I'm truly excited to get back up to speed and rejoin my Saxo-Tinkoff teammates here at the Amgen Tour of California after a "second offseason", recovering from my broken leg sustained at the Tour Down Under back in January.
It's always difficult getting the ball rolling again, getting back into top form from a hospital bed only a few months before. I've had some great training, and got my racing feet wet again at the Tour of Turkey a couple weeks ago. No matter how hard or how well you train, it's difficult to get that racing rhythm back without actually racing, and the Tour of Turkey did just that. I'm looking forward to being even a few notches better this week and returning to normalcy.
The last couple months have been anything but normal. Thankfully, my rehab has progressed quickly since day one, and what I was able to do was changing by the week. My physical therapy and training morphed along with that.
The key in the whole process was being able to adapt and roll with the changes, and constantly progress while not pushing too hard. I have a great team of doctors, chiropractors, therapists, my coach and many others around me monitoring every step of the process so i could easily tell when I was improving or where my weaknesses were.
My favorite moment was when I could finally take my dog out for a walk in the woods behind my house, followed by getting all green lights from my physical therapist just last week as she watched me run laps through the gym without a limp.
The hardest part in coming back from an injury is getting those last 5 percent. It's easy to get back to "normal", but "normal" for an elite athlete is a bit different. When you are pushing to the limit, any tiny weakness is magnified. This is where I am now, polishing out those last little difficulties that maybe only I can even notice, getting back into the rhythm and routine of racing. Previously, my training consisted of a variety of physical therapy exercises, deep massage work, ice and compression therapy and taping. It's nice to be back to the more one-dimensional world of eating, sleeping and riding!
USADA tested me at 11pm last night, after I'd been sleeping for 1.5 hours. Well within their rights, but sucky nonetheless. So that didn't help the assimilation into "race rhythm"! I just pretended I was having a bad dream.
As always, Im really excited to race at home in the US. It doesnt happen very often, and the Amgen Tour of California is certainly a marquee event on the international calendar. I've got a great group of friends and family on hand following the whole race. Also, its been fun showing my teammates a little bit of Americana this week, some of whom have never been to the United States before. We've hit up Starbucks, Chipotle, and even got pictures taken with the Hooters waitresses. OK, we didn't eat there, but we stopped in mid-ride for a photo op...