Friday, February 20, 2015

Finding the Silver Lining

A broken scaphoid and pisiformis in my left hand/wrist was not what I imagined when I thought about how the 2015 season would start. It happened as a result of a low speed crash in a switchback on the second day of racing in the Mallorca Challenge. I had almost zero road rash, but the impact was so violent that it caused me to break the two bones. The first big step in recovery was having surgery in Basel, Switzerland to repair the scaphoid fracture. I spent two nights in Basel for the surgery, which we're sure hoping was a success! All things look good for now, but the real test is the CT scan after 6 weeks to see how things have healed. If I'm lucky and everything is good, then I am hoping I can make a return to racing at Catalunya or Criterium International and continue a progression toward California from there. In the mean time, I'm busy doing anything I can to try and maintain some fitness, whether it is riding the trainer (which you can only do so long without wanting to kill yourself!) or hiking or running. For now things are going fine, but I'm not even two weeks in yet, so I might have to get creative after a little bit longer.

I don't want to dwell on the negative though. My crash could've been much worse and it could've happened at worse times. Having it happen now has been a small blessing because it is very early in the season, so I will hopefully still be able to recover in time for a lot of quality races, and also it is allowing me to spend more time with Noah while he is so young. It is incredible to see the changes he is going through on a near daily basis. He and I have become pretty good hiking buddies! We have a carrier that I can strap him into on my chest that then I can pretty much hike without having to worry about him. It is they perfect way for me to add a little extra challenge to my hike. I can tell you for sure that carrying an extra 12lbs is not easy! The hiking and running are giving me a new appreciation for the immediate area around Girona too. I get to see more of the nooks and crannies of the hills and valleys; they're really nice!

Post crash: the pie-shaped, grey space in the bone in the middle is not good! Also
the small chip off the bone on the left is not the normal state of affairs.
Post surgery: screw to put scaphoid back together. The light grey section in the long/big
bone below the scaphoid is where they took about a cubic centimeter of bone out of my
radius to graft into my scaphoid.
Cut wound for the bone graft.
The beautiful tattoo for my scaphoid.
My new cast. We're not best of friends. And I have a new
appreciation for opposable thumbs!
My hiking partners! :) 
Noah had his first Spanish cafe visit after our hike. He liked it!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Ouch!

My welcome back to racing was nothing short of painful. It began immediately at KM 0 as we started directly up a climb. I followed the first wheels, trying to catch the day's breakaway. Several ups, downs, and turns later I was not in the breakaway, but my legs and lungs were burning. A very brief respite and then Movistar went to work. They made the race very hard. We rode in the front as much as possible to keep Bauke and Fabio safe on the twisty coast road. I wish I had a moment to take in the beauty, but I never got a chance! It probably wasn't so good today under the overcast skies anyway. I'm not going to complain about that though because we got lucky and didn't have rain! Actually as we pulled away in the bus the first drops hit the windshield. But back to the race: there wasn't much raising of the pace/tempo to do as we made the approach into the base of the Puigmajor, but the stress definitely went up. I can admit that I wasn't very keen on the stress and came to the base of the climb a little far back. Thankfully the road is wide and as the peloton fanned out, I was able to make up some good ground pretty quickly. I found Fabio a little bit back and helped move him forward. Then I tried to settle into a rhythm, but the tempo being set by Movistar was very hard. I fought but ultimately my legs didn't have it in them. Being dropped was not the start to the season I'd hoped for, but I can only get better from here, right?! In all seriousness though, my legs didn't feel super bad throughout the day, but I was always pushing and felt on my limit on many occasions. I don't know exactly how to assess that, but the bottom line is that I'm not panicking. Like I said, the good news is that I can only go up from here, which is what I want to do, especially given the fact that my goals are 3+ months from now. 

Regarding the finish of today, I'm not sure of the details, but Bauke did a good race to get 4th. He was disappointed, but I was happy to hear it! Tomorrow is another hard day, hopefully with the same weather, and hopefully with better results. Come back to find out!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Goodbye Mallorca... And Hello Again.

Training camp is over now, but rather than leaving to go home I am staying here through the weekend to race a few days of the Mallorca Challenge. I've raced here before, but don't remember too much about it. One certain memory I have is 2011 or 2012 when we were driving to the start of the stage in a couple inches of snow and somehow it was thought we would race. Thankfully common sense prevailed and the stage was cancelled. The weather this year is once again not looking so favorable. Friday and Saturday they are predicting rain, which might mean snow in the mountains. I'm not sure what that will mean for racing but I can certainly predict cold and wet: thumbs down. Whatever happens, I hope they take in account our safety when they consider sending us up and down the long climbs/descents on the twisty and slippery roads here. The race itself is of unique structure given that it is a series race instead of a stage race. Rather than being a 4 day cumulative event it is 4 individual races that a rider can participate in as many as they want. For me, I'll be doing 3 of the 4 stages, skipping the first day. The second and third days are the mountain days and the fourth is kind of an intermediate day. It's certainly going to be a hard way to start the season, but I guess that's the best way to get the engine running!

