Monday, October 14, 2013

Stage 4 tour of beijing

Today was another GREAT stage. Infact I think the race should be renamed the tour of the great wall as today we actually rode right through it! We have ridden past it and beside it so now having gone through it there is only one more step for the organisers to take! Ride along it!!

Stage 4 marked the first time the race would include a mountain top finish. Therefore our plan was pretty simple, get mr captain cannondale Ivan Basso in the best chance to do a good result. The other objective of the day was to ensure damiano held onto his king of the mountains jersey. At the meeting this morning the objectives were simple. Ensure Ivan starts the final climb at the front and make sure that no break away goes including any challengers to damiano's jersey. I love it when the objective are so simply spelled out for us as after that you simply have to do your job, well simply so long as your legs are happy to do what's required!

From the gun it was full blast as usual. All the team controlled all the moves taking turns in chasing breaks or simply following them. Its so much easier to do this task with a strong team as if you have to chase break after break alone you put yourself in big danger of blowing yourself to pieces in the early part of the stage. Finally a break established itself with nobody threatening damanio's jersey and we settled in for the next move. Initially the break included the eventual stage winner from moviestar but he decided to sit up and return to safety of the peleton, he was obviously confident in his chances for the stage and rightly so! That left only 3 up the road meaning there were still points on offer for the peleton. We had to be carefull of this as wez sulzberger, fellow tasmanin and good mate was only 2 points behind so he now had a great chance to challenge for the jersey. Fearing this Ratto concocted an excellent plan!

The idea was that at around 1km from the top I would attack as hard as possible which would force wez to chase. Damiano would be glued to his wheel and getting a free ride and would then have fresher legs to take the sprint. Or the other possibility would be I would stay clear and sweep up the points, in reality I knew that would not be happening, wez really wanted the jersey! The next glitch to the came with the news Micheal Bling Mathews had withdrawn from the race. Why was this significant? Well all wez's team mates would usually be saving themselves to help bling so now he would have his entire team to help him chase the jersey. None the less I was ready and set up camp right at the front. Fortunately we were not going very hard on the climb so I was happy to take the wind for 5km to ensure I was in the perfect position to execute our plan. So all was set and with around 3km from the top the green edge train rolled along side me! I looked back and damiano was glued to wez's wheel but I also realised our task was going to be a little tuffer.

I thought pretty quick on my feet and realised the green edge guys had a plan aswell. They were nodding and whispering among themselves and they were also trying to block my escape route out the front of the bunch. We were now 2km from the top and I knew we had to anticipate anything they had install and I had to launch first. I waited for a moment when there were distracted and moved aside just enough for me to squeeze through and attacked as hard as I could. I knew I had to go hard as we needed wez to use as many of his men as possible to chase me down. I did not want to leave anything to chance. After 500m full blast I took a look back now saw only 2 greenedge and behind them damiano and ratto. Perfect the odds were now in our favor. The peleton off course let us go knowing we were just chasing the points and therefore the battle was between us. I kept the pace high as possible until 500 from the top when greenedge's mitch docker give it a dig to lead out wez. When he was done wez was alone and damanio and ratto were right on his wheel. Not surprizingly the 2 of them sprinted away from wez and swept up all the points and with it sealed the mountain jersey. So that was the days first objective ticked off.

Next was to keep an eye on Ivan and ensure he took the climb at the front. This was a little more straight forward as its as you just need to keep pushing forward. To keep pushing forward you simply need to take some wind as most are saving themselves for the final climb. That's were having dedicated team mates make a big difference. A leader can ride at the front but does not have to take the wind, its a big advantage. On a day like today Ratto and Elia are absolute masters at this as a result of there excellent bunch skills in a sprint and ability to do sharp acceleration's to stay at the front. Its often the team sprinters that perform this role for the climbers as they are simply happy to arrive atop the climb and not concerned with there result. To be honest I prefer taking the wind before the climb to stay at the front as I know I will start it at the front. Then once the race heats up your already amongst the action or even immediately involved in it, this inturn gets the adrenaline flowing and everything seems a little more painless and enjoyable so for some riders if not the majority, starting at the front is a good start to giving yourself the best chance to do well on a mountain top finish. Just a little on the workings of the team and how roles change day to day.

So between the 3 of us Ivan was always where he needed to be and as we hit the final climb we had he was right on the front row. The climb was always going to be fast so there was a big advantage to be had by staying up front out of the wind and avoiding the rubber band acceleration's further down in the bunch. I was struggling a little bit by this stage, just not quite yet back to where I like to be in the climbs but certainly on the improve again. Think the vuelta and recovery from my busted rib took a little more out of me than I expected, just missing that little edge at the moment. Fortunately ratto stayed with ivan as long as possible and ensured he was safe and sound in the first positions. By days end ivan would be 9th on the stage and 9th on GC so a great showing on a climb that doesn't really suit him.    

