by: Christian Helmig

… is part of being a cyclist. On the one side, there is the stress we put our bodies through during training and racing, pushing past what we think our bodies can take. To get better and faster we need to push ourselves in training and in order to win a race, more often than not we have to “dig really deep” to hold off the bunch or keep a team mate in position. It takes quite some mental toughness too to sustain such an intense effort when every fiber in your body screams at you to stop, your vision starts to get blurry, all you can hear is the blood rushing and your heart pumping in your ears… but at the end of the day when you cross the line first, it is all worth it.

On the other hand, there is the pain as a result from injury or a crash, which unfortunately is also part of the sport. Most of the time we just get back up after a crash, jump back on the bike and continue riding. It is not easy but while racing everyone is so focused on getting to the line first you just can’t afford to think about your road rash too much. You just push thought the pain. Easier said than done but it is part of the sport. I had one of those moments a couple of weeks back when I was racing in a 40 km/ 26 mile time trail in Tribbey, OK. A time trail is a very tough race where you race against the clock – or really just against yourself. It is super hard as you constantly have to push yourself to stay just outside your “comfort zone”. Basically it is one hour of pain. The best way to “prepare” for this is to be mentally ready for it so it is very important to stay focused and concentrated on the task at hand. This is hard enough but if something unforeseen gets thrown into it, it gets even harder. For me that was a crash just 15 minutes into the ride. I hit a pothole I didn’t see at around 40 miles per hour and went flying over the bars. I was very lucky that I didn’t break anything in the process but I ended up getting up, checking my bike and before I had time to realize what I was doing, I was back on the bike. The following 45 minutes were pretty uncomfortable, to say the least. Nevertheless, I knew I had to finish the time trail in order to be able to start the road race (basically the second stage of the race) so I had to push through the pain.

Only after I had finished the time trail I had time to actually check on my injuries and it started to sink in what had happened. It was a little shocking when I saw my back side and noticed the crack in the helmet. Getting the wounds cleaned wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world either but I had to get patched up somehow to make sure I could start the race in the afternoon. I tried not to dwell on my missing skin too much (which was kind of hard when you need to squeeze into those tight lycra shorts) and focused on what I had to do in the road race to make up for the lost time instead. I guess you just try to blend out the pain by concentrating all your thoughts on the task at hand. The road race went pretty well, I managed to ride away with a small group and attack them at the end to solo in for the victory. All the time the pain was there, both from the wounds and the hard riding but I knew I had to push through to achieve my goal. In the end it worked out just fine and I made enough money that weekend to pay for all the gauze and other medical supplies to take care of the aftermath of the crash 😉

When it comes to racing your bike, you need to know what you are getting yourself into and what can and will happen – you will experience pain, no matter if it is from pushing yourself or – in the worse case – from crashing. But: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?