How is that for a catchy title?? Here is my recap from yesterday’s HUGE day. Thanks in advance for reading:)
The Eneco Tour prologue had been on my mind ever since I talked with John Lelangue and he put me on the schedule to do it back after Nationals in May. I had a disappointing Nationals, coming in as a defending champ and finishing 7th. The prologue at the Eneco Tour was a long way off but I knew that it would suit me. I competed in a little race last year with Trek Livestrong called Olympia’s Tour, which we won. Eneco seems to basically be the big man version of Olympia’s. Same UCI commissaires, some of the same organizers, same doping control officers. Way more press, WorldTour riders coming off of the Tour de France, and bigger crowds. The courses however are very similar, and I knew this way back in May when I set the prologue as a big target for me to focus on in June and July.
Instead of going home to Colorado after Nationals as was my original plan, I headed to Zolder, Belgium to meet up with the Tour team and to test out BMC’s swanky new TT bike (which I immediately fell in love with).
Step 1, get ahold of the new machinery–complete.
Step 2 was a bit more complicated: Train your ass off.
Again, instead of going home to Colorado, I opted to stay in Europe, minimize my travel days, head to my apartment in Lucca and train with the help of Max Sciandri who lives nearby. I also decided, with input from Max and John, to do Tour of Austria as preparation for the latter part of the season. In June I trained more than I have ever trained, in my entire life. I was putting in 7-8 hour rides, and enjoying them. Obviously I was not training 7 hours every day but when my coach would tell me to do a big ride, for example 5-6 hours, I would go above and beyond and hit 7-8.
As a result I went into the 8 day Tour of Austria very fit, and surprised myself in how well I was able to get through it. Being a big man, therefore a not so stellar climber, I found myself NOT getting dropped first on the big Austrian climbs. Rather, I was able to hang on to the main pack on some of the more difficult days. And I delivered what, for me, was a great result in the TT on the 7th day, 4th.
Besides a small crash on the final circuit of the final day, everything was on track.
Next race was Wallonie and if you follow the blog you know how that went! Incident free, with our man Greg Van Avermaet taking the win.
Step 3 was something I was pretty comfortable with; believing in myself. In a way I act as my own psychologist. The morning before a big race I have been targeting for a while, there are pre-race jitters, and questions. ‘Are you fit enough? But look at the start list! Look who you have to beat! These are your idols and you think you can beat them??’ All these questions get answered in a letter than I write to myself, basically pumping me up and telling myself I am the man, that I am going to win, that no one can beat me. It is similar to a scene in a movie where a character will have a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other except, for me, I have an over-confident asshole on one shoulder, and a wimpy, starry-eyed weakling on the other. The over-confident asshole always triumphs and is able to convince the weakling he is in fact, THE MAN.
Warming up, I felt amazing. Absolutely amazing. I had created an ‘Eneco Prologue’ playlist on my iPod and had the tracks blaring in my ears. It was as if my legs weren’t even attached to my body. That is what feeling good is really, just feeling nothing–funny how that is. I actually started to smile a few times as Drake’s new single ‘Headlines’ played alongside this incredible feeling of nothingness in my legs.
In a prologue and for time trials I usually have a protocol. I have a salt solution I will drink before and during warm up, I put a BreatheRight strip on my nose and I usually take about 100-200mg of caffeine either in a gel or in a drink mix.
Yesterday I had no salt solution. Forgot about the BreatheRight. And when the doc brought my caffeine bottle I felt so good I told him I didn’t need it.
It feels good, to feel good.
Soon enough I was in the start house, flashing back to Olympia’s Tour, thinking about the time and all that had happened since I was in Holland last.
The over-confident asshole on my shoulder whispered in my ear: ‘This is your moment, fucking own it.’ And I was off. The race is a bit of a blur, but I just put my head down and buried myself. There were so many roundabouts and speed bumps, also known as ‘road furniture’, in the first 4km that finding a rhythm was impossible. It was all about high cadence and speed. I knew that the last 500m consisted of 4 90 degree turns so the race, in my eyes, was to that point. From there it was all about hanging on. With my head down I pushed onwards, fire burning in my legs, lungs struggling to bring in any oxygen. I saw the 500m to go sign and gave another push, slammed the breaks, took the corner just a bit too fast, made it, got through the next one. Sprinted, made the next right, then a quick left, sprinted, shifted up, sprinted and boom. Done.
I gasped for air as I passed the finish line, sure that I had done enough. The team was ecstatic as I got back to the bus as I had beat the previous best time by about 10 seconds. I took a quick shower, breaking out in a quick fit of relief-related laughter, but quickly got my emotions under control. I hadn’t won yet.
Millar, Boom and Boassen Hagen had yet to finish. These guys are my idols! What was I thinking! I hadn’t won yet, not even close. The over-confident asshole, however, returned to my shoulder telling me: ‘You got this buddy, you crushed these guys, they can’t touch you.’
The minutes passed slowly as the riders came in to the finish one by one. I was watching in the bus, with the team, keeping my fingers crossed that I had done enough. I wanted this win so bad, I worked so hard for it. This could turn my season around. Please let it be. Millar came close, and then Boassen Hagen came closer, Boom wasn’t going to get it and I knew soon enough, when Grabsch rolled in that I had done it. The team erupted with whooping and clapping. I went around and shook everyone’s hand, thanking them for believing in me.
I got the podium clothes on, stepped off the bus and headed to podium. Since this was the first stage, I had won all of the jerseys so I made 4 rounds on the podium, each time unable to hold my smile for the crowd as it was comical for me to keep popping out. I had my fun, gave my flowers away, did some interviews, and pissed in a cup.
On the way back to the hotel my twitter was absolutely blowing up, and I felt motivated to answer everyone who congratulated me. It has been a difficult year for me and to have my fans be as supportive as they have been, I definitely wanted to give back what I could. Funnily enough I maxed out some sort of twitter status update limit and had to wait 2 hours before continuing my thank yous.
Dinner concluded with popping some champagne and toasting to the result.
Good day at the office. A lot of work still to be done in this race! We are ready and willing to keep the momentum going.