Chad Haga Journal: A long summer’s nap
The Critérium du Dauphiné ended on Sunday, and with it the main block of my 2015 season. I’ve tried a couple of times to write a journal about it, but I couldn’t stay awake long enough for inspiration to strike. For me, a full night’s sleep is eight hours; I can manage nine if I’m really tired. Since the race ended, I’ve spent over half of each day asleep (the other half spent buying and eating groceries in a futile attempt to quell an insatiable appetite). It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.
After recovering from last year’s Vuelta a España, I had all the form in the world but could only use it to snipe Strava KOMs. I was hopeful that my legs would be in the same situation after a week of rest following the Giro d’Italia. As it turned out, a WorldTour stage race like the Dauphiné and season’s-end Strava hunting are not on equal footing … Who knew?
With its place on the race calendar between the Giro and Tour, the field was comprised of riders dead from the Giro (“fresh off the Giro” didn’t really sound right), riders who were targeting the race, and riders who were sharpening up for the Tour de France. The race started with as many riders as finished the Giro, so it already felt small to me, as I would discover many times when I was closer to the back than the front.
Of our seven-rider squad, only two did not race the Giro, so it really felt like the fourth week for me. I rolled to the start line for stage 22, unable to find the villaggio and confused by all the French I was hearing. A race is a race, though, even if I didn’t know which country I was in at the time.
I realized the magnitude of my post-Giro trauma just two kilometers into the race, when I was taken down in a crash. I was uninjured but in a full-blown panic because it was taking so long to get my chain back on and my handlebars straight — I was certain that I would be chasing for the whole stage because attacks would go for hours. I was going to miss time cut on the first stage.
I was back in the field just a few kilometers later, because the Dauphiné was bike racing as we all knew it; things made sense again. This would be a frequent conversation between Giro-finishers, as we felt that we had emerged from M. Night Shyamalan’s world of bike racing, back to mercifully predictable stages.
I was twice in the wrong place at the wrong time on the second stage, taken down in both crashes in the stage’s closing kilometers. I was more bruised than scraped, but certainly sore after three crashes in two days. Fortunately, I could hit the reset button on the stage 3 team time trial. Unfortunately, I drew the short straw in the lineup, following the diminutive duo of Simon Geschke and Caleb Fairly; on the rare moments that the course wasn’t going uphill, I still didn’t get much recovery. I ended up being the guy who is slowing everyone else down, but who has to hang on because we were already down to five riders, so I went deep into the pain cave. I think I crossed the line covered in drool, mouth open wide enough to swallow a bird, but my brain wasn’t getting much oxygen at the time.
The rainy and chaotic full-gas stage 6 gave the rest of the field a taste of the Giro, but we (the increasingly haggard Giro finishers) decided that, from a purely “survival” point of view, it wasn’t so bad. Even still, that day saw the withdrawal of several Giro finishers, our Giant-Alpecin team of four being cared for by twice as many staff. I was determined to finish the race, though (partly to spite the Giro), even if my legs were giving out on me. They never hurt, though. In fact, they never really felt anything anymore. I had one speed on climbs — when the field went above that speed, I got dropped. It was pretty simple, really.
As the field splintered on the climbs of the final stage, I found myself making the front group over each one. I was just kilometers from my summer break, the bus was at the finish, and I still had gas in the tank. I was like a fireworks stand with leftovers on July 5th — light ‘em all at once! Who cares? I wanted to be done, I wanted to avoid the complaining in the gruppetto, and I was filled with a stomach-churning number of caffeinated gels. So I gave everything I had, reaching the base of the final climb with the GC favorites. Then reality hit as I finished my 35th day of WorldTour racing in seven weeks, my tired legs ceding four minutes to Froome, which I won’t lose sleep over.
Now I’m enjoying the Spanish summer for awhile, with no racing on the calendar until August. My bike sits dirty and half-assembled in the corner, and my training goal for a couple of weeks is to leave it that way. I think I feel another nap coming on.