Openhearted, I haven’t been around this blog a lot this year.
Not that there would not have been a lot to talked or to debate on. The world was and is a mess. I could have found infinity of subjects to express my opinion on.
But my very own feeling was that there has been just slightly too much information around about everything, everywhere and from everybody. I didn’t feel adding yet another voice to it would have made it any better. So I turned on mute.
There has been a lot going on in the world, but in my own world not so much exciting things have happened. It was mostly a trial of patience that still kind of continuous. I am not a very patient person and if I someone would have rated my test I would probably have failed. But I tried my best and that’s all you can ask for in any situation.
I have been missing competition a lot this year. During a normal year I would have between 40 and 50 road race days and 15 to 20 cyclo-cross race days. While my 2019-2020 winter was still pretty busy and normal, my road schedule obviously hasn’t. I have had 14 race days this year. I race a lot because that’s my way of getting in shape. For me personally it’s the best training there is and the one that motivates me most. Don’t get me wrong. I do train a lot and hard. I can be very focused on what I am doing when I am riding at home or on training camp. But mostly you work towards a block of racing which gives you perspective of reward or success or in the worst case teaches you a lesson and humility. The suffering alone, riding the same climb on and on, sprinting the same panel again and again, makes sense under these conditions. But when the final destination is missing, everything becomes less convincing and less fun. Some might have found it very useful to focus on something else then racing, to redirect their training, to work on things they normally can’t work on, to go on training camps despite the pandemic. I wasn’t one of them especially with 3 months on the turbo only and I can easily admit it.
We had races. It was good fun when they happened even if unfortunately most of my favorite races got cancelled. It literally felt like only the climber’s races survived this year (maybe because it’s easier to keep social distance on the climbs). I missed racing in the UK or our annual Scandinavian trip. But nevertheless I tried to embrace whenever I was able to race. I tried the breakaway in all those climber races where I wouldn’t stand a chance anyway. I tried to help my teammates to go and win Flèche, Gent-Wevelgem, Flanders and nearly the Panne. And in the end, I was tired of all the trying throughout the year and I was happy the season was over.
Right now, I am happy to be back racing Cyclo-cross during my winter training. I started later then usual as the road season while being short still only stopped in October and I needed a bit time of from PCR testing procedures and going full gas on my bike. I wasn’t able to go on holiday as the second lockdown started straight away in France once the road season was over. I wish I could have gone hiking a few days in the mountains to clear my mind completely but it didn’t happen.
And while you might think the Cx season looks pretty normal from the outside, believe me it is not. All the races outside Belgium have been cancelled, with some Swiss or Est-Europe races being the exception. The World cups have been announced, deleted, replaced, relocated numerous times. I usually try to have a varied calendar, with races in Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and France but coming out of a complicated road season, I wanted to keep the travel stress, financial input and health risk low by only racing local races in Luxembourg and going international only in January. But then everything, Nationals included got cancelled in Luxembourg and I was unsure if it made sense to go against the initial plan and go race in Belgium. Also because the Covid Protocol got reinforced from December on and everyone, staff included needs to do regular Covid testing. Yet another source of work and expenses for me.
But I have been sad about the lake of racing throughout the year that in the end it would have been very illogical for me to stay at home while potentially I could be racing. So end of November I decided we should try and see how it develops. Renting a camper, planning PCR tests for 4 persons, getting the bikes back to life and we were on the road again.
When I start my CX season, while everyone else has been racing already for more than a month, it is always hard to tell how things will turn out. I only had one real Cx session before my first race in Boom. At home I raced against 2 fellow cyclists of my club on our local lap. In order to respect the government’s Covid protocol we raced each other with 30 seconds intervals. I guess my coach hoped I was in good shape already so he made me start last, thinking I could catch them up. I didn’t catch Covid that day but neither did I catch anyone else. Needless to say that after that I wasn’t super confident on the start line in Boom, against a World Cup starter field. But I was happy to be there, because I got everything sorted out in time and I was handed out a number to pin on. And surprisingly the race went pretty nice. Since I had an even better performance on one of my favorite races in Gavere and last weekend in Namur was also fine despite some stupid rookie mistakes and some regrets afterwards. I hope to have some more nice rides in December. I don’t set goals. I still am a roadie even more this year. I am not ready to give up the team spirit and teamwork it needs to perform well together on the road, spirit I can’t find in Cx where everyone, apart from some rare exceptions, is mostly only focused on himself, lockdown in its own camper which sound legit as it stays an individual discipline. I guess it’s the only individual discipline I really like.
I hope the few races in December will help me getting slowly into shape to go and join our first training camp in Spain in January. It will be exciting as it will be our first non virtual meeting under SD Worx colors. After so many years under Boels-Dolmans kit it will be quite a change. But I am really looking forward to meet the new girls on the team. Also only a few more days left before we get to know how our new jersey will look like and I think we are all super excited about it. But mostly I cross fingers the road season will find back some sense of normality, even if I am conscious it will be a « new » normal.
At this time of the blog I would normally wish you all Merry Christmas, but it kind of feels awkward to do so this year. I won’t spend time with my family this year, just as I haven’t spent much time with them over the past 10 months. I haven’t hugged my nieces and nephew once this year and all the skyping, phoning, writing, drawing and talking on distance won’t replace the real life. I know you all feel the same and temptation is big to just do that little exception for Christmas, just because it is Christmas. But don’t forget the virus doesn’t care about Christmas. Nevertheless I hope you get to spend a good time and look forward to a better 2021!
Stay safe everyone and most of all take care of each other!