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A comeback is seldom without ups and downs

On Tuesday morning, I wrote a small post on my personal website about my first UCI race since January 2016. I had wanted to write it on Sunday night or at least Monday morning, but when disappointment hits, writing a post to tell the world about how badly you feel about a race, isn’t the first thing you want to do – or do at all.

I spent most of the travel home and Sunday night being annoyed with myself, doubting myself and asking myself if I maybe should have just retired after all. I choose to return to cyclocross because I wanted to show that I have still more to give and mostly proof to myself that I could come back after a series of illnesses and injuries.

But one thing that I have battled with more than ever since I made the decision to come back is my own thoughts. I have always said that my head is my Achilles heel and worst enemy when it comes to racing, sometimes I think it is worse dealing with that than the injury I have dealt with over the last 18 months.

I am lucky to have a great partner in crime (and life), James. He has made it his specialty in getting me out of the hole I dig myself into when I don’t feel happy and insecure about what I am doing. As a coach (I never wanted him to be the one writing my training plans, I was worried it would be bad for our relationship, but what do you do when it turns out he is better than anybody else?!) he knows how important it is to learn from mistakes and change your plans when necessary.

On the 4-hour drive home we talked. Or he made me talk. What did I think about my race. What did I think was bad and good, in the beginning obviously everything was bad and negative. But when you look at it in more detail it turns out some things were actually good! My start was great, I still have that kick. My tire and pressure choice were good too. There was a lot of “bad” things too. I was too stiff on the bike, I did not always commit to my corners and the changes I made during the week to my position were a move in the wrong direction and I needed to be a little bit more aggressive in the race, like I was last week.

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Instead of just saying it’s all bad, or this race was great, it is good to break it down and look at everything in detail and “it’s all bad” becomes a few smaller issues that can be overcome one by one. It becomes a more detailed analysis. We concluded that the changes to my position did not work and that I had to change it back and go a little lower on the front. We added some extra off-road sessions to my training as I just did not feel as one with the bike. Due to me finding a bike sponsor late (Estrella Bikes saved my season!) and a crash in the Women’s tour of Ireland, which gave me an elbow full off stitches in the run up to the season, I spent a lot of time prepping on the road bike instead of off-road. Also, I needed to relax and trust in my experience, after all I have ridden a bike for many years, so: “brain, shut up!”.

On Monday, when I had slept on it all, we went over it again and looked at the previous weeks too. It has been manic trying to get everything ready, and on top I have had a massive amount of work (I am a freelancer and translate from English to Danish and Dutch for a living) and we decided to take training back to what it’s all about for cross; doing loads of laps in fields and forests and doing super hard efforts!

Suddenly, I was happy I went to race in Derby and the worst thing that could have happened was that it had gone okay. With it being a bad day, it gave me a kick in the backside and my motivation a nudge up. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I know where I am now and where I want to go!

And so, I felt ready to write it down on Tuesday morning.

In 10 days I will be racing the World Cup in Koksijde! A lot of work to be done before that but I am looking forward to the challenge!

‘Til next time!

Margriet  

Margriet is wearing Free Aero W Bibshort, CW.6.0 Cross Glove and Thermoflex Legwarmer. Check out the Castelli website for more products!

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