Friday, March 28, 2014

A transitional day of sorts here in catalunya where we started in the mountains and ended up next to the sea. The longest stage of the race in 220km and on paper looked good for some kind of group sprint. Sure enough that's exactly what transpired and the Slovenian Luca Mezgec did what he did on stage 1 and 2 and duly put the sprinters to the sword again. The teams goal was pretty simple today and that was to set daniele up for the sprint. Last year he was 3rd so we were very confident in him today and with no GC positions to protect all our hopes as a team today hinged on Ratto in the bunch gallop.

Micheal koch did what he has also done all week and jumped into the early breakaway. By the end of the day he had raced up and insurmountable lead in the sprint classification ensuring he will stand on the podium on sunday in barcellona, provided he finishes the race that is. Micheal has really provided a bright mood in the camp this week with his seemingly daily brave escapes. As I have said before its great to see a guy who normally does so much work for everybody else enjoying the limelight daily on the podium.

Back in the bunch we waited for dario to instruct us on the next move. The breakaway contained a dangerous GC threat so the pace never let up all day so there was no respite. Sure enough as the km's ticked down others joined in the chase for the bunch sprint. We committed our me in the final 30km and its was our boys of salerno and Jean marc who swept up all the remaining escapees. I was rendered pretty much useless today as this virus really tpook the edge of me and resigned to gate keeper. That being a name designated to the rider whom sits directly behind the working team. At 15km to go a 5km 5% climb was the last obstacle. Here is where Ivan kicked into top gear control the pace to firstly ensure a bunch sprint occurred and secondly ratto was there for it. He has an amazing amount of experience so its no surprise under his guidance both things occurred at days end. In the sprint ratto was a little out manoeuvred and was left standard in the wind for too long wasting precious energy and would finish 20th. Still was a fine example of griitting your teeth taday we were so proud of ratto for enen being there to fight for the win, good job ratto!!

On my front sadly today will be the final stage for me in the 2014 volta catalunya. The medical staff, team trainer and team directors have decided I need to rest for a few days and not run myself down at all and keep everything on track for my main objectives in May. This is not something I am proud of but 3 extra rest days will make a big difference at this moment as oppose to suffering with a virus in a world tour race really the decision is easy. I will go to one of the most special training grounds I know off in tenerife and can't wait but first will be a few days rest.

So that's that for volta catalunya! Will do my best to keep the stories coming from atop the volcano in Teide  

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Its not getting warmer in catalunya!

The volta catalunya is always hit or miss when it comes to the weather in 2014 we have certainly been on the hit side!! Yesterday we were lucky with sun an 0 degrees but today some light rain turned into snow which was a little chilly on the w!ll! To say the very least. On the bright side the arctic climate change here in catalunya didn't set in until the final hour or so of racing where it was pretty much all uphill. Why is that a positive? Well if you are going to ride in snowy icey rain with a wind chill factor of god only knows, its a lot more pleasant doing so going uphill than down! As far as the race went today it was a bit of a none event for us on the results front but still as always there were a few interesting adventures along the way.  

Todays stage is the type I always look forward to. The definition of the perfect stage for is one that has more uphill, preferably at a steady gradient, and not much going downhill! So on paper stage 4 looked great. The only thing that made it not great was that I have not been feeling great since arriving in europe and its been difficult to figure out why. Well I know I have felt tired but until this afternoon was reasonably annoyed and confused as to why. I received confirmation from the doctor I have been suffering from a small virus for the past couple of weeks thanks to a blood exam I underwent last week before leaving for catalunya. Chances are I picked something up in taiwan and it has just taken the spark of me that I have dearly missed these past couple of days. It comes as no surprize to find this as 4 of our 5 man team from taiwan have now been diagnosed with some form of ailment, Boivin with bronchitis, formolo with chicken pox, Jean Marc with fatigue and now I join the list aswell. As annoying as it is to be a little under the weather its also nice to know there is a reason why I feel a little of and not normal. While I am not suggesting I would be setting this race alight by any stretch of the imagination the important thing is to accept the situation and where I am at and move on. At Cannondale Pro we have a very experienced team of doctors and trainers who I know will ensure I return to my chippa chirpy racing self in no time. On a positive note for 90% of the stages I am feeling good and comfortable, its just when they open the gas and I need the turbo that I find its not there. That shows that the base work we have done has been good and now I must not panic and just ensure I get 100% healthy asap. At the end of the day as a professional cyclist your health is your wealth. Another positive is its still 5 weeks until my first major objective of the season so we have plenty of time to recover and rebuild and be ready for my very important month of may in turkey and california.

Anyways back to today and we had one of the most feared first 30km in professional cycling. 10km slightly downhill full blast then boof! 20km uphill! A day like this is always hard as there is always someone wanting to attack of the front at warp speed and there are always plenty of people wanting to chase them! The result is a 5% climb of 20km is done more often than not at an average speed in excess of 30kmph!! So you have 2 choices to make. Firstly you attempt to be one of the brave ones and attack like a mad man hoping to make the breakaway or, secondly buckle your seat belt and find some good wheels in the bunch to follow and hang on for grim death. The only certainty is its going to be balls to the wall flat out for around 45minutes! Sure enough this occurred. I chose the second option and just perched myself up the front and followed the wheels and was as relieved as everybody else when 4 riders whom had around 20 seconds at the top were finally let go clear by Katusha on the long graceful decent of the top of the climb. With the break gone we could now settle in and wait for the fireworks of the climbers teams later in the day.

We rolled along at a nice gentle steady tempo and the whole group seemed happy to enjoy the calm before the storm. We all knew it was coming and was just a matter of when so you take the good times whenever you can. Sure enough some light rain started to fall around 50km from the finish which corresponded with us travelling along a road the size of a footpath. Again at first nothing happened until I saw the giant  yellow and blue clad aussie Rory sutherland hit the front. This meant trouble as contador was playing his hand. Sure enough the peleton instantly decimated on the steady 5km footpath wet climb we were scaling. I was chewing on my headstem at the back of the group until a couple of km's from the top I decided to ride my own pace and back myself to ride back to the front group on the false flat between the top of the climb and the final climb. This was a moment when I did not have the spark and as the rubber band was stretching in and out of the corners I was close to my limit. So I decided to back my false flat TT skills to ride back accross at a more steady pace. At the top of the climb the group was no more than 30 seconds ahead so 5km of concentrated TT work later I was back in the comfort of what was left of the main peleton. Rory was still powering away on the front. This was probably fortunate for me as if he had had any help I would most likely have not got back on. He had been on the front for almost 30min by this stage alone so he would have been getting a little tired fortunately for me.

