Julian Dean Diary
In the last three weeks I?ve done one of the hottest races of my career, the Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia and definitely the coldest, the Tour of Valencia, my home away from home.
Today I have never been so cold in my life. We raced Stage 4 and it was full on snowing for 30km. I had ice on my shoes, bike, hands, glasses?.Even my Dura-Ace levers were frozen. I couldn?t believe that the race organizers were making us race in that shit. But then sometimes, bike race organizers don?t always have the safety of bike riders at the forefront of their decision-making.
Initially the riders protested at the start line to cancel the stage but as always in cycling there was a lack of solidarity among the peloton - some wanted to race while most didn't. The one thing that I do hate in Pro-cycling is this complete lack of solidarity. It?s always the same on days like this?.
When the majority of the riders decided that they didn't want to race, the organizers arced up?.Naturally. They said we had to race. The debate at the start line continued for a bit until all of a sudden the next thing we knew, a few riders bolted off up the road, namely the Liberty Seguros team and a few others, effectively starting the race. Anyway, that soon signalled an abrupt end to our protest and the rest of us had little choice but to follow suit. Within minutes it was all on in the freezing rain as we headed for the climbs. Everyone was chasing the 10 or so riders that had bolted at the start. Fifty kms later we caught them, after riding 50km/hr in the shit weather. It was all just so wrong, stupid and childish and most importantly, dangerous. Typical of cyclists. Anyway 10km after that we were up the first climb and it was even colder and the snow was falling even thicker. The ridiculous show just got more ridiculous. It was about then that I got dropped and rode the last 60km in the snow, carrying the extra ton of ice that I had accumulated during my travels, across the much welcomed finish line.
It seemed like such an agonizingly long stage and when I finally got back to the Team bus - which I thought I never would - I couldn't even undress myself. My limbs were so frozen that I could barely move them. What was worse was the incredible pain I felt as they started to thaw out and regain the circulation of warm blood. I have never experience anything like it. I think that if I had done the sensible thing, I should have stopped. I have no idea what made me stay out there to the finish. Stupidity, I guess.
The funny thing (although I wasn?t bloody laughing at the time!) was that when I got back to the bus, the soigneur tried to give me vodka to warm me up. I don't remember much from school, but one thing I do remember from Outdoor Education is that you should never drink alcohol when you are frozen to the bone. Maybe the science has changed since my school days and I just haven?t caught up yet. Or maybe it is just like much of the French cycling logic - ?Old Wives? Tales?.
The one thing that I won?t ever miss about Pro-cycling when I retire is the lack of solidarity that exists among the riders when it comes to standing up collectively against Race Organisers and Team Directors. The bottom line was that we didn't have to put ourselves through those kinds of conditions. Most riders didn't want to race, feeling that the snow, sleet and ice made racing too dangerous. The weather conditions not only compromised road safety but also our physical well-being. Unfortunately there are always those 10 or so guys who won't go with the majority, making our ?united front? a dismally weak one giving our collective voice next to no sound. From my point of view, this is one of the reasons why cycling has never progressed from the blue collar professional sport that it is and always has been.
Anyway, back to my form and racing. The extremes through which I?ve put body through over the last three weeks have made it difficult to get a good improvement in form. The only thing that I?m trying to do for the moment is to stick with it and just try to get through without getting sick.