Right now I am in Italy and enjoying a holiday (with my bike!) and I can honestly say I am really happy to be here. I am so much better since arriving in Italy, both physically and mentally. I am back riding, taking things day by day and enjoying life. If everything continues to go well, I would like to race the four-day Lotto Belgium Tour. It starts on September 6th, almost exactly one month after the Rio road race! I don’t have any ambitions for this race. I’m just looking forward to getting back in the peloton and racing without any pressure.
I have had some disappointments in my career. We all do. That is part of being a professional cyclist. But crashing out at the Olympic Games, just a few kilometres from the finish line when in the lead and going for gold… that is the toughest challenge I have ever faced.
I know the crash made a very big impact on lots of people who were watching the race, and the support, messages and good wishes I have received have been overwhelming. I suffered severe concussion and micro-fractures in three vertebrae, but for me, dealing with the disappointment has been far more difficult than recovering physically. The worst was when the doctor told me to take complete rest, with no television, Internet or telephone. I had nothing to do except think about what happened. It was so hard. But in the end, it was just a few bad days and then I started to look forward to what’s coming up next.
I was in the shape of my life in Rio and I totally surprised myself with how strong I felt. During that race I realised I was capable of more than I thought. I always believed I wasn’t a climber. I was usually the one hanging on, disappearing and coming back. But in Rio I climbed like I never had before. I wasn’t even suffering and felt so strong. So now I will target this sort of race more. It’s amazing to think that at 33 years old you can keep improving. I hope this inspires other people to believe in their dreams and go after them.
I wasn’t at all apprehensive getting back on my bike after Rio. I’m not following any training schedule but just riding when I feel like it and not doing any intensities. I’m a little bit more tired than before, but otherwise I feel really good. I think my level must still be quite high even though I’m not doing any specific work. It is also a holiday for me and my mother came for the first week. It was super spending this time with her.
After the Lotto Belgium Tour we will evaluate how I am and decide what’s next. The European Championships mid-September are too early for me but I hope to race the Giro dell’Emilia Internazionale and the Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli Internazionale in Italy at the end of September. However, as Orica-AIS isn’t competing, I’m looking for a mixed team to ride with.
Then the big goal is to be in top shape again at the UCI Road World Championships in October. At the moment I think this is realistic!