The snow and sleat was now falling but fortunately it was all uphill for the last 25km. Around 15km of false flat and 10km of climb seperated us from the finish. I found George and Ivan and made sure they had all they needed. George handed me his great big rain jacket which took me about 5 minutes to figure out a way to stuff it somewhere in my jersey. With fingers verging on frost bite its not easy hold onto the handlebars let alone organise a wardrobe on your bicycle!! First I tried stuffing it down the front with no success with zippers and radio cords in the way I was in quite the tangle. Next I tried my vest back pocket but the light rain and freezing temps had literally snap frozen them shut so no luck there. Finally I managed to stuff it under my vest at the back but it turned out I only did half of it as when I went to hand it to our team car I realized I was actually sitting on the other half as I couldn't pull it out. The guys in that group must have had a bit of a giggle at the site of my improvised waterproof fizik seat system. By now I was well and truly spent and knew my boost was not there so once the final climb came I put up the white flag and enjoyed lovely ride up the final climb to the finish in the snow. As I said once I finished I would be notified by the medical staff why I was feeling so flat so was a good thing I took it easy and didn't dig deep, doing so will only prolong the recovery period. With that being said I need as much rest as possible so time for some shut eye and see how I am feeling in the morning.

Race Data-

Time: 5hrs
Elevation gain: 3500m
Ave heart rate: 139BPM
Max Heart rate: 189BPM
Kcal Burnt: 5000kcal
Ave Power: 266 watts
Max Power: 1000 watts

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sun snow n snow n cold stage 3 catalunya

Volta Catalunya hit the mountains today and I must admit was pretty excited about what would greet us in stage 3. After a couple of nervy argy bargy sprint stages the mountains were certain to take the sting out of the pins and make the fight for positions a little easier, well provided your in good shape that is! The objective of the cannondale boys today was to see where Ivan, George and I stood on the GC front and ideally have someone in the breakaway aswell to ensure we can take it easy back in the bunch. Like yesterday our german powerhouse took of as soon as the flag dropped and soon found the company of 5 others to enjoy another up the road consolidating his lead in the sprint classification. So another day and another podium appearance for micheal which is very exciting for him and great to see such a great worker for the team leaders enjoying the spotlight for a change. Sadly however for the boys in cannondale green that's about all we would have to crow about by days end as we crashed and burned on the final climb of the day.

With the break gone we settled into a nice day in the bunch. The final climb of the day did not look like it would explode the peleton to much being just 5km at around 6% but the 10 and 20km climb before hand certainly had the potential to do just that. First on the menu was the 10km and bunch trundled over that nice and gently much to everybodies delight. The second 20km which topped out just 60km from the finish was again done a gentle pace but with its length it seemed to take the snap out of the bunch. You know when this is happening as people stop talking and its much easier to hold a position at the front. I was feeling awesome, in all honesty I felt the most awesome, perhaps the best I have ever felt in a bike race and was confident of a good day. Specially as we crested the big climb I was champing at the bit for the final climb. Basso and george were also prominent at the front so it looked like it was going to be a good day.

One special mention I need to put in was seeing Nathan Earle setting tempo for his team leader chris froome of team sky. Nathan is in his first year in the world tour and a fellow hobart boy. When I first started cycling back in 2007 Nathan although some 5 years younger than me was one of the few guys that wanted to ride with me and wanted to share whatever knowledge he had with me. It was something I will always appreciate and as a result we have always been good friends. We have trained together for countless hours in hobart on Mt Wellington and these memories came flooding back seeing him tap out tempo on the front of the world tour peleton. It was actually comforting to see him doing it as I was pretty confident I knew the tempo he would be riding up so had a little upper hand the peleton knowing what to expect and am sure this was helping put me into a positive mood and frame of mind. But still the most exciting thing was simply to see nathan up there drumming out a tempo for what's been the number 1 team in stage racing over the past couple of years. Role into that that he is from the little old hobart town just like me, a town that did not even know what a pro cyclist really was when we started in the sport 6 years ago but to now have 2 of use riding in the top tear is pretty cool I reckon. Its a domino effect I think, once someone breaks the ice which for the modern protour world that was Matty goss when he signed for CSC back in 2007. From then on we all believed that it was possible to ride in the world tour even if you came from tassie. For so long the north of the state dominated the numbers of world tour riders but in 2014 nathan and I have squared the ledger finally!! Ritchie porte and gossy up north and nathan and I from the south, that's really really awesome to see and I just hope that the flow on effect to the younger generation of budding cyclists is the same as its been for us and many many more tasmanians will be riding in the world tour in years to come, preferably more from the south than north!! Again thanks nathan for giving me something to ponder and enjoy thinking about while climbing a 20km pyrenean pass topping out at 2000+m in 1 degree temperatures! Really did put a positive light on an otherwise painfull hour of power!!  

Back to the race and down into the valley and the 20km before the final climb. Here Daniele Ratto was showing what an awesome team mate he really is using his crafty sprinting skills to position us perfectly at all time for the race to the finish. The last 2 days he has been our leader and delivered, today he was sacrificing himself so we had a shot at glory, that's a really great sign of a great rider and I have always appreciated daniele for this work. He will ride in the wind for you until he literally comes to a stand still and you can trust to always get you out of trouble. You simply stay on his wheel and you know when push comes to shove he will have you in the right place at the right time. As always that's exactly where he had me when we hit the final climb.

Into the final 5km climb and I was brimming with confidence. I was in the perfect position, safely nestled in behind rodrigues and contador and infront of froomie. Perfect I just had to sit here until everyone ran out of team mates to support them and then see what happens! Well this honeymoon period lasted sadly only a couple of km's and all of a sudden when the pace ramped up there was something missing. I was really suffering to stay in the group and knew I was in trouble. Not wanting to drop a wheel and lose the respect of the great riders that had given me such a great position in the bunch I moved aside and retreated back into the group for some shelter and in the hope of recovery. I briefly sprung back to life but when the attacks started going off like fire crackers around 1.5km from the finish I simply didn't have the power to respond. I all of a sudden felt really tired and didn't have the edge I have to honestly say I hoped I had. I had been very tired this past week and my last training session was not good. I still had the power but was suffering to produce it. Since then I had tried to rest and recover as much as possible but sadly when you are chasing freshness at this level its a ticking time bomb for when the best riders in the world will find you out. That happened to me today. Since Taiwan I haven't felt right so not sure why but I suspect the travel and race took more out of me than anticipated and I then trained to hard when I got to europe. Turned up to race the boys feeling very tired and knowing I was perhaps on the edge with fatigue and sure enough when I needed that spark, that 1minute of real suffering, it doesn't seem like much but at this level it makes the difference, I simply didn't have it. It wasn't I exploded I simply couldn't push. I simply didn't have the power and energy to dig deep like a did say in the tour down under or suntour. Simply put I am tired and not sharp and today got given a harsh reality in how things can go from good to bad very quickly! Anyways on the bright side I was closer to the front than the back and we still have 4 more stages and opportunities to come so who knows what might still happen. After this I have a great block of training in tenerife for 4 weeks which is one of my favourite places to train before I head to another of my favourite race the tour of turkey at the end of april. I was 5th there in 2011 so am going back to improve on that. After todays disappointment I will be very determined to do everything possible in the next 4 weeks to ensure I turn up there ready to go and no doubts, then you just have to wait and see if your strong enough or not!!

