The Down-Low

Hello Internet, just writing to inform you that I’m still alive.
Just going to do a quick update here, so bear with the ugliness of the post.

– I haven’t been racing as much as I’ve been hoping to. I got sick again near the beginning of the month and after a few weeks of beginning to feel better, I think I’m pretty much done with it. Basically lots of coughing and congestion; not good for racing.

– Five of my friends got hit by a car while training on May 8th. Three of them were pretty serious. A broken femur, arm and wrist for one girl, a broken collarbone for my roommate, Emma, a fractured vertebrae for another. The other two suffered a concussion and a deep chin laceration. They’re lucky they’re still alive.

– The day after the accident, I was filmed in a commercial. It was some cheesy commercial where we had to ride our bikes around to showcase some stupid free cheeseball toy that comes with a copy of Het Nieuwsblad, the biggest newspaper in the country. We were promised that the shoot would take two hours, and it took nine, so we did the only thing we knew how to do…. we harassed the actor to his breaking point. And it was hilarious. In the final scene, we were all laughing uncontrollably and harassing everyone to the point where the film crew couldn’t hold the camera steady.

If you’re in the habit of looking for people you know, I’m one of the guys in red clothing, with a yellow/black helmet and black sunglasses.

-The next day, I went to a road race in France with 19 teammates on a big coach with a couple of team cars following. The race was tough, I lasted for the first two 10km circuits and helped out some of my fellow Anglo-teammates in those laps, but when we did the big 60km hilly lap, I got dropped on one of the first big hills. Our Director Sportif drove up to me in the team car yelling “Come on Monica! Go, go, go! Get on, Monica!”.
I got behind the car and I drafted him up the hill, felt like I was going to catch the peloton again, but when I tried sprinting around the car, I just went backwards again. I ended up catching a dozen or so other riders and finished the race in something like 150th place. I’m not totally proud of it, but after the crash and 9 hours of filming the previous days, I was exhausted going into it to begin with, and I think I was beginning to get sick.

– I got home from the race only to find out that one of my Canadian roommates crashed in his own race the same day and broke his collarbone. Two collarbones in two days for our little house. What luck…

– After the French race, I didn’t race for a few weeks because my health got worse, and I had to take some time off to deal with accumulated saddle sores. Isn’t that charming?

– Another day passes and my Israeli roommate breaks her collarbone in a race crash. Collarbone #3.

– After #3, I’m thoroughly spooked to ride my bike. A few days later, finishing a ride a kitted-out Peugeot 206 speeds through a stop sign into my Danger Zone. I yell just in time and he stops less than two inches from my right knee. He starts yelling at me like I did something wrong, so I punch out his left headlight. I’m not about to be #4.

-Somewhere around this time, my computer hit the wall. My lifeline to the outside world was contained in there, so basically I have to write on a borrowed computer. Welcome to my life, everything is breaking.

-After some good time-off, I get back into racing. It’s not a huge race, only 60-70 riders, a 10km loop and a few cobbles.
Still coughing up oysters, I made it into one of the first ill-fated breakaways of the day, but it didn’t last long. I tried for the second breakaway, lasted for about a lap, but I couldn’t handle the speed and dropped back to the first chase group, then into the second chase group. After a bit in the second chase group I was still coughing and sputtering and rode back to the main bunch in the peloton. Even that didn’t last long and on a shallow climb, I pulled myself out of the race.

– I raced again yesterday. It was in the same city as before, but a different course, this one was 7.3km, 15 times. The last kilometer was on a brick cobble road. 150 guys showed up, so it was a pretty big sized race, but still nothing compared to my first race of 238 riders (which was also in the same city of Merelbeke).
The first lap was generally just moving around in the peloton. On the second lap, I took the sidewalk on the long downhill straightaway going into a steady headwind and found myself off the front following my roommate Peter, so as not to be outdone.
Just before the 90* right hand turn, I looked back and it seemed that we were going to be caught. After the next right-hand turn, we had a pretty big gap in between the two groups but the pace kept on getting faster. Before I knew it, I was pulling at the front of the group again. All I was trying to do was keep the speed consistent, but I was using every muscle to do that. By the time the next rider pulled through and I was going to the back of the rotating line, I couldn’t sprint back on. I sat there in no-man’s land waiting to be swallowed up by the peloton, while trying to recover my legs.
They came and gulped me up and I jumped back in, destined to ride tempo in there for the rest of the race.
That’s when the rain came down. By “came down,” I’m talking about in sheets. The rain wasn’t quite Biblical, but it was enough for a bunch of Belgian racers to pull to the side of the road and pack up for the day. I pass by Peter and a Canadian roommate and they just shook their heads and pulled themselves out of the race.
When it comes to rain, I’m pretty fast, but today I was going to play it safe and back out along with my roommates. Today wasn’t a day to be a hero.

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~ by Mitcholo on June 1, 2010.

2 Responses to “The Down-Low”

  1. So many challenges – but you are a problem solver, Monica…Love you Miss you – mom

  2. Sounds brutal. We’re all thinking about you!

    Love– Uncle Rob

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