Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Izegem

First couple days in Izegem, Belgium are in the books and settling in to the daily routine was hardly a chore. Today we rode a few hours in the morning, then putzed around until dinner, consistently consuming any caloric substance unfortunate enough to be within our reach. The house is very quiet now though which made finding a corner to curl up and read rather easy.

For those that have not heard of the legends of the USA Cycling U23 house in Izegem, it is in short a dormitory for the USA riders invited to race with the National Team and the European center of all things USA Cycling. If you ask the riders, some will say it is uncomfortable, some will say it is boring, and for that matter every rider has an arsenal of complaints. It is only natural: we're an ocean away from home thrashing around in some of the hardest races on earth in a crowded house with unfamiliar beds and so little to do with so much time. On top of that the room assignments are constantly changing depending on rider departures and arrivals, and we have to do (and pay for) our own laundry. But although I acknowledge all the complaints, there is an odd allurement to The House. I will be here for six more weeks (until May 26th) and am pretty excited. The riding may not be as awesome as Austria (see picture below), but the hills of flanders aren't too shabby themselves. However, despite my excitement, I cannot escape the difficulties of living in The House. For one, hygiene and cleanliness – in our rooms, the kitchen, and bathrooms – is completely the riders' responsibility to maintain. With up to two dozen tired, perpetually hungry boys, the kitchen sink quickly fills with dirty dishes, clothes and other personal items get sprawled out on the floor, and only Ganesha knows how the bathrooms remain sanitary.

And in a sport where a rider's health is his primary asset, keeping the germs at bay is a constant battle... a battle which I have so far been losing. I woke up this morning with a terrible sore throat and felt chilled and weak all day. In my defense a bug had been circulating around the house prior to my arrival, but it's still a bummer. It's an unwelcome addition to my resumé of tough luck this season. I could go on and on about the season's ups and downs and how I am going to come out of the low points stronger and more motivated but I will spare you.

Right now, though, I need to start packing for our trip to Holland to do my first race the ZLM Tour. Even though I can guarantee I won't be 100% for this race, there-in lies the beauty of The House; everyone is here to race and hell that's what we're gonna do.

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