That's a wrap here in catalunya, shut eye time and another opportunity awaits tomorrow!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sun & slippery day in catalunya

A very exciting day here in catalunya for the Cannondale pro boys. Our german strong man micheal koch powered his way into the days breakaway and daniele the rat man ratto continued his rapid progression into top form finishing 3rd in the bunch sprint. Our plan was pretty much as it played out, ideally have a guy in the break so we did not have to chase and ensure daniele was in the perfect position for the sprint. The results will show that it was almost a perfect day for the team but there was a little excitement and action on the road to girona this afternoon.

The stage got of to the perfect start for us with our german micheal koch in the days breakaway. On many many occasions I have been blown away with the power of this young lad and I knew once he was up the road it was going to be a fast day in the peleton to reel him and his fellow escapees in. As expected that's exactly how it panned out and by days end micheal had not only saved our team from doing any work but also would climb atop the podium to pull on the leader of the sprint classification jersey. Big pat on the back to Mr Koch. As I said back in the bunch the pace was high all day. Along with micheal there some serious powerhouses in the breakaway and the peleton knew that could not be given much of a leash. As a result the pace was high and we were all enjoying getting sucked along basking in the Spanish sunshine en route to girona. This is how it remained until the heavens decided to open around 50km from the finish.

The day went from being extremely pleasant to extremely cold wet and miserable in the space of 100m. The sun was gone and the heavens had decided to dumb what seemed like ice water upon us instead of UV rays. When it rains stress in the bunch goes through the roof, surprize surprize. With wet roads comes the increase in crashing potential and with that comes more people wanting to be at the front, and with that come a big fight for front positions. So the consequence of that is that when we should be slowing down and riding safely (Yeah right!!) We travel even faster and increase the risk and danger! That's make perfect sense doesn't it?? Oh the logic of bike racing!

Anyways the simple way to avoid trouble is stay at the front, and I mean right at the front. Infact you can never be far enough forward and out of harms way be it to hold a front position for your leaders or being protected by your team mates, the less people in front of you the less chance there is of somthing going wrong, simple as that. We did this quite well and were immediately up the front. As expected Ratto was on the ball and right there the whole time saving precious energy and staying safe for the big bunch sprint to come. As I said yesterday ivan likes to be up front and out of trouble and takes this to a new level in the rain and sets a great example to the team for riding this way. If we are not protecting him he simply protects himself and waits for us to come to him again and protect him from the wind. Basically the rain makes it extremely hard for everybody and you simply need to keep fighting for position for longer than anyone else is prepared to to stay up the front. So in this area this is a very good example of our captain leading by example.

So with 10km to go all seemed perfect, basso, jean marc, ratto and I were all poised at the front and ready for the sprint work. Koch was about to be swept up and it was time to start ensuring ratto was exactly where he needed to be. All of a sudden a left hand sweeping corner, nothing technical mind you appeared seemingly from nowhere and some nerves hit the front of the peleton. An astana rider just ahead of me decided he would approach the corner casey stoner moto gp style and unclip he left foot to stick out for stability. Unfortunately this distracted me for a split second and I started drifting toward him tapped my front break and before I knew it I was spinning along the road like a merry go round! Amazingly although it happened right at the front I managed not to bring anyone else down with me so when I finally came to stand still the only thing damaged was my ego and pride thanks to the wet slippery surface. So my as cruisy perfect day as was possible under the rainy circumstances just became a whole lot harder. I had to pick myself back up of the deck and chase like a madman to regain contact with the field to avoid losing anytime. The positives were my bike wasn't broken and neither was I so I was up and moving quickly. I could still see the peleton which was another positive as all I had to do was ride hard enough to keep closing the gap between me and it. I stayed remarkably calm which I hope is a good sign of my condition and although at full noise a couple of km's later I was back in the field as we went under 5km to go, big relief.

Ratto meanwhile was taking the staying forward and out of trouble technique to the next level. At 4km to go and the final tricky corner he sat 3rd in line in the peleton. He knew with the crazy conditions in the final few kms people would not be charging up from behind and he was on the ball today that's for sure. At around 1km to he was now in second wheel and by the line he would be passed by the eventual winner, luka mezgek, a very polite Slovenian and would wind up 3rd. By his own admission daniele is far from in his best condition but simply by using his incredible bike knowledge and skills he was able to match it with the worlds best and inturn show that improvement is coming thick and fast. We as a team are as excited about the next opportunity he gets for a crack at glory during this week in catalunya.

Tomorrow we hit the mountains. I have really enjoyed racing in the mountains here the past couple of times I have done this race so I am very excited to role the sleeves tomorrow and get stuck into it. The cannondale boys have had a great start to the race so may it continue as the road heads skywards!

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Back to europe, stage 1 catalunya

Today I kicked of my european campaign for 2014 at the volta catalunya in spain. While I already have 3 races in the pins the season never really feels like its started until that first race in europe is out of the way. I have to be honest in that it still feels like a bit of a holiday when racing in aus, a treat if you like! When you have that first day back in europe things are all that big bit more serious in the peleton and the honeymoon racing period is officially over. Its not that the speed changes so much or even the distance or terrain as is the case here in catalunya this week. Its just all of a sudden and particularly at the world tour level everybody is taking it seriously and everybody is back in race shape so I guess for us aussie's, that little edge we have at the start of the year thanks to training in the perfect climate is now gone and were all back on the level playing field. Still its also an exciting day for me to see where you stand and how you handle things when its steps up a notch or two.

Stage 1 at catalunya has in the past had the potential to through up some unexpected surprises. In the previous few editions small breakaways have been given too much lee way and survived to the finish and small splits have broken the peleton on nervy decents in the final km's. Today it seemed the whole field was determined to see no surprises and ensure a hard but fair bunch sprint was played out along the coastline of the Mediterranean. Also this year its a star studded line up so that always adds an extra bit of control to the race. With that being said I nice little manageable 2 man break formed which was never going to be too difficult to control.

