Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Romandia wrap

Sunday wrapped up tour of romandia and with it my preparation for the giro d italia. Since catalunya my focus has solely been on the preparation for the giro through the guidence of our team trainer paolo slongo. The preparation was very straight forward, do a large block of climbing and training in tenerife spain and then top up the engine with some race rythm with trentino and romandia without accumulating any excess fatigue. All has gone to plan and while i have far from raced in a way i usually prefer, i.e. Full gas!! I am feeling fresh and in the final days of romandia started to feel like the pins where finally acustomed to the acceleration that go with a world tour race so that was a nice feeling.

I should be optimistic for the giro, the last time i simply raced to complete for training was in 2007 when shayne bannan set my program prior to my victory in chrono championwa and consequent inclusion in the national team. Fingers crossed in the coming days i will absorb similar sensations in the muscles and the giro will lead to more success, if not for me atleast for my team! Initially I saw any racing not 100% necessary as a risk but as I found out in romandia it is always worth racing when possible particularly at this level. In this past week I discovered 2 potentially giro wrecking issues, firstly my tt bike position and secondly my transition prescription lenses in the cold and foggy decents! I had only just received my new TT bike and somthing was not right, I was get unusually blocked up in the hips and basically could not feel my legs let alone put any power on the pedals. It was all I could do simply to keep the cranks turning!! Anyways some head scratching and a few measurements with the tape measure appears to have solved the problem and a new bike will be waiting for me in napels, one I simply cannot wait to through my leg over!

The sunnies was a cracker of a situation, after cresting the highest climb in the race 3 wheels from the front on stage 4 I proceeded to lose around 15min on the following 25km decent. The reason? I could not see. It was freezing and my glasses stayed dark in the heavy fog which meant basically I could not see anything. I never take the sunnies off for safety reasons and with this race far from being an objective I simply took the only option I felt I had, go very very slow down the hill. Infact I would have been better off walking! At the bottom when our second car finally found me to say the F!U!K was I doing so far behind after being at the front for the entire race I explained the problem! A solution was quickly rectified for the giro with new non transition lenzed  glasses ordered there and then and all will be tickedy boo in may. For these reasons romandie was a big success as have these problems in the giro and the consequences much greater so was an excellent week in the end and one that has left me bouncing out of my skin for the 2013 GIRO to start on saturday!!   
So a couple of what have been rare days at my european base before heading off to Naples tomorrow for the pre race fanfare and start on saturday. All be it brief
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Trentino 3

An un eventful day here in trentino. There was not a single section of rd that did not go up and down or left and right but in the end was a bit of a stale mate of a day for me. I started the day with hopes of being in the breakaway but unfortunately that did not eventuate. In the end all I could do was slingshot our columbian mountain goat in the breakaway that would contest the finish after 50km of fast and furious racing which saw the peleton split in 2. Sami went onto finish a fine 5th on the stage so was great for him to give the team presence in such a decisive breakaway.

Back in the reduced field all the big dudes marked each other. On every climb the pace surged and I felt comfortable first ensuring basso was in the perfect posi and then keeping an eye out for myself. On the final climb before the bomb down to the finish a major selection started to form with 10 or so of us clear but with the win long gone to the breakaway riders there was cease fire and we all roled into the finish together ready to fight it out again tomorrow. With 30km of climbing in the final 50km tomorrow is sure to be nasty!

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trentino 2

Today we hit the dolomites for the first of many occasions over the next 6 weeks! The 2nd stage of the giro del trentino took us right into the heart of this mythical cycling paradise and provided a good test for the riders gearing up for the giro. I had been very excited about this stage. On paper it looked very hard with a mid race mountain and mountain top finish. Also covering 230km I had hoped it would be a real race of attrition. Sadly it was not and basically felt like we were going down hill all day.

Surfice to say the entire group arrived at the final climb fresh as daisies and with only 15km between the group and the finish I was determined to some how find a way to stretch my legs. The days plan was to protect ivan basso and do a little rehersal for the giro. When the eventual winner kosta suitsov attacked 10km from the finish with pierre rolland I was right in the perfect spot to follow, instead I hesitated and looked back for ivan and decided it was best to ride tempo on the front and keep it smooth for him and attempt to deter any other attacks and a chaotic climb!

