Cyclists are some of the most optimistic people you will ever meet. Only one person can win, but every rider on the line believes they have a chance of winning, if not the race, then a race someday or at least against their personal challenges. Optimism is what keeps you going, even when things are tough! So, despite my circumstances, I was on the start line for Trofeo Binda feeling pretty optimistic about Hitec’s chances.
At home in Spain leading up to the race, I had been plagued by allergies. I would lay awake half the night coughing with a wildly itching throat. Lack of sleep meant my training, especially my recovery, hadn’t been the best. Nevertheless, I had done all the work so, despite everyone’s warnings, I went to Italy excited and optimistic!
I arrived in Italy hoping what was causing my allergies wouldn’t be around to bother me, but nighttime itchy turned into whole day itchy throat! It was worse! Just like at home, I was awake half the night coughing and, for the first time in my life, I found myself partly wishing for rainy weather during the race to help keep my allergens at bay.
The morning of the race, with the sun shining down on us, I was still feeling optimistic. With my teammate Elisa as the defending champion, Hitec was there to defend and race aggressively for the win. We raced off the start line full gas and attacks, including several from Hitec, started almost instantly. So did my allergies. My eyes started to water as soon as we started and I could barely see. I couldn’t rub my eyes for fear of messing up my contact lenses so I just blinked. A lot.
I slid back in the bunch to hide a little, hoping to give my body a chance to adapt. After 54km of racing, we approached the first GPM and I wanted the points. I made my way up to the front and, after 4km of climbing, there were 3 of us sprinting for the points and I managed to claim second. As we got swallowed back up by the bunch, I noticed our surge in pace caused a split and we were down to 65 riders, of which only 2 were my teammates. I also noticed that the harder I pushed, the harder I was breathing and the tighter my chest would get. I felt like I was breathing through a straw.
With the rest of our teammates making the racing early on, it was down to Audrey, Elisa and me to get Elisa on the podium. Since I was Plan B in the final sprint, that meant Audrey had her work cut out for her covering attacks, and eventually that job would fall to me. With what I can only call “allergy legs,” I found the finishing circuit was taking its toll. Each lap my legs felt like they were exploding. My head was throbbing and my chest was tight, and every time we climbed I began to feel dizzy. I started thinking, maybe I wasn’t feeling too optimistic now!
Realizing optimism wasn’t a good prescription for my allergies, I let Elisa know it was going to be down to her on the line, but I would do as much as I could. I angrily told my body to “shove it” and covered as many attacks as I could before slipping back to the second group and into survival mode. After a hard day out, Elisa sprinted into 6th and I finished 15th.
Considering my allergies, I guess 15th is nothing to sneeze at, but I can’t help but feel disappointed since I know a healthy body would’ve let me do more for the team. My mind likes to think my body is a machine but I’m only human. Despite being vulnerable to allergies, however, being human is what keeps me optimistic. Any machine can calculate how the odds are stacked against you on the start line, but a human has the ability to believe against all odds. So, allergies or not, I am feeling pretty optimistic for the next race 🙂