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The Scott Sunderland Diary 2002
Off The Planet
Belgium, December 27, 2002
No, I haven't vanished into thin air these last four months and I did not stop writing for Cyclingnews either. That's just how things get sometimes: so much to do, but so little time! A Belgian journo rang my wife asking if I had disappeared off planet Earth, as he couldn't reach me on my Belgian mobile.
Over the last few months I was that scarcely seen in Zottegem that Sabine had to convince a few people that really, I had not left her and the children! But not to worry, I think the flaming great party we just had here in town, with a few of my training mates and their wives, would have stopped rumours about that! Fact is, it might have ended in the cop shop if we weren't wise enough to leave one of the nightclubs in time.
To clear another matter: I did not share my training schedules with you, but that too has its reasons. The moment it was announced on the site that I would do so, my inbox got flooded with questions and requests for direct advice. It's not a matter of not wanting to answer those, but I realized I would get myself into a situation where I would have a hell of a lot of work because of it, and that's one reason I choose not to write about it.
On top of that, I had to change my program around because of the ongoing problem with my left knee; so the new schedule wouldn't have helped anyone with his/her own training anyway. Now, as I've come good and giving the "normal" pro-rider training routine a good lash again, I should be able to give out some info on that in the weeks to come.
So, where do I start with telling you about the 20 weeks gone by without an update?
Well, the rigid injury I suffered beginning of 2002 has prevented me from performing on the level I wanted virtually all year. OK, I did win a nice stage of the Tour of Austria in June, but obviously I didn't get the results I was aiming for this season.
After weeks of trouble with pain in my left leg and many visits to physio, doctors and specialists later, a MRI scan showed that an oedema that had formed on the back of the muscle attached to the fibula head, was the guilty factor.
A basket full of theories and possible treatments, but the only aspects of it that I know for sure are:
I was going bonkers, running around Belgium for months and I was tossing the idea around to go to Australia for a few weeks to get targeted intensive treatments from my friend and "magic hands", Osteopath David Krizanic.
The fact I would have to leave my two boys and wife behind for a substantial period of time stopped me from making a decision...
One lousy weather day late October, as I got home from training, Sabine told me I would be leaving for Australia the following Tuesday. She had booked me a ticket on a Lauda Air flight (fantastic service by the way) to Brisbane. She simply could not handle seeing me try so hard to get the problem solved but having fat chance of it healing up over here while riding around in the bad weather at that time. Also, I wanted to go and see my parents; I had worried about my father who had been seriously ill earlier this year and it would be good to spend some time with him and my mum.
It would mean five weeks apart in the off season but we saw it as an investment in the 2003 season, and I promise to make sure that that effort has a positive return.
Boarding the plane, knowing my family wouldn't be joining me for the first time in 9 years stung like hell I can assure you; but at the same time I had that gut-feeling that this was the right thing to do and my wife Sabine is a real pearler, I adore her even more for helping me make the decision.
So, five weeks of almost daily trips to David who lives a little hike North from the Tweed Coast, on Chevron Island, and some serious acupuncture therapy and mental conditioning by Jennifer Thomas followed. I stayed with my cousin Tony and his wife Nicola in Tweed Heads and soaked up the sun as much as I could. I occasionally went to the gym and on the bike; I followed the training schedule put together by David and myself.
The beach and beautiful Gold Coast hinterland were a haven of peace for me and I used the little bit of free time I had to refocus and get my mental and physical balance again. It was amazing how things turned around quickly being there. My Australian family reckons I'm half a European by now but the Australian "way of life" still suits me best!
The energy was increasing steadily as days flew by and when Sabine picked me up from Brussels airport she couldn't believe the change in me. A "nice Australian glow on the skin and eagerness in the eyes" was how she described it.
How things will develop in the months to come no-one can tell; I have seen too many times that a large number of kilometres doesn't always mean that you get the results too. Gym work and labour on the bike pay off for many most of the time but it gives you no guarantee.
Mentally it strengthens you to go into the New Year well prepared though and that is what I have been busy with this month of December. Training is going well, as planned: not super yet, but it is improving and I feel fit and strong.
Christmas in Europe. It hadn't been since winter '95-'96 that I stayed here during the month of December. I must say that even though I loved every moment of sunny Australia, this cosy time of the year is fantastic in Europe too. The big Christmas trees and the lights, the cold weather, the Christmas markets everywhere, the ice-skating rings installed on the market squares of big cities and most of all: the hot Glühwein!
It is a very romantic time of the year and my little family has been enjoying the long winter evenings, playing board games and wining and dining with friends and family.
Saën got all mixed up with the Belgium "Sinterklaas"* (This Saint is celebrated and "he" brings toys on the 6th of December) and the Australian custom of Santa bringing gifts on Christmas day. My oldest son rated the fact that he got presents twice as extremely cool, and he proposed to introduce "Sinterklaas" into Australia also next year. Opening prezzies for himself and his brother twice in one month must be a great happening for a six year-old rug-rat. It would wear out my wallet in no time if we were staying here in Belgium every year and celebrating Xmas the Australian way too.
It is a bloody expensive time for me as it is 'cause New Year's Day also happens to be my wife's birthday...
I booked us a suite in a posh hotel in Bruges for the night of her birthday. It was supposed to be a surprise but I forgot to exit the Internet page after booking it and she stumbled onto it wanting to check some mails...I know of guys who have been caught worse in that way though; Sabine in fact was over the moon.
My first race is not scheduled until the beginning of February and I'm pretty sure I'll be writing another update by then. At that time I'll fill you in about the composition of Team fakta, the team presentation, the new material and our goals for the 2003 campaign.
Before the end of January I still have to put in some good work, so ciao for now!
Have a nice time celebrating Old and New!
*In the fourth century AD St. Nicholas (in Dutch called "Sinterklaas" or "Sint Nicolaas"; in German called "Sankt Nikolaus") was the bishop of Myra, which is now situated in Turkey. According to the legend, he saved his town from starvation. He is also said to have revived three dead children, and to have offered gifts of dowries to poor girls. This led to the custom of giving gifts to children on the eve of his feast day, 6 December. During the night St. Nicholas visits all the houses by travelling over the roofs on his horse, traditionally a white/grey, and "zwarte piet" (a Moor) enters the houses through the chimney to put little presents in the children's shoes. Sometimes the children put straw, carrots and water near the shoe for the horse.