Fabien Barel rode one of the best races ever at the 2007 Fort William UCI World Championship

Photo linked from www.fabienbarel.com

Check out Fabien’s blog entry :

 Quoted at  http://www.fabienbarel.com/blog/

It is because carbon bearing rocks put under immense pressure turn into diamonds that a silver medal can be worth gold !

July 30th, 2007, Whistler, Canada:  After a great win in Crankworx, a triple fracture to my right foot shortened my stay in Canada. A bad injury turned my trip back to Europe into a real challenge. More importantly the diagnosis was alarming: 6 to 8 weeeks seemed to be the needed time to recover and the World Championships were one month away. This is unfortunately a scenario that I know too well since it is identical to last year.
After few days of deep thought, I could not convince myself to give up on another half successful season due to injuries. The medical team & I made the decision to walk a very thin line. A risk that was limited to ‘re-cracking’ those existing fractures, but something that, I felt deep inside, could be overcome. This little spark of hope gave me amazing motivation. Therefore, I started training in the gym with my cast hopping on one leg from one machine to another. Later on, I attached a clip to the cast in order to practice cycling on home trainer. Endless hours cycling in one spot in order to maintain a descent physical shape. The track is 5 minutes long and my physical condition would make the difference. The ability to focus was about to be one of the critical parameters as well, therefore I decided to rigorously practice daily visualisation excersices to keep known sensations of a fast ride & the pressure that race run can put on ones’ shoulders. Knowing Scotland, I realieze that the weather condition would be difficult for a guy from the south of France who trains in the sun all year long. It was clearly another key parameter to take into account. I started doing those visualization exercises in the cold with sounds of rain and thunder. A requirement to attempt to keep the stress under control for the start line. The preparation of the bike was also crucial to success but difficult to do since I could not ride. My friend & mechanic, Paul Walton kindly agreed to expand his involvement to become a test rider. Slowly moving around on crunches on the side of the training tracks, I observed Paul riding with a lot of dedication & providing me with important feedback needed to tune the bike. A difficult task that he completed beautifuly as he finished the training sessions with very interesting trial times.

August 30th, 2007, IM2S, Monaco: After 4 weeks of foot immobilisation and a motivated effort to prepare in the best way for the world championships, the doctors & I decided to remove the cast. Two of the fractures were 80% consolidated and one barely calcified. I was able to start walking the same day with a custom shoe sole. After 48hrs, I could get back on the road bike for a bit and it was time to fly to Scotland. It was obviously a dream but more importantly a personal challenge that I had the desire to experience fully.

September 5th, 2007, Fort William, Scotland : The training sessions went well but far from my typical race protocol, my focus was increasing by the day, my facial expressions limited to the bare minimum as I felt my energy level centering in every move.

September 6th, 2007 : The semi final showed reasonnable times but far from what would be sufficient to succeed. I emphasize a riding style focused on flow hoping that on the length of this track, my race experience could make the difference. But realistically, the level is very high and only going beyond those limits can bring me closer to the podium. I worked on my trajectories and lanes while taking care of my foot. Great study work from the French team on the ground showed that I was going faster , but after deeper analysis it seemed to be a common trend for all the racers.

September 9th, 2007: I reached one of my objectives. I am right here, ready to take the start in the world championships. A controlled comeback from injury, which could not have been possible without a great motivated team.
3 :20pm : Last strong hand shake with Paul. The energy that surrounds us triggers a last thought for my family, my friends, the medical staff, my partners and other folks who lived this challenge on my side.
3:24pm: A little push and I enter the start tent where I find the wind, the rain and the cold that I spent so much time visualising in the last few weeks. In one deep breath, I release all the tension in my body in order to fill myself with the love and happiness needed to attempt to come close to excellence.
A deep exhale and the rest is a black hole guided by a preparation that I would describe as a complete mind/body conditioning. My moves are synchronized with the track. I feel like a river in its bed that knows how to avoid every single stone on its path. Memories are sounds of trees close to my handle bar, sensations where the bike accelerates almost by itself.

The light comes back, the screams and the noise bring me back, the heart beating at 195 pulses/mn pounds in my chest, my foot hurts, the painful muscles remind me the just finished effort. Suddently, on the side of the track, the smiles coming from an astonished public, the glowing tears of my close friends and family. In addition, the respect coming from a world leader which I came as close as 0.64 sec to. A strong hand shake, the same one that took place 2 years ago, except that the roles were reversed at that time. But in any case, the same respect that pushes all of us vibrate and make the sport and its values so intense.

The silver medal could appear a failure when one has already won 2 world championship titles but today it is an outstanding personal achievement. A victory that I would describe as an amazing human experience where the opportunity to share & team work as the trigger to over-achievement.

A sincere and deep thank you to all of you for your support that gave me wings…