Our cannondale boys had a couple of clear objectives here today. Firstly to ensure daniele ratto had a crack at the bunch sprint and secondly to make sure we did not lose any time on the general classification. Its my first race back with Ivan basso for a while and its great to have him back at my side. He is a captain of the team and is so in every sense of the word when in the race. His results over the years command respect and as such when he suggests something we do it. Ivan loves to know exactly what's going on at all times and so do I, that's a major reason I love racing with him. With him we always ride as a team at the front and here I feel much more in control of what's going on, its great. Today Ivan wanted us to take some responsibility in the race in take control of the pace setting in the final 50km. This gave the team a clear objective and we set up camp on the front all the stage. Just the place I love to be, up where I can see what's going on. The plan was for me to ride the 6km climb 30km from the finish at a good tempo to basically keep us at the front for the potentially tricky dangerous decent. From there we would have good position for the final short fast climb and fast techniqual decent and as a consequence ratto would be in a good spot for a shot at the sprint, like plans often do it sounded pretty simple!

So onto the penultimate climb and as usual I was champing at the bit to get to the front and ride tempo up the climb. I had been bouncing out of my skin to do this job for the previous 100km and 1mm after passing the "porto inzia" sign I was on the front and happy as a pig in poop. All the boys were lined up behind me so all was on schedule. One issue with riding on the front is you close to camera motorbike which for some reason unbeknown's to us all wipes out your SRM power meter signal. Not to worry I simply needed to go on feel and with the captain of the ship behind me I knew he would tell me if I needed to change my rhythm. Up the climb we went and all went according to plan and onto the decent we had the control of the field. This was perfect as we were up out of harms way and most importantly ratto was able to save as much energy as possible for the sprint. I was having a ball being on the front all the way up and all the way down. It was by no means an exercise in trying to make the race hard but simply make it as easy and stressless for the cannondale clad boys in green. On the flat micheal koch took over and kept us well positioned and before we knew we had 20km of mostly downhill to plunge back to the Mediterranean coastline.

As expected daniele the rat man ratto had been diligent all day and was in a great position. Jean marc, the awesome team mate I was so fortunate to first ride along side in taiwan was assigned to guide him into the finish and as expected was right there with him when it mattered. As they hit the km to go micheal koch was putting his german powerhouse tt skills to the test and providing an excellent lead out for daniele. When he swung off the sprint in earnest began and when the dust settled daniele would be a very creditable 5th pace for the day. This was a great result for daniele as he has had a slow start to the year and his first world tour race day of the season so excellent for the days weeks and months ahead. From a team perspective it was again great to commit to a task and carry it out together, nothing ventured nothing gained and while we did not get the win we atleast laid the foundations for one so that will give us motivation to go out and do the same again tomorrow.

Being back in europe means seeing some faces you haven't seen for a long time. One such face was that of the 2013 le tour de france champ chris froome. I hadn't really seen chris since having dinner with him in monaco early last year so was great to catch up with him and have a chat. Surfice to say he is an incredibly interesting guy and as such its always an enlightening conversation with him. Today we actually discussed training in california and how awesome it is. It seems that the bug to spend your off season training and season breaks stateside is fast spreading through the peleton. He was interested to here about my month there over december january period where I trained with the likes of taylor phinney and motogp star cal crutchlow. It was one of the most awesome months I have enjoyed on my bicycle and chris was keen to here all about. I certainly did my best to recruit him to the group, more the merrier, its really an awesome awesome spot to ride you bike in california. Will be interesting to what he decides to do on that one.

Anyways back to the racing here in catalunya and tomorrow looks suited to a similar outcome of today. Flat by spanish standards with a few narly little twisty turny sections in the final 20km to spice things up a bit. I am feeling good, I have been a lazy slob this week and slept into atleast 9am so have adapted perfectly to spanish race timing. We rarely start racing before midday so the ability to sleep in is quite crucial to being at your best for hard afternoon in the saddle. So with that being said its time for some shuteye!

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Taiwan Wrap

The 2014 tour of taiwan wrapped today with a nice little 170km trundle in the southern region of the island. The course was about as straight forward as could be with 14 laps of a 12km pancake flat oval circuit around a lake on a nice wide open road and no corners! The only hope for any excitement was that it would blow a gale but while there was wind it turned out to be the most bizarre wind as was always right in your face or right behind, never across, this was quite baffling to me as we were doing a full 360 degrees each lap! I would have loved a little crosswind just to try something but was not to be. The GC race was pretty well finalised and the teams occupying the podium were determined to keep it that way. With that being said it basically meant anytime formolo and I launched of the front in a bid to break up the race a bit there were 3 teams determined to shut us down. Had there been a climb like previous days perhaps we could have done something but on a flat fast circuit we were pretty snookered. Our only hope was a late attack in the final km's to fend of the sprinters! So after 50km of failing to break free we retreated and waited for plan B, a late attack.

Alberto volpi had left us to our own devices for the final stage. The pre race team meeting was very simple, you are all free to do what you want. While that may be taken as don't ride as team it was quite to the contrary. We had had a great week riding together and worked very well implementing our race plans, just formolo and I had failed to knock out the knockout blow. So we decided we would try and break things up in the beginning, chase the bonus seconds if the opportunity presented itself and make sure we had the race together for late attacks at the finish. With our team being so heavily watched like it had been all week we could not get away in a break. Either we were instantly chased or as soon as we get up the road nobody would work with us. Simply put short of trying to ride a 170km team Time trial with 4 men and holding of the entire peleton we were not going to far in the first part of the race. With us being watched so heavily nearly all the other teams were let send riders up the road and before we know a large group of 10 had around 4minutes with only 40km to race. Normally that's a very manageable chase on difficult terrain and with 8 man teams but with 5 man teams on a fast flat circuit its panic stations. The course is so easy that you don't get as tired as normal and the speed is so high you have to ride a lot faster than the breakaway to close the gap. In this case we were around 45-50kmph so we had to ride 50-60kmph in the final 40km, not impossible but certainly a challenge with such small teams and number of workers to do the chasing. There was no one up there on GC so those teams would not help so it was down to us and the drapac team to pull it all back together is we wanted a bunch sprint. With that being said I licked my chops at the challenge and went to the front to start shutting it down.

It was a great feeling to get up there do this chasing. All week all the boys had committed to riding on the front from day 1. It was our final chance for success so I wanted to ensure Ted, Formolo, and Jean Marc atleast had a shot at the win, if the break survived we had nothing to go for, so It was a no brainer for me. Also in a small way a way for me to show I appreciated all they had done for me and wanted to make sure we maintained our great team environment all the way to finish of the final stage.

