Tuesday, August 19, 2014

in the rockies, always pack a warm pair of gloves!

It was a good old fashion 4 seasons in one day here in colorado today. As my good mate timmy Duggan said at the start when I ask what to expect weather wise?? He simply said in the rockies always pack a warm pair of gloves just in case!! He wasn't wrong and by the time we had covered the 170km between aspen and crested butte we had most certainly experienced all the seasons. Unfortunately for me I momentarily forgot timmy's advice as after the clouds cleared mid stage I decided I wouldn't need my rain coat that I had carried just incase of a rockies thunderstorm and of loaded it to the team car! That proved to be a mistake! Before I found that out the hard way there was plenty of pedal strokes done by the peleton and here's how things looked from aboard my cannondale evo!

Today was a strange day. Everything seemed to be in slow motion except in the first 2hrs we covered 90km! That's the point at which the breakaway finally was let loose as the teams of the sprinters decided they wanted to mop up the intermediate sprints which came during the first 60km. While it's always nice to get a big chunk of the stage out of the way in the first couple of hours, it's a double edged sword as it also means that it won't be long before the race ramps up for the fight for stage honors, that's exactly what happened today. Junior mohoric craftily put himself inside the days breakaway and with a long fast decent coming inside the final 15km he had an excellent shot at victory should he still be clear of the clutches of the chasing peleton! Sadly for junior, BMC and Garmin had plans of winning the stage and as we hit the slopes of the final climb there advantage started to plumet!

To spice things up a little the final climb of the day was all on gravel roads. Infact the first 8km of the decent down the other side would also be without bichimum which made for a few nerves in the group. Through in the fact that we topped out at over 3000m elevation and while it wasn't a steep climb it certainly through up enough challenges for the group. Through in the flash thunderstorm that would save itself for the final steepest km's and treacherous decent and it safe to say the climb was made as difficult as possible.

I started the day in a very positive frame of mind. I had felt good yesterday and made a bit of a blunder so was keen to see if I could put up a good performance today. As has often happened for me this season my best laid plans didn't quite go to plan and I for some reason was really struggling with keeping my airways filled with air today. I suffer a little from asthma and for some reason today I found myself quite short of breathe uncharacteristically. There is always a couple of reasons for this, firstly the lack of oxygen at altitude seems to trigger my attacks and secondly if I am not in super super shape which it appears I am not at this moment then I have to work a little harder to stay with the front of the race than I would like to. So with these couple of things not on my side today I decided to put up the white flag and save my pins to have a crack at some breakaways in the remaining stages. At this point we were around 10km from the top of the climb and the front group was no more than 40 riders so I had plenty of time to comfortably pedal my way to the finish. Like I said yesterday at altitude the ideal scenario is to ride at your own pace, if your the strongest in the race which is the preferred position to be in everyone has to march to your drum beat. If your not then when you choose to ride your own pace it means simply one thing like it did for me today, the front group is riding away from you! Anyways while initially I enjoyed my peace and quiet pedaling along on my lonesome up the final km's of the gravel climb timmy's advice was about to be become a humbling colorado rocky reality for the peleton!

Just as I had slowly but surely floated out the back of the team cars following the front group, a flash thunderstorm hit! Now being alone wasn't such a great feeling as it was raining cats and dogs and I had no raincoat and no team car close by to give me one! One car was just up ahead behind the front group which still contained our team captain Ivan basso and the other was 15minutes back down the mountain following the gruppetto! Fortunately the first car realized I was close by and stop and waited a minute for me to catch them to give me my jacket. This however meant that now ivan was alone up the front without a team car for support so they offloaded a couple more jackets to me and told me to wait 15minutes in the pouring rain for the gruppetto to arrive! At this point I was only a few km's from the top and boarderlining on hypothermia so I wasn't about to pull over and wait in the pouring rain as I would have most probably snap froze. I also knew how cold I was without my coat so I knew I had to get the jackets to the boys somehow. I slowed down as much as possible to see if there was a group remotely close to me as I figured ted and junior were probably halfway between me and the back group. I could see them in the distance so backed it off enough so as I kept myself warm enough to function but so they could catch up as quickly as possible. Fortunately when they finally came into clear view I could see they had raincoats already so now I switched to plan b. I figured I would find a friendly looking supporter on the side of the road and give them to them to give to the boys down the mountain so they would atleast have them for the decent! I found just the type of dude I was looking for and explained my predicament and he was more than happy to help out. I'm not sure of the man's name except he had a blue rain coat on but he delivered the jackets to the boys so need to thank him for being such a integral member of today's cannondale pro support staff!! I was now close to the top of the hill so backed things of a little more and waited for ted and junior so I could enjoy the final plunge down to the finish with some company.

