Well, Julian had another terrible night last night with his stomach bug and unfortunately the bug won the battle today. Julz didn't make the time cut in today's first stage in the Pyrenees... It was a 190km with two Cat. 2 climbs, followed by a Hors Category climb and finishing with a mountain top finish up a Cat. 1 climb. Not a good day to be less than 100% healthy for. He was a tough bastard though and did everything he could to try and finish within the allowed time. However, with what he's been through the last few days with the stomach bug, it was always going to be difficult for him. He ended up riding 140km by himself. He threw up everything he tried to eat and everything he tried to drink. His body just shut itself down and his already near empty tank, completely ran out of gas. He's devastated. I'm devastated. We've worked hard for this Vuelta and it just doesn't seem fair that shit like this happens to those who try so hard to do everything right. And to make things worse, it had to happen at contract time. Typical!.....
I've just got off the phone from Julz. He's feeling like shit - both physically and mentally and to be honest, I'm not much of a box of fluffies myself. It's heartbreaking to watch someone you love so much, suffer so horrendously but refuse to give up the fight and yet no matter how hard they try, how deep they dig and how much suffering they endure, nothing can save the day....Julian said it was the hardest day of his life today. He hated every moment of it and even though he knew he probably wouldn't make the time cut, he refused to give up....He just kept on riding up those mountain climbs, feeling so much pain and with no-one but the broom wagon as support.
By the time he neared the finish line, he couldn't see properly and he was so dehydrated, he couldn't think clearly. He was on automatic pilot. The legs were just turning themselves. He collapsed after the line, and a lot of you may ask, "Well, why didn't he just stop the race if he was so sick?".
That's the kind of question you never ask a professional athlete. When they work so hard; sacrifice so much; focus so intensely; and want success so badly, there is very little that will get in their way...unless it's completely out of their control like illness or an accident. Professional sport is more than just a job to these athletes; it's their passion, their life and in cycling especially, it's their 24/7. And when there's that much commitment, tenacity, desire and focus, the idea of quitting may, from time to time, spring into their minds, but it very seldom becomes an option - especially when their minds and bodies are put to the real test like Julian's were today.
What pushed Julian today came down to one thing only. Making the time cut. He knew that if he could just make it through the tunnel of the Pyrenees stages, the light at the end of that tunnel would be more chances in the upcoming flat stages. He just so wanted another crack at a bunch sprint. In the end, he only just missed the time cut, but whether it's by 1 minute or 1 hour, missing the time cut means one thing. Elimination from the race. So that's it then. No more Vuelta 2003 for Julz. No more chances at chopping it up with Petacchi and Zabel.
What now? Who know's? And that's the scary part. Time is quickly running out for us as far as securing another contract for next year. There's not so many races left and with what Julian's body has been through for the last 4 days, it will take time for him to recover from the battering. I guess we just do what we do best....Put our heads down and bums up again for as long as it takes for our luck to change....