From sick bed to gutter - Conor on the comeback trail.

Back riding, racing and suffering

So I am back in Belgium and on the comeback trail, last week I jumped straight back into it with 3 x one day races; Omloop Waasland, Nokere Koerse and Handzame Classic.

My legs were always going to seriously hurt in these but this would be the case no matter what and I was just going to have to take it. I managed to get through Waasland and then with a little more confidence tackled Nokere.

However confidence is a double edged sword and can lead you into many sticky situations. It led me to follow a Caja Rural and FDJ rider attack halfway up the first climb of the day in Nokere. This was a reminder that I have made many poor life choices. After getting caught over the top of the climb, I spent a good while absolutely hanging and questioning my life choices further. I finished Nokere in one piece though which I was happy with, even though it hurt like hell, a 200km Belgium semi-classic must be good for you in the long run right?? Either way I was back in the game racing my bike, content feelings!

Fast forward to a left turn in Handzame from a block headwind into a stonking cross-wind and I was well and truly out of the game. The day all started with the customary drive to the race start in the absolute pissing rain. The rain persisted, a grey grim day in Belgium. This was a day for rain jackets, thick overshoes and warm clothes.

Belgium being Belgium however and a few minutes before the start the clouds blew over and we were standing in dazzling sunshine. 10km down the road and I was sweating my b**ls off. All I could think of was getting my layers off and cooling down, so after 50km and an easing of the pace in a headwind section I did just that.

This was the stupidest thing I have done on the bike in a long time hands down. Good legs or bad legs it was a complete school boy error.

You see, after stripping my clothes off I was now at the back of the bunch as we took a left turn into the biggest, most gruesome, ugly crosswind section I have ever witnessed. There are a few painful ways to die; drowning, starvation, firing squad, guillotine or maybe a falling piano. However none compare to the back of a line out in West-Vlaanderen when Quickstep absolutely smash a race to bits. I have never seen a race completely explode in such a short space of time.

I battled on in various echelons, groups came and groups splintered. There was no way back, I’d just ended my race and cemented my reputation as a complete retard. The gutter claimed 120 victims that day and 100km down the road, I was one of them.

All being said, deep down I was still content to have got some racing back into the legs. Now I feel I have the fitness to do a really hard training block here in Belgium and get myself properly back in the game. So right now I am currently doing a lot of bicycle practising, pretending I’m Rocky and listening to lots of fist pumping dance music.