It's been quite some time since I last wrote a blog, not since April when I was still living in France with my team mate Gregg. Some might see that as laziness, or perhaps a sign of nothing going on or very little to say, but nothing could have been further from the truth. This a blog about dark times that I've found it hard to write about for quite some time.
The final month of my time living in France was a very difficult time, within the space of 10 days I had gone from being incredibly hopeful and looking forward to 3 stage races in a row to being unable to ride - but let's back up a little.
We had headed up to Mid-Eastern France for a fairly mountainous stage race, where stage 1 was a short prologue of about 2km in a twisty town centre. A strange affair where my start time was past 9.30...at night. Even worse was Gregg's time of just before 10! However we made a good go of it, Gregg cracking the top 10 and myself just a few seconds outside. Stage 2 was 130km on a damp day, with a fair few categorised climbs and one I had been looking forward to. We let a small break go, and all day I stuck with the front half of the peloton, easily dropping more and more riders throughout the day until about 15km to go, where I followed an attack which brought us up to the lead group bringing our number to 12 riders. This is where it all started to go wrong.
10km from the finish we went round a 90' corner, and the rider in front of me wiped out. With nowhere to go but over the top of him I soon found myself on the road. Scraping myself off the road as soon as I could meant that my group were 45 seconds down the road - funny how quickly time can pass in those moments. All day I had managed to stay upright on the wet descents and I was taken out on a flat corner! Still, continuing on as I had to, a few kilometres later I slipped off again of my own accord. I wasn't happy by this point! Up once again to the final incline of the day, shifting down and my rear derailleur blew to pieces, obviously damaged from an earlier crash. 7km from the finish and no way of getting back, I had to wait for a neutral service car to pick me up as Gregg had been in the group just 30 seconds behind at that point, and the team car had to follow him. Race over.
So one week on, and whilst my team bike was being fixed by the mechanic, I rode around on my Wilier in training. Friday was to be the closest town centre criterium of 90km in Riom, and had only received my bike back that morning, everything seemed okay - if a little noisy. Part way through the race after never being outside the top 10 I lost use of my 11 and 12 cog, not ideal but still manageable. Then it happened, shifted out of one of the corners and the entire rear wheel locked up, throwing me from my bike. At first everything seemed in order, a few cuts but nothing overly serious. After 10 minutes, my elbow became very sore and immovable - a trip to hospital to check whether it was a swelling or something more sinister. And so began 3 hours which felt like an eternity.
X-rays finally returned - double fracture to the elbow and would need surgery; I just could not believe it after all the hardship of France, this was just a massive kick in the balls. What made it even worse is we were to be travelling to a stage race the following day, and without me to make the team of 5 no one would be allowed to race - I felt I had let everyone down. The next few weeks were incredibly depressing, and I had to make a decision as to whether to stay in France or return home. In the end a return home was the best option, not knowing how long it would be before I could race again.
So that's the story of how I went from racing in France, living the dream, to coming back home and back to the UK scene. As this blog is already becoming a bit of a tl;dr I'll finish here today, it feels good to finally write about some of my demons, to some such things might seem inconsequential - it's just cycling and it's just a broken arm. To me it felt a lot more, especially after sacrificing so much to come and live in France, big risks but I'm still happy I took them, even if it meant I didn't go as far forward as I'd hoped.