All in all a good day for the cannondale boys. Us workers had a couple of simple objectives and our leaders finished things off as expected for us. Tomorrow will be another stage for the sprinters so we will be back at the services of Elia. He has been getting closer and closer in the sprints all week so we are pretty motivated to set him up as best as possible for the final stage here at the tour of beijing.

Race Data
Time: 3hrs 46min
Ave Power: 277
Max Power: 1150
Altitude Gained: 2350m
Kcal Burnt: 3900


Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Stage 3 tour of beijing

Todays stage of tour of beijing gave the field a bit of a shake up. After 2 relatively flat stages for the sprinter it was the turn of mountain men to stretch there legs. The 175km was littered around 6 climbs and while none were excessively difficult on paper there was certainly the potential for some fireworks. The race got of to its usual fast start and a breakaway formed pretty early on. Our very own Damiano Caruso was inside it and by days end had used his natural quick turn of speed and climbing skills to pull on the king of the mountains jersey. So with a rider up the road we settled into a day in the bunch and waited for the fireworks to begin.

The course was again spectacular. We did another fly by of the great wall, no matter how many times you see it your always in awe. The pace was very consistent from the get go which always adds a little tension to the peleton. Fortunately we again enjoyed excellent roads with limited obstacles which has made the race feel much safer despite the stressful moments. The organisers really have done an excellent job putting this race together. The roads are also very fast which makes holding position a little easier as its a little more difficult for people to move forward. All this makes life in the bunch much more relaxing.

So back in the bunch I took on my usual role of looking after Ivan. Blocking him from the wind and keeping him as well positioned as possible to ensure he was ready to rock and role for the finale. The only little annoyance I had today was a bit of the chinese belly! My room mate mattias has felt a bit of the past couple of days so inevitable I have picked up a bit of whatever he has been putting down so to speak! Luckily the race was a solid enough pace that pain in the legs outweighed pain in the tummy, just had a bit of a struggle chomping down my tucker. Hopefully it will pass as quick as it came. Fortunately it did not stop me from being able to do my tasks today.

So with ivan all safe and sound we hit the 2nd last climb around 50km from the finish. Sure enough AG2R decided to turn the screw and intantly riders were going everywhere! I made sure Ivan was in front of me and then just sat safely behind him. Around 1km from the top of the climb the call came over the radio that elia was just off the back and we were to wait for him.

Ratto was perfectly positioned in the front so could baby sit Ivan and I just drifted down the decent waiting for Elia. He soon arrived with micheal koch and we set about chasing the down the front group. Elia need not have worried about returning to the front of the race as koch was like a motorbike. We were never more than 10-15sec off the back so had nothing to fear but I was certainly very relieved koch was there as it made chasing back on much easier in 2 as oppose to alone. Also dalla chimed in and with his team time trial prowess we soon had elia back at the head of the race. From there we just stayed behind elia to ensure he remained in the front on the final short climb which he had no drama doing and then buckled the seat belt for the plunge down to the finish. The decent was a little twisty and turny as sure enough so gaps opened and a few of us ended up on the wrong side of it. Fortunately Elia and Ivan were both safely in the front so we had done our jobs for the day.

Elia had a good sprint today and finished 4th so will be optimistic to finish of with a bang on the final stage on tuesday. Along with Caruso taking the king of the mountains jersey it was a good day for the cannondale team. Tomorrow the race will finish atop a 12km 5% climb so is certain to shake things up even more. Ivan is growing in confidence each day so he will be our focus tomorrow. I am enjoying spending time apart of the action again. Its nice to have my confidence back on the bike after my crash in the vuelta. My body was not prepared to take risks while my broken bone healed so its nice to know that that's all behind me now and I the brakes are off so to speak. You get to know your body pretty well and the feeling of not holding back particularly in the nervous moments is the best indication that everything is back to normal which inturn has given me much more confidence to push again in the race.

To make a difference tomorrow its going to need to be a very hard stage. The climbs are not steep and should wind be blowing it will make it more difficult for the climbers to drop the sprinters. All in all that shapes up for a very exciting stage as teams will be throwing the kitchen sink at the race in a bid to split it up. Looking forward to getting a bit better night sleep tonight! Last night my tummy was singing to me!! And getting up in the morning and hearing the battle plan our team manager mario screa has install for us.