Up ahead and obviously un beknowns to me the race was full of drama. The lone survivor of the days breakaway held on for the narrowest of victories following a controversial late race nueatralisation. Obviously when you mix rain with dirt you get mud! While going up hill this is not so much of an issue except you go a little slower, going down hill in the mud on skinny road bike tyres is a little scary! The race organisers decided the same so called a cease fire for the muddy decent and restarted the race when the ash felt resumed with the lone escapee setting of 45seconds ahead of the pack of wolves chasing after him with a mere 8km to race, 5km of which was down hill! The hincapi development dude by the name of carpenter must have descended like a stone in Search of victory and managed to increase his lead and at 1min 10 seconds up his sleeve for the final 2km kick up to the line. The peleton was breathing down his neck as he raised his arms in victory but he held tuff to add a super exciting suspense filled finale to a exciting stage that true to timmy's prediction at the start where anything and everything can happen in the rockies! I am really pleased for the hincapi team getting such a huge win as its been one of the standout teams in both here and utah over the past few weeks. They ride so well as a group for gang of such young guys and I am sure today's succes will ensure the team with big George at the helm will only prosper from here on in.

By the time I rolled across the finish line I was a little freezing to say the least, along with everyone else in the race! I walked immediately to my hotel room which was conveniently located only 500m from the finish and straight into the shower still completely dressed in my cycling outfit including helmet, sunnies and shoes! I cranked the hot water and sat down in the bottom of the bath to thor out. It took me a few minutes to regain enough feeling in my fingers to take the sunnies of my face, 5minutes before I had the strength in my fingers to unclip my helmet, and the shoes stayed on my feet for more than 10minutes before I pulled them off. After 15minutes I finally removed my final piece of lycra and regained a normal core body temperature! Just another amazing experience you seem to have time and time again in bike racing so to be brutally honest I am looking forward to shutting my eyes and getting to sleep as no doubt tomorrow will be another unpredictable rockies adventure, fingers crossed it's a more successful one for the green machine!


Monday, August 18, 2014

kicking things off in colorado, dumb and dumber!

The tour of colorado kicked of today in the lavish alpine town of aspen. The movie dumb and dumber was the first time I knew about this place and sadly that would be a pretty good way of summing up my performance on stage 1. Cannondale assembled a very competitive team on paper with me being a late edition. I had been keen to do this race all season however I wasn't given the green light until after utah when our young gun Davide numero uno formolo was rulled out with sickness. I jumped at the chance to add my name to start list and lined up today along side the green bullet elia Viviani, our captain Ivan basso, motorbike marunga, the German Koch, kich, salerno, and junior mohoric. It is a team pretty well suited to the race and with a sprint finish expected today we were confident in out chances with Elia and attacked the stage accordingly.

I had a very good feeling about today at the start. Elia was confident and all the boys were geed up to deliver him perfectly to give him a shot at victory. As soon as the flag dropped the boys were rapidly into action and ensured a manageable group was let loose and we went about controlling the race. All went perfectly according to plan and entering the final 15km the race was all together and only a 1km climb posed any threat to derailing our plans.

Today's course was a deceptively challenging 95km route. 3 laps with a few short but leg sapping climbs and some nice technical decents thrown in there for good measure to keep us on our toes. What makes racing here in colorado so challenging is the altitude and lack of oxygen which really means you have to measure your effort. Push a fraction too hard and explode and you simply don't recover and very quickly find yourself further back than full back. Ideally you ride at your own pace or happily follow a pace slightly less than you are capable of going however as its a bike race it pretty rare you going the pace you want unless your on the front. As a result of this and due to the lack of oxygen you are seemingly always uncomfortable. Anyways that's how it should be as its a bike race and certainly adds a huge degree if unpredictably about how every stage can pan out which I imagine makes watching races held at altitude pretty exciting.

