My original plan was to stay in Gent and continue to race three times a week for another three weeks after Tony left. But after yesterday, and the way I have felt the last three or four days, I don’t think my body is up for it. It’s been a long year, which started back in October when I began lifting and doing the morning plyo workouts with the UO team. Since then, I’ve done about 800 hours, races almost every weekend since February (a five hour ride the day before half of them), finishing up my last year of school, and now I am tired. Very tired. I count this as my second year racing; last year I only did a handful of races in March due to some idiotic training in the fall, so I’d say this has been a very successful year. I think I had better quit now before I mess my body up again like last year, because my legs are trash and they aren’t recovering between races anymore.
After the race on the 23rd, I decided not to race the next day, which would have been a 140 mile round trip including the race. Instead, Tony and I went back to Gent. Tony left two days later, and I took the next two days to recover for my race yesterday (the 26th). I did an hour easy ride on the 24th, which was the commute back to Gent from the hotel in Overmere, and an hour and a half pre-race ride on the 25th. I massaged my legs multiple times, wore compression socks (the next best thing to an ice bath) and stretched after my rides just like I always do. I slept and laid in bed a lot and except for our usual walking to get to food places and a visit to the Gent castle, I stayed off my feet. But my legs felt tired on the 26th anyways.
As I rode to the course I could tell I wasn’t feeling very strong. The day before, during my pre race ride, I couldn’t get my sprints above 1,250 watts. And now, as I rode to the course I felt listless and my legs felt like old, decayed rubber bands—the kind that has been sitting in a drawer for years and when you take it out to use it, it breaks immediately and you think to yourself, “damnit, it took me forever to find a rubber band in this house and the only one we have is as weak as Kennett’s legs in late August!”
The race started; there were 120 riders, 7 sharp corners, 22 laps of 5 kilometers each, and an uphill cobble stone section. Plus it was very windy. I decided to sit in this race and just finish. On the second lap, I attacked and rode past a couple scattered break away attempts that were off the front. Six of those guys got on my wheel and I took a hard pull for another 20 seconds to get things going. But those lazy Belgian bastards just sat there and yelled at each other to pull. We got caught shortly after and I sat in the top 20 for the next five laps. Then I sat in the top 30, then the top 40, then the top 60. I had no juice in me whatsoever. A couple times, I accidentally found myself in the top 15 and was given the opportunity to stick my wheel in the wind to bridge gaps. I did not bridge any gaps, which pissed everyone off of course. So I mainly just sat way way back in the peloton and hung on.
The break away got pulled back and not that many people got dropped on this day. Usually when a pack of 120 starts, only 45 finish. Pretty much only a third of the racers finish any of these races. But on this day there were probably 90 left by the finish, which made things interesting on the last couple laps. Everyone wanted to be in the front, and there were crashes, pushing, yelling, wheel rubbing, and a lot of very close calls. All these races have that stuff, but this one was a bit more intense and exciting.
I think I was the only one who didn’t care that much about moving up, which shows that I wasn’t physically or mentally strong for the race. With a lap to go, I sat almost at the very end of the pack. I felt weak and nauseous, but I forced myself to make an attempt and I began moving up in the last 2K. We got to the 1K mark and the cobbles began, which was my favorite part of the course because it was the only place where I felt decently strong. When the cobbles were under tire, I unloaded. I passed thirty or forty people on this last stretch and ended up 41st. If I had felt strong during this race, I know I could have placed top three. The last kilometer was DESIGNED for me. Short power climb on cobbles, then a false flat downhill for 200 meters. But then again, if I had felt strong I wouldn’t have sat in. I would have been attacking the whole time and wouldn’t have had much for the end and I probably would have ended up 41st anyways.
My plan is to take the next three or four day off and give one last good effort on the 30th or 31st. And maybe just one more race on the 1st, then home for my rest month.