Race data
Time: 4hrs 9min
Speed Ave: 42kmph
Elevation gain: 2200m
Ave Power: 262watts
Max Power: 1050watts
Kcal Burnt: 4000

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tour of beijing stage 2

Its not often you get a chance to see one of the 7 wonders of the world. Its even more unique to have the opportunity to race a push bike past one! Well today the peleton here at the tour of beijing got the opportunity to do a fly by of the great wall of china! Fortunately when we were passing it the group was travelling at a very gentlemanly pace, the breakaway had established and we were trying to give them some breathing space. I made sure I was right at the front of the bunch so I could safely have good look at this seriously impressive structure and enjoy the novelty of racing the push bike alongside it. The city of beijing sits at the foot of a mountain range that is the home of the great wall. Its a very impressive site on a clear day to be able to see it as far as the eye can see from a high rise in the city. Today's stage was taking us behind this mountain range which as we found out separates one of the busiest and most densely populated cities in the world with beautiful natural countryside.

The stage was 200km in the length and while it had a few medium climbs it had bunch sprint written all over it. Our goal was to give elia a shot at the sprint and ensure Ivan saved as much energy as possible ahead of the more decisive days coming up. I was not required to ride on the front today so resumed my normal role of riding as close to front as possible protecting Ivan and ensuring his day was as stressless as possible. I felt pretty good today and don't remember being more than 5-20 wheels from the front all day until the final frantic kms so got the chance to take in the surrounds as much as possible.

I was seriously impressed with the countryside and terrain today and would have never imagined that just beyond the smog and great wall of china such an undeveloped and natural countryside existed. The roads were made of super fast hot mix and in perfect conditions. The climbs were not steep but steep enough and had plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes at all times. The decent on the second climb in particularly was an absolute cracker. Never a straight bit of road and perfect surface and while there were plenty of twists and turns the road never felt unsafe. In fact the climbs very much reminded me of those around monaco and menton in southern france. There were high rock walls on one side of you and low concrete guard rails on the other. Infact It was only passing the odd quaint little chinese village in the middle of nowhere with some very enthusiastic spectators that made we realise we were not rolling through the french Mediterranean! The fans are incredible and its amazing how such a small group of chinese people can make so much noise! As your pass by they instantly grab your attention as its such and enthusiastic noise that it really startles you. In europe you can have 10000's of people creating the same effect but here they really love giving you a cheer, it really is a very unique motivating encouragement if that makes any sense? Not only were the climbs spectacular but also the tree lined roads looked very reminiscent of those you come across in belgium and northern france. I don't know really what I expected of the beijing country side but if you do ever venture to this part of the world don't be deterred by the smog filled city's and head for the hills. It truly was a very enjoyable course, perhaps one of the more free flowing interesting courses I have ever raced on.

Back to the race and it was a pretty predictable day. A small break got away and BMC comfortably managed the margin before other teams chipped in in the closing km's to ensure a big bunch sprint. My role was simply to look after Ivan and recover as best as possible following my 170km on the front yesterday. On the final climb 50km from the finish I kept an eye on elia to ensure he got over that safely in the front group. I need not have worried as he glided up the climb right up the front so that was easy. Once down the other side Ratto took care of him and set him up for the sprint but unfortunately again Elia was boxed in and was not able to open up his sprint. I did my usual thing sititng behind Ivan to ensure should anything went wrong I would be quickly on the scene to get him out of it. He was safe and sound and finished safely in the peleton so looking forward to see what he can do in the next couple of days.

So so far I have really enjoyed the first couple of stages here at the tour of beijing. Been very ominous results wise from the cannondale boys however I expect that to change tomorrow. On paper it looks like a daniele ratto tyre stage so should he be in the group in the closing km's I would expect another big sprint from him. Been here a few days now so jetlag is finally subsiding and sleep paterns returning to normal. I predict that by tuesday I will be perfectly acclimatised just intime to jump back on the plane and head back to europe!

Race data
Distance: 201km
Time: 5hrs
Ave power: 240.5
Max power: 1010
Kcal burnt: 4400

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Friday, October 11, 2013

Stage 1 tour of beijing

The 2013 Tour of Beijing kicked off today in surrounds I felt very comfortable with! The Olympic rowing centre from the 2008 games was the location for the days start so I had a feeling it had to be a good oman for my cannondale team and our sprinter elia viviani. In 2011 Elia won a stage of this very race which finished at the rowing course and his team mate peter sagan was 2nd so I felt that we had a good chance of atleast giving a elia another shot at glory today, before the start of that particular stage I told the boys we would win as I felt I was a good oman for a finish at such a venue! Today I naturally figured the same and was confident of Elia winning again! The neutral zone of todays start included a lap around the rowing course. It was certainly the fastest and most painless journey along the length of a rowing course I have ever had today! Ah recalling the suffering on that stretch of 2000m I had endured over the years! Now I am in a sport that involves 5hrs of torture! Amazing how 6-7min doing a rowing racing can be equally and even more taxing than 4-6hrs racing a push bike. To say one is harder than the other would be disrespectful to the other. The truth is I remember being just as KO'd from both sports, a race in either can takes days and even weeks to recover from, such is the efficiency of the body to know how to calculate emptying its tank! There's certainly no easy days when competing at this level no matter what sport your doing! Still I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to compete at this level in two very different disciplines.

