I look at the number lying on my bed, and I think it’s beautiful. No, that number 5 has no symbolical or mystical meaning for me. But you see, the Vuelta a San Juan was supposed to be the opening race of my 2017 season. The one that was soon to become my doomed 2017 season.
In these days last year, I was dealing with a pain in my knee that wasn’t going anywhere, and the fear that the goals and ambitions of an important year for me, with the National Champion’s jersey on my shoulders, could be jeopardized. No San Juan, and then no Dubai, no Belgium, no Roubaix. Just thirty days of racing in a year, I think I couldn’t even drive a car the last time I had raced so little.
But this time it’s different. I am in Argentina, and I even handled the 4-hour difference pretty well, in spite of my jet lag struggles when flying Westbound. The race number is there, it stares at me and the other way around, but from tomorrow I will only turn my back to it. Because tomorrow, I will get back to my own work.
Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t a relaxing year. So much physio, so much training – even too much, at a point – and so much frustration. All of that with the goal of hanging a number on my jersey, to feel like the “real” Giacomo Nizzolo again.
Tomorrow I will get in the race, but I don’t know how I feel yet. How could I? Too few racing days, too much time away from the bunch to actually know what to expect. What’s the goal: winning a stage. If that’s within my reach or not, I will probably realize it tomorrow as well. But let’s take it one step at the time.
Meantime, I took off a whim here in Argentina: the Paris-Dakar. With my passion for motorbikes, I was curious to see the atmosphere, but it impressed me much more than I expected. I thought they were just more “crazy” drivers and riders than others, while I discovered an all-peculiar dimension, made of fatigue and passion, that I didn’t have a clue about. You need a lot of passion to make that race. Particularly if you are a private rider, with no support from the official team, having to fix your own mechanicals at night after you managed to finish a stage (provided that you were so lucky to do that).
From yesterday, I have been thinking that maybe, one day, I want to do a Paris-Dakar myself. Possibly, as an official rider of course. But before that, there’s another tour around the World I have to take, the one we start every year in January. The one that, last year, I never really managed to get going. But now I am back, for good. And the more I look at that number 5, the more I like it.