I suppose you're wondering what I'm doing between camp and the races? I get two days of rest! It feels well earned after a difficult training camp. I woke up leisurely this morning, had a relaxing breakfast, then contemplated training as the I watched rain drops splatter in the pool. I opted to take a full day of rest instead of go get wet or ride the trainer. I traded my bike shorts for my swim shorts, slipped in the big bathrobe provided by the hotel, walked down to the spa, and enjoyed. I did a little time in the sauna, went to the pool and stretched a bit, did a little more time in the sauna, and then finished it with some time in a eucalyptus scented steam room. Following that, I had a nice lunch and a coffee from the new machine on the bus (super nice!), and then have spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out. Overall it has been a very restful day, hopefully recharging my batteries before the season officially starts! Stay tuned for the updates.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Resting Today

Hello again from Mallorca. It's the second rest day of our camp and I'm busy... resting! For some reason I was awake by 7:00 this morning, managed to lay in bed until 7:30ish, but then I couldn't stand it anymore and had to get up. I went to the lobby and messed around on my computer for a bit before having breakfast. Then it was onto relaxing a bit more before going out for a nice, easy spin into Palma for a coffee in the sun. It was glorious. The sun was shining brilliantly, the sky was blue, the company was good, the view over the marina was nice, and the coffee tasted great! Home for lunch, then a quick nap to bolster my recovery before the last training block, a massage, and then more relaxing before dinner and bed. All in all it is a great day!

Yesterday we had a long ride as a whole team. Despite the sun shining on us, the temperatures were quite chilly, especially in the shade on the north side of the mountains where we spent a good portion of the day. We made a nice lap of the island that included several of the well known climbs, but for me the most exciting one to see was the climb from Sa Calobra, formally called Col de Reis. It was an incredible road and well worth the trip there if you're ever here. The construction of the road is unbelievable and the views over the mountains and Mediterranean are awesome. After several more hours in the saddle, nearing 6 to be exact, we had one final climb to do, in which we decided a race would happen. I had mixed emotions about it, but decided to indulge the directors and attack straight away at the bottom. I actually followed Markel, but was immediately pulling alone. I was eventually pulled back and was happy to just let them ride away as the burn in my legs and lungs was enough for the moment. After the climb it was a flat, slightly rolling ride home. Soon after we passed the final town, there was an attack from the classics guys, which I later found out was well orchestrated. One of them was to attack the bottom of the climb in order to help "stoke" the race for the climbers. Then as we were rolling home, they could have their own race. It was all in good fun and I was content with 2/3rds of the guys to just let the 5 or 6 guys have their fun. It was a good, long day in the saddle with everyone.

On the other training days we've just been doing some specific exercises individually and as a group at times. We've used our TT bikes once, and I believe they're on the schedule again tomorrow. Outside of the daily on the bike training, we've had lots of off the bike training. Nearly every day we have something extra, whether it is core training, squat training, pilates, or stretching. To be honest, it is a little exhausting! The benefits are well worth the energy spent though. Perhaps our reward for all the hard work is having our chef, Kim, here. He refuels us each night with good meals and desserts. Meal time is a highlight of the day for both the food and the good team atmosphere where we can reflect on the day and share stories from the past. There's never a shortage of conversation.

I suppose that is all for now! Thanks for reading :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Alive and Well in 2015

Hey all, it's been a bit since I last posted. Apologies for being so absent! Please check our team website for my off-season update. Otherwise, I'm hoping to get back on the bandwagon here and be more consistent with my updates. Thanks for coming back for a look!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Where's Matthew Now?

I'm in Canada, 'ey! Hello hello from the land of maple syrup (yes I had some at breakfast!) I'm here in Quebec City for the Grand Prix Cycliste Quebec, a one day World Tour race. It's 11 laps of a challenging 18km circuit totaling 199km. The rain is falling today, but I THINK we are supposed to have dry weather tomorrow. I really hope so anyway because this circuit in the wet would be disastrous. Riding it with a few of my teammates today was scary enough! I don't have any predictions or ideas about the race really. It is long and hard enough that I think it is kind of a matter of natural selection. Positioning is a key factor for saving as much energy as possible in a few sections of the course, so I'll do my best to stay well placed and/or help my teammates do the same. I'll report back with the results!

