The Rollercoaster of 2018

Sometimes writing things down is helping me to clear my mind and sort things out. Although this won’t be a positive story, I want to share my ride in the Rollercoaster of 2018. In a nutshell is has been; crashing, coming back, coming back into shape, crashing again and so the story repeats itself.

After the rehabilitation of my knee fracture, incurred during January’s Melbourne Criterium, I was hoping that blue skies would appear again. For a while it looked like that. During the final stages of the Tour of the Alps, I felt the power was coming back. Although I was only capable of doing one hard effort during the race, it felt already much better compared to the weeks before. Most important of all, I was enjoying racing a bike again. Before that I wasn’t feeling strong at all and made it even harder for myself by putting my bar of expectations way to high. I’ve downplayed the physical impact of a broken knee and thought I could make it back to a descent level fast. The loss of muscle and power after an injury like that is something I’ve never experienced before, so dealing with was both hard, and new for me.

But, after Tour of the Alps I headed, with a good feeling in my suitcase, towards the United States of America for a 2.5-week altitude camp in Boulder, Colorado. Since it was my first time in the Rocky’s, I was pretty excited about this trip. The USA has always felt like home for me, I like the country, the people, the nature, the city’s and the fact that everything is bigger in America. I’m already considering the possibilities about moving to there in the future. Being a Professional Cyclist gives me the opportunity to travel and explore different parts of the world and to get in touch with different cultures. Is one of the parts of the job I like!

Todd (an American who joined our team during last year’s Tour of California) and his wife Deb invited me to stay at their place and definitely made my American journey like a holiday. They have given me the full Boulder experience with some gastronomic delights, sightseeing in both Boulder and Denver, good discussions about the current political situation and so on.

The goal of my Boulder camp was mainly to become stronger again, to enjoy the happiness of the USA and to head out towards California in the best shape possible. Together with teammate and local, Sepp Kuss, I’ve seen the best roads in the Rocky’s around Boulder. From riding in the snow towards riding in 30 degrees Celsius, I can conclude that the Boulder weather can me slightly unpredictable though.

So far, so good, you would probably be starting to think right now. Indeed, finally I was having a 2-week period without illness, injuries and just good and fun training. I felt that I was getting closer and closer towards a competitive level again, which was giving me confidence for both the Tour of California and the rest the season.

With the final weekend of training coming up the sky was literally blue again, the snowstorms disappeared and there was, literally and figuratively, no rain or snow in the forecast.

But maybe the forecast wasn’t right. Monday morning, I left, together with teammate Sepp Kuss, for my final long ride of this Boulder camp. A nice and sunny day in the Rocky’s was waiting for us. We rode literally through the middle of nowhere, where cellular service doesn’t exist and where the roads are still unpaved, but in good condition anyway. The feeling was good, and we were climbing towards 3000m above sea level. Of course, riding at 3000m feels hard, but I was getting used to it. After descending for a bit, the unpaved road turned into a paved road, where it all went wrong. After I’d headed into a left-hand corner, I hit a rock with my front wheel and before I knew I heard a bang and felt a strong pain in my left leg.

After laying on the road for about 10 minutes and with heavy pain in both my left knee and -ankle and being in panic, the Adrenaline kicked in and it made me decide to continue riding, with the hope that the pain would flow away by moving. The opposite happened, the pain was increasing and there was no way I could continue. Because of the pain, thinking bright became harder and harder. During that moment I started to realize how fortunate I was with Sepp being around and helping me out. While I was laying on the ground, Sepp was busy trying to arrange things like transportation to the hospital to finding a place to store our bikes. Many locals where stopping by and trying to help me out. Before I knew it, the Sherriff, the Firefighters and the Ambulance had arrived. I’m still questioning why the Firefighters should be there, but anyway. Luckily people tried to convince me taking the Ambulance, especially because I was losing a lot of blood. In the Ambulance the pain factor went down from a 9 to a 6. At least I could think bright again.

After I had arrived in the hospital they made X-Rays of my left leg and the doctor told me the diagnose I wasn’t hoping for. Multiple fractures in my left fibula, from my ankle until just under my knee, and a fracture of the navicular bone of my left foot means I won’t make it to California and that I’ll be out for weeks again. Furthermore, my knee is very swollen, and they’re worried about a PCL injury. It’s probably fair to say that luck hasn’t been on my side in 2018 so far.

While the rollercoaster of 2018 continues, I’ll do whatever it takes to end this ride in a positive way. I’ve met the dark side of the sport with having two heavy injuries within 3 months’ time. Both fractures are closed, the bone isn’t dislocated, so the foot will recover fast. Currently the big question is my knee. This afternoon I’ll fly back to Holland and Friday I’ll head towards our Team-Orthopedic in Amersfoort for more medical checks.

After an event like this it’s fair to say that the willing to help of the locals showed me that the state of the world isn’t actually that bad as the news is trying to tell us. In my opinion 99, or maybe 98, percent of the people are having their hearth on the right place. For me an event like yesterday proves that. Besides that, I want to thank Sepp, Todd and Deb for helping me out and being there for me. Coming back again for the second time within 3 months will be hard, but I have no other choice. I want the good times to come back again and show the world and myself that I’m not only a ‘Crash-test-dummy’, but that I can be a good bike racer as well. Cycling can be cruel, but it can bring you lots of happiness too. I’ll leave the Rocky’s with good memories, but with a bitter feeling. Hoping to come back soon to make Boulder Camp 2.0 a good one without a bitter feeling!

Ciao,

Daan

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