I hate Monday’s. Most people hate Monday’s because they need to go back to work. I hate Monday’s because either I am having a hard time recovering from the weekend races or I am having a hard time recovering from my weekend training block. While I am checking out of boredom my Inbox for the 100th time that day, I am pitying myself about how tired I feel, how bad training went, how bad the weather has been and how many bikes I have to get clean again after a rainy weekend.
I open my latest mail and what were the most important problems of my oh so tiny world suddenly turned into useless luxury problems. The mail said our team mechanic has been suffering a heart attack earlier that day. I would be unable to tell you how long I have been staring at my screen without understanding these few simple lines. Later in the mail it says that he is stable but it didn’t make me feel any better.
They say that you only know what you had once you lost it. Sitting on my couch I was frightened to loose one of our staff members. Some often tend to forget the amount of time and energy everyone around us is spending only to allow us to train & race under the best possible conditions. They are without any doubt the invisible part of success of a team. Unfortunately they hardly get any fame for their tireless work.
To honor each one of them no matter the team they are working for I invite you to imagine how miserable our days would look like without them.
I close my eyes and imagine I am… alone
Pre-race day. I will be racing Gent-Wevelgem tomorrow. My team is called MM&I (standing for me myself & I).
Team director: me
Team mechanic: me
Team soigneur: me
Riders: me & my other me
I am late for team director meeting. I printed by mistake the wrong roadbook and now I am obviously behind schedule. For being late I get last car in the convoy. The other team directors are laughing at me. I don’t care. Anyway I have no car to follow the race. Well I have a car but no one to drive it.
I get to the hotel late. I am starring enviously at the massage lists from the other teams. As I have no Soigneur I won’t have a massage. For a second I thought about using a Harry Potter transfiguration spell to make myself look like a rider of another team. I quickly understand that it wouldn’t work. So I go to bed with heavy legs from the past trainingweek and the travel here.
After a 30 minutes drive I arrive at the start area. It is cold and it starts raining. I am dreaming of a warm team bus. I see a team soigneur walking into his bus with 6 cups of coffee. I start dreaming of coffee too. With all that dreaming I nearly forget I still have to prepare my race bike. Putting the wheels into the frame makes me realize I am really not a gifted mechanic. I cross fingers and hope everything will work fine during the race.
I roll to the startline doing a race radio check with myself. No one is answering. Not that I expected it.
The start is given. It was really about time. I started to get cold on the line as I left my jacket in the car. No soigneur on the startline means you have to choose between loosing your jacket to a fan or being cold. I choose being cold.
I quickly warm up. The girls are racing hard but I feel good. Without teammates I don’t really have too many tactical choices but trying to race smart. Mid-race and I am out of bottles. Out of instinct I raise a bottle to get a new one from the car but while raising the hand I realize that there won’t be any car coming for me today. We pass a feeding zone. I try to snap a bottle from another team but I am very obviously wearing the wrong jersey.
I try to ignore my body’s need for fuel.
We approach the final of the race. The real attacks start. I follow once, twice but it doesn’t stick. I ask advice into my teamradio. All I get as an answer is a long silence. I am a bit late with reacting for the next attack. I thought for a second my other me would close it but I guess she was out of fuel already before me. I close the gap. I am riding on my limit. Another attack and they are gone. Without me.
My legs feel really heavy and I keep slowing down. I hear someone saying: I think you have a flat tire. And yes I have a flat. I raise my hand (again) but (again) I know no mechanic will jump out of a car and push me back into the race. I ride on the rim. I get dropped from the peloton. I get dropped out of the car convoy and finally I get dropped by the broomwagon. 5 km left. I know I am out of race by now but I want to cross the line, just to make the day count.
At the finish it looks like every team has already left. No one to hand me a warm jacket or a recovery shake. Not to forget the flat tire. Unfortunately start and finish location are different so I still have to ride back to my car. Another 20k’s, headwind.
Finally I reach my car. I have a fine for overpassing the parking time. At least I nailed the Out of Timelimit On an Off the bike. The bike would need a wash if I want to avoid it being rusty in an hour but I don’t really have a choice. The drive home is 3hr.
3hr dreaming … being part of a team.
Just as I am finishing this story I received a picture of Richard healthy and smiling. It made my day. We are all relieved to know him back and on the good way to recover. Because a team is only a team if it has all its members. And we are complete again!
Post scriptum: Special thanks to the Team Sky staff for their quick intervention, thanks to the medical staff of Maastricht UMC+ hospital that took the relay, thanks to everyone who send thoughts and messages to Richard!