So on the front with 40km to go and we really had to commit. Fortunately the united health and drapac boys were equally committed and we got things rolling along. There are few tell tale signs in the peleton when you know your chasing hard. Firstly the chitter chatter amongst riders and teams stops and secondly the swarming toward the front of the bunch subsides. If you go fast enough the peleton simply forms a long line and everybody is content to be getting a free ride, its now a big waste of energy if you try and ride in the wind chatting at 50-60kmph. The breakaway definitely had a sniff of victory a despite us pulling at full noise the gap fell slowly. When I was pulling on the front to reach those speeds its between 450-550 watts so for around 90 seconds at a time that's pretty solid. I guess in that final hour you might do around 15 pulls at that intensity so its enough to remind you of what a lactate acid feels like in the final km's. The gap kept dropping slowly and with 12km to go they still had nearly 2min so this was when the pulls had to be really full gas. Here you bang up the power and speed but pull for a little less time, between 550-650 watts for around 30-45seconds which should have the bunch rolling above 60kmph. Finally at this the gap started tumbling and with 2 km to we had pulled it all back together. It probably one of my more satisfying and enjoyable chases. Such small teams and having to really work very hard, also the thrill of not really knowing until so close to the finish if it would come back together. Was certainly some good TT training and most importantly my 3 cannondale musketeers in the bunch behind had a chance at the late attack and stage victory. Diligently that's immediately what they set about doing!

When a catch is made and the realisation that a bunch sprint will take place there is always a brief moment of hesitation on what will happen next? Who will take control of the sprint? This of course represents the perfect moment to attack as you close to the finish and the peleton is hesitating. The ever diligent Ted King knows this better than most as usually he is on the front when the catch is made and would have had to watch on countless occasions these counter attacks that threaten to un ravel all your hard work for your sprinter. So armed with this it was no surprize for me to see the big bright tall skinny green cannondale clad ted king launch from the pack in search of stage glory. His timing was perfect and inside 1km to its was in the balance weather he would be reeled in. Jean marc and formolo were ever diligent and poised at the front should ted be caught to launch themselves so we were in the best possible position we could be in. Unfortunately big ted's well timed attack was brought to heel inside 500m to go with sprinter now launching at the line in what promised to be another chaotic sprint finish in the tour of taiwan, its basically pick a wheel to follow and hope for the best. Jean marc and formolo did exactly that but sadly today there side of the bunch was the slow side and they got swamped from the other side so the toss of the coin had failed for them in this case. Anyways we were given our free pass today so was interesting to see how we all took to that. I love riding on the front so its never going to take make convincing for me to get up there and start pulling. Ted spends his whole career riding at the services of everybody else so I was so pleased to see him have the chance to bide his time and shoot for some personal glory for himself. Jean marc and formolo were by far our best sprinters so the best card to play was through them in the washing machine and see where they would come out, in the end they just ended up in the wrong spot at the wrong time but still most importantly they atleast had a go at getting involved. All in all the way our depleted 4 man team was a great reflection on how we have worked well together all week, that's been something really nice to be apart of.

The final wrap up saw formolo and I finish 7th and 8th on GC respectively. There is no doubt we put in a lot more effort than any other team to make the race just others won it! We simply seemed to lack the knockout punch on the 2 harder days well atleast I did anyway. Not sure what caused that, perhaps I was a little flat this week, not hungy enough for it, or simply was more fatigued than I anticipated being at those crucial moments. Probably a combination of them all so obviously still a few things for me to work on. Riding alongside formolo has obviously been a big highlight of the week. Also being room mates with his just capped off a great week in taiwan. His enthusiasm and positive nature is just infectious in the team. When he is around the team is always smiling and more often than not laughing with him or at him. His constant little english phrases he wanted to test out during the race were a constant source of entertainment for me. It was simply his way of trying to improve his english race speak. Its funny when you learn another language you obviously get good at it in the areas you have the most interest. I actually think in italian during races, I say all time gaps and points of reference in the race in my head in italian first and then convert back to english. I didn't actually notice I was doing it until english speaker would asked what the gap to the breakaway was and I would say it in italian in my head and then translate back to english when I spoke. Good way of killing time in the bunch I guess, takes double the time to think of something! Still was so great to see formolo working so hard on his english, he so badly wanted to just chat all day in his newly learnt language and I know this seems steep coming from me but that kid could talk the leg of a chair! He is the perfect room mate for me and I have to strategically answer some questions with him in a bid to get some piece and quiet. Fortunately this does not seem to mind him that much as he just chats to himself and laughs at his own jokes until I am ready to talk again and we resume our conversation. He really is a great character and a great team mate so was very pleased to see him do well all week and ensure that smile never left his dial.

Now its back to europe. In 10 days time I will be at the volta catalunya, definately one of my favourite races of the year so I am very excited about that. I have had a great start to the season and most importantly still feel like I have a lot of work to do. Guess that's the bonus of starting pre season so late and having another week off in mid February, was so nice switching off after the suntour on lord howe island, it just broke up this early part of the season nicely. Now I am super motivated to race and train and while at the time I was concerned 8 days of complete rest of the bike was a little extreme I am glad I did it, figure if I am going to race and train hard I need to rest equally as hard. My next rest won't come until after california in mid may which doesn't seem as daunting as it may have had I trained all the way though since december. Anyways time will tell on that I guess but for now its nice starting the season feeling so fresh and motivated. Like every year I am travelling to italy via dubai. Travelling to milan from aus or in this case taiwan is like auto pilot just the same as the aircraft! I have 3hrs in dubai which is the perfect amount of time to hit the gym for 1hour on the spin bike. Kankle combat I call it. Then down a floor to the emirates lounge and a nice freshening up shower. Then I have a quick bite to eat before getting on the short 6hr flight to milan. It really is the best way to travel to europe via the middle east, the trip just flys by. Also by the time I get to dubai I can almost smell the pizza and perfectly brewed coffee in italy so pretty easy to stay happy and excited about your journey!

Let the road show role on!

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Close but no cigar stage 4 Taiwan

Close but no cigar is the best way to sum up stage 4 of the tour of taiwan. We had another similar stage to day 2 today except with the climb closer to the finish. Therefore we figured we would adopt the same strategy, try and bust it up on the climb and then attack as hard as possible on the 30km undulating run into the finish. Pretty simple plan really, only thing we didn't know was how hard the climb actually was, and what damage we could do to the bunch, as it turned out the climb was not so hard and we burnt a lot of energy trying to make everybody tired.

