The year of 'WTF?!?'

Liz reflects on the season that was

I am exhausted.

Not the kind of satisfying exhaustion you feel after a hard race. This is far more mental than physical.

I've made it home from Italy since I last wrote (sorry for the long period of silence in between) and am visiting my family in South Florida; time to recharge brain and body. I'm also using this period to reflect and analyze the year's events and start thinking about the next one.

At the start of 2009 I made several goals, both personal and team related. Now sitting here in October, the end of the 2009 season, I'm evaluating my progress. Am I satisfied? To be honest: no, not entirely. There are definite moments and milestones I've passed in the season that I am proud of, but these ring a bit hollow in light of events that have occurred throughout this year.

If 2008, my first year as a professional, was a year of learning the ropes then 2009 was supposed to be the year of action. Instead, I've titled it 'the year of WTF?!?' (If you are unfamiliar with the term, try Google search). Since January it's a line I've repeated both privately and out loud almost ad nauseam. It seemed like every time I got some momentum going and things in order the pendulum would reach its highest point and swing back in the other direction: FRUSTRATING!

I entered January with good fitness, ready to put everything I had learned from the previous season into action. On January 18, I crashed heavily in training and was out of commission for the whole Spring. This was the first 'WTF?!?' moment for the season. I had nothing to show from the crash on the outside: no broken bones, etc. My body simply took forever to straighten itself out, despite rigorous treatment and therapy from my amazing chiropractor, Dr. Kano. The situation was compounded by problems with my contract that saw me out of pocket with some hefty medical bills.

In the meantime, relations with my Vanderkitten team management had become increasingly strained. It was, in part, due to the accident and I won't get into specifics, but the one thing I will say is that I regret how things played out. It's a huge personal disappointment to me, as these were people I was very, very close to. A second family if you will. I started my career with them and had hoped to take the vision we'd had at the beginning to fulfillment.

I feel that I was a valuable representative of the brand and team. I always did my best to be an unselfish teammate and to look out for the interests of the unit, rather than myself. My vision, what I felt was the Vanderkitten vision, was along the lines of 'all for one, one for all' and in that sense I gave up opportunities to race for my own result because we had a specific goal to reach as a team; one that we reached together in 2008.

What hurts the most now is hearing people say that I'm not a good racer or worth my salt because I have very few of my own results. This is not how the team works. Individual sacrifice is always necessary to feel the satisfaction of reaching a pinnacle together. That being said, I am grateful to the owners of the team for what we accomplished in the almost 3 years we were together and wish them the best in the future, truly. It's painful for me not to think of myself as a member of that family any longer primarily because of how much I adore my teammates at Vanderkitten. They are all unique, exceptional girls and I owe them a lot for teaching me so much, for their patience with me and for being amazing friends. I will miss them dearly.

By the time I got back to racing in late April my fitness was coming back, but I felt the strain from being in an uncertain situation with the team. Things had changed since 2008; the team structure and ideals were unfamiliar and distracting. I felt like a fish out of water and was becoming angrier by the day, as there was no resolution with the team owners over my contract.

There was public speculation that I broke my contract to race in Europe, but this simply wasn't the case. This was not what I had "signed up for" when the dream of starting the team in late 2007 came alive. I remember sitting on the phone with the owners of Vanderkitten and my teammate Leigh Hopkins for hours, pouring through the details of how things would work.

We had such high hopes and clear vision of what we could do to change and improve women's cycling. To go from being the first and only amateur member of Vanderkitten, to being part of a fully-fledged team that was the product of all of our work together was a literal 'stars in the eyes' dream-come-true for me. Suddenly here it was, falling down around me...

Another 'WTF?!?' moment, but, as the saying goes: "when one door shuts another one opens."

After Philly in June I had the chance to go to Europe, something for which my US team gave me the go-ahead. I remain thankful that they understood the importance of this step for me. Again, to set the record straight, I was not under valid contract at that time. The experience of racing for the summer in Italy provided me the ability to look forward to my future in the sport. I'm happy to report that I'm working on something for 2010 and beyond, which I'm highly excited about. More about that soon!

As I get older and the longer I've been involved in this sport, a few things have become more and more clear to me. First, expect the unexpected; second, be okay with the unexpected and third, stand up for yourself when necessary. Although make sure it's really necessary. There will always be negativity in life, you can't take every bit of it to heart nor can you fight it all. Sometimes you just have to say "WHAT THE F@$K?!?" and just let it go!

2009 - Year of 'WTF?!?'
2010 - Hopefully the year of 'OHY!' (Oh Hell Yes!)

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