Letters Home: Racing Abroad BLOG July 2012
The Tour De France has started. Very exciting for the most part, but also a little scary in that it means July has begun, and the summer months of racing are well under way, although you wouldn't have guessed it judging by how well my rain cape is being used at the moment.
The first half of the season has gone typically fast, from the snow and freezing temperatures of training camp (something went wrong there clearly), to the mayhem and brutality of early season racing, to the rhythmic passing of weeks training and racing in ‘the bubble’, to here, mid season.
The month of June was very much geared up towards The National Championships, and the u23 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. I was in ever improving form coming out of May, notching up top 5’s and 10’s in most races throughout the month, and with the big targets at the end of June things were going well. I ramped up the training load in the first half of the month, before backing off in the week leading up to the Nationals. In theory, it should have meant I would have been in the best shape possible going into those two weeks, but in reality the whole month turned out to be one to forget.
After an arduous journey from Belgium up to the fringes of the North York Moors, lay in wait an even more testing circuit, and despite making all the right splits for the first 100k, I was eventually spat out when the bunch was down to about 40 riders. The consolation of my room being above a pub on the night of England vs Italy turned out to be a dire consolation too.
Back in Belgium, I was moving on and preparing for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Run as part of the TopCompetition, and with half the field being continental level or above, it is the sort of race where the winner will more often than not turn pro the following year.
In any ‘classic’ race, positioning is everything. If you are not in the top 40 riders going into the first climb, you can forget finishing (unless you are Spartacus). As it happened I was well placed going into the first few climbs, but a crash half way up the Eikenberg caused an impromptu road block, causing everyone behind to unclip, run around, re-mount, and chase. Indeed I was one of these hopeless souls, knowing all too well that the front of the race would not be seen again.
So that was the ‘peak’ of my season over! A fruitless end to an altogether unrewarding month, yet not for lack of trying. This is sport, and it’s one of the reasons why it is so good.
I had a blood test done at home, and it seems the efforts of the last few weeks took their toll. I don’t feel run down, but the results suggest I need to take it easy before I slip off the edge of the peak fitness gorge. It is a very fine line indeed, with a merciless drop for those who overcook it! Bernard Moitessier once said “You can spoil everything, trying to go faster than nature”, and he was the first bloke to sail solo around the world without stopping, so they are probably words spoken with a bit of wisdom. That means a combination of pressure-free racing, slow’n’steady rides, and as the weather is so nice, probably a healthy dose of coffee stops too. After my progression in the first half of the year, the Dave Rayner Fund have generously decided to continue their support to me for the rest of the year. So in gratitude to them and everyone else who makes what I do possible, I had better keep on progressing!
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