Waking up to a howling wind that whistled the windows through my 18th floor room here at the Ritz only meant one thing.
As if that wasn’t enough of a data point for my scientific brain, I could then look out the window and notice the air was the consistency of pea soup mixed with murky desert sand and construction materials. If I could see further than 200m through the particle filled air, I would also notice the palm trees that normally were perpendicular to the earth were now blown to a distinct 45 degree angle. Oh yes. It was windy. This was the dreadful Qatar I had been warned about.
The race started into a straight 40kph headwind. We crawled along at some pretty slow speeds as we tried to navigate through the blowing obstructions and sand swirls.
Then it happened. A turn. Hello, crosswind.
The peloton shattered into multiple slices of a snake of echelons. It was game time. You would suddenly find yourself in the gutter or off the road desperate to find relief from the beating crosswind. Crashes were happening. Girls were blown off the road. The race was made selective through the winds and strong teams being smart. At one point I hit 65kph in a tailwind section. We were flying, or crawling but it was all the same–suffering.
We entered the finishing circuits with a break up the road, and due to some bad luck and conditions, I was the only USA rider left in the selection. Deciding to make a bike race of it, I attacked 3k to go into a crosswind section and managed to hold that gap for an 8th place finish behind the break.
As you well know, sometimes bike racing doesn’t go according to plan, and you have to improvise and respond. Bike racing takes a lot of smarts, grit, and sometimes plain luck. This stage was a day of pure grit for me. Of raw scratching and clawing and not giving up, even though I considered it multiple times. Sometimes that is all we have to give, just pure grit. I gave it that today. Grit.