Anyways back to bike race and the boys did a perfect job of controlling the race. On the penultimate climb the pace started to ramp up a bit so I got myself to the front and ensured the pace was nice and steady heading into the final climb to give elia the best chance of staying up the front. As we hit the final climb I was on the front and did my best to slow the group down to ensure elia the easiest possible ride up the final obstacle. Sadly the uhc team knew what I was up to and barged past and ramped up the pace sensing the opportunity to drop our missile sprinter and give there own speed demon and eventual winner keil reijan the best shot of glory. They really set a ferocious pace reflecting there belief in keil and quickly the group started to break up. At this point I was still at the front but knew elia would be in a little difficulty so started to drift back and wait to see where he and the boys were as there was still plenty of time to ride back some splits in the bunch so long as we were not to far behind over the top of the climb. This is where my stupidy kicked in and as I drifted back to regroup with the green machine I underestimated how much damage UHC had done to the group and I was quickly behind and out of the front group which I did not anticipate to be so small. I tried not to panic and look around for elia in the hope now that I would be able to ride back across but when I realized he wasn't there now I was well and truly on the back foot. Over the top of the climb I wasn't far of the back but at altitude your turbo is very limited and with bmc, UHC and garmin driving the pace I knew it would take a miracle to ride my way back into the front group, in reality with the calibar of riders up there I had no chance! That's where the the movie dumb and dumber comes to mind! I was in the perfect position when we hit the final climb and instead of sand bagging I should have simply kept my rhythm and the power on the pedals and I certainly could have made life a lot easier for myself. I was so confident in elia however that I just believed he would not far behind and hence that was my first thought. He had said to me on the final lap that not to panic when people attack as we need to simply stay together as its easiest to get ourselves out of trouble. Elia is a great captain and I always believe in him so today was no different but in reality at that moment on the final climb I should have just focused on staying at the front which was hard enough at altitude and should elia have been there great, unfortunately in the end my indecision meant we had nobody in the front and after the boys doing such a brilliant job all day we had to return to the hotel empty handed, that was one big blunder on my behalf.

While I am mad with myself on one hand on another I don't regret what I did. Yeah I blew a big chunk of time in the GC competition but my mentality always seems to be one to look out for my team mates first and foremost, especially elia whom a respect greatly. To be honest the front group was not that large so there's no guarantee I could have been in it however I should have at least tried. Better not to die wondering! When he asks for the teams the support he rarely let's them down and being apart of his victories has been some of the the best moments I have had on this team so from that perspective I don't regret my decision for a second. In reality he could have just as easily been right there and won the stage but today it went the other way. Sure on this occasion I should have just looked out for myself on that final climb but I didn't and today that backfired on me big time. I went very quickly from being in the perfect position at altitude of being the bat and quickly became the ball that smacked out the back of the bike race, the harsh reality of how the wrong decision at the wrong time in a bike race can be so costly. Anyways no use crying over spilled milk and we will just have regroup and reassess our goals and get stuck back into it tomorrow. It's going to now be a tuffer road to hoe but fortunately we have plenty of road to get it done before we get to Denver on sunday. I have to also say how pleased I am for keil. He is an absolute class act of a rider and has been knocking on the door of a result like today for years. Today his team really took the race by the scruff of the neck on that final leg snapping climb and keil showed everybody just why they did by winning the stage in such thrilling fashion, I am sure it's just the start of many big victories for him!!


Saturday, August 9, 2014

still aboard the pain train here in utah

Stage 6 here in Utah was the queens stage of this year's race. 3500m of climbing over 170km and average elevation of 2200m, it was certainly going to sort out who's hot and who's not! But days end I would certainly find out that I was certainly not! Anyways as always there is a tale to be told from every single person who got from start to finish today and here is mine.

