Brett Wachtendorf from the LowestRates Cycling Team writes about dealing with deception and rising back up to prepare for his biggest challenge yet…
October 28th, 2016 – by Brett Wachtendorf
Refocusing and Finding Motivation
Driving back to Vermont after the Reading 120 was a long 6-hour journey. Thoughts of what could’ve been, what should’ve been, swirled in my mind, and continued to do so for the next day or so. You’ve seen it happen in the World Tour, riders going down because of a team car, neutral service, or even a moto referee. In my mind, the most infamous incident was during the 2011 Tour de France, Stage 9, when a French TV car swerved into the breakaway sending Johnny Hoogerland crashing into a barbed wire fence which lined the road. But that won’t happen to me, right?
Unfortunately it did, but I went head first into a tree. Now I was dealing with the aftermath; the mental agony. I was furious crossing the finish line, hopes dashed by an event out of my control. The following days I was a bit depressed. I was trying to see the bright side, and I did, but the negative thoughts lingered. I rode an absolutely amazing race. I was focused all day long and with my teammates supporting me, I was in position to be fighting for 10th place and best amateur rider, potentially putting the team and myself in the spotlight at a UCI race. I belonged there and I was determined to make a mark but it didn’t unfold that way.
“the crash left a small fire burning inside me”
The week following Reading was one of rest and recovery. I had potentially sustained a concussion (the doctor said it could’ve gone either way…). Active rest was indeed best. I went to work, started a new job, and rode maybe 6 hours all week. No problems to be reported. I was ready, physically, to get going for Rwanda. I had also been dealing with the mental side of things. I was writing back and forth with the referee that had caused me to crash and honestly, the guy was extremely upset by the incident. Knowing that nothing good would come from dwelling on the matter, I made sure he understood what all had been considered “lost” on my end and to learn from the mistake and move on. That was that. However the crash left a small fire burning inside me. My intrinsic motivation to push my limits weren’t satisfied with the result of Reading. Yes it had been my best UCI result to date, even with the crash. Many had told me 21st was awesome and that I did such a great job, but I just was not satisfied. It may sound arrogant but I knew I should’ve done better.
The taste of the spotlight, success on the horizon: this has been my motivation for Rwanda. This has been keeping me going while many begin their offseason.
The off-season can wait
Normally this time of year is filled with everything but the bike. It’s a time to catch up with friends, old and new, and enjoy life. It’s a time to indulge in things you normally wouldn’t because of training. It’s a time to recharge the mental battery in preparation for a seemingly endless winter preseason if you live in Vermont. For me, it’s also a time to work and make some money. With Rwanda however, that has not been the case. The Tour du Rwanda ends the 20th of November and my offseason will begin the 21st, nearly two months later than last year. So training continues and I find ways to make ends meet.
September, October and November have traditionally been times where I increase my work schedule to make more money and then I find the time to get the cycling work done. While I can’t say I haven’t done that this time, I will say it has been much more stressful, difficult, and shorter. I’ve worked less in order to find time for those midweek 5 hour days on the bike but enough to continue paying the bills. It’s a tough balance but you learn to use every minute of sunlight to get your training done. Negatives stress can affect strength both physical and mental when training, especially on the hard long efforts. Planning ahead has been one coping mechanism I’ve used for reducing stress. Knowing what I have to do that day and when I’m going to do it allows me to recognize that I’m not actually that busy, or maybe I am, but it’ll keep me focused and helps me stay on task. When I know what is going on and have a schedule, I’m relaxed and am able to focus my efforts on the task at hand. As I write this article however, I’m 100% training and focusing on the bike, so my schedule right now is a much more relaxed.
Training, The Tour, and Rwanda
After Reading, I spent about 4 weeks at home in Burlington, Vermont, training and working. Early in October, I left home to go train in Boulder, Colorado, what some consider the mecca of road cycling in the US. I chose Boulder for multiple reasons: Flights were cheap to Denver (the closest airport), I have free housing thanks to my girlfriend’s amazing parents, and finally Boulder is at an elevation of 1600m, which is the same elevation of the capitol of Rwanda, Kigali. I’ve been in Boulder for 2 weeks now and the effects of altitude are starting to subside and I’m able to produce the same effort levels at sea level. My training hasn’t been much different than what I’ve been doing during the year. I have however simulated the race once already and am currently in the process of doing a shorter simulation. Basically what a simulation consists of are intervals nearly everyday, the hilliest routes possible, speed work, and no rest. It’s like I’m racing the tour against myself.
The Tour du Rwanda is new territory for me, not just geographically. The duration of the stage race will be my longest event all year. 3 days longer than Tour du Beauce. I’m not sure how I will be feeling come the 6th, 7th , and 8th final day, but I’m confident I’ll be there. My goal is a top 20 on the General Classification, which means I need consistently good performances all 8 days. One bad day and that goal could become unachievable. Besides from the race being hard, I truly don’t know what to expect from the riders, but I’m okay with that. I can’t control my rivals so I won’t waste energy worrying about them. I’ll focus my energy on preparing for the race the best that I can. One thing I am looking forward to about the race besides the insane amount of climbing, is the similarly insane amount of spectators. I’ve seen the pictures and I can’t wait.
Off the bike, I hope the tour and my time in Rwanda will give me some perspective on the country, the world, and my own life. I enjoy reflecting and I think this experience will be a chance to do that in a whole new light. I’ve learned about the genocide while in school but I don’t think you feel the impact when you are sitting in a classroom. Similarly to other historic events, both good and bad, I don’t think one can truly feel the impact of an event until you set foot on the grounds where the events took place and you imagine yourself there. Moments like that don’t happen very often but they are powerful and I’m looking forward it. I’m also very excited to distribute the clothing and equipment collected from the Rwanda Velo Project. I’m excited to be helping out those that are in need and I hope that we can make a difference for the aspiring cyclists of Rwanda.
This is an exciting time. Rwanda is almost a mystery for me. I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m looking forward to it all. I will no doubt come home with amazing stories from both on and off the bike. For now, I’ll keep training hard, and come November 13th I’ll give it my all for 8 days.
Tour of Rwanda Photo credit: google image