Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Nobody said it would be easy

I rolled across the finish line and coasted to my team car. Wordlessly, I slowed to a stop and dismounted, handing the spare bike--it wasn't even mine--to Jelly, our mechanic. I squeezed into the back seat of the car with a grimace, just trying to get inside before the dam burst.

Wohlberg, my director, got in and started the car, speechless except for the conciliatory, "Sorry, buddy."

"It just keeps happening..." was my response, choked out between sobs. The tears rolled off my face onto my first NRC yellow jersey as I tried to sink lower in the seat while keeping my bloody knees off the upholstery. The emotional rollercoaster was simply too much to handle. It was barely 18 hours after my first professional win, the highlight of my year.

A poor performance resulting in the loss of yellow would have been difficult enough to handle--I hadn't even gotten the opportunity to try. Instead, I was taken down in a large pileup that surprised no one at the start of the stage--the third such pileup in as many years--and came out of it with the worst injuries.

For the third time this year, Wohlberg and I headed off to the hospital. In my mind, it was merely a formality, a reassurance that I'd only sprained my wrist again and jammed my thumb badly. I convinced myself of this all the way through the x-rays, right up until the doc walked in with the results.

Broken wrist, broken thumb. 4-6 weeks. I was numb mentally. I couldn't believe I was going to have to start over again. Oh, and I needed surgery. On both. The hits just kept coming.

After a conversation with my mom in which I broke down yet again, we decided that I'd fly home for surgery because I would need a lot of help for a while with both hands out of commission.

A day later, I was home. At noon the next day, I was in surgery with a highly-recommended hand surgeon in Dallas, shortly after learning that it would likely be 12 weeks before I was cleared to race. My season was over.

Almost 2 weeks later, my hands are 75% functional. I can't use my right thumb or either wrist, so there's still a lot that I need help with. I rode my TT bike on the trainer yesterday...I'll be doing that a lot for a while.

What I'm trying hardest at, though, is to not allow myself to feel depressed. It's tough. After a trying year to say the least--fighting either sickness, injury, or fatigue since March--I had finally come back. All I did was rest and recover, get healthy again. For 2 weeks I'd done nothing but some consistent, moderate riding with some intensity here and there. And I'd done a couple of little races. Then my first big race with the team back, boom, my first win. I knew the form of my life was soon on its way, because every day I swung my leg over the bike I was better than the day before. And the races I'd been looking forward to all year were still to come. I was going to race the Tour of Utah--a race at the highest level America offers--in just a few weeks, and would spend September racing in Belgium.

The next day, my season was over. The rug had been yanked right out from under me, and I was heartbroken.

Now, all I can do is look ahead to next year. There may be some racing for me late this year, but I can't count on that.

I've been asked multiple times this year, "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" I suppose it's a good thing that I won the day before the crash, as I knew without a doubt the answer. That feeling after I won the prologue? Simply awesome. I want that again.

Seconds after Mancebo crossed the line, my time untouched.

So when I wonder how I'm going to overcome this challenge, I realize how trivial it really is. My dad has defeated setback after setback in his battle against cancer and come out on top, his faith guiding him through each challenge. God can certainly handle a couple of busted hands, I just have to stay out of His way.