It seemed to work and for 5km I was where I like to be, on the front with a clear road ahead. I merely kept the escapees at arms length and waited the move of the riders behind. Eventually with 5km to go astana took over and I swung asside. Ivan was in a perfect position and now it was up to him to. Follow the favourites. I was far from spent but with still a few weeks until the giro and tour of romandi next week I was not going to stretch myself today, important was to ride a good tempo and see what damage that could do to the group. In hindsight I should have given astana the baton earlier as they had plenty of numbers but its best to learn that today than at the giro. I won't make that mistake again!

In the end Ivan continues to show improvement as he builds toward his crack at another giro podium. I felt ok, not super duper but that's not unusual on   days like today where its not so hard. Anyways friday we have another mt finish so will be a good chance to learn from where we went wrong today and see how we can improve things during that important test.

All in all a productive day and a great feeling to have my face in the wind on the front of the bunch again.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Giro del trentino, the final tune up

The final tune up for the giro d italia kicked off today at the giro del trentino. With the giro only 3 weeks away it's an important tune up for the riders who are targeting success in the first grand tour of the season. Today was a little unusual day with 2 stages. A short 130km warm up in the morning and a 14km team TT in the afternoon. We have a reduced team here with only 7 riders due to others racing in belgium and also many riders resting up ahead of the giro. As a result of this we are not putting alot of pressure on ourselves to do to much at the event and use it merely as a good training block and get an assessment of where out recent time at altitude has put our physical condition.

The morning stage was always going to be a little dangerous which turned out to be the case. A breakaway went early, nobody chased and in the end 8 riders had a 7min lead on the rest of the field. I trundles along in the bunch and stayed out of trouble, was a good opener after having the past 3 days very easy following the altitude camp. The first days of races are always a battle for me as I seem to take a while to get the engine going so was nice to have a gentle warm up. 

The afternoon TT provided a great opportunity to do a little test for the team ahead of the giro. Unfortunately having a weakened team we only had 5 riders to pull so we were immediately up against the other teams who were 8riders strong. None the less considering this disadvantage we had clear objectives to do no more than work on the process for the 5 riders who will also race the giro. Elia viviani is our track star and was a class act today, dall' Antonia relishes the team TT and was seriously impressive to see him turn on the HP today. Our team leader continues to show great signs of improving his condition and pulled very strong. I did my job, nothing great, I did not feel perfect but also most importantly I did not slow things down either so all in all was a good day. I love these events as it reminds me off a rowing race. Normally we have 8 riders or nine in the giro which is the amount for the 8+ in rowing. Normally I assume the coxain role and like to encourage all the guys and a little push here and there. Unfortunately today with so few riders recovery was limited to half and I did not have the spare juice in the tank to try and aid morale. In the giro we will be 9 strong so I am determined to make sure I can assume the role I enjoy the most.

So in the end as expected we lost time to some strong teams. It's arrogant to think 5 can pull harder than 8 at this level. It's not just the speed thats the issue, it's all the things required to generate the speed. With More riders you simply get more recovery and with more recovery you are fresher and able to pedal much harder for longer. Anyway today was what it was and was a good hit out and a great starting point as the additional 4 riders we will have for the giro will certainly add a huge amount of horse power to our team TT effort.

So with today's novel day out of the way we get into some longer harder mountain stages so I am looking forward to that. Tomorrows stage particularly looks great as it has much more uphill than down which is just the type of day I enjoy the most. Through in the fact that it's 230km and will be a great day out in the dolomite's,


Friday, April 5, 2013

Welcome to Alcatraz

For the next 10 days this will be my home, the hotel parador el tiede on the spanish island of tenerife. Due to its remoteness, baron surround and basically nothing else to do than train and rest, I have affectionately named it Alcatraz. The hotel is far from a prison, infact its one of the nicer hotels I have been to, good sized rooms, very friendly staff and most important for me incredibly delicious fresh food on tap. Its pretty much a training paradise, isolation aside and like I do with mt rumney in tasmania and gavirate in italy its just the type of environment I want to be working in.

The purpose of this camp is to prepare for the giro d italia. I am here with our team leader for this years addition Ivan basso, aswell as a few of our young stars in moreno moser, damiano caruso and allesandro de marchi who are preparing for the ardennes classics. We have our team trainer paolo slongo here to oversee all the work with his trusty brain coach and stretching expert merino rosti always at his side. Carmine is here as our massage man and ensures all our food, washing and general well being is taken care of. He is basically mum and dad for us demanding pre Madonna athletes! Its a job I certainly don't envy and take any opportunity to lesson the load on him. Carmine is a dead set legend!

