sure I’ll be returning.
I arrived back in Flanders with kilometres in the bank, tan lines re-defined, motivation re-installed, and raring to go for the following day, which was a big one over in West Flanders at “Internatie Reningelst”. My enthusiasm wasn’t laid to waste either, as I managed to get in a break of 14 guys after just 20km, and we never saw the bunch again. 130km of through and off was pretty tiring in itself…and then the attacks started; one after the other, for 15km, each one requiring a gurning, grunting effort to hang on during.
Sign On with The Boys
Judging from who was there I was confident I was the fastest, so I only followed wheels, and coming under the flamme rouge we were still together. I thought it was going to be my day, but with about 800m to go a pathetic split in the group let 5 riders go clear and contest thewin. I dropped my chain as our charge opened up, but managed to feed it back on, and come round all but one guy for 7th place. A good result, and the best of my season so far, but as always it was the thought of “what could have been” that was hard to shake.
Now in retrospect, I can see that in the space of a month I’ve gone from being in the depths of the doldrums, to full of motivation, direction, and good legs for the rest of the year. The bad times often outweigh the good times in sport, and it is a case of making moments like this count that determines real success. On a lighter note, we trundled down to the post tour criterium in Ninove on Monday night, to see Cav win ahead of a whole host of ProTour riders including Basso, Nibali, McEwen, Petacchi and Sagan.
Sagan And I Sharing A Moment
The results are predetermined, but in no way does that detract from the spectacle and buzz of seeing the superstars of our sport hurtling around tight, town centre courses in front of thousands of screaming Belgians. Juxtaposed with my feelings towards cycling at the start of the month; seeing the romanticised superstardom at the complete other end of the sport was probably quite a fitting way to end it.