A tale of two halves…
Racing a bike, like life, is riddled with ups and downs. When things are going according to plan, those ups and down are only encountered while out on the roads. But I ask, in life how often can we say everything is according to plan?
Today was embraced by the entire team as our first real test of the legs since travel. While most of us continue to adapt to our new time zone it would seem as though most everyone was awake this morning and ready to hit the Velodrome.
The Velodrome here in Wales is an exceptional facility for training. The track itself is in excellent condition and at the moment inside temperatures are hovering near 90-degrees to simulate anticipated racing environments at the Paralympics. The staff and volunteers are eager to help in anyway possible during our training session whether it be fetching coffee for coaches or carrying miscellaneous gear to the infield. To top things off during our track session we had spectators in the stands that were eager to provide a bit of cheer and ruckus during our session adding to the race-like vibe of the day.
As a whole this seemed to motivate and excite us all. Throughout the workout individual tasks were performed with focused execution and good turns of speed to boot. We all rolled off the track encouraged and motivated for the days to come. With the first half of our training day in the bag all was right with our bike racer world.
The second half of the day began under uncharacteristically sunny skies as we rolled out for our road block of training. We immediately settled into a nice climb up and over a ridge before making a sharp descent to a quiet river valley. The roads were quintessential European country roads, winding their narrow selves through the wood and fields to some fabled grandmother’s house. To say that we all were enjoying the moment would be an understatement; in fact riding in this setting I believe for most of us is where the passion of cycling is found. In short it was perfect…but then life happened.
One moment we were the enthusiastic refined Team USA cycling team and in the next we were chaotic display of confusion. In that blink of an eye I had spotted and called out, to the riders behind me, a hole on the right shoulder of the road while at the same time instinctively avoiding the obstruction myself. The shrill of brakes being clutched promptly followed by the crunch of both bike and bodies stole all idyllic joy from the moment. As I came to a stop along side the men’s tandem it was with heavy hearts that we look back on the scene to see over half of our team lying on the asphalt bruised, bloodied and in disbelief.
Gone was the encouragement from the morning session replaced with sadness, doubt and frustration. It would seem as though life had chosen to divert from our perfect plan for the remainder of the day.
With all of us safely back at the hotel there was some solace in knowing that Team USA is comprised of a group of fighter’s that are not about to be sidetracked by a run in with the road. That said, several of our team suffered some considerable blows and it will take a few days of healing for them to return to the form they had been enjoying only hours earlier.