As the season draws to a close, cyclist social media is full of images of riders sipping wine, hiking mountains and relaxing. But this aside, I haven’t found the best formula for the off season yet.
In 2018, my first season as a pro, I went back to Oz and barely took a week off before I was racing mtb, club crits and preparing for the Aussie ‘Summer of Cycling’. At the end of 2019, I was predictably burned out and had one massive night in Barcelona to indulge myself. I then flew back and forth from Australia to Europe twice in a matter of weeks to attend team camp and a family Christmas in France. 2020 was….2020. My first off season in Europe might have been the best yet but there were no holidays or restaurants. It was a stressful year, and clouded in uncertainty as to if and when and what racing would be on. But I was relieved to not have to scramble for form, and instead did a solid two months of actual base training. I loved it.
2021 was on track to be more normal, albeit the unknown about whether returning to a (still!) locked down Australia was going to be possible. My season fizzled out rapidly when I had minor surgery turned major in August, stamping out my chance to race in my best form at the Vuelta, Roubaix or the Worlds.
I lost all motivation to return to training, as my return to riding was managed very conservatively. I arranged a no-bike trip with my partner over four days, no bikes, sunshine and snorkelling, but that plan went very pearshaped as border control denied us entry upon arrival due to a nuance in covid controls and visa issues from the pandemic. Anxiety returned, I had family members unwell back home and I dug very deep to extract a sliver of optimism out of compounded stressors. Right now, I couldn’t be more ready to find some sort of fitness again and get back to a routine. My coach reckons this influx of desire to train means I really had the right amount of time off, even if it wasn’t a postcard off-season.
I will not return to Australia this year, and I hope that my premature off season means I have loads of time to work with my new coach to build me back to form from the ground up. The WWT calendar has provided some exciting new goals and the world in Europe is becoming more normal.
I am curious to see how my body will respond to such a large period of inactivity, and only I really know what I have worked through to be where I am now. The same goes for everyone in the peloton, and that is important to remember when admiring your favourite athletes through their peaks and very much so in their troughs.