I've been a few places since the last time I blogged in Colorado. Following the race, Lisa and I returned to North Carolina for about 10 days. It was absolutely glorious. The weather was perfect. We each had some fun out training. I did a charity/group ride in the neighboring town of Hendersonville called Tour de Apple on Labor Day. It turned out to be a great ride with some beautiful new roads I'd never been on, and the course was not easy at all either! Lisa and I found a night to sneak out and go camping, which was super fun despite my three hour saga of starting/maintaining a fire with wet wood. I can admit that I was unbelievably frustrated, BUT I did prevail and have a fire that burned all the wood by the end of the night and produced awesome coals. Let me tell you that those s'mores never tasted so good!

Most recently Lisa and I hopped on a plane back to Minnesota for a friend's wedding. The ceremony was really nice and it was really fun to catch up with some of our college friends. After dancing the night away, we took a quick nap before getting on the road to Milwaukee for my sister-in-law's baby shower. We actually showed up unannounced, which was kind of fun. Thankfully they accepted us crashing the shower and then my parents allowed us to crash their house for a few nights, otherwise we would've been sleeping in a park somewhere! It was a short but nice visit at home. Yesterday Lisa dropped me at the airport at 6:30am in order to catch my flight here, while she turned northwest to drive back to Minnesota. She's spending a few days at home while I'm here and then we'll both fly back to NC after the weekend. Then who knows where our next adventure will take us! Ideas? Suggestions?

Friday, August 22, 2014

So Close and Soggy

Let me begin with the excitement in Colorado Springs yesterday. I think the number one objective was for Jens to be in the break and go for the stage win. He was clearly very motivated. Things went to plan with Laurent and Jens making the break. The gap grew nicely and it looked very promising as the kilometers dwindled. I kept myself out of trouble to preserve my gc place and rode on anxiously just hoping Jens was going to pull off his magic one more time. As we raced into the final 3km I could see Jens just in front of us. Finally as we took the turns into the final kilometer I could see Jens was fighting with everything he had, but it wasn't going to be enough. I was heartbroken as we caught him with about 700 meters to go. Nonetheless it was another inspirational and heroic effort. It's really incredible how Jens rides. I'm not sure anyone else has or ever will ride as hard as him. It's been a true honor to be his teammate.

After the fireworks yesterday, it would only be fitting that we'd have a little more excitement today. The rain drops were sprinkling on us as we rolled out. We had a few moments of dry roads, but that was temporary. It took nearly 50km of pretty difficult racing for the break to get away. Laurent played it perfectly and got into it. Finally a moment to breathe, eat, and drink something. There wasn't much of a slow down though as BMC began to set a steady tempo to keep things under control. As we rolled through the feedzone, it was evident that the weather was going to get ugly. For the next 50 or so kilometers we had some miserably cold rain. I wore my rain vest and rain jacket to try and stay warm. Still it wasn't enough. My savior might have been Markel offering me a spare pair of long finger gloves he had. I happily accepted them even though I had already asked Jens to grab my gloves and another jacket from the car. I never did receive those items though. I came to find out after the stage that Jens was so cold that he had to stop for a bit to have the mechanic put his gloves on. By the time he fought his way back to the field it was basically too late. Thankfully the rain had let off and I was able to warm up a bit.

We arrived at the base of Hoosier Pass and Optum set about trying to blow things up. I simply tried to follow. At the top of Hoosier there were only a few of us left. Garmin set about driving the pace down the descent into the final KOM. I followed and prepared for the last steep climb that blew things up last year. I wasn't familiar with the climb because I was at the Vuelta last year, but I knew I needed to be patient. Saxo took over the pace making as we hit the climb. Finally about 300 meters from the top Tejay attacked. It was the final steep section. I reacted a little slowly and tried to chase. By the finish I was 5th of the gc guys and 5 seconds behind the lead 3. It was a good way to finish up before tomorrow's vital time trial.

A nice bonus to the day was hearing after the stage that Laurent had won the stage! I didn't mention above that the break would stay away for the day. We had our action behind, but they also had action in front. Laurent played it perfectly with a late attack at the top of the final climb. He was able to hold off the chasers to take the stage win. It's great to see him win because he's always working so hard for the team. Overall it was a horribly miserable day that sapped some serious energy, but it was awesome at the same time because Laurent took it home for us today!

**I apologize if this blog is horribly confusing and scattered. I think I'm completely drained and in need of some food!