AS I sit down to write this I am pretty tired.
Three hard races in three days takes its toll, but it's all good preparation for the big one next Friday – the Valkenburg Hills Classic. The race is the women's elite version of the men's Amstel Gold race and takes in iconic climbs like the Cauberg and the Eyserbosweg. At 110km it's a little shorter than the norm, but with 20 climbs it's leg breaking stuff, a veritable war of attrition. The climbs are short, all less than 2km, but very steep with gradients touching 20%.
Just to add to the mix, Valkenburg will host the road world championships later this year – so it's certain to attract a really top class field. The climbing suits me as a rider and as long as I can hold it together on the sometimes hairy descents and get my positioning right from the start I should have a good race. It is also very important that my team director Nico remembers that he is banned from uttering the words "Michelle, this is a race for you", as it has become the foretelling of impending doom and general bad luck!
The Wobble has finished his first kermis race – no easy feat. Many's the top quality domestic Irish rider has come to Belgium only to have his or her lungs and legs ripped off and their confidence strewn at the side of the road after only a handful of laps.
The racing over here is fast and technical and in Vlamertinge the average speed was a whopping 43kph. The Wobble's average heart rate for those two and a half hours was, I kid you not, 190bpm (beats per minute). Consider the fact that a really fit endurance athlete will have a resting heart rate of in or around 40bpm and the Wobble was most definitely in charge of his central governor that day. The central governor theory is something I came across while reading an interview with a sports physiologist. Our body sends us strong signals that we are going to kill it long before we are actually anywhere close to death. Basically endurance sport is all about ignoring our central governor and pushing beyond what our body perceives to be its physical limits. Or as cycling legend Jens Voigt put it – "Shut up legs"!
We had a nice break from the routine of training and racing this week. I got a text from Fran Meehan saying that herself and Catherine (Walsh) were in Belgium for the tandem Tour of Belgium. As it happened they were staying only a couple of kilometres from where I was racing that day so we met up for coffee. The girls are world champions on the track and will be representing Ireland at the Paralympics in London!
The Tour of Belgium is part of their preparation for the Paralympic road race. I can't imagine trying to maneuver a tandem through a bunch and around corners at high speeds. It's total madness and whatever about Fran as the pilot I just don't know how Catherine does it. Anyway best of luck to the girls in the upcoming World Cup in Milan and the biggie, London.
Finally, best of luck to the Irish lads doing the Ras. Hopefully we can all ignore our central governors this week.