So off we went at a bullet a gate like every other day. Another 50km covered in the first hour and massive groups forming but going nowhere until finally 3 broke clear. This made the race pretty easy to control for 100km flat drag to the days and races major climb. We had a simple plan, Ted would do what ever work was required before the climb which would keep jean marc, formolo and myself fresh for the climb. Once on the climb first jean marc would raise the tempo before handing the baton to me to try and bust it up on the steep final 1km pitch. From there formolo would be free to fly and attack and hopfully stay away until the finish, seemed pretty simple really.

Ted as always did his job to perfection. Firstly keeping us perfectly positioned at the head of the bunch so we could be as relaxed as possible. Once the break started to get a little threatening Ted went to the front to get things under control so Jean Marc could then implement of plan on the climb. Onto the climb we went and ted had the break in sight. This sparked so action in the group and the ever diligent jean marc was very quick to get to front and start drumming out a ferocious tempo and keep things on our terms. Unfortunately the climb was almost non existent, perhaps 2-3% max so was hard to do anything except keep the peleton in a long line. Still we were committed and when he had spent his biscuits 2km from the top I had no choice but to take over. No I was towing the whole peleton so knew that I would have to burn some serious matches to try and force any sort of a selection in such a short space of time. The ever motivating figure of formolo was planted firmly on my wheel which of course lifted me and once the slope increased 1km from the top I turned the screw. It drew a group clear and seemed to succeed in putting some fatigue in peoples pins. Now it was onto formolo to try his hand at an attack and see if he could snare the stage victory. As expected the young charger was champing at the bit and at the first opportunity he launched of the front 25km from home in search of glory.

Davide has become a very respected rider in the bunch in his short time as a professional. As such the only man able to match his attack was none other than the yellow jersey wearer. When the yellow jersey follows your attack you know that you are a marked man so was great to see the respect he has earnt here in taiwan this week. Now we were in a perfect position it seemed. 2 of the strongest riders were up the road and a tired group of 15 or so had to try and chase them down. I was pretty fried by this time from the work on the climb so was very appreciative davide had skipped clear so I could re charge a little in the event he got hawled back in.

Unfortunately about 15km from the finish he did get caught so now we had to go to the next plan, my counter attack. So with around 10km off I went with 2 others and we quickly got a good gap. Unfortunately I knew straight away that I had pretty much cooked my goose earlier in the stage and the spark was gone from my pedal stroke but I was committed now and there was nothing else to do other than empty the tank. Also I noticed the adrenaline rush I get when trying to fend of the peleton wasn't there today, I don't know why but there was just something missing. Initially we worked very well together until one guy decided to be clever and not help. In that situation there's nothing more that you can say than oh well and get on with it. At 1km we still had a nice 10 second lead and I thought we were home and hosed, that was atleast until a 200m sharp rise appeared in front of us! Normally I would just jump out of the saddle and pop over it no dramas but today my tank ran out of fuel and I basically came to a standstill and the bunch, or what was left of it were now breathing down our necks. I don't know why I blew up so badly today, perhaps it was mental or simply I did not eat enough. Either way it happened and with 100km to go the group ripped past me and the victory we so desperately craved was gone. Formolo snuck through for another impressive top 5. Like me unfortunately he too had used up his biscuits earlier playing out our plan. Its been so motivating having him here and seeing all the hard work he has done over the winter paying off. He is literally bouncing of the walls with excitement in our hotel room each day. He is constantly marvelling at his own excellence in learning the english language, it seems every 5 minutes he through's a word out there he has no idea if its english or not, let alone the meaning of what he is saying! So when he gets its right he had a self satisfying chuckle to himself I can't help myself but find amusing. He really is a great character and a great team mate.

So a big big Bugger today!! Still on the bright side I am getting closer I guess to crossing the line first. I have been in many more positions this year so far then ever before where had I been smarter, more head strong perhaps, or simply a little stronger I may have taken the victory. The more times you put yourself in that position the more I my case I can learn from my mistakes. So having said that we will try and come up with another plan for tomorrow!!

Race data
Distance: 161km
Ave speed: 42.5kmph
Ave Power: 245watts
Max power: 1300watts
Ave Heart Rate: 138
Max Heart Rate: 202

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stage 3 tour of taiwan

Today's stage of Tour of Taiwan went pretty much to its predicted script. The stage was pan cake flat for 140km with a final 600m leg snapping kick up to the finish line. We had a pretty simple objective of ensuring we were present in any dangerous breakaways like yesterday and ensure formolo and I were in the right position for the finish. The start was chaotic to say the least with large breakaways forming left right and centre as is custom in racing in asia. With only 5 rider teams controlling the race can be extremely difficult and it only takes a slight hesitation and 30 guys are disappearing up the road. Its pretty simple really, you have to be in everything as while 9 times out of 10 there will be no cooperation in such a large group, you don't want to miss that one move that does disappear. Its always easier to be in the move than have to chase it down!! Anyways fortunately eventually after covering 50km in the first hour a small group skipped clear and some control in the race was restored.

About the most exciting thing that happened for the next 50km or so was a little bit of rain! Rain always makes a run of the mill trundle along a flat as a pan course nice and stressful! When its raining everyone wants to be at the front which of course is not possible due to there not being enough room! Therefore you simply have to keep pushing forward for longer than everybody else is prepared to and stops fighting you for position. Today there was an annoying light cross wind that meant the peleton ended up in a long line. Big Ted was doing a brilliant job as always in keeping us at the front by forming a second echelon behind the 2 working teams so we were protected from the wind and out of harms way. This job is always a thankless one as you are basically doing the same amount of work as the guy on the front yet your not on the front! Therefore you don't get that adrenaline rush of chasing people down and the occasional rest bite from your fellow chasers so it can be a very mentally challenging role. Having done this many time myself I know how mentally challenging it can be as you just figure you may aswell be riding on the front. Therefore once ted finally turned around and said this is ridiculous, how bout I rotate on the front so we can sit comfortably in the wheels I said go for it, that's going to be much more enjoyable for him and we will be not entitled to sit behind the working teams. Its a basic etiquette in the bunch that if your team is working on the front then your team is entitled to sit up there out of harms way. So ted started rolling over and naturally being the big locomotive that he is the gap to the breakaway started to tumble down. Formolo, jean marc and I sat comfortably in the bunch and waited for final dash for cash to the line!

Formolo is an absolute breathe of fresh air in the team. All day today he would role up beside me to ask numerous random questions with so much excitement in his young voice. He looks and acts so comfortable and confident on his bicycle and with the work ethic to match he is going to do great things in his career, he already is in fact!! He is so smooth to sit behind in the group, no nervous movements and just having him around keeps you calm, he is an absolute champ. Also jean marc has a similar presence about him in the team and today he showed his class with making the right decisions when required during the race. At around 10km to go catching the breakaway was in the balance and the plan had been to save jean marc for the final km's. He said I think I need to go and help Ted and otherwise its not coming back and sure enough his decision to commit to the chase was the difference between the peleton sprinting for the win and not. No doubt about it Ted and Jean Marc really showed how valuable team mates are today which no matter how many days they do that for you during the season you always are incredibly appreciative of there self sacrifice. With 1km to go, jean marc had brought the race under control and it was now down to formolo and I to finish the job!

