Sunday, May 25, 2014

Safety Car

Since wrapping up the tour of California a week ago I have quite literally been racing all over the globe like a headless chook, a very tired one at that! The final stage was another successful one for the green machine with superman sagan taking a fine 3rd and in the process wrapping up his 5th consecutive green points jersey at the race, it's an understatement to say he's made the jersey his own. Thanks to Peter's success there was reason to celebrate and as a team we got stuck into that on Sunday afternoon. As usual when the full Cannondale social society from Connecticut is present the fun didn't finish with a few quiet beverages beside the pool with festivities rolling on into a little later in the evening than I had planned. I have to confess, California is a pretty easy place to have some fun! With the race and celebrations done it was time for a couple of days hanging out with the extended cannondale family in the usa.

I was very pleased to have the tour behind me, it was perhaps one of the most mentally demanding weeks I have experienced in my career. My condition was so terrible and I felt so useless that trying to maintain a positive frame of mind was quite difficult, even for someone as positive as me. I guess though when your body is deprived of oxygen like mine was last week in California, invariably your brain is aswell and I simply didn't have the mental energy to be my chirpy self. All the oxygen and energy my brain and body was getting was going into surviving in the race and contributing where I could but in the end the overwhelming sense of knowing I was unable to do what I wanted in the race really played heavy on me, not being there for my team mates when it matters most is always going to be something I will be disappointed with myself about. Anyways the race is behind me now and I did what I could and that was all I could do. There are new races on the horizon so what's important now is not what's been done but what I do going forward. I need to get back to being my usual self as that's when I am most use to my team and myself!

On a positive note I managed to defend my last place on the general classification all the way to thousand oaks. I can honestly say there was no point in the race after stage 1 when my airways decided to close that I even thought about getting any result other than finishing. Basically from that point on helping the team where I could and getting to the finish line once I had done that were the only two objectives I had on a daily basis such was my physical state. It was almost comical how greatly the wind had been taken out of that I started to call myself the "safety car". Basically as soon as the race was going full gas I immediately retreated to the back of the peleton and waited for it to subside or get unceremoniously dumbed out the back which happened to me more time than I care to remember last week. Once the pace slackened and the race was under control I would immediately go right to the front and ride tempo as more often than not we were working on a sprint for peter. Don't be fooled, even though I spent many hours on the front of the bunch keeping the break in check it was a hell of a a lot easier than sitting in the group and following a pace I wasn't in control off. I was in such a bad physical state that I had to make the peleton ride at my pace for as long as possible simply to help me survive as silly as that sounds. The funny thing is the bunch allowed me to do it so I must say a big thankyou to all the riders at the 2014 tour of California for helping make me look not quite as they should off! Basically when I am hit with these allergy asthma attack thing I don't have any threshold as that requires an immediate increase in oxygen around the body. Therefore I could ride all day at between 300-400 watts but as soon as I tried to raise the pace above this level the oxygen rapidly ran out and my legs filled with toxic lactic acid and I was further back than full back. I guess the only thing that saved me was that I am lucky enough to have a good base, after all prior to California it was the best start to the season I have had so luckily some of that hard work helped me out. Another thing that gives me some optimism is that I got so weak so quickly that I am crossing the fingers its like a bout of food poisoning and I regain my usual condition equally as rapidly, guess time will tell on that one! Anyways i feel that with what I have described above make me the perfect candidate for "safety car" award of the 2014 tour of California! Suffice to say I am very greatfull that I was able to survive in that state and also be able to have a laugh at myself now its all said and done. Was a very humbling week for me!!

With the race and celebrations done I had the chance to start repairing the mind and body with a couple of relaxing days in socal. I had a nice ride on monday with my great buddies from best buddies (pardon the pun). There is no better way to role out the aches and pains and perhaps a few to many guiness's than a pedal with Jon, Jeremiah and road sheriff Richard. Also along for the ride were Andy and Kevin from the cannondale events clan, two guys that I have never ever not had an unforgettable experience with and Monday's ride was no different. These guys love cycling more than I care to imagine and also reiterate to me how lucky I am to do this sport every day, after the week I had had having a couple of hours with these boys had me recharged and champing at the bit for what comes next so thanks lads, was one of my most enjoyable and memorable recovery spins specially as we did it along a stretch of the famous route 66.