Hard days like today there is never A shortage of riders eager to get in the breakaway and today was no exception. As soon as the flag dropped jens as usual kicked of the festivities and it was on for young and old. I was keen to be in the break but knew at the altitude I only had limited bullets so did my best be in things that looked threatening and not blow myself up in The process. I stayed calm and up the front and waited for the break to form before trying to launch across. As it turned out I had way to much confidence in my own ability or got my timing very wrong! 14 riders formed at the front with all strong riders in the group and I waited for the moment to jump. Finally when it appeared to be established I hit out from the group in pursuit of the escapees and instantly had a good gap, perfect, now all I had to do was ride across what was no more than a 15-20second gap. I started to close and it appeared the group was disorganized and not working well together which was perfect for me. Just as my spirits soared things started to go south for me. The group began co operating and now I was full gas simply holding the gap. Not to worry I thought, we had a 6km climb coming up and with all the confidence in the world figured I would just doodle across once the road kicked up. Yeah right! What's the golden rule of altitude?? Don't waste your bullets and what had i done yet again?? Wasted my bullets! While I kept the group in check they started to edge away from me on the climb, 20sec became 25 and 35seconds over the first few km's and I was tiring badly. I looked back for the first time in a while to see if the peleton was still well behind me and spotted a red jersey headed toward me. I figured beauty I will just take it easy and work with whoever it was and ride across on the decent and valley that followed the climb. Yeah right again!

That's red jersey was none other than cadel evan's! The days eventual stage winner who had blasted out of the group and decided to bridge a 2minute gap on the climb. As he approached I looked up in disbelief as to who it was. It seemed like no sooner had I first spotted him well of in the distance coming across he was now right on my wheel and coming straight past. He gave offered me a few words of encouragement to hang tuff and hold his wheel which I was able to do for a few hundred me. Then as the road kicked again he got out of the saddle and just powered away from me and I knew there and then that being strong enough to win the race today was simply holding that wheel and today I couldn't do it. I had no choice then but to put up the white flag and surrender and wait for the group. Cadel was a huge threat to the overall classification so I knew the race leaders garmin would be cranking thing up behind to reel him in or at least keep the race under control. Sure enough they gobbled me up not long after and it was quiet peleton. The start had been all out and now the great cadel was on a crusade to blow the race apart. This was going to be a day of survival that's for sure.

To use a Jensie phrase I had been pig rooting a cricket ball when cadel caught and dumped me! That mean I was already on suffer street and with 140km still to race I went into serious self preservation mode. At altitude you don't recover and I knew today there would be no miracles, Infact the miracle would be making it to the finish! To put in perspective just how buckeled I was from my failed attempt to be in the break away I didn't speak a single word to anyone all day! I would normally happily talk under water with a mouth full of marbles but today cjwurf was well and truly on survival mode. I must admit I have only myself to blame. I arrived here not having ridden on the road for 3 weeks and with a broken rib, stitches in my knee, and a separated shoulder. On day one I had the ordacity to try and ride away from the field in ceder city. Day 2 I decided it was a good idea to do 100km on the front of the peleton for a spot of training up and over 3000m elevation which seemed so enjoyable at the time. From there I have gone out of my way to spend as much energy as possible and hurt myself at every opportunity over the past few days as I knew I needed to hurt myself as much as possible to get myself in the best shape possible for the vuelta in 2 weeks time. So yeah, I only have myself to blame for how I felt today but while on one hand my efforts have all been in vein on a results front but I atleast have done all I can to keep George in the GC fight so in reality I shouldn't complain as I have actually done exactly what I wanted to do. And hey we will still have a day to go so who knows what tomorrow will bring!! One things for sure I will not be leaving anything in the tank. Also one thing I am extremely happy about is the fact that I will have the highest average power for any one week race I have done this year being around 265watts over the 7days and when you consider the race had been at an average elevation of 2500m so in other words no oxygen, I am pretty happy with how much constant suffering I have put myself through.

Anyways back to the race and as we hit the business end of the race with two 11km climbs in the final 40km I it was time to survive. I rolled myself up beside George and managed to get enough words out to see if he needed anything and that was about all I could offer him today during the final part of the race. He was all good and not surprisingly that was the last time I would converse with for the rest of the stage. I watched as George spun his skinny little legs away on the wheel of the yellow jersey as I settled into my own metronome rhythm to ride to the finish. George would go onto put in another great display on the final climbs of the day and preserve his spot inside the prestigious top 10 on GC. He certainly has been very dependable for the team in the hard mountain races throughout the season. With tomorrow's fearsome finish climb up gardsmans pass there is certainly every chance of something spectacular from him there so I am looking forward to seeing what he has up his sleeve for tomorrow.

