European Championships with Conor
It is fair to say that Belgium has been rather hot over the last few weeks. I have been keeping cool as best I can but there are only a certain amount of places in which splaying out in the naked star fish position is deemed acceptable. The heat was also responsible for a minor disaster involving a leaking air conditioner overnight and a brand new wooden floor which made for a rather stressful morning.
I have been really enjoying life in Belgium nonetheless and have been utilizing our terrace for many a wild evening reading books and playing numerous games of chess.
Bike wise, my confidence is definitely improving as each race passes and I seem to be feeling stronger each race which is a moral booster. There are about two and a half months of the season to go now and I am very focused to go all out until the end now. After a nightmare start to the season with sickness and terrible form, I am so motivated to get some results and show what I can really do. The team has got a lot of good races to finish the season, including a couple of big ones in the UK, so plenty to aim for.
My last big race was the U23 European Championships in Nyon, Switzerland. I rode the TT and the road race for Ireland on a rolling course adjacent to Lake Geneva.
I could feel my legs returning beforehand when I rode a pro kermesse in Roeselare, making the winning break with Philippe Gilbert no less! Although that ended in disappointment when I punctured and had to rim it back to my car through the town backstreets in pouring rain like a dejected, drowned rat. I think every cyclist has come to understand the glamour of our sport, half naked in an anonymous car park getting changed. I was getting changed to do another 3.5 hours training when I could have been smashing it round Roeselare in the breakaway… ‘’why oh why’’ and thoughts of such like.
In the Euro TT I finished up 22nd which I felt was a good performance considering I hadn’t specifically targeted it. It was my first outing on the Vitesse TT rig and I must say I was really impressed by the bike, looking forward to riding it more!
In the road race I had quite high hopes but to be honest I left the race disappointed and the feeling that I could have done better. I suffered a mechanical in the early stages and had to change bikes which involved a rather hilarious (in hindsight) Monty Python moment of panic at the side of the road. Long story short we had to do a couple of road side repairs to my bike, my manager and mechanic were cool calm and collected whilst I looked on trying to be of assistance. It is safe to say that adrenaline, high heart rate and panic are not the best ingredients for such a situation. Basically, when I say assistance, what I really mean is running round in circles like a headless chicken doing a funny dance. Whoops.
All was fixed though and I began what should have been a routine and easy chase back on. However I quickly realised that my barely warmed up legs weren’t really up for smashing it just yet and I spent the next lap and a bit grovelling in the convoy. My cause wasn’t helped by the amount of crashes I passed, it felt like I was chasing back onto a bunch which was racing over landmines.
Anyhow after basically struggling through one of the longest hours of my life I made it back into the bunch, took one massive breath and breathed a big sigh of relief. After a few more laps my legs came round and I was able to get involved in the action at the front.
The race boiled down to a technical descent which led directly onto a sharp right hand bend and a narrow climb. The run up to this descent was basically the defining feature of the race, if you weren’t at the front for it; game over. I made a good job of it most laps but on the penultimate lap, the time it really mattered, I stuffed it up and was subsequently too far back to miss the split on the climb. It was all my fault and felt like an anti-climatic end to a race which felt like it had just passed me by.
Since Euros I have raced a couple of Pro Kermesse, finishing anonymously between 20th/40th positions. However I have had good feelings and feel that I’m starting to find a couple more gears.
The next race with the team is a hard stage race in Brittany called Kreiz Breiz Elites so I will be hoping to make the selection for that and race well. Until then I’m keeping in the good routine I have found with my training, focusing on keeping up with the diet, stretching daily, flossing my teeth and praying to the cycling gods each night.