Life On Two Wheels

Along the river and toward the mountains a morning shadow shimmers across the road. The rays of the first light jet through the trees and across a figure gliding upon the road. His breath trails in short spurts, petrified as it hits the icy air. All is quiet except the slight sound of the athlete as he summons himself for yet another days work. Soon the rest of the world will bustle with life as well and the brief simplicity of cyclist and nature will disappear into the everyday struggle of life in full motion; the errands and intervals, the appointments and intersections, and the deadlines and finish lines OutPaceTheRace

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Gagnieres, FRA up to Feb 5th

Gagnieres, FRA
February 2, 2006

Well, race #2 is, complete. The good news is that I’m still in 1 piece; the bad news is that I crashed in the last 1.5 kilometers to the finish. We were going ~55 km/hr and everyone was getting really sketchy then some fool made a foolish mistake and took a couple guys out. I was lucky enough to be right behind them, but at least I landed on them instead of the ground. Nonetheless I’m plenty sore and not real happy, but I remain optimistic about the coming days. It sucks that I crashed & all the hard work of the day went to waste, but in the grand scheme it was a pack finish and GC remained the same.
Today we moved hotels once more. This is more like a boarding place than anything. Quite big & located in a small town on the hillside. It’s actually the same place we stayed the night we got in at three o’clock. Since it’s up in the mountains the days are still cold, they’ve got tiled floors and a bad heating system so I’m looking forward to some cold nights (we’re here for 3 days counting this one).
Tomorrow is a climbing race with 2 category one climbs, I will need to make the most of the day and hopefully make up the ten minutes of time that I lost yesterday and jump into the overall. I’ll shoot for a good finish on the day as well. I am a little sore, but many of my best finishes have come the day after a crash- hopefully the tradition will continue.

Gagnieres, FRA
February 3, 2006

Today will be the climbing stage, all I can say is that were eating with a fork right now instead of a spoon- we’re hungry for a win. Today will hopefully be the day.
It’s pretty cold here so the trick’s going to be wearing enough cloth to be warm, but not too warm so you’re burning up on the climbs. Moves happen so quick that you don’t have time to think about how you’re wearing too much or whatever; you’ve got to constantly be contemplating how you can do the same to the other guy (hopefully).

Gagnieres, FRA
February 5, 2006

Once upon a time there was a cyclist; his main problem was staying on his bike. In the sprint, on the climbs- he’d crash. Not to say he wasn’t fast, no, his problem was balance. He made his European debut by crashing in two stages, one in a fast sprint, and the other as the front group made the top of the climb. Of course the thought occurred that maybe it was just bad luck… but how far can that go? Two times in a row, when its three is it still bad luck? When do you draw the line between luck and skill?
But I’m writing this on the fifth not the fourth, so I know how the story ends. On the third, the second crash happened. Essentially, we made it to the top of the climb and I took my hands off the bars to zip my vest up for the descent, someone tapped my bar and I fell headfirst into the ditch on the side of the road. I was at the front of the group so after the initial shock of crashing for the second time I picked myself (piece by piece) out of the ditch, untwisted my handlebars and jumped on to chase back on the descent. Danny waited to help me jump through the team cars at 55kph. There was a small problem though. I landed on my head, so my head got pushed down and my neck was kind of over extended, making it quite difficult to get into the drops and look up at the same time. For this reason, Danny would keep on gapping me on the descent. Eventually we caught back on and I tried to concentrate but ended up losing a couple minutes on the way up the climb to the finish. I was feeling great on the climbs, so it was quite a shame to see it all go to waste like that. You’ve no idea how many depressing thoughts I had after that- fortunately Johnny was able to straighten that all out.
I also found out during dinner, that I had broken my top tube during the crash. So I actually rode that super fast descent on a broken frame. Hmmm…
A stomach Flu’s been gorging the team and Craig was the latest to get it. It got him a little worse than the rest of the guys who got it, so he had to drop out and I raced his bike on the next day. Same size.
Yesterday, the 4th, we missed the break again. I felt good, but was a bit gun shy. The good news was that I made it through the race without crashing. I also got the news that Craig and I will be returning to the Homeland for California on Tuesday. I won’t be coming back to the Homestead though, instead, we’ll fly to Boulder, CO, then straight to California. It was going to either be Craig or I, but they decided to leave Frank in Europe and take Craig & I- along with Danny, who was already scheduled to return with Frank.
Today, the 5th, was the worst stage of the entire race. Coming into it I felt great, like I could lift the world- not the case. The race called for three loops around a circuit with three category three climbs and then eleven loops on a criterium like course with one steep kicker in it. I only made it two times on the first loop. The first time around the loop I felt fine, but the second time up the hill I felt like I was going backwards. I started on the front and barely made it over the climb in third to last position. On the downhill I was still on the rivet and when the downhill ended on a right turn into a long crosswind section I got gapped and dropped. I’ve got to say, seeing my race end before my eyes like that is very real. I mean, all the preparation etc., just to be blown away like that is, well, really quite bona fide to be frank… Anyway, CSC was gassing it from the first hill, I guess they wanted the last few points to win the KOM jersey. But as I looked up after making that turn I saw a black streak at the front which meant they were still on the front. I finished the rest of the race with some of the other guys that got dropped, but couldn’t do the criterium part, instead I rode back to the hotel & contemplated my future, until Johnny came in once more. They say don’t worry, you’re young, you’re still learning. I hope this is indeed the case. I’ll just assume.