Sunday, August 7, 2016

Hold Back The Rain

No time for worry ’cause we’re on the roam again.

Watching the women’s road race from the Rio Olympics early this afternoon, I was almost literally sick with worry during the final kilometers. It wasn’t anxiety for American Mara Abbott, who looked like she might take the gold medal. It was anxiety for Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands, who had been 30 seconds ahead of Abbott on a tricky descent before she crashed with about 10k to go. And what a crash: van Vleuten overcooked a corner, locked up her brakes, went over the handlebar and landed on her head. She didn’t move after that. The TV cameras cut away and the announcers started to speak in hushed tones. If she had not crashed, van Vleuten almost certainly would have won the race. Abbott, a pure climber, ultimately could not hold off a powerful trio of chasers. Anna Van Der Breggen of the Netherlands took the win, followed by Emma Johansson of Sweden and Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy.

Van Der Breggen’s victory only added to my discomfort. I am not a religious or superstitious man, but I was saying prayers to any god who might be listening that the coaches, family members and friends at the finish line were not about to tell this beautiful 26-year-old girl that the biggest accomplishment of her life had come at the cost of her teammate’s. Van Der Breggen had seen van Vleuten lying motionless in the road just minutes earlier. To everyone’s relief, shortly after the conclusion of the race we got the news that van Vleuten was conscious and able to communicate.

Bad news might have so thoroughly demoralized me that I wouldn’t have gotten on the bike today, but good news had quite the opposite effect. I did my longest ride so far this year, 70 miles at an 18 mph average. It was a good tuneup for my big road race of 2016: Race The Lake, now just one week away. I felt strong. I’m “switched on” right now and it’s almost a shame that I will be tapering this week instead of riding hard all the time.

Success by her teammate is going to be a consolation to van Vleuten, and maybe it will mean something to her that in remote corners of the world there are cycling fans who wanted nothing more than for her to be OK. Here in southeastern Wisconsin we had a beautiful summer Sunday. I could have ridden anywhere, but it was no coincidence that my route took me to the Dutch enclave of Oostburg in Sheboygan County. To propitiate whoever answered those prayers? Maybe.

Get well soon, Annemiek.

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