Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The Volta a Portugal 2013, Part Two & Postscript


HomeJournalsTavira Pro Tomás Swift-MetcalfThe Volta a Portugal 2013, Part Two & Postscript


The second half of the Volta a Portugal went very badly for me and the team. My problem was that the extra ‘tax’ on the body from fighting the saddle sore, the antibiotics caused me to get a viral sinusitis, which even now, three weeks later is affecting me (but getting better at last).

This virus completely KO’d me on the penultimate day, before the time trial.

* * *

Stage Eight – Torre, the queen stage

I’ve never been one for complaining about things, I mostly keep a positive outlook, even when the odds are stacked against me, I believe something can always be done.

It’s important to believe: Nothing can ever be achieved without a healthy dose self-delusion.

On this stage of the Volta, I could do nothing… It was an unbelievable situation, there was nothing there. I crawled along in the gruppetto and even that was hard, very hard.

It was weird, the day before I had felt fantastic, and very much enjoyed cycling through those mountains.

Volta a Portugal
On top of the highest mountain in Portugal after the hardest stage of the Volta.

On top of the highest mountain in Portugal after the hardest stage of the Volta.

Part of what bothered me on this stage was a cannibalism that developed inside the team.

The Volta wasn’t going well for anyone and an unpleasant environment developed. Long gone were the days where we’d all go down to the caravan after dinner, hang out, chat and drink a ‘medronho’ (Algarvean firewater). It was a peculiar situation.

I was worked hard carrying bidons and positioning the leaders occasionally.

This might not sound like much, but the fact that three, sometimes four riders were being protected, two were new and couldn’t or wouldn’t work meant that the work fell to one or two of us.

It doesn’t seem like much but going to get five-six bidons in the mountains when the team car is back in 19th position is basically a 15 min effort at threshold.

Add to this the fact the entire race is run at temperature well into the thirty degrees celsius (one stage it was even 47ºC) means a lot of trips to the car…

Volta a Portugal
Same jerseys, different objectives.
Volta a Portugal
What’s usually an easy job, became difficult – look at my face here!

Back on topic: The cannibalism.

Essentially I think that people project their dissatisfaction in themselves onto others.

I began to feel isolated. It was weird, I had done my best. I’ve always worked selflessly and hard.

‘Torre’ was a strange stage, right from the ‘get-go’ I felt weird, like I had been drained of all power.

After the race team doctor said ‘oh yeah, that’s something slight’, offered me an antibiotic which I declined; I didn’t want more antibiotics, not two days from the end.

The following week at home I went to a doctor, got a blood test and lo and behold… viral sinusitis, so it would have done nothing but harm.

The sinusitis was awful, my ear, under the eye and neck hurt and I had a cough.

I wasn’t a piece of shit after all, but simply affected by several problems, which in normal conditions are quite tolerable, but during one of the hardest stage races in the world become unbearable.

[vsw id=”E37J06_5pN4″ source=”youtube” width=”615″ height=”450″ autoplay=”no”]

* * *

Stage Nine – the Time Trial

Something extraordinary happened to me during the Time Trial.

Simply put I went as hard as I could and finished a few seconds outside of control.

I had previously come 38th on the exact same course doing easy. My head was a mess.

I crossed the line completely drained, knowing I was probably out of the race. I went to a corner and wept. I wept out of weakness.

I could barely hold myself up. Thank God my girlfriend was there to do some hand-holding, it made the moment pass a bit more easily.

Volta a Portugal
I struggled even to cover the distance of the TT.

This episode during the Time Trial was brutal.

This sport I loved and have given so much to was treating me that badly. I could do no more, the doctor said I was grand, and I really felt worthless.

I was thinking to myself that if the others were in fact so much stronger than me, that I should be looking for another job.

After the TT no one said a word to me. I went to bed, I was feeling crappy. Sick crappy, not sulky-child crappy. I was working on a few things on the computer, nothing more.

[vsw id=”Y3iGgFIfYko” source=”youtube” width=”615″ height=”450″ autoplay=”no”]

* * *

The future

There been a lot of conversation about ‘going pro continental’ and ‘things are looking good for next season’; the same conversation I’ve heard many times before but then been left hanging until December.

This expectation does nothing good. I like to plan for the worst.

So far, the only victory of any type by anyone on the team this year belongs to me, and the run-up was less than perfect.

And at the Volta ao Algarve I rode excellently. In a moment of weakness, exhaustion and sickness my whole season seems to have gained a negative outlook.

Volta a Portugal
The combativity prize – a consolation prize, sure, but better than nothing!

I want to continue racing, I’ve got a lot to give and a lot to improve. If I can’t race, working within the sport would be fantastic too.

I would be good in many roles within the sport. Maybe if all goes arse-ways and I have to leave I’ll set up my own team some time into the future.

I’ve thought it would be cool to have an U-23 that as well as offering an education in cycling, also offered it’s members the opportunity to study, so that the people involved haven’t invested their entire youth in something that’s unlikely ever to pay off.

The fact I feel tranquil now is the fact I’ve got an education, a business and I have lived my dreams as a cyclist. I’m looking forward and I’ll keep riding my bike. I love cycling.

Volta ao Algarve