So after the boys had done everything perfectly this is where I got stage fright! It had been a head breeze for the 2nd half of the stage so everybody back in the group were being nicely sucked along and fresh as could be. Short flat easy stages with a fresh peleton are never my cup of tea as I don't enjoy the kamikaze dive bombing into corners and argy bargy that goes with it. I psyche myself up and am all good until one person collides into me and I shrink into my shell like a scared little turtle! Unfortunately it generally results in my going as slow as a turtle as well so not ideal in the finale of a bike race. Also when I am racing against guys I am unfamiliar with the problem is compounded. I don't have so much drama with this type of stress in the big world tour races, firstly as they are generally a lot longer and more tiring, as secondly I know my fellow competitors as we race together week in week out and as a result have a lot of confidence to bounce around off them. On the flip side of that I am very unfamiliar with the riders here in taiwan so for some reason once I am roughed up a little I act like a scared little kitten and end up putting on the reverse light when I should be charging forward searching for the opportunity to open the gas and make a run at the finish! Basically this week when its been stressful and nervous I have been a real wimp! Any ways will work on this tomorrow.

Fortunately my young enthusiastic team mate formolo spotted my tentative nature. When I was bumped into one to many times on the final crucial right hand corner at 600m to go he left my wheel to ensure he stayed in a good position to fight for the stage win. I spotted him duck through on the inside so breathed a sigh of relief as atleast I had not ruined both our days. I was now quickly further back than full back and way away from the action. Davide then held his head and position at the front on the leg snapping run to the line and would eventually finish 5th. There's no doubt that had I had a little more aggression and helped him into position better then he could very well have finished even higher. Alas hindsight is a wonderful thing and while for whatever reason I didn't have that killer instinct when it mattered  today, it was inspiring to see formolo do so well and with another potentially challenging uphill finish tomorrow I am very motivated to deliver him in a much better fashion than today.

Another good but not great day for the team. The boys implemented the plan exceptionally well until I dropped the baton in the final part of the race. I know I have been very tentative this week but hopefully that's out of my system now and I will spark into action from here on in. Today was certainly a good kick in the backside that's for sure! Anyways onwards and upwards and fortunately we have another great chance to do somthing tomorrow. I know formolo will be buzzing like a bumble bee in anticipation for tomorrow so we guaranteed to have a thick sense of motivation in our room this evening. Hopefully some of his enthusiasm rubs of on me to!

Race Data:
Time: 3hrs 20min 145km
Ave Power: 240 watts
Max power: 1020 watts
Ave Heart rate: 131 BPM
Max Heart rate: 191 BPM
Max Speed: 91kmph
Max Cadence: 191RPM

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Breaking things up! Stage 2 Taiwan

Stage 2 of the tour of taiwan like all other days racing in asia had the potential for anything to happen! 150km, an absolute howling gale all day and a nasty little climb at the mid point meant there was plenty of opportunity for the race to blow apart. Our race plan today was extremely simple, when the race blew apart ensure we had as many riders as possible in the front group! Simple hey?? Well while its not as simple as it sounds the best way we figured to ensure this happened was stay at the front all day, follow every attack and at any opportunity to ride hard in the cross winds we would get organised and do just that. Really I was licking my lips at the prospect of what would transpire today, I seem to enjoy days that are on from the gun and pretty hard from start to finish.

As expected from the drop of the flag it was on like donkey kong. Attack after attack after attack had the us covering the first 50km in well under an hour, we were hammering. At around 40km's we hit the first real crosswind section and its was time to marshell the troops and drop the hammer. The race split apart and our whole team was in the front, PERFECT! Unfortunately however the cooperation was not there and the race eventually regrouped as we approached the climb at the midpoint of race. While our first plan to split the up had been nullified we still had our second plan of the day to implement, that being form a selection on the climb so we perched ourselves on the front and waited to implement plan B.

Alberto Volpi our sports director at this race, instructed me in mornings meeting to ride a pace that formed a selection of 20-25 riders over the top of the climb. We did not want any less than this as we still had some 70km to race to the finish after the climb so was important to split up the race but in so doing form a strong front group. Yesterday I mentioned how excited I was to be riding alongside jean marc marino and davide formolo, I said I am pretty sure they will become my most favourite team mates this season!! Well as I predicted today they certainly confirmed that and we enjoyed a great day on our bicycles together. Ted and Boivin did an awesome job ensuring we started the climb right at the front and in the perfect position to follow acceleration's of the front of the bunch. Ted stands around 7foot tall on a bicycle, yes I believe he grows an extra foot when he throws his leg over his cannondale evo and in so doing provides perhaps the best shelter from the wind of any rider in the bunch. Boivin is a bike handling and positioning extraordinare so with ted following him, and the 3 of us behind, its no surprize jean marc, formolo, and I arrived at the climb in the perfect position but also as fresh as could be, it was now time to swing into action with plan B!

A few attacks went and we quickly covered them. Then as the road pointed more upwards formolo started drumming out a ferocious tempo in much the same way he has done in all his races this year. It was so furious infact that not only was I suffering to hold on but I was certain that there would be no more than a few of us left at the top. While that would have been great to try and drop most of the field it would have meant a large group behind to chase and that's why alberto wanted us to try and keep 20-25 in the front to ensure as many teams were represented and we would have a better chance of keeping the group clear on the 70km dash to the finish. So with that being said I hard to curb the enthusiasm of our young buck in formolo and take over the pace making at a more firm but fair pace to force this selection as was planned. We only had around 2km to the top so I figured if I tapped out a tempo of between 450-500watts then there should still be 20 or more guys left in the front and all would be tickedy boo to have the horsepower to stay clear to the finish. Also at this pace you are going fast enough that once guys are dropped you can quickly put good time into them so that was the numbers I settled on. Fortunately my move to the front worked out as planned. The whole field seemed happy to let me dictate terms and over the top we had around 15 guys with a small group of 10 or so not far behind and consequently quickly joined us and we set sail for the finish.

