Who leaves a team-mate in Memphis?
When Redlands finished up I was on my way to Tucson for 10 days. Tucson is the desert, hot and incredibly dry. I was drinking about 5 litres of water a day. I never used the bathroom so much. Tucson is currently my favourite city in the USA. There is a real feeling of individuality.
The 10 days came to an end and a flight to Winston-Salem, North Carolina awaited me. A one day UCI race over what could have been a course transplanted in the USA from Belgium or Brittany.
I made the main break of the race, with two others. With about an hour and a half of racing left cramps emanating from my feet worked their way up my calves into my glutes and lower back and soon I was done for. The race was live across the internet and if you tuned in all you’d have seen was myself hitting my left glute to try and release the pressure and continue pedalling – to no avail. My Belgian teammate, Brecht, finished 11th. After a perfect 3 hours we came unravelled. More chances to come. Here is a small highlights reel from this race.
American racing has a different style, a Crit was on the cards in the same town for the following day with a technical circuit, for America. 6 corners. All of them exact right angles. It could have been in a straight line and I would have been in trouble. Cramps from the previous day continued all night and I was essentially useless and could only watch, albeit mightily happily, as Brecht, my team-mate, won.
Next up was a visit to the hospital until 3 am with a sick team-mate (he’s Canadian,there’s no hope) and then a 15 hour drive starting at 9am the following morning crossing 3 states. Oh yeah.
That right there is my idea of hell. Compounding the situation was that another teammate got sick half way through the journey, we left him in Memphis. Consequently that meant we needed to make the van sterile enough for surgery as we tried to kill the virus. Myself and the 2 other survivors treated everyone within eyesight as though they had the plague for the remainder of the journey. We made it to Joe Martin (our next stage race) in great health. The spirits would follow in a few days as we recovered from the van time.
An 8 minute uphill TT kicked off Joe Martin. Questions about the time my Garmin and power data said I did and what was posted in the results were erased the following day as I did everything I could to keep Brecht in the correct spot for the sprint and pulled out of the effort with 1km remaining. Brecht led around the last corner with 400m to go but the headwind gave the advantage to others behind. He was 6th. There are a number of different things about US racing,I learned to race in Europe and body contact is the norm when fighting for position. That’s how I ride. I’m not afraid of it. If I am becoming sandwiched between 2 riders I will do everything I can to a) not crash, and b) not be impeded, regardless of whether it is happening after 1km done or with 1km to go. Don’t like heat? You know what to do.
Some frustrating racing on the following day meant a bunch sprint again. Brecht was 5th. That hurt us mentally. That was the day we should have at least been on the podium. The only thing we got as a result was more fuel for the fire. The last day was a criterium with the added challenge of tornado warnings. Rain and wind split the field but we picked up some good cash in primes and again, Brecht maintained his GC spot and sprinted to another top 10.