Sensory overload, that’s how I would describe New York City.
When I sat down at my parents dining table this January, with my yearly calendar sprawled across the table, the first block I planned was my mid-season break. I have learnt (the hard way) over the past 3 years racing professionally abroad, that having the ability to ‘turn-off’ from my job, allowing my body and mind to rest is crucial to have longevity in this career. And really, what better place to distract myself from my current life as an athlete, than taking myself to NYC with my old team mate and good friend in tow, Loren long legs Rowney.
Scheduling a week off the bike, away from team post Tour of California seemed to make sense. By that time, I would have been ‘going’ or ‘turned on’ since January and I realise now that 3-4 months is my limit in staying focused on a goal before I must stop, reflect and reset. TOC was a race I hoped to perform well at, as it was my first world tour event since I left Europe mid-season in 2016 (excluding Cadel’s Race 2017). I also went into TOC with no expectations, only to enjoy being back at the top level and be proud of how far I have come in a year. This time last year I was too anxious to leave my parents’ house. Now I was tackling hectic bunch sprints with the best in the world.
How crazy life can be.
Hagens Berman Supermint had an extremely successful TOC. I managed to win the ‘most courageous’ jersey in the opening 120km road stage. Personally, I was trying to get a ‘head-start’ up the final climb from the mountain goats and would have appreciated some company. But instead, I ended up solo off the front for 20km enjoying the stunning view Lake Tahoe had to offer. The following day I had 4 mechanicals in the space of 30min and was motor-paced back onto the peloton just before we hit a 7km climb. That day I felt more courageous. The Final 2 stages were set up for the sprinters and I was excited to be back racing with the fastest girls in the world. The more hectic and technical the sprint, the better for me. Stage 3 and 4 didn’t disappoint in the ‘hectic’ part. Finishing 6th, losing my lead-out lady Peta to a mechanical 3km from the finish. Peta losing 3 spokes to another rider’s pedal lodging into her front wheel going 50km/hr. Luckily, she has some crafty bike skills otherwise Peta would have lost a lot more than spokes! The final stage was a criterium around downtown Sacramento. Shit didn’t get real until the final lap, and the actual ‘fight’ is always 2-3km from the finish (the part that no-one sees). I had Peta and Scotti 3km to go and then I lost Peta’s wheel 1km from the finish. I stayed calm and went for the next best wheel, Bronzini from Wiggle Honda. 400m to go I found a clear run with Peta in front, and in that moment, I decided to get Peta to go early and jump the Sunweb train. Without hesitation Peta accelerated hard and we lead out the sprint, forcing Wilde and Riviera to respond and start their sprint early. So much of sprinting is about timing and position. The day before I felt as though I couldn’t fully ‘open up’ in my sprint because I was boxed in. Today I wanted to try something different. The result didn’t shuffle much, finishing 7th. But looking back at the video, 4-8th position were all so close. I feel proud of how our small, but gutsy team took on the challenges of the week. For me now, I get to pack the lycra away for a week and bring out some actual real clothes. Neeeeeew Yooooooork here we come!
One man recites scriptures from the bible. The ‘diva’ showcasing a glamorous Mani Pedi has Christian rock blaring from her phone on loud speaker. Her music fills the carriage with Hallelujah on repeat. She sings freely out loud, showing no care or judgement from the audience that surrounds her. What a refreshing sight this is. Next to the diva sits a white, grungy looking male. He holds a novel ‘Literary Epiphany’ in front of his red, unkept beard. Contradictions are everywhere I look here in NYC. People aren’t worried about how their perceived. It’s a city that welcomes individuality. Free of judgement and trends. This certainly is a breath of fresh air. So easily we can get caught up in our own ‘little’ world.
It’s a different feeling being the ‘minority’ in public. Now I know what my good friend Josh feels being a black man in Melbourne. It’s crazy to think that the colour of your skin can make you feel uneasy or uncomfortable, changing people’s perceptions of who you really are. Society has conditioned us to think that the colour of your skin represents a certain ‘type’ or ‘behaviour’. If we were all blind, life would be somewhat easier without all this unnecessary superficial bullshit. Personally, I will continue to go against the grain and look for the best in all people despite their race, religion, colour and sexuality.
Self- awareness and life values is something I consciously addressed in the second half of last year. Being back in Melbourne at my parents’ home gave me the time and space to really reflect on how I came to such a dark place in my life. Through writing, I have gained confidence in myself and my ability to handle life’s difficulties. My life is more coherent rather than chaotic. I can see myself solving problems rather than besetting them. Instead of anti-depressants organising my thoughts, I have turned to writing, which has provided me with a heightened sense of self with a more optimistic outlook on life. Something I came across the other day made me realise that I gradually had a loss of ‘one’s self’ whilst racing for Orica-Scott in Europe.
“For loss is a universal human experience, something we all must learn to deal with. Sharing our stories of loss, and accepting loss as a common feature of life, helps us “enjoy the good moments all the more”- Isabel Allende
You must experience hardship throughout your life so you can truly appreciate the highs. I would never wish for my past to be any different, my experiences build my character and I look forward to many more peaks and troughs along the way.