Mountain Bike Stage Racing. It gives so much, yet it also takes something away. As I sit and write this two days after finishing the 2011 ABSA Cape Epic, there is a familiar feeling that I have rolling over me.
Post Stage Race Depression.
The race is over. It finished well over 48 hours ago. The after party has been and gone, most of my friends have flown home, or are in transit. However I’m still sat barely two kilometres from the finish line in Lourensford. A problem with attachment perhaps? No, nothing so serious as that – the amply comfortable lodge that was booked for post race R & R was meant to be close.
However, seeing other racers packing their bike somewhat frantically right after the race induced small pangs of jealousy. They were still on the move, on a time limit, under the pump – even racing. I could, and had, switched off. No more pressure, no more high heart rates, intense concentration, early starts or dust clouds. I had a few days to chill and enjoy this wine region east of Cape Town. But this familiar sense of loss has washed over me.
It’s been experience before. And I can liken it to a great party finishing, but the comedown is worse. In 2010 I suffered alone near Gaschurn in the Austrian Alps, choosing to train in the rain and eat rice-cream flavoured by gels to appease my unsatiable hunger. 2009 resulted in time spent in Olomouc and Cesky Krumlov trying to find my joie de vivre. In 2008 I was in a hole until New York City brought me out of it, and the Shenandoah 100 had me peaking again. In all, this isn’t unfamiliar territory.
Yet I still wonder, what brings it on?
Mountain Bike Stage Racing offers far more than a conventional XC or even Marathon race can. The rivalries are more intense, you meet more like minded people from around the globe, and you find a new routine, that ispurely based around riding your bike as best as you can. You’re a pro for a week. Especially at the ABSA Cape Epic, where after crossing the line for the day, your bike is taken to be cleaned and stored, and you’re given a bag of delightful food, all by attractive young ladies. It is a dream state of sorts, and very easy to get accustomed to. But the days and the stages tick by, and then it ends.
Bikes are packed.
Trucks are loaded.
Contact details are swapped.
And you’re virtually alone.
Along with my MarathonMTB.com team mate Will Hayter (broken but repairable) and the Justin’s Big Nuts Thomas ‘Twin Pillars of Doom’ Dooley and Mike ‘Marathon Meister’ Hogan, we knew we had two days in lovely Lourensford to battle our PSRD.
‘Stage 9’, the after party, helped a little. But there are a lot of tired bike racers after an 8 day stage race – so don’t expect too much.
A sumptuous breakfast the next day helped, but really we were eating for the sake of it, and out of habit.
A roll to the beach should have helped. Yet we felt like we were caught on the wrong side of the tracks, and shouldn’t have been on bikes. A coffee stop did redeem our effort though.
We did manage a high point, eating a fantastic meal at Morgenster winery, accompanied by a great 2004 Pinotage and two great aperitifs. Tales were swapped as we recounted the past week, fending off the PSRD that was due to engulf us.
“Remember when we saw Hermida and he commented how great my legs were?”
“Udo Boelts has such a strong handshake.”
“Those RSAweb guys, they descended like such douches”
“So what was it, seven past or present World Champions?”
“If the next race I do doesn’t have two helicopters following it, I’ll be disappointed.”
And so it went on. Later, we continued to drown our sorrows with beer, until the idea was cracked to watch a DVD. Which one?
Race Across the Sky, from the 2010 Leadville 100. Dooley and Hogan have both placed well at the event (Hogan as high as 4th), and have the buckles to prove it (ready to be worn when they own a ranch in Texas).
This was our last ditch effort to stop ourselves from falling fully into Post Stage Race Depression. We watched a DVD of a bike race. Dooley and Hogan told Will and I it would be perfect for us. We convinced ourselves it would be worth travelling around the world to compete in a 100 mile Mountain Bike Marathon, at altitude. Despite us both living at sea level.
And that is the only way out. You have to recreate what you are missing. After living a complete Mountain Bike Racing lifestyle for a week, there is only one way you can get those endorphins back. And that is to chuck yourself right back into it, or at least get planning to do so.
My fix? A marathon in about ten days time. It won’t be for a result, but it will be for the love of the sport.