I’ve always found there are two things that making writing a new blog post difficult; the first is thinking of something interesting to write about. The second is beginning the first sentence, from there on posts tend to write themselves. It’s a bit like reading a book, I’m terrible at picking up a new book, even if I know I’ll enjoy it, but once I’ve begun to read it, I cannot stop. I didn’t want to write too much about my racing this month, so instead I’ll just give a quick summary. My first race was the Beker Van Belgie TTT where we did a strong ride to finish 4th in the Belgian Cup standings. Then I had a stint of kermesse races, 5 in total, where I managed to finish in the prize money in every race but sadly no higher than 11th. This Sunday just gone I was competing in another round of the BVB, the nature of the race and the way teams rode it meant it finished in a mass sprint where I placed 29th. My final race of the month is the Ronde Van Vlaams Brabant, a National 1 Elite 5-day stage race held in the last week of July.
What I really wanted to write about this month is what it’s really like to live and race abroad when you stop convincing yourself that the whole world is against you. Cyclists love to constantly remind each other how tough this sport is, I don’t know why this is, I think it’s because of a feeling of insecurity. If you all talk incessantly about how hard it is to ‘make it’ in this sport then you can convince yourself everything is alright when things aren’t going quite the way you hoped they would be.
Below are the only things which I think justify the claim that chasing a career in cycling difficult:
The Racing – There’s no getting away from it, unless you’re in the form of your life and dishing out the pain (which is rare) then breathing out of every orifice in your body, staring cross-eyed at the wheel in front as it slowly inches ever so further away from you while your heart beats 200 times a minute is not a fun place to be.
The financial struggle – The pay is crap, even the best racers in the world don’t get paid a fraction of what they deserve. So as you can imagine being an amateur is no picnic, and if it were it would be a fairly uninspiring spread.
Injury and illness – I’ve had my fair share of both, when I talk about the feeling of having the whole world go against you this is what I’m talking about. That said, the majority of injuries/illnesses in cycling (excluding things like broken bones sustained in crashes that you can’t avoid) are a result of you being lazy and not working hard enough to prevent them. Cyclists put a ridiculous amount of stress and strain on their body, week in week out and moan when something finally gives. I learnt last year (after years of moaning about things giving way) that prevention is far better than rehabilitation and that preventing little niggles and aches is a choice.
The things you miss – There’s a lot you miss out on if you spend your youth chasing a career in professional cycling instead of say going to university or getting a ‘normal’ job and there’s a lot of things you miss from back home. But what I’ve realised this month is that you only truly miss things if you didn’t appreciate them enough in the moment that you had them or if you knew what you had but didn’t get enough of it/them.
“Every person that works for you, you have to let it go in the best moment, when he and you are at the happiest moment, when he and you think you are doing your best, they have to go. Because from there on there’s only one way, which is down.” – Francis Mallmann
There are a lot of things I miss; I miss family holidays and sitting in restaurants, people watching. I miss seeing my friends at lunch every day at school and not having to try and arrange a time when we’re all free to hang out. I miss my youthful naivety towards professional cycling, back when I thought it was just about honesty and development, not back-hands and bribes. I miss my housemate from last year, we don’t talk anymore and that sucks. I miss the family round the corner from where I live in Belgium, we can’t talk anymore and that sucks too. I miss my sister and I hate the fact that when I go back to my home in Lymm she’s not there. I miss my Nanny and how infectious her laugh was. I miss not having to stress about money or what I’m going to be doing when I’m 34 because all that mattered was making sure my Geography homework was in on time. I miss all these things because I either didn’t appreciate them enough at the time or because I wasn’t done enjoying them.
This month has been one of the easiest I’ve ever had abroad because I’ve taken the time to step back and appreciate what I have while I have it.
Thank you to those who make it possible for me to be here and thank you for reading,