So another extremely hard day is in the books. I must admit it's been mind blowing the intensity of racing we have maintained from start to finish despite the elevation. I said to Chris Horner yesterday after we rolled across the finish line that I wasn't surprised he won the vuelta after racing here in utah, I doubt there would be too many altitude camps that you could put yourself through to match what we have endured this week. All in all this has been a great week and in my case exactly what the doctor ordered!! Time for some shut eye and recharge ahead of the final round tomorrow.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

all aboard the pain train! stage 4 utah

Stage 4 of tour of utah was an absolute doozy today. When you stick a nasty 5km 10% climb in the first 15km there is only one possible outcome, suffering! Everybody wants to be in the breakaway and there is always someone or some team that isn't happy with whatever break forms! Well today it was our cannondale clan that missed the potentially dangerous move so it was our turn this time to make the day harder than I guess everybody including us would have liked! I have to put my hand up and take some responsibility as it was my role to be in break but after all my time on the home trainer in the lead up and pain in my shoulder my ability to attack hard out of the group is a little limited this week. Fortunately my endurance is not so bad so instead of attempting to jump across I decided to drum out a solid tempo on the climb and keep the 16 riders in check and wait for the boys in green to come up and keep things under control.

So onto the climb we went. I had 2 objectives, firstly to set a tempo that would annoy the breakaway as the hopefully make them think they couldn't get away. Secondly I needed to keep the pace as easy as possible to keep the group as large as possible over the first climb as there would be more chance of some willing helpers to assist us to bring the race back under control, safety in numbers was my theory. Fortunately it worked out pretty well and up over the climb we had a nice size grouped and once we got down the boys in green charged to the front to shut down the move. It didn't happen that easily I must stress and without motorbike marongoni and Mr aerodynamics junior mohoric we may not have shut it down at all. In a crucial moment like this it's important to stay calm as if we exploded then the group was gone and any chance for a high GC for George was gone, so not bringing the group back wasn't an option!

Having Ivan there as a road captain was absolutely crucial in this moment. At certain point where we were getting close to the group Ivan rode up and said that's go all out for 10min and shut it down. We already thought we were going hard, to be honest 30-60 second pulls of around 500 watts, but ivan said that's really crank it up. Motorbike marongoni has done this type of thing 1000 times and his next pull was absolutely amazing. All of a sudden we were heading north of 60kmph on the flat and to maintain this new tempo the 30second pulls were between 550-600 watts! Again Jensie was up the road so it's never going to be an easy shutdown but with motorbike marunga motoring along and us chipping in slowly but surely after nearly 40km of all out full gas racing we brought the break back. What happens next is always the most interesting bit as the counter attacks go baserk. This is where we really had to be on our toes as if you bring a break back you better show you did it for a good reason and not miss it again! Sure enough our road captain Mr basso himself was ever attentive and jumped in the break that finally stuck and the race finally settled down a little! That was a huge relief and by the time this cease fire occured I had average 340 watts for the first hour of racing! Now don't be fooled it wasn't like now we just dordled around the country side of ogden before we reached the days final 2 brutal climbs!! No to the contrary, again some teams were not happy with the break and kept the 14 riders at 1minute all day and with a nasty breeze constantly buffeting us there was never a single relaxing easy moment before we hit 140km and the race really began!!

While ivan was playing bunny rabbit up the road we were all back in the group looking after George. The stage was tailor made for him with 15km of climbing at above 10% coming within the final 25km. With the annoying breeze and the group in single file it meant always taking some wind in the face to keep George as protected as possible, this obviously means burning a few extra watts in the process but to be honest I am loving this week as I have been able to suffer every single day one way or another. After 3 weeks on the stationary training I have been craving the feeling and while I know I am wasteing a bucket load of energy and not really using it constructively to get results for myself, I am riding my way into my best condition the only way I know how to so I will continue to jump at the chance to burn some matches over the final few stages.

