Last time I was writing about my adventures on a bicycle, I was in a hotel room in France at Etoille de Besseges UCI 2.1, trying desperately to concentrate whilst listening to my room mate Maessie’s music and recovering from a hectic first stage. Now I am sitting in Belgium, half of my body ripped to shreds and an ankle swollen like a balloon! This sure is an interesting lifestyle I am leading. However, it could be worse – it could be raining!
I’m still trying to find words for Besseges… Even in just a few days, it was a big learning experience for me. My most important lesson being, you cant hide a bad day at this level!
In my last blog I spoke of Stage 1, so here’s my recap on the rest of my race. One word for Stage 2 – bizarre! Something I will always have memories from, some funny and some scary! It was the day the peleton went on “strike”! On paper it was set out to be a horrible day. Very cold, and extremely windy. It had potential for another stage of absolute carnage! As we rolled out of Nimes in the neutral section I witnessed some scenes. It was so windy that I had difficulty controlling my bike and even some of the smaller guys got blown completely off there bikes as the gusts of wind were so strong! Once the flag dropped at kilometre 0 the peleton almost immediately blocked the road and there was a hell of a lot of shouting going on. Little did I know what was happening but apparently we were on strike!?! We came to a stop after about 5km and I had no idea what was happening. After chatting to some english speaking guys the plan was to ride to the finish line and stop the stage because it was deemed as too dangerous. Now, I was no one to question the world tour guys of Lotto-Soudal or FDJ – but the race was never going to be stopped! As we got further away from Nimes the wind started to ease off, and racing was now much safer. We got the finish line after around 60km and came to a halt for the second time. Then after about 5 to 10 minutes we got going yet again – full gas for 2 km before we now stopped for the third time!!! What in the name of god is going on!?!? This time it was Thomas Voeckler and Tony Gallopin who called the shot and got the race going again. We then raced to the finish as normal – fast and hard! It was coming down to a bunch sprint but a massive crash near the front end of the peleton at 1.5km to got blocked the road and all of our team were hindered in the process. Nobody got badly hurt thankfully, but it was disappointing for us.
The third day of Besseges is not a day I would like to remember. It was quite possibly the worst day I’ve ever had on a bike. However I learnt some very valuable lessons from it! It was the hardest stage on paper, with a category 1 climb starting after 2km. Ouch! I was optimistic and hoped to have good legs as a day like this would usually suit my style. From the gun I was suffering badly, I never got going. Over the top I was hanging on for dear life, and when we got strung out on the descent I was way too far back and suffering too much starting the second climb just minutes later and I lost touch. I kept pushing through the pain but I was empty, I had nothing left. Once I reached the finish line I was too far behind the leaders and the organisers stopped me and some others. It was gutting!
Honestly, I have never been so disillusioned and upset. I was so disappointed for weeks afterwards so it was a godsend that I was heading home for a few weeks instead of going straight to Belgium post race.
After some easy days to recover and reflect on my French experience, I was ready to go again and started training solidly at home in Cork. In hindsight I went to France too tired and under recovered from Calpe and my weeks training post-Calpe/pre-Marseille. A big mistake on my part! Then my solo effort at GP Marseille and the hard first few days of Besseges seemed to knock me over the edge. You live and you learn!
I am now in Buggenhout, Belgium. My new base for 2015! I trained really well at home and in my first few weeks in Belgium I continued to do the same.
My first race here was at Wanzele Koers Pro Kermesse on the 11th March. I was really happy with how my race went, I was feeling 10 times better than I did in France and I proved to myself I have gotten better and made improvements. I had no result in the end – I just rolled in mid-peleton as it was a bunch sprint. I know it was a smaller race, but all positive signs for the upcoming weeks!
Omloop van het Waasland was next up for me on Sunday the 15th. I was really motivated, optimistic and looking forward to having a good hard race and trying to show my worth. My goal was to represent An Post-Chain Reaction in the breakaway. Unfortunately it didn’t end up that way for me. It ended up at a hospital. At around 90km into the race I was involved in a heavy crash! I was about 20-30 guys from the front of the peleton and I was following my team mates Ali and Jack to the front. It was coming to the time of the race where there was a lot of attacks as the breakaway hadn’t been established, so I was very alert and watching what was going on – just waiting for a move to slip away. We were following the attacks and even making some ourselves. I know it’s so easy to say it now, but I was genuinely feeling great! I was starting to feel really strong again and I was well able to mix it. Then it all went wrong! The guy next to me hit a hole in the road and went over the handlebars – at 50km/h or so. I had nowhere to go and I hit the ground pretty hard. Race over in a matter of seconds. I was quite dizzy for about 30 mins afterwards, but thankfully I was wearing my Kask Infinity helmet, it potentially saved my life! As usual when you crash I lost a lot of skin, in particular on my ankle, where I received stitches after a lengthy wait in the hospital with Greg. It is like a bullet hole, about the size of a euro coin – right to the bone! Horrible stuff, but a good story for the ladies as I am sure I will have a lovely scar to show for it!
I now have to wait 10 days before I get my stitches taken out, but I hope to recover as soon as possible and start riding again within a week. My body may be hurt, but my heart hurts more. Although I know, with hard work and fast healing, I can come back and be at the same strength soon! It’s a long season ahead! I want to say a big thanks to Greg, I cant thank you enough for how much you helped me. Big shout out to Hans also who really looked after me and helped me yesterday and today. You guys are the best! I am motivated to come back stronger and show everyone what I can do – firstly though, I need time to make sure I am 100% healthy! Thanks everyone at home for your kind messages of concern. I will be better before I’m married as they would say in Ireland!