A circuit race in the Lombardy region of Italy. It's unique in that it starts at 8.15pm. 21 laps of a 6km circuit with a 1km climb passing under a softly lit castle before hitting a 1km cobble descent and darting through the town's streets ready to hit the climb again.
Last year the race was held in the pouring rain. The sky lit with flashes of lightning. I had hoped to be in good form at the time, but a month earlier I'd had a mix up with medication and I was not going well. Training was bad and my mental health was worse. I made 7 laps.
This year I'd hoped to make it deeper into the race and show that I'd picked up some good form.
Once you get to get bottom of the descent, there is a long straight section. It's always stretched out and single file here. Unfortunately, I punctured here just 4 laps into the race.
Due to the short course, team cars were not allowed to follow the race. Meaning there was only a small convoy of vehicles and no opportunity to use them to get back into the race. There was no way I was getting back on without a pace. Often cars will help get you back on after a crash or mechanical. I'm all for this as I have no doubt that chasing back on behind a car after an incident is not a benefit to your race. It's much harder than not having an incident. And, it means riders are not punished for misfortune. Unfortunately, I punctured at a bad and was left to chase solo to try and catch a bunch traveling at 60km/h. I chased for two laps, but my race was over.
Since coming back to the sport, I've spent a lot of time on the sidelines watching races. It's always been frustrating and disappointing. But, this one hurt more than usual. I'd wanted the opportunity to see how my form was after completing the Tour of Slovenia. I'd hoped to show my teammates and myself that I CAN race a bike.
It sounds strange to say, but I've spent 7 years slowly making my way back into the sport and have never really believed I could do it. I've knocked over some pretty significant milestones, but that hasn't filled me with belief or confidence. That is one of the challenges of my condition.
Frustrated being on the sidelines. I grabbed my camera and tried to make myself useful. But in the night, I was having all kinds of troubles, I got blurry pictures of teammates, or a perfect shot of some random. The camera was not bringing calm. I stuck with it and by the end of the race I'd gotten a total 0 useful race shots.
The side of the hill was packed with spectators, even at 11pm. A lot of the town had come out to support the race. This can sometimes crack me a bit. Seeing people enjoy being at a race (or any event) can often remind me that I still don't experience life the way I want to. There is this numb filter that runs over most of my days. I try to focus on my routine and not on how things could have been. But, sometimes it really gets to me. Seeing gorgeous young woman walking hand in hand with their partners and listening to people excitedly talking about the race in Italian. It's all the stuff I'd dreamed of enjoying in life. But it's also what I haven't learned to manage. I can't manage a relationship, I don't get excited about watching bike races, or anything else. Seeing the enjoyment and success of others often stings, as my pathway is different. It's about facing the fear and underlying disconnect. And doing because deep down it seems like it's a worthwhile and courageous thing to do with a life.
All my teammates finished the race, two finished in the lead group of 10 riders. In the van on the way home I positioned myself in the back next to the washing machine we have so we can wash cloths at races. I used it to prop up against and try and sleep on the 5hr trip home. The 3 other riders in the van were excitedly talking about the race. It was in Slovenian, but I could still get the gist. They had their phones out watching replays of the live feed, analysing their power data. I felt stupid stuck in the corner as tears welled behind my eyes.
I'm a 30-year-old trying to find life despite the mess, hoping to be doing something worthwhile, were I learn to manage the most difficult situations better and to bring that back to life. Hoping that maybe the story is worthwhile for other to hear.
I think in the end, this was not a bad experience. I sat in the van wishing I'd been more a part of the event. Something about the nature of the race. The location, the format. Something about it I wanted. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish true emotions from the mess. But somewhere there, I was disappointed because I wanted to race my bike. That's a small win!
Thanks again for everyone's support and to D G Cycles for giving me a regular platform to share with you guys back home.