Participation in cycle racing, like any other sport, is a constantly changing cycle of highs and lows, and the graph of peaks and troughs is also as fragile as it is changeable.
This is an aspect of the lifestyle I lead which at first I found hard to take, but now I see as just that; an aspect of the lifestyle that simply needs to be dealt with.
The last time I wrote I was just beginning my Belgian campaign for the 2011 season, and it seemed like things were going well, which they were.
After the mud and rain of Gooik, I placed 11th in a kermis in Wetteren: after being in a break from lap 1 until 500m to go, the final result was at least deserved if not a little disappointing!
I then had a string of Interclubs with the team, the first of which I placed 30th, after 15 riders got away and I came 15th in the bunch sprint, which was quite possibly the most nerve wracking sprint I have ever participated in.
The next two were fairly anonymous, at the Troffee van Haspegouw and GP Stad Waregem, where I finished in the bunch on both occasions, and possibly marked the plateau of this spell of growth on the form curve.
Next on the agenda was a kermis in Anzegem on the 2nd April, where after battling through crashes, cross winds and broken bottle cages, I found myself in the 15 strong group of big hitters at the front of the race, with four laps to go. No sooner had I started to count my eggs though, my chain snapped while sprinting out of a corner, and my luck had taken a turn for the worse.
The following day I woke up to some of the haunted side effects of athleticism, fitness, and leanness, which unfortunately are a runny nose, a sore throat and general sickness.
With a big two day stage race planned for that weekend, I tried to walk the precarious tight rope of getting better while still riding, but in my eagerness and impatience only prolonged the agony, as on Thursday the problem had mutated into a full blown chest infection.
The general rule of thumb that most people follow is that when the cold moves below the head, then it’s time to hang up the cycling shoes and just recover, so that’s what I begrudgingly did.
Rather than twiddle my thumbs whilst envying my fully fit housemates go training and racing, I decided to make the most of my forced break by taking a trip home, where I could get better in a clean and healthy environment, and also see my friends and family who seemed to have all coincidentally returned to Eastbourne over the weekend I happened to be there.
Going home was also a great excuse to pop into my local bike shop and pick up my long awaited, and even longer needed new bike.
The frame is still waiting for some transfers, so when it’s lost the current prototype looking nature I’ll be sure to take some pictures and duly post them on here.
One thing I can say however is that even though it’s the legs that count for the most part, a good bike never goes amiss, and I’m certainly enjoying having one again.
My return to Belgium two weeks ago was marked with a return to racing at the first: “Beker Van Belgie”: of the year, or in Layman’s terms, the first big one.
As it turned out, the occasion was not one to remember, due to no less than four punctures. The first came 10km before the Kemmelberg, the second while I behind the team car chasing back, and the last two came simultaneously after hitting a pot hole on the descent of the Kemmelberg.
As I was well and truly out of contention by this point, with two flat tyres and about 60km from the start/finish town, I waved my team car past and waved the broom wagon down. I’m sure I’ll look back and laugh at all this. One day.
A kermis the following Wednesday soon jogged the memory of what racing is usually about, pain and suffering. After no real efforts on the bike for over three weeks it turned out to be a pretty rough few hours for me, but just what I needed to get my fitness a jump start.
It was a good job it got a jump start too, as on Sunday I participated in my first ever ‘Pro’ event, the Meiprijs Hoboken, which was a UCI 1.2 held in Antwerp.
My primary goal was to finish, but the resulting tactics of ‘sit in’ came back to bite me, as once 30-ish riders had assembled up the road after slipping off in ones and twos, the bunch well and truly sat up.
In 40kms the gap went out to eight minutes, and the main bunch of well over 100 guys was pulled from the race, kermis style. If you’re out of contention for the win, there’s no point in you being there, apparently.
Some things never change with these Belgian race organisers, no matter what level you’re at!
I have one more race planned, tomorrow, before I make the journey up to Lincoln on Saturday to compete in my third Lincoln GP.
In 2009 I was disqualified for going on a pavement, and in 2010 I placed 80th after falling ill (surprise surprise), so hopefully I can keep gaining form in the days leading up to it to at least have a fighting chance for 2011.
If not, there’s always next year. These things just need to be dealt with.
Until next time, Josh.