Amstel Gold Race: 264 km
“Breakaway, breakaway, breakaway,” I thought. The shoving and cursing started in the neutral. This technical course makes positioning and efficiency almost as important as having the engine to smash up thirty-five three to five minute climbs.
I sprinted after the first attack and my lungs felt ready to burst. I started coughing and couldn’t stop. My nose had been runny the day before. I had told the team doctor, but assumed it was nothing more than standard pollen allergies. However, the wheezy cough took control of my body and I struggled to take a deep breath. All of my preparation and expectations dissolved, but I came to do a job and believed in the team’s objectives.
Johan made the breakaway. The team director gave me the choice to stop, but racing puts you in a “to the death” mentality. I did my best to work for Nathan Haas for 185 km, being careful not to breathe on him or cough in his direction, and then my lights went out. Demolished and trembling, I rolled out of the race. As I sipped hot tea with the staff on the team bus parked at the finish line, we watched the race unfolding on tv.
Rolling the dice early, Nathan followed a move of big hitters. For twenty km they held a touch-and-go twenty second advantage. We watched the tactics unfolding behind, shifting temporary alliances fail, and the gap slowly stretched to forty seconds. Nathan turned himself inside out and placed 4th.
Unfortunately, my cough worsened over night and we made the difficult decision to send me home before Flèche and Liege. I’m back in the USA now, trying to regain my health, and looking forward to the Tour of California.