Still holding strong

I’ve heard that when you do cocaine there’s a momentary feeling of bliss that’s immediately followed by an overpowering craving to do it again—like immediately. Sometimes bike racing is like this. Today was not. Today was more like coming off a meth high–cold, sick, and broken, promising yourself that you’ll never do it again, though in reality you know you’ll need a fix by tomorrow.

The “extremely hard course” today was once again altered because of road construction—just like the last race was. Both today and the last race were supposed to have some ultra steep walls in them but they ended up being pretty blah. Today’s race in Sint-Lievens-Houtem had a small, low-grade tailwind hill, followed by a gradual descent with crosswind. It was hard, but not hard enough to permanently split things up. The weakest riders were dropped well before the 16 laps were up but the peloton was still bursting with packfill coming into the final kilometer.

I raced aggressively right from the first lap, hoping to get away in an early break. I had a hunch the early move would stick today and I was right. I didn’t end up being in it though. 10 guys broke free on lap four, with my teammate Jake making it in there.

After a few laps of them being away I began attacking again, though I was certain that the winning move had gone. The pack kept splitting up on the climb and crosswind section but always seemed to come back together in the headwind. I fought hard to be in the front splits, hoping one of them would stick.

Early on in the race I found out that something in my water bottle from the other day had gone sour. Unwisely, I decided to save it for the last couple laps in case I HAD to have water—in which case the rotten whey protein or whatever was in there wouldn’t have time to make me ill before the race ended. This idea backfired. Number one: because the first couple gulps I took on the first lap were potent enough, and number two: because I began drinking out of it again half way through the race.

With four laps to go we caught the break. Jake was thoroughly disappointed since this was his last race of the year and it seemed destined to be the winning move–a top10 guaranteed. I’ve had this happen to me half a dozen times out here so I knew how he felt.

You can’t be in all the attacks so I decided to stay off the front for the next lap after they were caught. I put all my chips in the gamble that the second counter move would be the one that would stay away. Everyone thinks that when the break is brought back the next true move that sticks (the first counter attack) is the one to be in. In reality it’s the second counter attack that works. Usually. Sometimes. Maybe. I don’t know actually. Not today at least. I was wrong and the winning move formed on the third to last lap and we could never close down the 30-second gap.

To piss me off even more, I had to slam my breaks on in the sprint with about 400 meters to go and I lost out on even a top 30 and making 10 euros for my Colruyt day. It was a hard race but only because I made it hard for myself. If the course had only been the regular course with the giant wall and been hard for everyone…arghhh!!

After the race was over I crashed hard on the sidewalk about 20 feet from our car, right in front of a huge crowd of people. My front wheel slid out when I didn’t hop the curb correctly and I went straight down on my right side again, landing exactly like I did when I crashed a few days ago. I reopened all my wounds and got another bout of whiplash as my head smacked the pavement again. I was not pleased and made it apparent to everyone within screaming distance.

I sat in the back hatch of the car with Jake as we both stared off into space, wondering, as usual, what had gone wrong. My stomach gurgled loudly in anguish and for the first time all year, I couldn’t eat after the race. OK, I ate, but not very much. And I threw it all up in the toilet when we got home. As I sat there I thought of all the shit things—not winning or getting a good result, bleeding all over my favorite V-neck, upset stomach and the chills, an even sorer neck and hip than when I woke up, headache, coughing, incredibly backed up sinuses with mucus practically coming out my ears, and a bruised ego from crashing on the sidewalk after the race. I burst out laughing at this last one. If you can’t laugh at yourself it means someone else gets to. I got to race my bike hard in Belgium and make a lot of people suffer. It was a good day. Nothing serious to complain about, though I can tell I’m getting pretty cracked. Just a few more races and I’ll be very ready for the off-season. But as long as the legs are willing there’s no way my mind won’t follow.

Oh and by the way, if you think you’ve lived in a shit hole apartment, guess again. Along with our legs and heads, the end of the season seems to have cracked our apartment too because the hot water heater is flooding the kitchen, the sink has been clogged for the past two weeks, the TV just broke, the coffee machine broke (and after trying to fix it we fried the circuits in the apartment and had a power outage for a day), the coffee table broke, the left side of the couch broke even more than it already was, the mold in the shower is growing thicker, and the crazy Greek (Michael) has taken a turn for the worse and is going completely nuts. Yesterday he finished building up a single speed bike in his room and demonstrated it for us in the living room. Right when he sat on it the back wheel fell off and he almost fell on the ground. He hadn’t tightened the wheel bolts down because he didn’t want to scratch the aluminum dropouts. His conclusion: the frame was sabotaged. We argued with him about it for the entire evening, trying to explain how to solve the problem. We did not succeed. Today he was three hours late for his job interview and when he got there the guy basically told him to screw off. Michael’s conclusion: “The guy wasn’t decent and he had it out for me from the beginning. I can’t work with someone like that! If he can’t handle me being three or four hours late every day then I can’t work with him. He’s a jerk and he’s just not respectable. I don’t want to get a job anymore anyways. I just want to build my bike, have a soft bed, and have money for chocolate.” You can never get through to a crazy person even if you genuinely try, which makes the arguing that much more fun because you can say anything you want to, including rapidly changing the subject to throw him off. Today I got Michael on the subject of the Big Bang and the mind-numbing question of how there were any particles to cause the big bang in the first place. He knew a surprising amount on the subject.

Getting my leg all swoll without even hitting the gym.

Our new TV has three count them THREE channels that play Jim–Belgium’s finest music TV station. Doesn’t get much better than this.