As I pushed as hard as my body would allow, fighting back the urge to shit out my intestines, I saw through sweat-burning, blurry eyes that the peloton was gone and there was no chance of getting back into its windless comfort. It was only the fifth lap, 45 minutes into the race, and I was already done.
I rode to the race in sun, finally SUN!!, and was feeling very happy and excited to start this race. This was the one, I thought, that I was going to place top 5. I had rested the past three days in a row. Two of those days I hadn’t even touched the bike, which has been the longest stretch off the saddle in weeks. My plan was to put everything I had into this race, and to do the next two on Sunday and Monday as training races, just to get out whatever was left in my legs before the long fall and winter of the boring race-less life. Turns out these last races are not needed for that, because apparently I already got everything out.
The race course was great. Some long straight sections to move up on, a lot of wind, and lots of corners and narrow roads, which I knew would split the field up in a short amount of time. Plus there were some slight hills to climb. It was hot, the corn stalks lining the road off in the distance bent in the wind. The crowd was big. The smell of hot dogs and freiteries (French fires) mingling in the air with the faint smell of sewage and the strong stench of cigarettes, marked the scent of Belgium and the Belgian fans of a kermis. In the peloton, this smell mixed with powerfully odorous leg oils, sweat, and the cologne of European riders who insist on using more Axe body spray than a middle schooler. Music from loudspeakers attached to one of the lead cars blared out some crappy American 80’s tune as riders either talked and joked with the guy next to them, or stood nervously silent.
I had lined up at the front, which became the middle as everyone cut, moved up, and the late second half of the field added itself onto the front–being late to the start means you get to start at the front because there isn’t room to move around to the back. I usually do this, but today I didn’t want to be right at the front during the beginning. Number one, because I have finally found out that the early move never lasts more than a lap, and number two, I was feeling a bit tired. The 45-minute ride to the race in the sun had left me feeling sleepy and weak. It felt as if I’d been riding in a headwind the whole way over. Plus earlier in the day, while at the youth hostile, I was walking around and felt myself beginning to get light-headed. Sometimes I get these and have to hold onto something so that I don’t fall over. I quickly grabbed something on the wall just before blacking out. I stood there, swaying back and forth for ten seconds managing not to fall over, and eventually started to come to. But when my sight came back and I regained consciousness, I had no clue where I was or what I was doing. I didn’t remember walking into the bathroom that I was standing in or why I was there. Bad blackouts mean very low blood pressure, which meant my body was tired.
The weight of a bunch of water bottles stuffed into my jersey pockets bounced up and down as we sprinted out of the start. Wow, my legs are lead weights—I thought to myself. One lap passed and there were 90 people in front of me. Two laps passed and I moved up a little bit, realizing that today was not going to be easy, if even possible. Three laps to go and I looked back to see that part of the peloton had broken off and I was the last in line. I moved up a few places, feeling very tired. On the fourth lap, all hell broke loose as gaps opened up everywhere. I fought for a lap and a half, but knew it was to no avail. My legs were full of acid already, my body was limp from exhaustion, and to sum it up, I felt like dying. Oddly enough, I wasn’t out of breath, which I knew signaled that this was to be my last race, being that my cardiovascular system was fine, while the rest of my body was shot.
After soft-pedaling the rest of a lap, I came to the finish line and waited to see what the surviving guys were up to. Two break-aways of seven or eight passed, and then the rest of the field shortly after. Only half of the starters were left, about 60. Good, at least I wasn’t the only one. The ride back home seemed to be into a headwind just like the ride there.
Now I’m going to sit in the sun and sleep for the rest of the trip. Gilad, my month off starts now, on the 31st. NOT when I get back, ok? And none of this “five weeks off” crap either.