I’ll open with a rare piece of insight I’ve garnered these past few weeks: the Tour de France is pretty enjoyable when you get to watch it loosely and just casually follow along. I'm definitely not glued to the TV, but it's interesting to catch a few minutes here and there and check in on my teammates and other friends in the peloton. Seeing it from the outside actually gives me some deeper perspective and appreciation for having been there a handful of times, particularly winning it with Cadel back in 2011. So far, my favorite moments have been my teammate Daryl's stage win and seeing my buddy Joey convert an awesome top 10 TT result in his first TDF. Daryl and Joey are both friends, but to me, these are the guys and moments to really cheer for and get inspired by. Everyone at the Tour is incredibly talented and works extremely hard but seeing riders who are slightly less celebrated compared to the major GC stars perform and realize their dreams is about as good as it gets for me from a spectator standpoint.
It's rare to have a multi-week block between races once the season starts yet I’ve somehow found myself with a multi-month block off from racing. On the one hand, it's a pleasant luxury to step away after an intense winter/spring build-up and early race season. On the other hand, it is challenging to bridge such a big gap and keep the fire lit for the races to come.
It took me a couple of solid weeks to get healthy after the Giro, but things have progressed to the point where I’m feeling healthy and ready to get back at it. I wasn’t there yet to make it back for the June race program, and like many teams, Mitchelton-SCOTT only races at the Tour de France in July. Currently, I’m chipping away and looking forward to returning to racing in early August.
One of the biggest challenges of recovering from any sickness or injury is balancing yourself physically and mentally. Forced downtime is not the same as a rejuvenating healthy period away from training. I feel like the clock is always ticking and like I’m sliding backwards when I’m not moving forward relatively quickly. Despite all of that, I have enjoyed the training these past few weeks and have been fortunate to switch up my locale with a bit of travel and seeing people that I wouldn't otherwise mid-season.
I made a quick and last-minute trip back to Michigan, where I grew up to see my family and participate in the MSU Gran Fondo. It's incredible to see this relatively new event have such a massive following. It was started by the same crew that really pushed me along during the early phases of my cycling career. I was most impressed that the 2000+ participants at the MSU Gran Fondo were a true mix of the cycling community from seasoned pros to people riding borrowed bikes in jean shorts and sneakers. Coming together with a crew like that for a cause as worthy as skin cancer research was a reminder of what this is all about and where and who got me started down this path.
From there, I headed to our USA home in Asheville for a couple weeks. Coming over to Europe in early January meant I hadn't seen our friends there for almost six months. My favorite roads are in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which I knew would be the perfect place to rekindle the pre-race fire that I need for coming races. I got to ride some of the new roads that we will be added to this year’s Bookwalter Binge and snuck out into Pisgah National Forest for some invigorating MTB time. Something about that lush, dense southern mountain air combined with long ranged, layered mountains views never disappoints. It is always inspired riding and puts me the right place.
More recently, I’ve been in Font Romeu nestled in the French Pyrenees with some teammates as we all prepare and hone our condition for the next few months of racing. It's been great to get back with the team in some new terrain with dreamy summer conditions. We have a solid group of 10 here and are supported by a few different team staff that are rotating in and out. At this point in the year, it is less about beating each other to a pulp and more about finding a good sustainable level that will carry us through October. Most of us who aren't racing the TDF still have a solid three months of racing coming up.
For me, it looks like I’ll get back to it with the one-day San Sebastian race over the first weekend of August. Somehow, I never raced this one before, so it seems like a great way to get excited for the next block of racing, especially since I will be lining up with some teammates who are former winners and strong performers.