This blog is for all riders in my position, trying to make it in the big world of professional cycling. Just remember whenever you’re having a bad day, week or month that the darkest of the night is always just before the dawn, it will get better just stick at it.
“If experience has taught me anything, it’s that nothing is free and living ain’t easy. Life is hard, real hard, incredibly hard. You fail more often than you win and nobody’s handing you anything. Remember this, success has been and continues to be defined as getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down.”
Cycling is a unique sport, there really is no other sport like it in its beauty and in its brutality. The crashing (everyone who has crashed before knows) is a part of the sport, the reality is you’ll be lucky to go a year without crashing and if your new to the sport your likely to crash a lot more than that. In my first year racing seriously I crashed 10+ times but with each crash I have learned something and as much as I hate it I have come to terms with the fact that there is no way around it.
Furthermore the odds are always against you, for example trying to get in a winning breakaway. Firstly getting in the breakaway, let’s say you get in 1 of every 3 attacks that go up the road (which is a fair bit anyway) you’ve still only got a 1 in 3 chance of getting in the right move that will get a real gap. Then let’s say you do manage to get in that move there’s an even smaller chance that it will stay away till the end and then to add to that your still going to have to fight against another 4-8 guys (on average) for that win. It really is brutal going into a season knowing that you’re going to lose around 98% (maybe more) of the races you ride in. It’s even harder on morale for first years who’s aim at the start of the year is to finish the races.
Next there is the illness. Something every cyclist fears is getting ill and I can tell you when you inevitably do get ill it is the worst feeling in the world. Realistically you’ll have 3-9 days off with say a bug, the best thing to do is just rest up, keep hydrated and enjoy a bit of time off the bike to just relax, you’ll lose a bit of top end high intensity fitness but you’ll get it back in a couple of weeks and everything would be fine again. However with cyclists that never seems to happen. When your life is cycling and you get up every day and the first thought is ‘what training am I doing today’ you can get pretty depressed when all that’s on the agenda is ‘stay in bed and rest’. Some of you might be reading this and thinking ‘what is he on about, that sounds great!’ and for one day yeah it is, but after that it gets pretty tedious and you begin to get a big feeling of having no self-worth.
The beginning of my season has basically been one big compilation of all these things, to sum it up: Merda.
We began our season in Don Benito; Spain. 170km race around a flat, windy circuit with a 1.3km steep berg. The race usually finishes with a reduced bunch kick, the berg getting rid of the big big boys however there are always some really fast lads left. Didn’t feel great but I manged to make that final group. 500m to go a lad decided to swing left and take out my front wheel; race done.
Second race of the year again was in Spain but over towards Alicante way, which was nice as it is an area I’m familiar with having done several training camps there with CDNE (cycling development North East) as a youth and junior. I managed to get in a move after crosswinds and rolling climbs made the race grippy. Me and three other boys rolling through very slowly (it was possibly the windiest race I’ve ever done) for 110km. First climb 3km and 8%, fairly easy rolling over together, second climb 11km at 9-13% not so easy. We started off fast and dropped one boy, 2mins behind the Contador devo team were chasing hard. 2km from the top I got shelled and within 30 seconds caught by a Contador devo rider who passed me like I was stood still. After a long descent with cold legs I got caught by what was left of the peloton (only around 40 riders) just before the 3rd and final climb. I managed to stay in but the group had reduced to about 20, 10 had gone up the road and another 10 out the back. Our group got smaller and smaller in the crosswinds till there was 1 rider up the road, the group of 10 behind him and then around 15 maybe less in my group. This is when the bad luck kicked in, with the group of 10 less than 30 seconds up the road no one wanted to work, just take turns attacking each other instead, I covered almost every move and beggers luck the one I didn’t went and worked together to catch the group in front. I attacked my group with 2km to go and rolled in 18th, not bad but could have been a lot better.
Next week was a two race one weekend deal where the second race was suited to me a lot more than the first and also our first race of the season in Portugal. The days mission was to get in the break, unfortunately that didn’t happen, I did managed to get in a move of 4 that tried to bridge the gap but it didn’t work out. I tried to help keep the boys towards the front of the peloton until we rolled back to the start of the race to begin the final lap where I pulled out thinking about the next day. Day two was
a dirty course with 21 cobbled sections, 7 of which were up a brutal 1km climb averaging about 11-13%. I made the move following the wheel of A. Antunes of Portugal, a rider I knew was a strong climber as we had trained with him several times early season, he also finished in a small group behind Geraint Thomas consisting of Fabio Aru and Thibaut pinot on the queen stage of the tour of Algarve. Once in the move there were around 12 of us and two Zappi’s we got the gap up to 12mins at one point, unfortunately we were not working well together and with around 50km to go Seb made his move which all credit to him was a great move and a great ride eventually rolling in second place. Great result for the team but not great for my personal Palmares as our group completely stopped working to the point where we were rolling at 25kmph at one point, I made one last ditch attempt to get away from them once Seb had gained 5mins on us alas it was too late and I was caught and dropped by a roaring peloton at 20km to go. I was rather disappointed as I thought I was racing for 3 rd with the gap we had and underestimated how much time we lost when messing about.
Last race in Portugal and the biggest so far this season UCI 2.2 Trofeo Alpendre. The race started Saturday morning and Friday night I was up all night throwing up (not ideal). Suspected food poisoning from the previous night’s chicken and rice or maybe it was just the nerves? (team banter). Needless to say I was beyond gutted and felt miserable, I started the race but got dropped over a motorway bridge 10km in. I went home (as luckily the race started very close to our team house) and spent the rest of my day in bed feeling like death barely able to move, never mind ride a bike.
It took me a week to fully recover from the illness and begin training again, it was a shame because my form was good before and I had high expectations. However I am back on track and now in Italy
after a short break at home and I can feel the form coming back, it’s getting exciting now because I know a result is just around the corner and I am even hungrier for it after the miserable start to the season…thanks for reading and stay tuned