“That what cannot be repaired is not to be regretted”.
This blog is one I am not willing to write at all, at least, not while I am just 26 years old. According to the sages, my best years still had to come. Performance wise there should be a long term growth curve, but mine got heavily interrupted since January 2018 and even more in May 2018.
This story started in May last year. I crashed hard in Boulder and immediately felt something was wrong. The knee felt like a mess and I could not walk anymore. The radiologist in Holland confirmed my expectations. The knee was bad, but doctors told me I was lucky to be a cyclist and not a soccer player or runner. They could not tell me if I would make it back to my old level, but I was determined to give it a try. The team fully supported me in this attempt and last year it looked like I was heading towards the right direction. For a long time I felt confident that I could train my knee towards a stage where it would not be impairing my performances on the bike.
At the moment I started racing again, things started to look different. Since the Ruta del Sol I felt that the injury moved towards a stage of performance impairing. At that time it surprised me; the whole winter was filled with gym and rehab training and it felt like I was on track. Most of the training rides went well at that time, some days were better, some worse, but in general it felt ok. I reached my old power records in training and felt ready to make an ‘all or nothing’ year of it. Of course I realized myself that my performances from 2018 weren’t good enough to stay a part of Team Jumbo-Visma in the future, so I had to show improvements. But in the Ruta del Sol I felt that my knee reacted different on training than racing. You would probably understand that during a training I am not gonna accelerate out of every corner or race up each climb. After the Ruta I tried to keep the head up, preparing myself for Basque Country.
Already the first day of the Basque Country race, I felt that the injury got even worse. There’s a video of me walking up the final part of a steep climb with a completely blocked left leg. What exactly happened is still a big question for me. When I stood up on the steep section, my left knee felt very unstable and suddenly I got a feeling of powerlessness in my left leg, realizing that I wasn’t gonna make it to the top of the climb. It wasn’t a feeling of soured legs, of course they were hurting, but from one to the other moment the leg blocked. Afterwards in the downhill I barely could pedal and while standing up, I fell through my left leg. The next stages turned out from bad till worse, the same symptoms came back after going hard up a climb.
The fourth stage the symptoms became so bad, that I god dropped after 8k of racing on a hilly road. After fighting 30k in between the cars I got back, but got dropped again on a steep hill just after the first climb, while the bunch was controlled. I did not make it back and got forced to abandon the race after 70k of racing. The team took care of me and my injury very well and gave me each day the opportunity to pull out of the race, but I wanted to fight till the bitter end. This was it; my first time in a Broomwagon. This is not what I have been working for. Physically I felt good and strong. This made it mentally even harder to get dropped on each hill. Cycling can be cruel and honest. I love working hard, but not when I get nothing in return.
To be clear; my knee always felt strange, things like walking off the stairs or making a long hike was not possible some days, but riding a bike was! That was all that mattered to me. Now I have come to a point of realization that the past couple of months I have been fighting a losing battle. The injury got worse and I am not feeling rewarded for all the effort I have put in. It feels hard and unreal that I am forced to abandon not only the Basque Country race, but the race of Professional Cycling. It feels like a dream has fell into peaces. Cycling has brought me a lot: I have done some of the coolest races, have been privileged to work with some of the most professional and determined people, have been a part of an ever-growing Team Jumbo-Visma and I have been to places all around the world. Those experiences I will never forget and I am more than grateful that I have been privileged to live this life for almost 11 years (since I started cycling in 2008). I have always grown up with the idea that by working hard, you could achieve anything you want when it is within your range of talents, of course. Realizing myself that I am currently missing the right tools to be a Professional Cyclist is hard, but life doesn’t end. There is so much more than just cycling. I am gonna set new goals for myself, like getting a degree in my new study Management of Social Challenges. First I am gonna take some time off to travel, in order to make myself ready for a fresh start.
I would like to say thanks to everyone for your support, it means a lot to me. Furthermore I would like to thank the staff and riders from Team Jumbo Visma for all their support. This situation is not good for both of us, but they have always helped me and supported me. They have given me help and the time to recover. Also during the past couple of weeks I felt a lot of support by the riders, coaches and other staff, thank you all.
Some people might think that I have given up a fight, to those I would say: “That what cannot be repaired, is not to be regretted”. I have been fighting for a year and made the injury even worse. I think when that happens you should be honest to yourself. In the end you must get some rewards for the efforts you put in, otherwise being a Professional Athlete is not sustainable. In the end life is about happiness and cycling has brought me a lot of it.
I will keep on writing and keep this blog updated. Sometimes about cycling, sometimes about studying and sometimes about stuff I care about, like the sustainability of our planet and the transition towards a durable future. Not only a transition the planet has to make, but also one I will have to make myself!
Talk to you soon!