Race Diaries

Getting beaten all the way back to fitness

By April 23, 2017 No Comments

I met Peter Stetina recently for a non-cycling related reason and when we shook hands it was a real firm one I gave him, purely out of respect for the career he’s had.

I don’t confess to knowing much about the guy but I do know two things.

One was the wheel he gave Dan Martin after the latter punctured in the 2013 edition of Fleche Wallone while they were teammates at Garmin-Sharp.

I was at the race and I saw it with my own two eyes. Only for that wheel Martin would not have managed to finish fourth to Dani Moreno. Stetina, meanwhile, finished 10 minutes down.

Secondly, the comments Stetina made after his horrific crash at Pais Vasco in 2015 when he sprinted full-tilt into bollards that were inexplicably placed on the road approaching the line.

Stetina’s injuries were gruesome and could have ended his career.

In fact, a lesser man would have racked his wheels there and then.

Stetina has recovered (and now races for Trek-Segafredo; racing Romandie next week), albeit after one inspiring recovery but in those months approaching fitness he knew he’d take beatings in races.

“When you don’t walk for four months, you lose so much strength,” he said in february 2016.

“Even though everything points well in training, it’s those high-power race accelerations that you can’t really practice and the muscle still gets fatigued a little earlier than normal.

“I’ve just got to keep my head down, continue the gym work, let the races beat me up and then come back stronger.

“It really is about ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.”

Let the races beat me up.

I couldn’t rid my mind of these words this week as I approached the fourth Grand Classic of the season. I missed the third one because of work and that was six weeks ago.

In the interim I’ve had an Irish wedding, 2-3 weeks of sickness and six weeks of non-stop work…and very little time for training.

So while my reasons (excuses) for losing fitness are far more trivial than Stetina’s, I just hate losing fitness, especially at the wrong side of 30.

I gave thought to skipping yesterday’s GP Corvi in Terrassa, truth be told, but I thought about the negative impact that would have on my teammates, their morale, and of course my own fitness.

The race was no pancake. It was 2,500 metres of climbing crushed into 120 kilometres on a baking hot Spanish afternoon.

Irish riders…if you are tired of the flat blasts at home, then get in touch.

Anyway, I took a beating. A very bad beating actually. The ETA of the first rider according to the road book was 6.30pm and they were not far wrong.

Yours truly rolled home closer to 7 and most of the guys who contested the finish were ending their warm-downs.

I came home in a group of 5, utterly buckled.

I was tired, dehydrated, hungry, cranky, scorched, cramping…and badly beaten.

I thought if I could get over the first 15-kilometre climb I’d be okay but I popped close to the top and that was that.

I was riding for the next three hours in what became the grupetto, and it was awful.

The highlight was a man coming up beside me shouting ‘Aboy Canty boy!!’

A Killarney man living in Banyoles. Incredible. It was one of those salutes you give someone long after the anger of getting dropped had washed away. Any earlier and he risked a box.

We just wanted to get home at this point….and we did.

Only afterwards did I say, that was the right decision to race.

And I thank Peter for this lesson because the next Grand Classic is approaching and I’ve the first beating out of the way.

Thanks for reading.


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