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Life as a bike jockey: Are you in or are you out?

  • By Judy Freeman
  • Published Apr. 27, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:42 PM EST

Good times, good times

The rest of the day is a mild adventure and nothing I thought I’d experience when I packed my bags for Belgium. As far as I’m concerned, marked off my list of things to do before I die are ambulance rides in foreign countries and CT scans for broken face bones or worse.

Tom’s day was a little more exciting in a high-stress, my-girl-is-in-the-hospital sort of way. He made new friends all over Belgium. There were the paramedics on the ambulances, the nurses in the admission office, the doctors and everyone he met on course as he hunted for the bike I stowed with a TV crew I couldn’t name. Big day. Little guy was all tuckered out that night.

By the time Tom returned to the hospital with the car and a bag of my clothes for an extended hospital stay, the CT scan had come back negative and the docs had cleared me to ride. It was huge relief and almost brought a smile to my swollen and now duck-billed face.

Still, the emotions fluctuated from knowing how incredibly fortunate I was to being really bummed. I’m lucky Tom was there to lighten the mood. Once he found out I was ok, he mostly returned to his normal jokey self.

If anyone else had told me I needed a tattoo to go with my new tough look, I’d have given that clown a black eye to match my own.

But now there was the matter of racing.

Race day

Sunday morning came coldly and quietly. The pain medications the doctors gave me had worn off and so had my enthusiasm to race. The usual Houffalize morning fog was a welcome sight. I was racing no matter what, but had it been raining, it would have been so much harder to get on the bike.

I headed out to the course. My legs in warm-up weren’t encouraging. Neither were the worried looks and “Ooffs” from passer bys. (“Ooff” is French for “Giiiiirl, you messed yourself UP.”) I tried to get pumped up for the race; mantras, visualization, Maori war dance, but the energy still stayed low.

The gun went off and the sweet 32nd call-up I earned in South Africa seemed to vanish. I went backward by the second. The legs weren’t there, but Linda’s words were. If I was racing, I was going to be in it 100% with whatever I had. So I jumped on every wheel I could and passed at every chance I got. Even if I was pedaling for last place, I was going to pedal hard.

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