Being a hot spot means we are not the only ones taking advantage of perhaps the worlds best live high train low environment. Other teams including sky with froome and wiggo, blanco with gesink, katusha with rodriques, and astana with nibali are also here so if you were a betting man on the big grand tours in italy and france fast approaching you could serve yourself well by plonking yourself up here and seeing who's on and who's not. We never ever train together, squad crossing is simply taboo in cycling it seems but I am going to do my best to change this over the course of our next 10 days here. Doing pre race workouts with apposing squads in rowing was always exciting, be great to get a giro preview watching wiggo, gesink, basso and nibali trying to drop each other racing to the top of the volcano! Will keep working on making this happen. Its a funny environment and one you know everyone is watching everyone, bit like the school yard really with all the gossipy conversations which go on within teams and also riders on varying teams. It really is comical specially considering its happening with some of the best athletes in the worlds. I just do my thing knowing that a lot of how I go about things is not normal in cycling but hey I come from a different back ground and realise I won't be able to change even if I wanted to. Besides its quite flattering when you see others all of a sudden doing exactly what your doing, you realise you must be doing somthing right. At the end of the day as always you can only control what you can control and regardless of who is around you its important to keep focused on that.  

So training in altitude is a special beast and everybody adapts differently. I have done a lot of time up high now and have found that its important for me to push myself but also to always leave a little more than I want to in the tank. Always force myself to pull back that fraction earlier than I would like and save that extra bit for a rainy day or simply for the race track when it matters most. We begin with a day or so's settling before doing a lactate test to establish training zones for the camp. This will be repeated later in the camp to see how much we have improved after doing the prescribed work load. From there its into the work with generally 3 days of work and then a rest day. Repeat this 3 times and it is time to go home, simple.

My test was good, I have maintained my good base from the work in october november in tasmania which I am pleased with. Following catalunya I have also seen a noticeable jump in my threshold level which is to be expected so I am starting to develope the type of power/lactic profile I feel will allow me to make a good contribution to the team. More importantly after doing the test and getting the training zones I have felt comfortable in training at these new improved levels. This is crucial as we work toward the giro. The training is incredible. You basically begin the day with a 40+km plunge down to the sea side and from there you can do anything, flat, roleing, short hills, long hills, you name it. The only certainty of each days training that there is no escaping the 40+km haul back up hill to the hotel! Being a sucker for punishment I love this part about training here. I love living atop mt rumney back in tassie because I finish every days training with the satisfaction of going up that climb, you can not ever feel anything but satisfaction when you finally haul your tired backside up to the base of the volcano and into the hotel parador front door.

Once at the hotel you can do nothing but relax and recharge for the next days session. This is basically because there is absolutely nothing to do up here so even if you did want to do somthing energetic you can't! I pass my recovery time post ride with a little gym, stretching, massage, sauna and then its finally dinner time. We have our own private little room set up with my ergo, trx and stretching mat which I retreat to to work on the 1% activities I like to do. I have the computer set up to watch old cycling movies while on the trainer so basically I have managed to turn hotel parador into my home away from home. With these creature comforts in my little cave I happily pass away hour after hour of activities I hope will give me a slight edge in the races. So the days all tend to pass pretty quick once you allocate and hour or so to each of those activities. The most important thing is that if you are going to smash the body to bits out on the rd you need to be certain to recover equally as hard when off the bike. This place certainly forces you to do all that.

So after a week of being here I am well and truly settled and into my routine. I can't wait to go to sleep every night as I know when I get up the next day I get to train my backside off which I love doing and then enjoy the spoils of the recovery time back in the hotel following the hard days work. All in all its an exciting time for me, experience that a few years ago I could only dream off. I still have to pinch myself to remind me that I am really here. Last night the anti doping inspectors arrived to test 3 athletes, Ivan Basso, vincenso nibali and myself. Ok being drug tested is far from a glamorous exercise but I was excited to be being tested along side 2 of the worlds best cyclists and two men a look up to so was in a stupid way an honour to even be in the same room as them all be it for a drug test. Also another great reminder of how sport is an amazing leveller as for that hour or so we were simply 3 athletes being drug tested, fame and greatness of the other 2 asside, we were being treated equally in the process and this equality that sport brings to society, to me is the greatest thing about partaking in it.

So another 10 days here in training paradise before I head for giro del trentino for my final racing tune up. From there a couple more weeks of recharge and final work out on the road and may 4 and the start of the giro d italia will be on us. I can't wait!


The photo is of the hotel off to the far right, the small chappel at the entrance to the hotel and off course the volcano that symbolises the island. Also it shows the rd we take each day to get to the hotel, as you can see its always uphill!
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device