Some days you have good days on the bike, and some days you do not. Why is that? I don’t know. If I had the answer, I would try to avoid those bad days as much as possible. However, maybe it is those bad days that make us really appreciate those good days.
On Tuesday, I had complete bike love. I was ready for the time trial. What is wrong with three time trials in a row? A prologue. 60k off the front. A real TT. I was ready. My legs felt opened.
Unfortunately, with my horrible cramping in the last day, I had found myself going from fifth in GC to very low. Very low. Therefore, I was going to be one of the first athletes off for the TT. We pre-drove the course, and I didn’t have quite enough time to pre-ride it. My legs felt good. The course went up, up, and up through roundabouts, right through the countryside, left up to a radio tower, left over the highway, a technical descent, through roundabouts and tight town corners. It was a great course. Technical. Oh, and it was raining. Did I mention that? The roads were slick. Technical, rain, and a TT bike. I felt good. I kept my body relaxed. Unfortunately, when I got to 5k to go, I knew I was in trouble. It was screaming downhill. I couldn’t put out any power, and I knew I needed to put out a lot more power then I had time to deliver. Oh well. I learn things every day. That day, I learned that I had some major TT bike love. I handled the bike great through the technical areas. I stayed aero as much as possible. Liza was following me in the car (although with the rain, I couldn’t hear the radio)–it was awesome. It felt like a TT should. Through closed streets in France, with motorcade escorts, roundabouts, rain, fast…it was a great time trial.
Things I learned. Always, Always, pre-ride the course. I would have been more prepared and would have achieved a better result. A time trial is segmented by moments of pain. By pre-riding the course, I would have figured out where to “kill myself” and how to approach the course. However, I did the best that I could do with what was delivered, and it was a fun day on the bike. Which brings me to my second thing I learned, “fun” on a TT bike? Shouldn’t I have realized that if I was having TT “bike love”, that I probably wasn’t going hard enough? Hah. I was relaxed and calm, and just needed to kill myself at more appropriate times. And, I did have a bonding experience with the Look596 in the rain. She is fast. I ended the day 20th overall. Not my best day, but felt good. What does that mean? I didn’t go hard enough. I’m learning.
This stage is one for the books. The race started with about a 5k neutral roll out. Normally, neutral starts are also known as complete massacres. Everyone is all but throwing punches to try to gain position. However, in this race, the race directors placed a group of small children in front of us. They “led” the race. Aww. That first 5k felt like a neutral start should. It was slow. Was our adventure done? No. We got to the “start” and apparently there was a “danger zone” that they didn’t want us to ride through. Their solution? Buses.
Can’t you just imagine, the race committee sitting around a conference table discussing the issue, and one man pipes up in a formal French accent, “I got the idea…we will transport them in buses!” And they all applaud in agreement.
Yes. We hopped on a bus for 10k through the danger zone. Heading to a discoteque perhaps? No, just to the bike race. The bike race continued, motorcade, the follow cars, but where were the bike racers? On the bus of course. It was a bonding experience for all. We unloaded the bus, and our bikes were taken off of the team cars, and we started the race. Bang. Game on.
They ride their bikes fast in Europe. I learned this. The bike race which is about 74miles. We completed that in less than 3 hours. We were flying. It was mainly flat, but the constant attacks and constant counter attacks made the race hard and fast with very little relief. We were totally strung out and people were drilling it. Fast bike racers are even more fast at the finish, yet their was a break up the road that must be demolished before the finish. USA wasn’t represented in the break, so we were motivated to bring it back. I learned not to attack at this point, but instead, work with the other teams. All I heard in the radio was Liza telling me to “light it up”. I know how to do that, so Stacher gave me a slingshot and launched me up the road. The other teams said that was against the rules. Instead, we got to the front and all worked together to bring back the break. Golden. Caught the break, and had a murderously fast finish. Fast bike racers here, but I can hang with them.
Did I say they ride their bikes fast over here? Sometimes.
We started out the race fast, and I was pretty proud of my excellent position. And then it happened. I was in the top twenty or so on a fast sweeping descent. Apparently a Brazilian girl on an Italian team (interesting dynamic) didn’t like the way another rider, a Russian on an Italian team (also interesting), took the corner. The girl yells at her, and then proceeds to try to punch her. When that doesn’t work, she unclips, while we are going 50k/h and kicks the Russian, sending her careening into the peloton. I look up, and plow straight into a girl. I go head over the bars and hit the ground. Hard. I didn’t slide, I hit the ground and hit it. My elbow immediately swelled up into the attractive size of a softball and the mechanic jumps out and gives me a running start as I swerve around bikes and bodies as the peloton disappears over the rise. It hurt, but as I chased, I realized that my front fork was completely sheared and barely hanging on. I radio it in, and the mechanic throws me on another bike. I then spend the next 15 minutes motorpacing to catch the peloton. They sling me into the caravan, and I catch back on. I couldn’t put any pressure on my left arm and my body was throbbing.
It was a very surreal experience for me. I thought my day was over. I was in shock and in pain. They were so efficient in getting me back into the group. Chris actually said, “Come on Ali, this is great training!” As he was trying to guide me back to the group. Training? Interesting perspective. At the time I didn’t believe it. But, maybe it is true. At the time, I didn’t even know if I wanted to return to the group. Maybe I should just go for a ride in the countryside.
A break ended up getting up the road and Evie was in it, so USA was covered, then the peloton shut down. Normally, negative racing drives me crazy, but at this time, I was thankful for the relief. I was hurting so bad, and to know I still had 50miles to go in the 91 mile race, it was good to be able to just pedal one foot at a time.
I had a good time in the peloton. Talked to some great girls, and got to ride in to the finish. Just happy to finish the race. I was also relieved to know that nothing is broken. Just a nice hematoma on my elbow, and the most painful part is the handlebar indentation on my chest, which inevitably bruised my sternum. Ouch.
The ups and downs of bike racing continue. Evie ended up winning which is awesome. However, LMyers went down to and had to abandon due to injuries. It was a good day, and a bad day for USA Cycling. That is bike racing though. The good days and bad days. I got to the finish, hugged Evie, and had tears in my eyes. Tears because it did kind of hurt to hug someone, because I was excited for her, and because we may be injured and bruised but we were safe.
Someone’s good day, can be another’s bad day.
Note: Brazilian rider is kicked out of the race, but should never be allowed to race again. The Russian is banged up, and survived with a broken collarbone.