Cycling is a sport that is packed full of pressure. Riders are on limited contracts and there is a bottomless list of other riders waiting to be given the opportunity to take your place. On top of this, Teams are also on limited contracts with sponsors so they too are feeling the pressure. As a result, whether it be real or not, there is a perceived necessity to get results and be in good form.
The pressure starts in the off-season as riders try to get into shape and be ready for the start of the season. This means doing lots of base km’s and watching everything that you eat so that your weight is where it needs to be. The slightest interruption to a training schedule can make you feel that you are going backwards and need to make up for it. It would not surprise me if there is a higher rate of eating disorders amongst cyclist than teenage school girls.
The worst thing that can happen during pre-season preparation is an injury. Whether it be from a crash or something else, an injury can make it feel like you have been stopped in your tracks and the pressure rise.
Ten days before my first race of the season, I started to feel some pain in my knee. It worsened to the point where I was unable to pedal my bike for more than an hour. I was told it was patellofemoral pain, essentially caused by muscle imbalances and tightness. I had to take some rest and spend my days doing stretches and strengthening exercises.
After a week of very little riding, it felt like my preparation had gone backwards a month. I knew I needed to train. I had a race coming up in a few days. And it was messing with my racing schedule.
During the Dubai Tour, I suffered through each day. I tested my form but my lack of preparation was obvious. At the end of the tour, my knee was as sore as ever and I had to start my recovery all over again. I spend every waking hour stretching and doing strengthening exercises and I’m overly paranoid about any tingle or feeling in my knee.
To say I am frustrated is an understatement. After 2 ½ weeks, I am finally back on the bike and doing some proper training. I have a LOT of catching up to do and need to ignore the desire to do more than I am told so I don’t end up back where I was a couple of weeks ago.