Culture

Chad Haga Journal: Heading home to celebrate

After a busy spring of racing, Haga heads home to rest and celebrate an important milestone for his family

It’s hard to believe that the last time I pinned a number on, it was still March. I got a lot of bewildered looks when other racers learned that I was taking a month break from racing — In April — but those looks became more understanding upon hearing that I’d already accumulated a whopping 25 race days since things kicked off in Australia. In fact, was tied for the most race days in the team.

I couldn’t be more pleased with how my legs handled such a schedule. I could have kept on racing a while longer, but I would have paid for it down the line. By getting some rest before I desperately needed it, I can much more confidently dive into the meat of the season. As it was, I was in such a strong rhythm from all the racing that I over-rested following Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo, resulting in my first DNF of the year in the Classica Corsica. Following a set of intervals the next day to help re-establish the rhythm, I was improving throughout Criterium International. But then it was time to rest.

Normally, such a large break during the season would make me uneasy, but the success of 2014 has given me confidence in my ability to bounce back quickly. Just as crucial as the physical rest, however, is relief of the mental fatigue that builds during time on the road.

One of the most trying aspects of life as an American bike racer in Europe is being away from friends and family for most of the year. Whereas European pros return home between each race, Americans may only see home a couple of times a year. Having gone through college and lived away from home for many years (and being of a solitary disposition anyway), my tolerance for time-on-the-road is quite high.

On my original race schedule, there was no opportunity for a spring trip home, so I hadn’t even really considered it. Then our family got the news that we’d been waiting for: My dad was once again No Evidence of Disease. I was stuck in Europe last summer when we learned that he was back in the ring for the third time with stage IV lung cancer, a disease with a five-year mortality rate of 90 percent. Now, five years after his initial diagnosis, we are instead celebrating. All I wanted was to give him a big hug. How fortunate, then, that his news came just days into my spring break?

So even though my mental batteries were still pretty full, not being able to see my family at such a significant time was upsetting. I also had only a week left to see my brother before he left for five months in Mexico — a result of our trip there last November. After checking with my team to be sure I wasn’t needed for any races in the coming weeks (it’s best that your employer OKs any plans to leave the continent), I was on my way home!

I got that hug and more, as I enjoyed 10 days at home. I got to ride with my brother, just like old times, when we rode only because it was fun. The only thing left to do before returning to Spain was fill all the leftover space in my luggage with select condiments and books (yes, I have an e-reader, but thanks for the suggestion), and some Easter candy for my compatriots.

I’ve been back in Spain for a couple of weeks now, putting in the work and feeling great as my form begins to reemerge. I’ve got fresh legs, a fresh mind, and lots of racing ahead of me.