Sunday, June 10, 2007

it's not about the race...

it's about everything before and after the race that really gives an accurate picture of the experience!

When i tell people i'm going to france for the weekend to race, I often wonder if their images remotely matches reality.

Here's reality for a typical weekend of racing...

Last Saturday morning at 10am, I was on my way to Chateauroux, France - with bike bag and luggage in tow. After one bus, one taxi, three trains and a van ride to include a gas station and manual car wash detour, I finally showed up at the team hotel at 8:30pm.

Since i was the last to arrive, I was relegated to the foldout cot that must have dated back to the 1960's based on the little remaining cushioning that did nothing to buffer the protruding metal springs.

We finished dinner a bit after 10pm and by about midnight I was finally able to pass out on the Spanish Inquisition bed. At 9:30am the next morning, I heard a bang on the door. Time to hand over the racing license. By 10am, breakfast of pasta, bread, jam and lots of coffee. Shortly after, we all piled into the caravan and made the trek one hour to St. Amand for the race. The heat was rising ever so quickly that by the time we got to the race site, we were scantily clad in our sport bras and bib shorts - still overheated.

After a trip to France's version of a "toilet" - a hole in the ground situated between two outlines of feet, and a 45 minute warmup, the race began. I was given specific instructions by my coach (and thankfully my team manager who is also concerned for my health) to drop out of the race once it becomes too difficult to easily manage. (I am still not fully recovered from a recent bout of severe fatigue) I used the old guy's group ride as a gauge - if the effort became harder than my local ride, then i would abandon.

For the first few minutes, all was well so of course my competitive nature started to creep up. Hmmm...maybe i can finish the race...maybe i can get on the podium! The dream was squashed by a crash in the peloton that caused an instant rise in the pace. With a tiny five second sprint, I bridged to the lead group. Unfortunately my whole team was not present at the front. I drifted back to the rear of my group and spotted a teammate amongst the chasers behind. Dropping myself from the group, I escorted her up to the lead. Once she was safely in the peloton, I went back to survival mode.

I sussed out the largest muur de femme and firmly planted myself behind this human wind shield. It was effective in keeping my heart rate low until a flurry of attacks/counters zapped by heart and my legs. Game over.

Even though it was very humbling to voluntarily drop out of a race, I knew I had to do it. If i would have remained in the race, I may have even finished the event, but my health would have taken a detrimental hit - one that may have required months of recovery!

Directly after the race, I was whisked away to the train station. After 23 hours to include four trains, one taxi, one bus, one car ride, one night of being stranded in Lille, France in a skank motel after missing the last train from Paris to brussels, one escort of a blind woman in the Brussels station, one conversation with random cute french guy on train, three kilometers of dragging bike bag and luggage, I arrived in leuven Monday at 6pm - completely delirious from exhaustion.

Now that you know the details, how close does it resemble your image of what I mean when i say i'm going to france for the weekend to race?


Paul Tay said...

Sounds about right. New rule: DON'T be last to team hotel.

Big Bad Wolf said...

Wow, what an effort to get to a race.. although traveling by train is supposed to be fun, right?
I wouldn't know myself , I don't remember when I last boarded a train, or a bus for that matter.
I have alot of respect for riders turning out on rides by train, riding the ride, and get back on the train home. Remember they have to take all the luggage with them during the ride (or rent a locker in the station?) on the bike so most usually travel light.

velocycling said...

The Glamorous life a Pro Bike racer...

Anonymous said...

Now that I know the details, I have to ask... why the hell do you do it?!

PEANUT said...

Dear Doom: I do it to impress the babes.