At the first race I lasted more than a lap (1.5 laps) I met a guy named Mario. He was a Sicilian who worked on a U.S. military base in Belgium. His son was in the race.
As I caught my breath we began chatting. He happened to mention going to a cycling doctor. My first thought was "Belgian cycling doctor? Is he trying to get me on a program?"
Mario suggested a doctor 30k from Gent. He had seen Contador at the doctor’s before. Now he had my attention so I wrote down the doctor’s info.
After I got home I looked the doc up. According to his Twitter he was about to head to the Tour of Missouri. I messaged him but never heard back.
Then, two days before I was to leave Belgium I called his office. He said he could squeeze me in the following evening. He said I could ride, just not four hours.
The next morning I woke up and rode over to the Museeuw Factory with Jack. We rode about two hours total at a light pace.
I hung around the farm and rested until evening.
The doctor is 30k away and there’s a serious headwind in that direction. I take the train in order to be fresh for the testing.
The train takes all of 15 minutes so I find his office then head to a café to pass the time. Around 7 I head over to his office.
When I walk into his office I notice a 2009 Tour de France jersey. It’s signed by Contador and addressed to the doc.
He takes my bike and puts it on the trainer.
He asks me what I’m doing in Belgium. I tell him I’m new to cycling but I want to be a PRO someday. He says I’m not too old.
I change into my kit as he takes a call. I hear him say “Alberto just sent me a ‘Thank You’ email. Lance never sent me one!” Okay, this guy’s legit.
I scope out the testing room.
Once off the phone he tells me to get on the bike. I begin pedaling lightly to warm up. He tells me to take off my shirt so he can attach the sensors. Well, so he can try and attach the sensors.
A few minutes later the test begins. He tells me to keep my cadence above 90 otherwise it won’t read. I begin at 100 watts. He pricks my ear for blood. Every 3 minutes the wattage is going to increase by 50 watts. He’ll prick my ear each time to read my lactic acid.
I get to 200 just fine. Around 250 I’m starting to feel it. I was hoping this point wouldn’t come so soon.
At 300 it’s starting to hurt. My cadence slows a bit but I tell him I can make it to 400, “I know it.”
At 350 I’m dying.
“Come on man…” he says repeatedly.
Halfway through my legs seize up. My cadence slows to nothing and I’m done. I feel weak for not going longer. I get off the bike and catch my breath.
During the test my heart rate went up to 220. I’ve always had a high heart rate, which I thought was a bad thing. He says it means my engine is still good.
I dry off and then sit down near his desk. I ask for a blood test so he draws some blood. He weighs me and measures my body fat. Then, he tells me to lose some weight.
He hands me the results from my test. They’re in German because the software was from T-Mobile. He says it will take two years to get to a Cat 1. So you’re saying there’s a chance…
He explains, “If you burn your tongue, give it 6 hours it’s back to normal, tear a muscle, 6 months, your liver, takes two years for the cycle, in order to start storing more energy. It just takes time for the body to adapt.”
We discuss the off season and what type of training I’ll be doing. He suggests lots of core work. He also says I need to get a job, something to keep me busy.
“You’re an athlete which means you’re crazy. You don’t want a lot of free time on your hands” he tells me.
He tells me to take three weeks off and then we’ll start a three month building phase. All the riding will be between 150-200 watts during those three months. By this point I’m just stoked he hasn’t told me there’s no hope.
I ask him about Contador and Lance.
“Contador never took on Lance as a mentor. That’s all he had to do. Lance would have taken him under his wing, but Contador refused. Also, there was the issue of the Livestrong bracelet. Contador never wore one and this always bugged Lance.”
“It was so hard seeing it happen. Contador would have won no matter what, but he had to do it his way. They both lost. They lost the best team in cycling.”
“It’s like when you have two children you love and they fight. You love them both so it hurts you to see them fight.”
I ask if he thinks Contador could win eight Tours. He dismisses this quickly.
“The record will never be beat. Lance is the greatest.”
I ask him if he’s ever tested Jens Voigt.
“No, but I tested George Hincapie and Hayden Roulston, they were the strongest, they should both be world champs.”
By this point it’s getting late. He checks the train station to make sure I can still catch one. He says otherwise he’ll have to drive me back to Gent. What a mensch!
There’s a train in 50 minutes so I gather my things and he shows me the door. I ride back to the station.
I notice a fritz place nearby. I’m starving so I head over. I order some with Samurai (spicy mayo) and Tunisian (super spicy). These are my last fritz so I savor them, but only half. I throw the rest away.
I head over to the station still on a high from the visit. I go up on the platform and ride around while waiting for the train.
The train arrives and takes me to Gent. Back at the farm I tell the guys all about the doc. Belgium’s been good to me.