I was watching Stage 3 of the Tour of CA, the peloton tackled the Bonny Doon climb tilting up and away from the Pacific Ocean and summiting just over 2,000 feet above the waves. Its gradient is tough, I've never ridden it, but it has to be. I mean there, spread across the television screen a handful of riders hit the accelerator, none of them slouches mind you - Zabriskie, Leipheimer, Rogers, Horner, Armstrong and Andy Schleck - and then pop, there goes Schleck out the back. This is the same Schleck brother that last year hurt the legs and lungs of every cyclist in the Tour de France except Contador, and here he was getting dropped like a continental wannabe.
Andy has had a tough winter and spring, between crashes and bronchial troubles he has struggled to capture the form with which he destroyed the field at Liege-Bastonne-Liege with last year and carried into July. His form has struggled in 2010 because he hasn't been able to find consistent bike time - wow, can I relate!
Sometimes one of the hardest things to hang onto is perspective, especially when you are in the middle of it - it - it can be anything. That's where I am now, trying to find perspective, regain focus, make sense of where this past 6 months fits into life going forward. I'm really lucky, I'm not afflicted with MS, or cancer, or battling some other life threatening disease. I just have a chronically messed up lower back and a series of bronchial issues that have made riding the bike - not racing - just riding the bike, a really frustrating challenge. And that's where Andy Schleck and I have crossing Universal paths.
Today was my 26th outing on the bike since the first day of this year - never more than three days consecutively - you don't build form like that, much less race. What you do eventually build is perspective on getting well - long-term perspective.
A couple weeks ago I came back from Paris feeling once again ready to make serious progress - then bang - the back popped and I was out again. For most of last week I rested with my new best friend, Mr. Icepack. This time it's different, the consensus is that I have actually dislodged my sacroiliac joint or SI joint from the jammed position it has been sitting in, which translates into short-term pain, long-term gain. The muscles and flexibility I have been building in the back are starting to take over and I should be better off - in the long-term. It's hard to have perspective when you are in pain, spending the days hanging out with Mr Icepack and his little friends Ibuprofens. Now a week later and most of the pain has abated - just a bit of morning stiffness in the lower back - I'm back to workouts and feeling mentally and anatomically stronger.
According to Booby Julich (currently the technical director for Team Saxo Bank), from CycingNews, "he [Andy] wasn't good and Bjarne [Riis] told him to pull the pin on the climb so that was what he did." Andy was frustrated having to pull back from chasing the three - Zabriskie, Leipheimer, Rogers - that eventually would crest Bonny Doon and stay away to the finish in Santa Cruz, but Saxo Bank's goal is July, the Tour de France. Sometimes it takes outsiders to keep perspective, illuminate the long-term goal, and most importantly pull the plug occasionally.
Perspective is sometimes a very hard word to swallow; races missed, rides with friends missed, trips rescheduled, simple activities postponed. I finally got out yesterday, Phil gave me the green light to ride easy, even up hills, I got in 55-60 easy miles and met a new rider, Larry, who may be out there with me from time to time. I rode up Rocky Point and thought of a blog entry I made here last August. I thought about my opening paragraph, "Sometime hills are the best way, the only way to return to where you began. Throughout history hills have been there, pinnacles from which we see the world more clearly, personally, biblically, politically, metaphorically, they teach us how to humble ourselves and we are once again reminded that climbing always gets us out of the valley we're in." Then like now the climb gave me some perspective - I may rename that climb. It was such a joy to ride yesterday - like being a man release from detention. May be that's part of the re-occuring theme of this year - the joy of riding, regardless the where or the when, the how slow or how fast, personally or in a peloton. This year I cherish and remember exactly every day I have been on the bike - 26 days and counting.