Racing Rhythm is about getting into a flow. A process where I don’t have to think about racing from one day to the next. They just come thick and fast. Racing Rhythm is a period where I am confident I’ve done the necessary work to put me in a place to compete. To have fun. To put on a show. I’ve done five races since returning to Belgium. Each race has had its own ups and downs. Each with their own lessons to take on board.
Racing is the most unpredictable and uncontrolled part of this sport. That’s what makes it fun. Providing challenges–tests–to overcome each time I pin a number on. It requires critical thinking to analyse and progress. Taking each day at a time, as I cannot predict how I am going feel from one day to the next. As Master Oogway would say; “Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery, but Today is a gift.” I can only focus on what I must do next, today, in order to keep the momentum–the rhythm–in forward drive so that I can turn up to each race just a little better than the one just gone. Learning from the lessons that each outing has taught me, so I can use that as a platform to jump to the next level–just like Doodle Jump.
At Wingene Koers, for example I felt good. I developed my conservative starts to races by deciding to have an attacking race. Really aiming push myself all the way to the line. Testing my recovery time. Digging deep and experiencing the hurt in the lungs. I did just that. Attacking with a friend with a lap (and three kilometres) to go. We drove a small chasing group within seconds of the front of the race. I was dead, having just chased down a small escape full gas. A couple of minutes later I would have to go again.
I was surprised how much my lungs hurt the next day. Showing how crucial the lungs are. I hadn’t felt my intercostal muscles in a long time; only the freedom of racing can induce that feeling. I took a lot of lessons away from that race, that I could continue to use in the race the following day at Izegem Pro-Koers. My shadow’s edge a little more crisp than the faded version I had been feeling just the week before.
Twenty-Four hours later I took to the start at Izegem Pro-Koers. Again I had a positive feeling in my legs. Though, the race held other outcomes for me. Evidence of racing rhythm being a difficult thing to build up. It is an ever fluctuating organism. After an hour of racing, I was gaining confidence by racing well. I found myself inside the top 20 of the peloton, alongside my professional teammates. That was until a mechanical took me to the team car and onto the second bike of my teammate, Luca De Meester. A lap riding with a saddle too tall was challenging. However, being so early into the race, it was crucial to remain calm, in the moment, and process what would be required of me in the next twenty minutes of chasing.
I had just passed the feedzone, where my deuxieme velo was located on the soigneur’s car. It was damage limitation. All I could do was stay on the bumper, just in contention. Thanks to the tips of Bernard Moerman, of the Flandrien Hotel, it was far easier to ride fast in the pocket behind the car. This would give me the best chance to switch to my spare bike and still make it back into the peloton, whilst expending the least amount of energy as possible. This delay, though, led to another ½ lap behind the cars. I returned to the peloton. Only, there was not one peloton, but three. Some 15 guys in the front, a peloton of 50 or so riders, and then a third peloton.
A lap in the third group, saw me yoyoing forward and back. I wondered why I was struggling. Was it the heat? Ok let’s drink. Was it nutrition? Not possible! Putain! I had a puncture. My tyre began rolling over itself in the technical final three kilometres of the race. A second trip to the car ensued. This time it was for a wheel change, which despite the disc brakes was rather rapid (Much quicker than the one I had had in the Junior Category, when were were one of the first teams to take up disc brakes.)
The mechanic doing a great job changing the wheel with the drill on hand, got me going in no time. I clearly had the sympathies of les directeurs sportives, as a fair few were kind enough to give me a tow back into the dwindling peloton. Arriving back into the third peloton, it was clear that my race was over. On a race as fast as Izegem, any issue basically puts you out of the race. This is true, even without a peloton that has no intention of racing. We not were over three minutes behind the front of the race.
A short overview of the last few races shows me that Racing Rhythm is about more than just fitness. It’s not about having a good race every day. It’s about learning from the mistakes. Taking them on board and moving on to the next day, a present in waiting. Like an evening track league, where in England you can race four times in an evening. Therefore providing four opportunities to correct any mistakes made in the previous, scratch, elimination or points races. Having five big races in the space of fourteen days provides those opportunities to test my boundaries and push my limits.
This week I have three opportunities to continue whatever I did right, and righting whatever I did wrong. I am not where I want to be in the fitness department. I am a long way from putting on the show I wish. Though, there are many lessons to be learnt in racing at a subpar level. This is where my focus is at the moment. Taking on the little wins, setting achieveable goals, so that I keep progressing onward. The process will pay dividends in the end. À la prochaine.