Here’s my best attempt at a catch up. Post Basque Country, I was originally scheduled to do Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday, but I was unable to race due to a sinus infection (my diagnosis). It all began after the fifth stage of Basque Country actually. I was very restless that night and woke up Saturday morning already feeling “off”. I rode a solid time trial, but I don’t think it helped my symptoms; that night I was feeling even a little worse. Sunday morning I was up at 530am to catch my flight home, which was nice because I was able to enjoy a homemade Sunday brunch with Lisa, but I was still feeling “symptomatic” and unable to even nap that afternoon. Worse yet, I struggled to sleep again on Sunday night, so I woke up Monday with whatever was now ravaging my sinuses. I laid in bed all day on Monday with Lisa doing anything/everything she could to help me (THANK YOU!). I wanted nothing more than to close all the blinds and my eyes to try and forget how I was feeling. My head felt as though it was going to explode from every angle. My eyes hurt, my ears hurt, even my teeth.
I woke up on Tuesday with the hopes that I’d feel good enough to go train a little, then hop on the plane to Belgium for my race on Wednesday. Well, I felt quite uncomfortable out training, which I relayed to the team doctor and directors. At literally the last moment (Lisa was already out the door to get the car), we decided I was not going to race. I was very disappointed to have to make the decision that I was “unfit” to race, but I know it was the right one because my body was telling me I needed the rest. Also, I didn’t want to risk my bigger goals of Amstel, Fleche, Liege, and California. I went downstairs to meet Lisa for our pick up, and rather than drive to the airport, we drove back to our parking spot, walked home, and I went straight to my bed again. Finally I was able to sleep a bit.
After a few more days or sleeping as much as I could and finally riding a little bit, I boarded the plane bound for Belgium on Friday night. Saturday morning we did a course recon for Amstel. I rode Amstel in 2011, so I recognized some of the area, but nothing was really familiar. Most of the finishing circuit was actually familiar to me because we raced it during Worlds last year. It was very nice to be back on my bike, but I had no idea how I would feel during the race on Sunday. I still had a lot of congestion, but at least the swollen feeling in my head was gone.
So the race on Sunday: Amstel is known for its small roads, steep climbs, and incredible fans. I was not assigned to breakaway duty at the start of the race, but I tried to stay up front in case I saw an opportunity to get into a move and make the day “easier” on myself by avoiding the constant battle for position. I never really had the chance, so I was going to ride the race from the field. Given the fact that our team didn’t have a strong race favorite, we had to come up with a different strategy to be a little more offensive. We decided to save Tony for the final, and the rest of us were supposed to pick some moments to attack before the race got too deep into the final. That plan didn’t really work out so well as Andy abandoned after a crash with about 80km to go, and Tommy didn’t make it back to the field after a crash with about 50km to go that Max, Haimar, and I were also involved in. The other three of us did battle our way back to the field, but by the time we made it, we had spent so much energy, that I don’t think any of us had the legs to try an attack (speaking for myself mainly). I was dropped and regained contact with the field no less than 4 times in those last 40km. I could ride in the field ok, but when we would hit a climb, my legs would just light up with fire (lactic acid), and I couldn’t push the pedals with the necessary intensity anymore. I would drop off each time thinking it was probably the last, but I would keep pushing at my own rhythm, limiting my losses. Over the top, I wouldn’t be incredibly far off the back, so I would chase and made it back several times. The final “ungluing” came the third time up the Cauberg. My group gave chase to regain contact, but we didn’t make it, so our fate was sealed.
It is really hard for me to describe the feelings I had on the bike during Amstel. Between hardly riding all week, having a lot of congestion still, and being unable to eat the necessary amount, my body wasn’t sure what I was putting it through. I finished the day as empty as I can remember ever being. It really hit me how empty I was when I was about 4km from the finish. All of the sudden I felt sick to my stomach and thought I might pass out. I quickly slammed a gel and honey waffle. Thankfully they kicked in pretty quick because I’m not sure I would’ve made it up the Cauberg that last time. I’ve had the hypo-glycemic (low blood sugar) feeling many times before, but this feeling was all new to me. I crossed the finish line just hoping the bus was close. Luckily it was, and I crawled on board just happy to have finished. I was completely exhausted.
The last two days have been spent trying to recover. Lots of laying on my bed, some napping, getting a massage, a little tv watching, chatting with people on the phone/Skype, and of course some good food. Last night a few of us actually went to a movie at the theater down the road from our hotel. We saw “Oblivion” with Tom Cruise. I’m not sure really how I felt about it. It was at least entertaining, and a good distraction from the racing. Today we drove over to preview the last lap of the Fleche Wallone course. I believe the course changed last year, so other than the final climb, I recognized basically nothing from my ride in 2011. I guess I’ll see it tomorrow! I expect it to be another difficult race. These three Ardennes classics are always some of the hardest races of the year. I like them and hope that each time I race I will become more familiar with them. A huge advantage to these races is knowing where you are on the course, and that comes with the experience. Come back later for the Fleche report. Thanks for reading!