The mid-season creep is inevitable. For those who don’t know, it’s when you feel your form running out and your body starting to tire of the load you have placed on it for many months in the search of the perfect race. In other words, it’s when you turn from lean mean racing machine into timid bunch filler.
After the Mzansi Tour in South Africa, I flew back to France and jumped right back into racing. Two races not going to plan later, I was convinced the mid-season creep had arrived. With a month of racing before my planned mid-season break, the only thing I could do was push through so I traded in long and intense training hours for some rest.
My self-prescribed cocktail of medicine consisted of some easy rides mixed in with a few casual days devouring a few books, cups of tea and my fair share of croissants. With the bounce in my step coming back, I decided it was time to resume some interval training. Mid-way through an interval session, while I was hooking it through a hairpin, I came to one conclusion: I was back.
With my form moving back in the right direction, I lined up in Maisod for one of the most savage races I have done this year. The Frenchies got it bang on before the start,” le course est tres dure!” The 4,5km circuit was made up of twisty, rolling roads that spat you out at the base of a steep 400m climb up to the finish. Such a short climb meant we were sprinting over it. No little ring. No pacing yourself. Just full throttle. 30 times.
With a twisty technical course it was necessary to stay right up front in order to keep track of what was going on and to be in the action. Many riders were slipping off the front and disappearing but after a mad 80km, the race was back together. Normally, this is the time when the attacks come flying from left, right and center to form the winning move. Not today.
Like a rider who has gone out way too hard in a time trial and blows up towards the end, the front bunch had a similar fate. The 30 man group began to coast and everyone started looking at each other desperately hoping no one had the legs to attack. After a brief window of recovery, one brave (read: suicidal) soul attacked off the front and with that things launched back into action. Next, the race favourite made his move to cross the 20sec gap to the now leading trio and, on a wing and a prayer, I went after him. I never reached his wheel but I was on the chase.
I chased in vain for a few kilometres before being swallowed up by the group and that was my final match burnt. The 40km left of race was a case of just hanging in. Each remaining lap riders were being shelled off the back and it was clear the race was no longer about position; we were all riding just to survive. I crossed the line in 16th and, to be honest, I was more relived to be done than I was with the position. All in all, not a bad showing under the cloud of the mid-season creep.