Sitting here after my morning ride with the Tour de France broadcast in the background. Listening to Phil and Paul wax poetic about the riders, the mountains, and the thrill of it all. It is easy to become pessimistic about professional bike racing – each week it seems another rider is getting “caught” or another “investigation” is started. I suppose for people not addicted to all things bike, it would appear that professional bike racing is pretty darn corrupt. Everyone is entitled to their opinions (including some less-than-enlightened journalists and commentators)… But what I think is important to recognize is the amount of testing that is done at all levels of professional bike racing. Yes, people are taking drugs. But this is no different from any other professional sport. Ever wonder how professional hockey players (yes, I’m talking the NHL here) manage to maintain their fitness, muscle mass and recover from injuries in mere days that take most people week and sometimes months to recover from? What sets cycling apart is that the athletes are “caught”, the leading officials are not actively turning a blind eye to the situation – hence the perceived “scandals”. Imagine if every other professional sport body introduced even a fraction of the testing that occurs in professional cycling….
Okay, well that was a slightly unexpected rant, but one that has been building for a while. Don’t take my thoughts in the wrong way and think for a second that I condone the doping and drugs. I don’t for a second. But I am tired of people saying that cycling is “dirty”. It isn’t dirty – it is heavily policed which means people get caught.
(Phew, I’m done with this topic now… On to more happy things…)
So on Tuesday night I went to the local training crit. This was a “B” week so it means that the race was not open to the “A” or elite riders in the city. It has been a long time since I’ve raced a B crit, but my coach thought it would be good to go out and get some race intensity into my legs. I was a bit nervous – not sure what the field would be like and how I would feel in the pack. Happy to report that it was a fun night of crit racing. Definitely different from the “A” crit – no real attacks and I was able to comfortably stay in the top 10 of the group the entire time. I was sitting in a good position (third wheel) with two laps to go but then there was a bit of chaos, the pack slowed down, the inevitable swarming occurred and I simply wasn’t comfortably sticking my bike in the little holes that opened. In an A crit I would not have second thoughts about this – but I don’t know all the riders in the B crit or how they will react. So I ended up rolling in somewhere in the top ten (I think) – not the finish I was hoping for but all in all a fun night at the races. Extra bonus was that Marc came out to watch and we rode home together. Excellent training day really: one hour of ‘cross skills in the morning and then I rode to the crit, raced the crit and rode home – made for close to a four hour day.
As for the rest of the week of training? Well today was about tempo intervals and I’ll get out for a little ‘cross skills session in the late afternoon. Other thing I’m doing today and making a habit from here on in – attention to my core strength training. I had been going to yoga three times a week, but going to yoga has been a challenge lately with my latest ulcerative colitis flare, sprained wrist, and recent crash on my ‘cross bike… But today, I’m getting back on track – coach Steve sent out an excellent core and stretching routine that I’ll be making part of my pre-bed ritual. Lots of riding on deck for the weekend – mix of road and ‘cross rides.
In between all this riding, I’ll of course be watching the Tour and cheering on these hard men of the peloton. Can’t imagine descending some of the massive mountains in the crazy rain like the racers did today… As for riding up the mountains? Well, this is a whole other matter entirely… At least in cyclo-cross when the climbs get crazy, we hop off our bikes and run…