Back to the race and with the climbing about to start Ivan and his fellow escapees were brought to heel. I had gone back for bottles to ensure George had a nice fresh one to start the decisive moment in the race and kept one extra for ivan as he got gobbled up. As I towed George forward to start the climb in the best position possible I slapped a fresh bottle in ivan very tired looking hand and said well done. To use a cricket term much like Jensie the other day, ivan had played a fine captains knock.

Onto the climb and geroge was spinning his skinny little legs like an egg beater. The steep gradients that lay ahead in the initial 5km climb and final 10km to the finish suited his 58kg ringing wet figure to a tea. Once I knew he was good I started to find a pace I could handle. The efforts of the days work and perhaps the days before was catching up with me and I wasn't comfortable with the furious pace being set on the climb. I took the punt and swung out and decided to try and stay close enough to catch back on on the decent. At the top I had gambled a bit too much and after a daring decent I found myself just out of touch of the lead group. Bugger I thought, more because I couldn't be there to help George but in reality of a finish climb where the average speed was not much more than 10kmph you can't assist much, it simply who has the pins to do the job. So as I had suffered so far I figured I may aswell keep some pressure on the pedals for the final 20km and soldiered on solo in no man's land. In the end the final hour I banged out another 330 watts so was nice to bookend a pretty solid day with the same power for the first and final hour so guess a good sign that I didn't fatigue too much as the day went on. Funnily enough while I am instantly on suffer street when I need the turbo button here I can keep a nice steady pace for long periods of time so good sign that the home trainer work has done some good for me. I am sure after some rest and recovery after this week of sufferance I will have all the pieces of the puzzle to be in my best possible condition going forward. I guess also having 16stitches in my knee, a broken rib and separated shoulder its going to hold you back a little so once that too sorts itself out I am sure the old body will be feeling a lot happier about putting itself a little deeper into the pain cave!

Up ahead George was slugging it out with the big guns and with 5km to go was right in the thick of it. I he made the super selective group of the 10 strongest guys here and then proceeded to unceremoniously drop none other than cadel Evans en route to a fine 7th place on The stage. In the end I finished a little closer to the front than the back which is always nice but to be brutally honest I didn't really care on where I arrived I was simply happy with putting in another extremely hard days work in the saddle.

Here are some fact and power figures from the days race. Bare in mind the average elevation was around 1800m however I would be extremely happy with this effort at sea level!! This was one of one of my higher power days for the entire season.

Time 4hrs 25min
Average power 287watts (with zeros) 325 (without zeros)
First climb 19min 390 watts
Second last climb 18min 30sec 403.5watts
Peak 20min power 401 watts
Peak 10min power 432 watts
Peak 5min power 454 watts
Peak 30min power 385 watts
Peak 60min power 345 watts (first hour of racing)
1min peak power 525 watts
30sec peak power 675 watts
20sec peak power 740 watts
Kcal burnt 4652

You can see that I have some work to do on my shorter peak power levels, am a little to much of a diesal at the moment!

3 days to go and 3 more opportunities to feel the burn as they say, time for some shuteye, today's been a pretty solid one.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

logging some training miles here in Utah

Stage 2 of the tour of utah turned into a nice little training day for me. The stage was pretty similar to yesterday with a similar bunch sprint expected so again we within the cannondale clan had free day to see what we could come up with. The stage started with a flurry off attacks and at 2000m elevation just jumping in moves willy nilly has the potential to basically blow yourself to bits and out of the bike race. Unfortunately we were not positioned overly well in this free for all first 20km of the race and I simply had to retreat to the ropes and just try and ensure nothing to out of control got away. Sure enough 2 or 3 to many strong guys were in the group including big jens and the eventual stage winner Micheal shar so I knew I was going to have a good opportunity to do some good training on the front of the bunch today. The lead quickly jumped out to 7minutes and while it was not our teams responsibility and nor do we have a favorite for the GC, we do have George Bennett whom would like to do well in the race so I wanted to help keep the race under control to give him the best possible chance of doing well. Also it presented a perfect opportunity to put some long periods of pain back into my home trainer watching TV softened legs!! I decided to let the other teams do the work in the first half of the race and keep everything in check and then in the final 100km when the climbs began I would get on the front and work on my suntan!!

