Editor’s Note: This is the first of the regular diaries that Brent Bookwalter will be writing for VeloNews.com during the Tour de France. This is the BMC rider’s first Tour.
A week ago at this time I was home in Athens, Georgia, wrapping up a nice couple weeks of post-Giro recovery and getting ready to head back to Europe to get going again at Tour of Austria. Fast forward to today and here I am, in Holland for the start of the Tour de France. Between then and now, a lot has happened. Physically, it has been the usual pack up, say sad goodbyes, unpack, fight jetlag, repack, etc. Mentally, however it has been a total mind-tornado as I’ve only begun to wrap my head around the race that will kick off in the streets of Rotterdam on Saturday.
I’ve always been a believer that you can’t fully appreciate or understand something until you have experienced it first hand. So far, my career in cycling has only reinforced this belief as season after season, race after race, I am mind blown by the races, competitors, courses and general challenges that I encounter. The Tour de France is without a doubt the most massive cycling event on the calendar, so I completely expect that this philosophy of appreciation and understanding will hold true in an even bigger way.
Without having had it firmly locked in my sights in the months and weeks leading up to the race, arriving at a sporting event which has the magnitude of the Tour de France has been interesting exercise in focus and expectation. Cycling is a sport, which for most, demands that specific goals be set and then pursued with an obsessive single-minded focus. For me, that goal for at least the first portion of 2010 was the Giro d’Italia.
For my first-ever grand tour, with a teammate who could challenge for the overall win, my specific mental and physical preparations for the Giro began even before last season ended. With the Giro now in the books, I look back and am satisfied. The race was filled with highs and lows, but the biggest satisfaction comes from knowing I set the goal, committed my efforts to pursuing it and for the most part was successful in achieving those goals.
I didn’t fully expect to race the Tour. To be honest, up until just recently I would have told you it was very unlikely I would be racing through France come July. I haven’t been telling people “yea, I’m planning to do the Tour”, and I most certainly have not been pursuing the Tour all season with that single-minded obsession.
Upon being selected it actually came as a bit of a shock at the comments I received and the influx of attention. I thought …”What about the Giro? That’s what I’ve been working for all season, right? Does being selected to race the Tour define success more than achieving the other goals I set out to achieve?”
Then it hit me … For most people, especially those outside the direct, self contained bubble of the sport, the Tour is cycling. The Tour is also a goal or dream that always exists from the first time you pin on a race number … a sort of “perma-goal for just about any cyclist.
I have only the slightest idea what the coming days and weeks will entail. The anticipation here is building with every waking hour and I’m sure when we roll down that start ramp on Saturday the magnificent battle that is sure to ensue over the next three weeks won’t disappoint. It’s an honor to be here and I hope you all enjoy the ride just as much as the riders, minus all the suffering.