With the aches and pains largely rolled out it was time for the "official" cannondale post c=tour of California after party. In cycle hosted it in Pasadena and along with Ted, George, GB and the two Sagan's we were pretty excited to get amongst all the fans. I believe 400 people turned up for the car park party and each and everyone of them made an attempt to show there appreciation, again this was the r n r I was in need of so I really enjoyed this party. As with most cannondale events you attend with superman sagan you are very much part of the support band but that is perfect for me. While Peter gets mobbed I get the chance to have a good chat with the odd fan who seeks me out and often wind up meeting someone whom will become a great friend and Monday was no different. It was a great party and must give a big thanks to in cycle for hosting it and giving us a memorable final night of our time in California. At the end of the day the guys who own the bike shops that sell cannondale's are what gives us the opportunity to be apart of our exciting team. Its great therefore to give a little back to them even in just the form of bit of a chinwag about what racing's like or more importantly what we think of the bikes we ride. The feedback we give could often be something that helps them sell bikes and when they sell bikes everybody is happy, it's a real trickledown effect. As I didn't finish up with the owners until the bars closed in Pasadena on Monday night, I am pretty sure they enjoyed hanging with us and I hope in some way we were able to help them aswell. Again big thanks to incycle for a great party and being such great supporters.

As I had been full gas since the race finished up, I figured there was no point slowing down on my final day in California. I was up early Tuesday with Ted to head south to orange county for a ride with our great friend and one of the biggest supporters of not only cannondale but USA cycling in the one and only Scott Tedrow. Scott is in the process of putting the finishing touches on two new bike stores and kindly organised a social ride for ted and I to attend and meet up with those involved in his new ventures and some other cannondale fans. What always strikes me about California is how educated about cycling the local scene is and its always an absolute pleasure to cruise the boulevards with socal folk. Scott is the ultimate host and you are always glued to whatever he has to say which consequently meant that in the end ted and I were doing a mad rush to get me to the airport intime for my flight back to Europe. Scott is an never ending source of enthusiasm and with the state I had been in for the previous week I was trying to absorb as much of it as possible so was happy with the stress of running late, the two days cruising around socal had got my spirts back up and I was ready to get back across the pond and get stuck right back into it.

Ted charged though the crazy and thanks to the intimidation of his massive F150 pickup truck I made it to the airport in time for me to board the plane back to Italy. By the time I took my seat the excitement of the past couple of days was subsiding and the fatigue of the race was setting in. I remember sitting down, explaining to the flight attendant that under no circumstances did I wish to be woken for meals before promptly falling into the deepest of sleeps. I must have laid my chair out at some point once we took of but I certainly don't remember doing and it wouldn't surprize me if the hostess did it for me and tucked me under the blanket. I was woken upon the commencement of our decent into munich so had slept like a log for 11hours. I got of the plane a new man and with a spring in my step, certainly the first time I have felt this way following a long haul flight. A short flight to milan followed and before I knew it I was back in my home away from home in gavirate and again tucked up into bed and out to it. As fresh as I thought I was after the flight it must have been a honeymoon period. I feel asleep that night at 11pm once back in gavirate and did not wake up until 4pm the next afternoon. I really had done a big number on myself and my body decided it needed a further 15hours to gets things back in order. This time I woke up a little groggy which is probably of no surprize but once that passed I was again feeling chippa and most importantly the fatigue finally started to leave my body. It became apparent at this point to me that feeling that lowly in a race is a sign that perhaps your are really getting your body to do something that it doesn't want to do. I don't like quitting and I certainly wasn't going to leave my team mates a man short in a race on the other side of the world, especially one as important as California is for our team. With that if I am going to race then I am going to race and always give all I can to contribute. On this occasion I really hard to dig deep into my backet of digging deep and adrenaline would have helped me through. Now finally back to the safety of Italy my body finally said enough was enough and knocked me out for ¾ of a day to repair itself. So thankyou my body for firstly allowing me to get through the tour of California and secondly for grinding me to halt and reloading when the time was right. I knocked out 35hours of sleep in my 3 days in gavirate, its certainly is the bodies best medicine.

On Saturday morning I was back at malpenza airport to start the rebuilding phase, destination Tenerife. Yep back to the Spanish island for a couple of weeks to prepare for my next challenge, the tour of Switzerland. Upon arriving in the carpark at the hotel parador and getting out of the car I instantly felt relaxed again. I love this place and have affectionately named it the green zone or my safety zone. Her I can simply worry about riding my bike as effectively as possible and nothing else. The staff here bend over backwards to do all they can for you and as such I am so pleased to be back to get stuck into what's a very important period of preparation ahead of me. As usual I am not the only cyclist here as Chris Froome, Ritchie Porte, Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador are all currently roaming the halls of the hotel parador. When you feeling a bit out of sorts its always nice to back around your familiar surrounds and I have spent a lot of time here at the foot of the volcano so for now its probably a pretty good spot for me to be. I will check in soon with what's cracking at cycling's Alcatraz.

cjw