So back to todays race and we had a simple objective today, a sprint victory for Elia. The first job was to ensure a large breakaway that would be difficult to control skipped away and fortunately almost from the gun 4 riders broke clear and the peleton was happy to let them go. The first stage of any stage race is always the same, nobody wants to be the first to ride on the front. Consequently we always slow to a pedestrian pace and the breakaway immediately establishes a big advantage. Now this has the potential to be dangerous for 2 reasons, firstly the gap can get so big that you use up a huge amount of resources to chase it down, and secondly the breakway does not need to work hard to gain this massive advantage. This means that by the time the peleton starts chasing often the breakaway is just as fresh as the peleton and therefore catching them can be difficult. I don't like leaving any of this to chance and if I am going to be riding on the front I don't see the point in giving them a massive head start. I figure give them a moderate lead that they have to work hard for to establish and then methodically wind them in on the run to the finish. By keeping the race under control also keeps stress in the bunch down and to me this is important. Basso our team captain for GC here in china also thinks like me also so I know the more control we have the more relaxed he is and inturn gives him a better chance of having more biscuits to spend on the hard stages. The little things can all add up over the course of a stage race so its important everyday to do all we can to allow our team leaders to do there job.

So not surprizingly it was Ivan who decided the breakaway was getting toward that advantage that could prove to be stressful to chase down. He came and found me in the bunch when it was at 8 minutes and I immediately knew what he was thinking and knew it was important to get up there and ride a moderate tempo. Yes we were the first team to crack on the stage one stand off!

It was my task today to do the tempo riding on the front with my young team mate micheal koch so I was happy to get things under control asap to avoid a torturous final couple of hours chasing an in the balance advantage of a breakaway.
When chasing a break its always a mental game between the workers on the front of the bunch and the breakaway. There are always moments in the stage when both feel they have the upper hand so its important to ensure you have the upper hand more often than the breakaway. So after 20km of 192km stage we were on the front. I said to micheal to just ride between 300-340 watts for the first hour as at this pace the breakaway need to ride above a comfortable zone to increase there advantage. Sure enough over the next 30km they gained an extra minute on the bunch but I knew they would have paid for this. At this point I upped the pace to 340-360 watts for the next hour and sure enough the gap started to fall. When riding on the front adrenaline always kicks in and provided you have a good conditions you always having to hold yourself back at these power levels. You start seeing some 400's and even 500's on the rollers and you have to dial it back a bit. Along with a very strong FDJ rider we were drumming out more or less 5min turns at this tempo which is short enough to avoid taking on too much fatigue at this intensity but also long enough that it gives you a great recovery period of 10min. Sure enough after halfway the break started to come back to us very quickly and with 80km to go the gap was down to 3min. At this point we could bump of the pressure as now we well and truly had implanted in there minds that today they would be caught before the finish and a bunch sprint would decide the stage winner. I like everything being under control so was very happy with this outcome.

Now we could casually role along at around 300 watts so a very gentle pace and keep the race under control. We know in the final 10-15km other teams would storm forward and ramp up the pace so there was no need to work any harder than required. Sure enough around 15km from the finish BMC stormed past en route to setting up big for thor a another god of thunder victory! At this point I had a look for the others to ensure everybody was where they needed to be. Elia was safely at the front on Ratto's wheel, a pretty good place to be considering Daniele is one of the best sprinters in the world tour on his day! Also Ivan was safely in the front of the bunch so I could just relax and enjoy the rapid 60+kmph blast to the finish. In the end the sprint did not go Elia's way but he will get another chance tomorrow. I enjoyed the day of racing, 4hrs 30min always goes a lot quicker and more enjoyably when your busy riding on the front. Pacing yourself and doing all the calculations required to keep the race under control ensures your always occupied and entertained thinking about something. Next weekend I will race Chrono des nations, a one day time trial the concludes the season so was great to get a good training session done today, hopfully I get a similar role tomorrow.

Race data from todays stage
Distance: 193km
Time: 4hrs 20min
Speed: 44kmph average
Ave power: 273
Ave cadence: 86
Kcal burnt: 4300

Time for another jet lag interrupted sleep!


Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device