The Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Beloften. I've started three times, had a DNF in my first attempt, finished my second and came crashing down and ending up in hospital in my third.
It's given me a roller-coaster of emotions, and admittedly it's leaving a hole in my heart walking away from this race without reaching my full potential in it. However that's cycling, sport and life. For most riders - 99% of the time racing won't go the way you wanted it to, but we all chase that 1% chance of something special happening. It's what we all dream about and gives us motivation and inspiration to work hard every day. The thought of it all paying off, for one day, one result and one moment. It would all be worth it...This year RVV ended up in a bad way - for both myself and the team. Three of us were forced to abandon the race due to our injuries. I ended up in Oudenaarde hospital getting my body sewn back together for the second time in a month. 5 stitches in my hip, 2 in my elbow, plenty of more road rash and another course of antibiotics - my third course in a month! This time it hit extra hard as I had just about recovered from my previous crash at Omloop het Waasland (links*), which gave me lots of complication. I started Flanders with cuts and scars from then, still some work and not in the best shape, but optimistic I could be an influential part of the team and everything had been going to plan until 120km.
It was on the Kattenberg just outside Oudenaarde, a downhill sector of cobblestones that comes just after the Holleweg sector. About five minutes before we hit Holleweg it started to piss down with rain, you could see most guys race was immediately over, and I knew that shit was going to hit the fan - and that it did!
When cobbles get wet they are like ice, super slippery - so when the peleton of young exuberant U23's hit the off camber downhill Kattenberg at 65km/h+ in was the recipe for disaster. I was quite close to the front, just behind my two team mates Jack Wilson and Ryan Mullen who I was to try and protect and help in the final.
It started with a few guys going down in front, just next to Jack losing their bikes from under them and before I knew it mine was gone and Ryan and I were amongst it. It was carnage, must have been at least 20-30 riders involved as well as motorbike marshals and camera crew. I stood up so fast I can't even remember pulling myself off the ground, I was in denial - trying to convince myself that this wasn't happening again! The first thing I did was check my ankle before I limped around in discomfort and pain trying to believe this wasn't happening...again! The race was over for us at that point. I was asked to ride on, but there was no hope of ever reaching the front again. I got back on the bike and rode to the finish with Ryan, a grim and painful 5 kilometres.
It's not easy, but I am shining a positive light over the current situation and considering myself lucky. These have been the two worst accidents of my career and I came out of them with no broken bones. A mere few days on and one of my best friends and team mates, Jack Wilson, was involved in another accident at La Cote Picarde in France whilst in the sprint for the win. He broke his collarbone and wrist. "Luck of the Irish" certainly hasn't been on our side this last month or so.
Big thanks to Kurt Bogaerts, Cycling Ireland and Brian Nugent for all your help over the Nations Cup period. It's a shame how things turned out for us all. There will be better days!
Now I am in the rebuild stage of my recovery. I have started training again, just. The wound in my hip was so deep that two stitches need to stay in extra long - just to be sure! My plan is to take some weeks to train and regain some condition which was lost in this last month. I am motivated to turn my season around, this first few months has been rough for me and I haven't got any reward for the hard work I put in this winter which is the most frustrating thing, but I am remaining calm. It's a long season ahead! Comeback 2.0 is on! Wish me better luck this time...
To wrap this blog up, check out this awesome picture Ryan Mullen posted on his Twitter last week. Never truer words...