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May 04, 2016 0 Comments
Macca is back! Last week he was riding UCI World Tour races, but then got sick. After a few days of recovery he's getting back in shape for the next block of racing.
Well, as I sit here at my dinner table typing away on my keyboard thinking over the last few days it's been a busy week or so. After riding my first ever Monument - The Amstel Gold Race came another two Classics in Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which was then topped-off with starting in the Tour de Romandie. I had expected so much from myself after my ride in Amstel but unfortunately the morning before Flèche I felt the beginnings of a cold. At the time it wasn’t so bad. I tried to rest and sleep as much as I could the day before to give my immune system as good a chance as possible to fight whatever bug I had picked up. However, due to the stress you put on your body in racing I began to lose my fight and the morning before Liege I had a full-blown head cold. I can tell you it's never a good idea to attempt to ride through a cold because nevermind the adverse effect that bad performances have upon your morale, it's also not good for your body. After dropping my chain at the bottom of a climb 120km in I couldn’t make my way back to the peloton and my race was quickly over, after a solitary ride in the Voiture Balai. (Broom Wagon or the van that travels behind the race picking up riders who are too far behind the race and so are removed from it).
With two days to recover between Liege and the start of Romandie I knew it would be a tall order to be healthy for the challenging prologue on Tuesday. Ideally I would have pulled-out, but because of the team being plagued with illness and injury I had no option but to start. I didn’t feel too bad in the prologue, but it was just a little bit less than 4km and it was also below freezing. So maybe I just couldn’t feel anything and so thought I felt good. I finished inside the last ten losing just under a minute to the winner. The result wasn’t so important because I knew I was far from 100% but it still tells on you mentally. As bike riders we can be sometimes fragile because even though you know you’re ill you try and kid yourself that you are ok and try and keep in as good a mindset as possible.
Then came stage two. Due to ‘Adverse Weather Conditions’ the stage was shortened to just 100km, which as they say in Flemish is ‘geen cadeau’ which translates to ‘not a gift’ because it meant the stage would be a short sharp burst with 3 Category 3 climbs. As we started the first climb I knew it would be a hard day for me. Movistar, the team of the race leader, set a heavy tempo and due to my sniffle the best way of describing myself was ‘breathing like a pregnant dog’. Panting like a birthing bulldog, and more mucus and sweat dripping out of me than a Beechams advert, I hung on to the coattails of the peloton.
I managed to use a bit of sliding room (starting at the front of the peloton and working your way to the back in a controlled fashion so you don’t get dropped by the peloton over the top of the climb) to make sure I stayed in touch with the peloton over the next climb. Then came the last climb, the longest of the day. It was around 5km long with a steep piece in the beginning, then a bit of a plateau in the middle, finishing with a leg-crushing last 700m. My plan was working well as I rode flat-out to try and control my slide from the front to the back of the peloton. But as we hit the last part of the climb this dog had had his day. I ran out of sliding room and I found myself in the ‘laughing group’ (the last group on the road). We made our way to the finish and my morale was shot. This was to be the easiest ‘flattest’ stage of the entire week and I’d already been dropped.
Then came stage two this was to be an even more challenging test than yesterday, as we started straight uphill. Straight out the blocks I looked like a snail farm with various trails of snot forming all over me, dripping out my typical English reddened nose. I struggled my way up the climb but lost contact over the top only to make contact again on the descent after a bit of Demon Descending. This set the tone for the day. Deep down I knew from the beginning I was doomed. I know my body, and you can try and kid yourself as much as you want but as an old coach of mine used to say ‘a bike rider without his health is nothing’ and that is exactly what I had been the last few days - nothing but a shadow of the bike rider I am. I yo-yoed in and out of the peloton as the roads went up and down until at 60km my team director came up next to me in the car and told me to call it a day. There was nothing to be gained but digging myself into a deeper hole than I was already in.
Once I got over the disappointment and came to the realisations that this wasn't a true picture of myself due to illness, and a visit to the Doctor who recommended 7-10 days no bike to let myself recover, I feel a bit better about myself. It's hard being a bike rider. Only thing I can liken it to is when I was in school and I used to really look forward to my PE lessons. Every now and then you’d forget your kit and be absolutely gutted because you’d have to sit on the wooden bench at the side of the sports hall and watch all your friends running round like headless chickens, enjoying themselves. You’d just be sat there because you didn’t have the tools to do what was required of you. Much like a cyclist without his health… Nothing.
Photos from WGG / Kramon
Follow Mark's training and racing on Strava.
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