The makeup of the group was perfect with pretty much every team represented. The most exciting part for me was my 2 favourite team mates where up there with me and had big beaming smiles on there dials as we rode hell for leather to fend of the spirited chase from the pack behind. I was so happy to have these 2 guys with me up as we had committed to a plan and had worked perfectly as a team to make it happen. Being a relatively new group its awesome when we come together and think together so early in the season. Onto the flat and the whole group worked well. Le pomme had the most riders in the front with 4 riders to our 3 and certainly look very organised and powerfull in taiwan this week. Hats of to them as they would also eventually win the stage which they most certainly deserved to do. Having Jean Marc, a frenchman, in our team gave us a little advantage and he was a great translator and communicator with the french guys. Basically as our teams had the balance of power in numbers if we did not work well together then the break would not work so Jean Marc's peacekeeping communication became invaluable to the success of not only splitting the race up initially be ensuring it stayed well and trully split up!!

So the group worked extremely well together and eventually the spirited chase from the peleton fizzled out with around 15km to go and we pulled out a big margin. I must admit I was simply happy to have formed a GC selection and had conceived that group sprint was inevitable and deserved considering how well all the riders in the group had cooperated and worked together to make it survive. Formolo and Jean marc were a little more aggressive and tried to fire me up to go on the attack but truth be told I was not up for it today. I had done a lot of work on the front and felt I had had a good work out so was happy to be in the front and see what I can do about moving up on GC another day. Jean Marc proved to be an absolute all rounder and while he had committed to pulling the peleton all day yesterday and the breakaway today he also contested the sprint ending up 4th or 5th which was awesome. In case I haven't mentioned it before he is a real legend of a bloke and bloody awesome bike rider so am so pleased he has found his was into wearing the cannondale green. Formolo and I need to get back into the gym and crank out some more leg presses if we are going to become bunch sprinters as we were left flapping around somewhere in the top 15. So while we dismally failed to get the stage win we did show we were a strong team. Its probably me that needs to take the blame for not being more aggressive in the final part of the stage but in all honesty I used up a lot of fuel ensuring that selection made it to the finish and in the end there were plenty of guys much quicker than me in the sprint to the line. I need to get away alone I'm afraid as I can't rely on my sprint and in the final km's I didn't have the horsepower to get the gap so the result is what it is today.

Now we are in a good position as far as the general classification goes. There are a couple more harder stages to come so we will look to try and do something there. From my perspective it was a great day from a team perspective. We had a plan and we stuck to it. That in itself gives us great confidence heading into the coming stages. Also it was awesome to spend the day up the road with jean marc, and formolo, now certainly well and truly 2 of my favourite dudes to race my cannondale bicycle with!

Todays race data
Distance: 150km
Time: 3hrs 30min
Ave heart rate: 150BPM
Max Heart rate: 190BPM
Ave Power: 310 watts
Max Power: 1100 watts

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Taiwan stage 1

We are off and racing in the 2014 tour of taiwan. The race kicked off today in the heart of Taipei with a snazzy little 50km hour of power critirium. The circuit was positioned to pass some of taipei's most famous building's such as its acclaimed Taipei 101 which when originally built held the mantel of the tallest building in the world. It certainly still cuts an imposing impressive figure today. Racing in asia always guarantees 2 things, an extremely enthusiastic and patriotic crowd, and secondly exciting seemingly out of control bike racing that ensures the crowd enthusiasm never dwindles throughout the race! The noise of the supporters is often deafening which appears to particularly motivate the home town riders who always ensure a great show of a bike race is put on. So when you add in some rain, technical corners and a fresh peleton for stage 1, there was always going to be plenty of nervous action for todays stage.  

The Cannondale boys had a pretty simple plan today, ensure the Boivin, our canadian cannonball had a shot at a bunch sprint. Being the only world tour team at the race meant all teams were naturally looking to us to take responsibility and we were certainly hoping we could take responsibility despite only being 5 rider teams. The first objective was to ensure a small manageable breakaway formed and from there we could control the race to ensure a bunch sprint. The course was extremely wet thanks to the constant drizzly rain and with road marking paint, cast iron cats eyes, and a section of cobbles stones, the course had the potential to be extremely dangerous. We figured best way to stay safe was stay on the front so that's exactly what we did from the get go. So really considering the conditions we now had 2 objectives, give Boivin the best possible chance to sprint for the win and secondly get all our guys across the finish line aboard there bicyles and with all there skin intact. So with that being said we set up camp on the front of the bunch and took control of the race.

Today was an exciting day for as it was my first opportunity to race with 2 of our new riders, jean marc marino, and davide formolo. Jean marc is from france and is an absolute legend, full of experience and always a calming presence around the group. Even after only spending 50km racing with him today I am really excited about riding alongside him this season. Davide Formolo is another of our super young talents new to the team this year. Davide caught my attention at the team camp as he oozed natural talent but also had the work ethic and dedication driving him to be as good as he could possibly be. I often through in a few extra sessions at team camp in the afternoons in the gym where I am often alone. Davide become a daily companion for me on these gym sessions as he was putting in the extra hours in order to develope his core stability which only recently had he began to take seriously. It was awesome to see how focused he was and how much he improved in this area over those 2 weeks in riotorto. Ever since I have been waiting in anxious anticipation to race alongside him as I am pretty confident he will be one of my most favourite team mates. Sure enough and again after only 50km together in the bunch today my hunch was confirmed and Davide is every bit the awesome team mate I had anticipated.

From the gun we took control with jean marc and formolo setting pace on the front of the bunch. The idea was pretty simple to use these guys to control the race and then use Ted and I to ensure Boivin was in the right position saving energy all day and where he needed to be inside the final km. Everything went to plan from the gun and with 5km to go we were in great position.

First jean marc and davide increased the pace before handing the baton to me. I cranked things up for a couple of km and inside the final km boivin was nicely settled in the front few riders. The final 500m had 3 corners so I was in no mood to take any risks and put on the reverse lights and waited for the inevitable crashes.

As motivated as I am everytime I race, some days you have to pick your battles and certainly playing argy bargy today and increasing the risk of crashing was the last thing I was going to do. I was either on the front or out of harms way and nothing in between. We still have a long season ahead so once boivin was in position and I was not losing any General Classification time I put up the white flag. Sure enough the cobbles around 300m to go claimed a handfull of victims as they came crashing down. Fortunately Boivin was just ahead and poised for a fast and furious finish. In the end our canadian cannonball would finish 4th after being swamped a little by a couple of riders who were prepared to tackle the wet cobbles much more aggressively than others, basically take a big risk but reap the reward! Having said that I am happy boivin was up the front and stayed upright, he will have plenty more opportunities over the next few days. So day one is done and dusted. The team worked really well and is full of enthusiasm. Racing in asia is quite a noval experience and we are all determined to enjoy it as much as possible. Also we are excited to get the potentially dangerous day today out of the way and look forward to some longer stages and some more selective terrain.

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