On a stage like today, 210km, average altitude of 2500m, and 3500m of climbing, you want to ride at your own pace!! One thing is certain, there is going to be no easy way to get from the start line to the finish line so you just have to find the best way possible! Added to the suffering of today was an annoying breeze which was just enough to keep the group in one long line all day and with it ensure you were never ever comfortable and always on high alert for splits opening up in the tired peleton. Basically put, it was one of those days where you never want to have to go back to the car for water bottles through fear of not making it back to your team mates in the peleton to deliver them safely! So with that all being said with 100km to go it was time for me to become the bat instead of the ball sitting in the bunch and give the garmin and belkin boys a hand to get the break under control.

You know it's a hard chase when as soon as you get to the front and show your there to work the other riders thank you! It means they are in the hurt locker and would really appreciate someone lightening the load a little. Truth be told I was chomping at the bit all day to get on the front and it had been difficult to resist the urge earlier in the stage. I knew it was a training session I needed to put myself through so I was happy as a pig in mud to be up the front with the wind in my face. From my first turn on the front I instantly felt much much better. I was finally able to ride at my own pace and the adrenaline kick you get from chasing a dangerous breakaway is a boost that can't be simulated by any training session. After a couple of good long pulls to give the other guys a bit of a rest and settle my body into a long hard day at the office the advantage thankfully started to drop pretty quickly. Firstly from 5min to 4min then after a bit of a climb and giving it some herbs it was down to 2min. I have to admit I also love the challenge of chasing Jensie down! He is so bloody strong and you know he is going to make you work bloody hard for every second to claw him back. When he surrendered with around 50km to go leaving the imperious schar out there alone It certainly puts a spring in your pedal stroke. While on one hand you do feel good I actually also felt bad as jens is here to put on a show and in his final races of his career it would be so great to see another signature Jensie victory! He still has another 5 chances here and tour of colorado and you bet your house on the fact that he won't be leaving anything in the tank in his quest to go out as he deserve to with another fine victory.

Anyways back to the race and now we simply had a 20km steady climb up to 3200m elevation and a 30km plunge down to finish line. Here I employed my safety car technique of taking the head of the field with our evergreen team leader Ivan Basso glued to my wheel. The ticket here was to ride at a pace to keep the leaders in check more for the GC as to prevent a blow out but also to get as many guys as possible over the top of the climb in the hope that other teams will chip in with some help on the fast run into the finish. Fortunately things played out perfectly and the bunch were happy for me to do my thing with basso dictating the pace from behind me we could cruize at a modest but solid at 3000+m elevation 300-330watts up the climb & at the top 40 riders still remained and it was on for young and old to try and chase down schar on the decent. We went absolutely hell for leather and there wasn't a single person in that front group completely revving way outside the race limiter which is just how a bike race should be. I was still occupying the same spot I had for previous 100km now at the head of the field just that I had a few more willing helpers to give me a breather from time to time that I was now in desperate need off. It's was a jolly exciting final 30km and in the end schar could feel us breathing down his neck as his raised his arms in victory a mere second infront of the field, after 210km of racing that would have to go down as the most well measured and we'll timed ride to victory I have seen.

In the end I was just happy to have ensured that Georges GC hopes are still alive. On top of that I really enjoyed having a good training session to snap a bit of race rhythm back into my pins. Cadel actually asked me why I was so intent on working so hard and I told him of my build up and that I saw it as a crash fitness program or get fit quick regime! Truth be told I feel like I am pretty good nick I just need to top up the race speed to go with my mindless hours spent grinding away on the home trainer and I will finally be back to where I want to be.

In closing I have to share the quote of the day. At dinner tonight I couldn't resist the opportunity to go and apologize to jens for chasing him down. Well I actually told him I was sorry but if he hadn't have been there I would have bothered riding so hard, chasing him is just so much more enjoyable!! In his typical jovial nature He said he knew it was me and said not to worry as he has already burnt the postcard I gave him the other day!! Larickan. He then proceeded to give me the quote of the day to basically sum exactly how I think every single rider in the peleton felt at some point in time today. He said to use Australian language for you wurf so you understand reallllyyyy gooood! "I felt like I was pig rooting a cricket ball"!! What a class act.

