Declan Irvine Blog: Returning to racing after a year out
19 April 2021
We went into the International Rhodes Grand Prix and International Tour of Rhodes with high expectations, especially after last season’s edition.
Last year it was my first race in 2020 and it was a walk in the park. The stages were milder, and the competition wasn’t as high. We got some really good results and left there feeling like it was going to be a great season.
This year, we went there with high aspirations and it was a totally different story.
The level of racing was so high. I think we’re going to find that a lot this year with all the smaller races being a lot more competitive because teams are trying to find any race that isn’t cancelled.
We first did the one-day race, The Rhodes Grand Prix which was a bit of an eye-opener for us. We then started the Tour of Rhodes on Thursday. After the first stage of the tour, we were down and, in a slump, as we came away with no result. Everyone’s morale was low because we had big expectations. For me personally, I was expecting a lot from myself and wasn’t happy with how I started. I talked to Charles & Sam at dinner the night of stage 2, the guys said they’d put that in the top 5 hardest stages they had ever done.
After I heard that, I knew it wasn’t just me, but everyone was suffering.
I looked at my numbers and talked to my coach every night and we’d analyze the stage. I was doing the best I could, but sometimes, your best just isn’t enough to get a result. But when I looked at my files on TrainingPeaks, I was hitting 10-minute and 20-minute power PB’s and heart rate PB’s so it was a lesson to me to not always be results-driven, sometimes progress is hidden somewhere else in the analysis.
When we arrived in Greece it had been exactly a year since I last raced. After doing these same races in Greece a year ago before COVID-19 hit. After finishing the race Europe went into lockdown and I went back to Australia and didn’t get to race with the team for the rest of the season.
It had been so long since I had raced with the team at a high level so it took me a while to get back into it. By the last day of the tour, I was feeling good and that was my best day. I was there in the finish and able to help Charles and Sam so I’m hoping to take that into my next race, Belgrade Banjaluka (22 – 25 April).
From March to September last year all I did was train, I had no opportunity to race with no events happening in Australia. It was hard to stay motivated but I worked with my coach to set little goals. Every two weeks I’d do a power test. But towards the middle of the year, I started to crack mentally. I needed a challenge so I came up with this goal of riding 1000 kilometers in a week. I had done it in a race before but it’s a bit different doing it on your own in training. The old school cyclists are always talking about how you have to do 1000km in a week, 5 hours a day in the saddle to get strong and tough. So last year was the perfect time to do that with no racing happening. One of the days I did 230km on my own. I just set out with some food and snacks and did 7h30.
I came back to Europe at the end of the season and it looked like I might get to race in Belgium so that motivated me. But then Belgium had an outbreak at the end of the year and they cancelled the event.
You can be assured that I am appreciating being back at the races even though it’s been a sufferfest so far. It’s why I became a cyclist; it was to race.
I’m really looking forward to Belgrade Banjaluka in Serbia. I was just looking at the stages and analyzing the profiles and it looks like it suits me because it’s flat and fast. Make sure to follow us to see how we go there.