After 10 days of action we were rewarded with a rest day today. With the rest day also marks the halfway point in the race and while its seems to have taken an eternity to get to this point, the second half of the race I am certain will rocket by. Of course today is a chance for each team to take stock and for the cannondale clan its been a positive first part. The performance of our captain team captain Ivan Basso has been one of determination and he now finds himself right in the thick of the battle for the final GC podium in madrid. The system of the team has improved day by day and also each rider has stepped up to the plate when called upon. We have all had of days through a range of reason associated with racing but most importantly we have backed each other up well enough to ensure our daily objectives have been adhered to. So our report card for the first half is definitely a pass and now its time to work harder and focus even more on our support for Ivan and in the process lifting our grades.
What did I do on my rest day?? Well nothing special really just did not get to bounce around in a peleton with 200 sweaty blokes for the first time in 10days! For me its important to keep the routine as normal as possible as if I switch the system of too much then restarting it tomorrow is a real struggle. With that being said I woke around the usual time and trundled down to breaky. Had a casual hour or so to make some phone calls and chat with the staff about who's who in the zoo before doing a little bit of training around midday. I like to go on the home trainer as my major priority is to sweat a little bit to keep the system open. Often I feel horrible after a lazy stroll on the road so even at home my recovery days are often on the home trainer. I don't worry about intensity or time but simply pedal until I feel like the fatigue has left my legs and they a spinning freely again. This usually takes between 45-90minutes, today it took around 55minutes so that was perfect. Also with my sore rib avoiding any potential crash sitiuations in the next 2 weeks will be crucial so the home trainer was just what the doctor literally ordered for me today. It is mighty warm here so even with little exertion I was sweating it up a treat so definitely had a real spring in my step once this little session came to an end. Next was a bite to eat for lunch which I really really enjoyed. We travel with a chef, alex, yes he is italian and yes we get the most amazingly delicious and most importantly nutritious meals everytime we sit down at the table. Also any special requests we have are tailored to but to be honest I have C food diet! I C food and I eat it! Anything this alex serves up I savour and enjoy so I am pretty much always the first to arrive at the dining table and last to leave.
Following my little bingle yesterday and unsurprizing continued pain the doctor magni decided it was best to go and get and x ray and see exactly where my little fracture is. We already had a good idea of which rib but its important to ensure I had not damaged the lung and even more important the fracture was not in a position that could potentially damage the lung by continuing in the race. The spanish doctor was in no mood to mess about wasteing any unnecessary x ray films and poked and prodded me that had that I clenched my fist when she hit the spot and promptly said "bale" which means that's fine in spanish! She had found the spot, quickly took 2 photos and hey presto there was my little fracture. Fortunately the fracture is on the outside of the rib so away from the lung so I am not doing any further damage by continuing. The only issue is pain but atleast I know exactly where its coming from and expect it so that's not such a big problem. Infact it was excellent news as yesterday I was afraid to breath deeply through fear of puncturing a long. The doctor said its important to continue to breath normally so long as I can deal with pain to avoid my lungs closing up so that's fantastic news. In theory I should be at full strength and fingers crossed the pain in my ribs will dull the pain in my legs and I can push even harder!! So was a great trip the hospital if that's possible and considering the circumstances!!
Now for a little more about the teams and the way it functions here at the 2013 vuelta. In a big tour we always have minimum 2 and sometimes a 3rd sports director. These are the guys that drive the team car, steer it with one hand, talk to us in the radio with the other, and often some how seem to have 3 arms as the hand us drink bottles and food out the window during the race!! Yep these guys are a special breed when it comes to multi tasking and they never miss a beat. Mechanics in the back seat have been know to fall asleep on long boring days my team directors always have there finger on the pulse and ready for action at the blink of an eye!
Mario Screa is our 1st director at this years vuelta. Mario has the most crucial role in the team as basically every decision needs to be made by him. From race tactics to the organisations of what staff do during the day, Mario decides exactly what everybody has to do and takes responsibility for that. On the bus every morning mario leads the team meeting to decide tactics and roles for the day ahead. Mario spent a large majority of his career and Mario cippollini's bodyguard in the peleton and has reputation as being one of the finest riders that's ever performed this role. He was there for a countless number of cippo's win so his experience is crucial for the team, specially for our fast men. The best part about mario's role as a rider is he really appreciates the importance of saving energy so you can help your captain when he really needs it. He will never want us working unnecessarily and is mad if we do, not because he likes to be angry with us but simply because he understands better than most how valuable team mates are to there leaders success and wants to ensure we use or energy constructively. So with this mentality its an even greater advantage to our team in 3 week stage race to have mario in the car where saving energy is more crucial than normal. What mario says is gospel and everything he says comes from a wealth of experience where for and foremost the objective is the success of the team, so its a mentality that I really appreciate as a domestic, we all play a part remember! At days end his job is not done. Once he arrives in the hotel he is already planning ahead to the next day with preparing the daily program. The daily program tells us simple things like wake up, breakfast time, time we have to have our suitcase ready, time we leave the hotel for the race. Also is what all the staff are doing, some come to the race and are at the feed zone to hand out feed bags while others drive the truck to the next hotel to set things up there and have massage tables and the like ready for when we arrive following the race. So although all these details on the paper seem simple, its runs smoothly because we have this piece of paper. Its like the daily guide I guess, you simply have to follow it and everything runs smoothly. And basically everything runs smoothly because has spent the time planning it all so everyone knows exactly what there doing. So that's a bit about mario, he certainly leads the team from the front and keeps all the wheels turning as smoothly as possible.
Our second director at this race is Dario Mariuzzo. Dario is mario's right hand man and drives the second race car behind the peleton. Having said that should we have a rider in the days breakaway dario all of a sudden finds himself ahead of the bunch behind the breakaway while mario stays in the bunch with majority of the riders. Dario is a real character and a real fatherly figure for us riders when at the races. I say that because he is great at giving you a kick up the arse when you have made a mistake but more importantly makes you feel very special when you do something very well. As I result I always find myself assessing my daily performance by how Dario treats me after the race. To get a pat on the back or a bravo means you atleast did your job well. To get "zio zino zio zino" out of him means he was very very happy with you. When you are most probably already aware you did not deliver as expected on any given day, one look at dario will confirm you thoughts. He will often just not acknowledge anything about the stage and simply talk with you about something else. He not trying to make you feel bad just letting you know he will give praise when its due and only then so that makes it even more special when he gives you a big pat on the back. Also today while I pedalled away quietly on the home trainer he knew I was in some pain from yesterday and quietly came over for a chat. He knew I just wanted to talk it through with someone about how I felt, and how I planned to deal with the situation. Also he wanted me to know he understood what I was going through so let's just get on with it. That was exactly what I needed at that moment so its things like that that make him the real fatherly figure for us on the road. To describe dario's role at the race is not easy. Of course he is instrumental in all the decisions made by mario regarding the race and organisation but dario seems to just always be doing something. He can be found helping the mechanics wash the cars, lucio clean out the bus, and picking up wet towels left laying around by riders following there post bus shower. Next moment he is washing helmets, making us coffee's, charging race radio's and even often acting as a traffic warden in a busy post race parking lot full of buses and team cars. No doubt about it Dario is an absolute bundle of energy which is really motivating to the entire team, both riders and staff.
That's a bit about our 2 team managers at this race. They are the ones that keep the ship sailing on an even keel. Both dario and mario compliment each other exceptionally well so while its great having a strong team in the peleton, its a huge support and comfort to have such a great pair of directors following us in the car.
The rest days now done and dusted, can't wait get up in the morning and get stuck right back into the racing.
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