Euro Beat w/ Spencer

As I reflect on the past week, I am forced to recognise that many of the situations I find myself in while racing in France are different from anything I have experienced before. Sure, they may mirror past circumstances, but there are newer challenges to face, learn from and make me stronger. These obstacles may prove difficult for the moment, but they help build my experience for the future.

Last Thursday brought out the sun and it echoed my excitement to find some new roads. Riding with Bartosz, I was a little too enthusiastic at first, sprinting up each climb until I hit my heart rate ceiling. I was rather impressed with how I was riding, but I payed for it later. On our way back home I had little energy and came close to bonking at one point. Luckily I had a great deal of food on me and as I approached Le Creusot I began to feel much better.

Friday was a recovery ride and it was well needed after two longer days of climbing at high pace. This time the search new roads backfired as I turned towards what I thought would be flat and found some steep rolling hills. This proved difficult on my recovery ride as each road would challenge my heart rate ceiling. I made it back home without feeling bad, and so thought nothing of it. The next day I continued along a route I knew would be flat. In preparation for the next day’s race, I was not to ride too hard, but faced a little difficulty in the wind. I felt great though and had the power to ride into the wind without really feeling it.

Sunday I awoke and the sun had hidden again. This did not bother me though as I was in a good mental state and looking forward to the race with what felt like some decent form. On the drive to the course, thunderheads bearing walls of rain revealed themselves. Once again this actually excited me as I saw it as an advantage over the other riders. I thought to myself, “I want this race to be as hard as it possibly can”. We arrived at the course and soon it stopped raining, revealing the sun. We got everything organised with the time creeping ever closer to the start and as they were calling the riders to the start line, we were once again in the middle of a thunderstorm. The wind had picked up too, making the start corral unbearable for many.

Sitting at around four degrees with a strong rainy wind, I should have had a good warm up to get my legs going before the obvious flurry of attacks featured throughout almost any European race. This is where I ran out of time, finding myself still preparing my bottles with five minutes to the start. So, the race starts and I manoeuvre myself to the front during a brief neutral start. The car takes off and the pace picks up stringing the pack out. As we go over a little rise, my position at the front has me following the chase of some early attacks. This effort is not that difficult and is less than someone at the back would feel, but afterwards, in the approach of the lap’s real climb I had fallen back into the peloton. This climb is not long, at just under a kilometre, or really steep, but it is into a straight headwind and the road seems to stick to the wheels. Here the pack draws into a line with many breaks in it. I must pull back riders now with gaps in front of me as people are getting dropped everywhere. I chase back and the peloton re-groups a little on the little descent, but the effort really hurt. My legs were aching with pain that did not feel like I was fresh as I had been during the week. By the time we hit this climb the second time, I was in the middle of the pack, but this time when the splits occurred to a greater degree, I felt worse and could not hold the wheels. With legs aching, shortened and laboured breathing and being unable to really push myself, I now headed the first of many chase groups. At first we worked with cohesion, but ended up dropping people and after a couple more laps, it was only my teammate Romain Taricco and I putting in a real effort. As this came to be and it became apparent we would eventually be lapped by the breakaway, everyone seemed to give up. Maybe it was that we were now fully saturated, but it felt like the weather had worsened and the cold now became noticeable. With each of the previously mentioned factors having accumulated and not wanting to get sick again, I pulled out of the race. I felt horrible and uncharacteristic doing this, but in the end I watched 25 of over 80 starters finish. This weather and abandon pattern was seen in races across France with only 47 riders finishing the professional GP de la Ville Rennes.

Spencer’s teammate in the break

Monday was a rather easy day for me without a ride. The only thing I did of notice was clean my bike which, being white, needs it often. Tuesday morning I woke up early and walked to the Lab which is close by. I wanted to check my blood to make I was everything was running fine. Later in the day on my ride, I had some difficulty. After some intervals and just pedalling softly, my legs would contract hard as if they were almost cramping. I also noticed my heart rate was exceptionally high while riding easily. After another interval, which saw the shortened and laboured breathing return, I decided I needed to go home to recover from whatever was causing my body so much trouble. In the evening I picked up my blood results with everything in normal values, but a large number of white blood cells indicated my immune system may still be fighting something.

This morning I awoke with better heart rate numbers and feeling alright. I had planned to do the obligatory training with the under 26 team this afternoon. It was pouring through the day, but when it came time to train I threw on as much clothing as I could and headed to the club to meet the other riders. It was not too bad at the start. It was actually fun riding in the rain without being cold. We rode out to Chagny and turned to Mellecey to preview the end of the 3rd stage of the Circuit de Saone et Loire, a very high level Elite National race, and put on by our club. The ride from here featured a great deal of climbing with a few brutally steep sections. I was tired late in the ride and it was impossible to keep my heart rate under the ceiling on any one of the climbs.
As I keep experiencing these challenges, I have forced myself to look at them as a chance to learn and improve. I look forward to a 4 stage race, the Tour du Jura, starting this Friday. I know that obstacles may rise there as they have in the past, but I am prepared to face them and will do so with a desire to become that much stronger.



2 Responses to “Euro Beat w/ Spencer”

  1. Excellent writing Spence. Its refreshing to hear your ‘grounded’ viewpoint. Your experiences this year will be cumulative, and coupled with your positive, determined attitude, I am convinced they will pay a huge dividend down the road. (mind the pun) Continue to keep that excellent perspective, continue to assess and learn, and keep the updates coming. In the immortal words of another Alberta racer, “keep it real”. Cheers.

  2. Thanks for the support.

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