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by Shane Stokes
January 12, 2018
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It was the night of the opening prologue of the 2014 Tour de l’Avenir, and the Australian U23 team and I were in a creperie, enjoying a plethora of elite crepes with ice-cream and maple syrup. I remember a French man, who was part of the race organisation, coming to our table and looking us. His eyes judged us all. Then, in a condescending tone as he looked down at us in disbelief, he said: “You’re eating that the night before the race? Ha, good luck tomorrow.”
Cycling, like any sport, is a much better environment to be in when you are getting results and enjoying what you are doing. In 2014, I had struggled for any results in Europe worth writing home about. I had big goals for the Olympias Tour and U23 Ronde Van Vlaanderen, but sickness in the lead-up to both of these races put me a long way from my best.
After a mid-season trip to Barcelona with a few of my teammates, I came back to attack the second half of the season with a fresh approach, and a no-nonsense mentality. I was as relaxed as possible, with the mindset that this was going to be the last four months of my cycling career.
With the momentum behind the team as we crushed all the races in the build-up to Tour de l’Avenir, it was finally time to take on the biggest U23 race in the world. I remember warming up for the prologue thinking that this could be my last ever TT. I had the words of the French man from the creperie ringing in my ears; words that reflected the precise aspect of cycling culture that I hated so much.
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