Final World Cup in Basque Country Spain was unforgettable to sum it up in one word!
Left Las Vegas in the evening on Friday the 8th of July to arrive in Bilbao Spain in the evening of the 9th, then drive an hour to Onati, Spain on unfamiliar roads at night to get to the final stop at 10:00pm. Got to bed somewhere around 1am local time.
Wake up, who knows when, to some of the most spectacular views I’ve seen in a long time. Onati is nestled in the mountains of Spain and they didn’t disappoint one bit. Off the kitchen patio or out the bedroom windows you had mountain views so unreal they look painted in the photos that were taken. Cool and cool! Why Onati? Well it was way closer to the courses than staying in Bilbao which was a 2 hour round trip to get to each course, according to the map, but actually turns out to be a bit longer. The roads are fantastic, however they are narrow compared to the fields we drive on in the states and combine that with “traffic O’ plenty” it slows things down a bit. What Impressed me the most was the semi drivers and how they got everywhere without destroying every car and building in the process. I know truck drivers in the states that can’t even back their rig up…in Europe you would either learn to make that truck dance or find a new job. Impressed, I was. One nice thing was nobody was texting and driving and to be perfectly honest how could you? Tight twisty roads, a million roundabouts, stick shifts, higher speeds, and people who actually know you’re supposed to stop for them in the crosswalk. Driving takes your full attention or you’ll kill someone…it’s that simple.
A day off to rest and put the trike together then off to ride the TT course first, in the city of Vitoria-Gastiez, about 35 minutes. The arena in Vitoria was huge and the parking lot was massive. Shake down the trike first then out onto the road. Now if you haven’t ridden in Europe or if you have a problem with cars getting close to you then stay home. There are bikes lanes here and there but mostly you just ride in the lane like a normal car would obeying the rules like a car would. Hold your line, signal, and you’ll be fine. I can say that now but the first 5 miles in the city on my trike was sketchy-nervous! If I rode with a heart rate monitor on that baby would have been maxed!! Nobody got pissed you were in the lane or shouted at you as they went by. They just waited and went around like you’re supposed to do. After 5 miles I was good…no more nervousness and the course pre-ride went off without incident.
I opted not to pre-ride the road race-course in Elorrio but drive it numerous times instead. Even with the above knowledge it was just a bit too sketchy for me. Better alive than dead!
I have been keeping an injury hidden as much as possible for almost a month. I tripped and fell a few weeks back and bruised most of the muscles in my shoulders, neck, ribs, and chest. Why does this matter? Well the muscles you use on a trike are the ones I bruised bad enough to not be able to push myself out of bed or even train at a level high enough so I'd be a 100% for the final world cup in Spain. It was more like 75% and in massive pain.
Yes all I had to do was finish one race and I'd win my first world cup title but I don't like to win that way because it feels like I cheated my competition out of seeing what we're all made of. Unfortunately in racing you do win on your bad days and this World Cup title will have an asterisk by it forever and always for me. Sorry peeps that's just how I'm am and always will be. I like to win straight up!
The TT in Vitoria-Gastiez started off good. My speed and pace were good, considering I hate flat courses, then the wind came up and stayed there. The layout of the course was such that in every direction you went you had a headwind. Don’t know how but it is what it was so just park it in the pain cave and hammer on. 30 minutes into my 2 lap TT my body went south with no warning. I couldn’t hang on and everything hurt…my pace went slow and I was in survival mode. I just wanted to finish without crashing. Crossing the finish line I could barely squeeze my brake lever to stop.
21 trikes or so were slated to start the road race in Elorrio. A typical town in Spain, with cobble stone walkways, historic buildings, and cafes quite literally on the sidewalk. The loop course had some short steep climbs around 7-8% in town with a long 2km or so 3-4% climb before a fast descent back into town. You know those shots of the riders in the Tour de France climbing some super steep grade with loads of people cheering not two feet away? The short climbs in town were just like that…awesome!! Spain loves cycling and it shows. There is nothing like having people cheer for you in 3 different languages while you punish yourself up a hill. It was really hard not to smile. Just wish they could line the entire course like that.
My road race went horrible wrong and my body went south on the first lap…not to mention a mechanical in a spot where I couldn’t stop right away to get it fixed. I spasmed so hard that my right hand slipped of the bar and unplugged my Di2 junction box.
Let’s just say I finished.
From going as hard as my body would allow me in the TT to pushing through heatstroke, mechanicals, and legs that just didn't want to work in the road race I was fortunate enough to stand at the top to claim the Overall World Cup title, Leader jersey and trophy. It may sound like I'm not happy but I really am. Huge congratulations to the winners in my class, you're all fantastic competitors!
Where does that leave me for Rio? I didn’t participate in the Team selection event due to injury. In short no Paralympic Games in Rio. I chose to focus on the World Cup title, which considering everything that’s happened was an epic way to cap my recovery from a spinal cord injury some 12 years ago.
Honestly it doesn’t bother me that I didn’t make it to Rio. There are many, many things in life that are just as, if not more, fulfilling than the Paralympic Games. Would it be cool…hell yeah! Now I’m not saying that to make myself feel better. There are World Cup titles, World Champion Rainbow jerseys (that would be cool), National Championships and more every year. Not to mention growing the sport and mentoring those already involved.
Spain is a beautiful country and the people in Onati, Elorrio, Vittoria, and Bilbao have been awesome!! They do love the fact that I was from Las Vegas and visiting their city and many people ask, “Of all places why Onati?” My neighbor while in Onati was the former mayor and his two sons race bicycles as well. I can’t forget to mention that they closed the town down at 10pm to have a race in Onati. It’s what we call a fixie or track bike but that was cool to see. By 10pm the sun has barely gone down…crazy! Also I was hoping to slide into France and catch some of the Tour de France, but they were just too far away to make it worth it.
Need to give many thanks to Steven and Matt for their help at the final World Cup in Spain. To the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Go Fast Sports, Wittson Ti Cycles, Etienne at Belgium Cycles, Pasadena Athletic Association, my awesome coach Rick, my friends and family thank you so much for helping me get here and making this the most epic year since I broke my neck 12 years ago!!!
From here I’m taking some time off to enjoy riding around the U.S. for a month or so and kind of rest. I have a lot of things to improve on for next year and you’d be amazed at how fast 8 months will go by when you’re training a lot. I can hear Alaska, Montana, and Idaho…possibly Seattle…and Canada calling my name. Not quite sure really. Just gonna head Northwest and see what happens.