Anyways another long unpredictable day tomorrow so excited to get some shut and get stuck into it all over again.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Flying and Dieing!

Was back in the thick of the racing action today with stage 1 of tour of utah kicking of cedar city. I was so excited about pinning the number on again after the past 6 weeks of adventures that I couldn't wait to go to bed last night as the sooner I fell asleep the sooner I would be waking up on race day! So this morning I was like a kid in a candy store and simply couldn't wait for the flag to drop.

The cannondale clan here in utah is a group of dudes basically using the event to prepare for the second half of the season. Having said that that is a positive thing as without a team leader we all have an opportunity to test our legs on occasions that suit ourselves which is nice to be able to do. I guess we have a good bet for a high overall placing in the GC with George Bennett, our kiwi rock spider who has had success here in the past but apart from that we all have a carte Blanche for the week to get ourselves in shape and see what results that can deliver in the process.

So onto stage 1 and it's was a perfect stage for a bunch sprint, all be it a very hard one! We had a couple of long draggy climbs that took us above 3000m elevation but with the last 60km all downhill and basically flat it was going to take a big effort to foil the chances of the fastmen fighting out the stage finish. The stage was nice and controlled, everyone was happy for a small break to go away and ride as easily as possible at such high altitudes and it's wasn't until the plunge down hill back to cedar city began with 50km to race that things started to get exciting.

As the decent began I wasn't taking any chances. Nursing a broken bone, a separated shoulder and worrying about the 16 stitches still inside my knee I decided to take the decent on the front! I had a big chain ring on my bike to ensure I could keep as higher speed as possible and keep the front position and figured basically it was the safest spot to be even if it did require ex pending a little extra energy. With speeds touching 100kmph as we plunged down the canyon I figured that there wasn't much chance of anyone challenging me for the front positions, that was until Mr aerodynamic himself, junior mohoric flew past me in his famous aero tuck and proceeded to simply role away from the peleton. It was quite extraordinary as we were going absolutely full biscuit and junior just kept rolling away, guess you don't win the junior and U23 world titles without having a few tricks up your sleeve!! Junior proceeded to bridge to the days breakaway and as we entered the circuits had a advantage that kept the race in the balance as fatigue started to set into the peleton. Unfortunately for junior there steam ran out before the peleton's did and with 6km to go the group was almost on them so I decided bugger it, I will have a crack myself!

When I attacked from the bunch I felt fantastic, so much so that I bridged across to junior's group and kept on pedaling by. I figured there was no time to see if anyone wanted to come with me and set sail for home! For around 1minute I felt sensational until the reality of racing at altitude hit me! I had attacked with the same vigor I would have at sea level but unfortunately when you do this at 1800m elevation you have only one fire cracker up your sleeve and it has a very short fuse! Sure enough a couple of km's later I had well and truly blown my poopa valve and was heading back to the bunch at a rate of knots! I had again let my ambitions get in the way of my capabilities at altitude but better to learn that on day 1 when hopefully I have time to learn from my mistakes and do better next time. Truth be told I believed I could ride away from the group and got a good gap before putting up the white flag. For me this is a great sign after spending 3 weeks on the home trainer and riding with the injuries I am still recovering from as it means what work I have been able to do has put me in good base level physical shape at least. Suffering like I did attacking however also showed that my top end is seriously lacking but not to worry, I will get that back during this week's race, the most important thing now is to be as aggressive as I can possible be all week and this should ensure all energy systems are in place for the last half of the season.

In the end our boys all finished safely in the main field and junior was awarded the most aggressive rider award for his incredible depending skills, was truly remarkable to watch! All the boys seem to be in good spirits and we're happy to get day 1 under there belts and looking forward to doing what we came here for and look for more opportunities as the week progresses. Personally I am very happy with today, whenever I have a injury on the more serious side it's always my objective to come back as strong if not stronger than before so was relieving to do that. Again have to give all those who kept me positive and motivated and supported me in socal a big big thankyou for the massive part you played in that.

Time for a nice big sleep and then get stuck into round 2!!