Saturday, January 18, 2014

Back to School, Pro Cycling Style

Today felt like going back to school as I arrived in adelaide for the Tour Down Under. Its been 3 months since I have pushed a pedal in anger so a long time since I have seen my buddies in the bunch. During the season you often see each other weekly so a few months seems like an eternity. Also being the first race of a brand new season it has that added bit of excitement to see each other. You find yourself checking out new colours and bikes of rival teams, spotting your mates in different teams for the first time, all things that during the season just become the norm, today everything around the bike race is exciting.

My day started pretty early, 5:30am to be exact. I was champing at the bit for today to arrive and my bags were not only well and truly packed but I also had them already loaded in the back of my New Subaru Outback. This mornings 7am flight from hobart to adelaide via melbourne was one that would not be risking missing! I woke earlier than I normally would to get to the airport as I wanted to do my core exercises before getting on the plane. The fact I even did this says a lot for my motivation I think which is sky high as I guess it should be for the beginning of a brand new season! This off season was the longest I have ever taken of the bike since I started cycling. It was almost 8 weeks that past until I finally returned to europe and mounted my trusty Cannondale Evo ago. Infact I was so worn out and tired at the end of last season that I simply left my training bike in italy when I headed of to New York and home to australia for my off season in mid october. Fortunately for me it was exactly what my body required and after just a couple of days the spark was back and ever since I have simply wanted to be exercising every waking hour, some days I have actually done just that!

So off course I made my flight, infact it was the earliest I think I have ever been at the airport before a domestic flight, a full 45minutes! I normally run with the 30minute rule as let's face it, Hobart airport is hardly the busiest place in the world. Infact your more likely to get held up by a slow hopping pack of wallaby's crossing the road to airport than you are a que at at check in! Still I was there early and just like a first day at school, Mum was at the airport waiting for me to wave me off and make sure I would be ok!! Oh I love my mum! Also she took my car for me to save the parking bill for the week but let's just assume it was just the paternal love that had her there sending her boy back to school after his christmas holidays. Naturally with all that said and of course my mum waving away as I climbed the steps to board the 7am virgin flight from hobart, I was calm and excited as could be, I had been going through this since I was 5 so have had plenty of practice!

Finally at 11am I was in adelaide and not long after on the steps of the official race hotel for the TDU, the Hilton. This race is certainly a big favourite of many of the riders and its not just because of the always chocca block full coke fridges each team has in the tour village! No, its a combination of the fantastic organisation of Mike Turter and his team who make everything her run smoothly and like clock work. Firstly we are in the same hotel all week which for riders and staff is a blessing. You don't realise how taxing an annoying it is changing hotels daily so this really makes life during the race a whole lot easier. Secondly the organisation around the stages is incredible. Police escorts to and from the race aswell as during of course!! Never more than 1hr's drive from the start or finish to the hotel, often we can even ride, its just anti stress racing at its very best. And thirdly we get to stay smack bang in the heart of adelaide and enjoy everything this vibrant city has to offer, you just have no excuse to ever be board. Don't worry, I will come up with a bundle of other examples of how awesome this race is during the week so will save them for now.

So in Adelaide and at the hilton, time for the job on the hotel arrival list, who is my room mate?? The Kiwi, George Bennet and newcomer to the squad so I was pretty excited to learn that. It brought a tear to my eye when I realised we both had a passion for foam rollers, drinking beetroot juice and eating flavoured rice cakes for snacks! We are like 2 peas in a pod! George and I are practically next door neighbours with him being from NZ and me from Tassie so its awesome to be in the room with a bloke who speaks an almost similar lingo, ALMOST, and not only that such a great character and young fella to go with it. He is our big hope for overall victory at this years TDU so I am looking forward to sharing the week both on and off the bike with him.

With the room sorted it was time for lunch and a chance to catch up with all my Cannondale Pro Cycling team mates. These reunions are always pretty much the safe, how was your travel blah blah, how's your family? How's your training been going blah blah, and then finally a stare off or poke and prod of your mid rift by the team manager to assess if he thinks your in good shape or not! Its pretty funny when this moment arrives as you know that they know that you know you are critically assessing your figure but its to awkward to even make any idle chitchat! Instead you just stand there like a stunned mullet and wait for the visual prodding interrogation to end! Finally you get a chance to head for the buffet, the one that will be exactly the same each day so you try and pick foods that you want get sick of easily, for me that's a toast ham and cheese sanga!

After lunch its into racing routine with a massage. At the TDU like I did in the last training camp I have yankee looking after my pins. Yankee as the name suggests is a real dude, speaks hardly a word of english, and has a love for renault clio's and any other car that resembles a go kart that is road worthy. Fortunately I enjoy talking about cars aswell so we have some common ground there. But Yankee is a great rub and knows his stuff and its always a relaxing hour or so with yankee as he works away to his relaxation tunes in the background.

The final commitment for the day was the team presentation. Here they role each of the 20 teams up onto the stage where the voices of cycling, Paul Sherwin and Phil Ligget introduce the riders to adoring adelaide crowd. Here is when the first day at school feelings really kick in as you see all your buddies from rival teams you quite often haven't seen for months. There are too many people to catch up with but I guess each year I seem to checkin with similar guys first up. Off course the other Tassie Boys are ones that catch your attention. This year we have Wez and Bernie Sulzberger, Will Clarke, Matty Goss, Cambell Flakemore, Ritchie Porte and myself. Its certainly going to be the most hotly contested Tassie Cup race that I can remember. The Tassie cup of course being the all important race within the race!

I have been in the bunch for a while now so you don't need to look to far before you are chatting with another rider. I had a great chat with Michael Mathews, as a mad moto cross fan he was keen to here about my trip to california recently where I went to see the Supercross at anaheim stadium. Bling is always a great guy to chat with, you always seem to be talking about everything other than cycling which is always refreshing at a bike race.

But a trip to the tour down under and first day back at school wouldn't be the same with a chat with the LEGEND himself, Mr Jensie Voigt! Not surprisingly just seeing jensie brings a smile to your dial and there is never a dull moment in any conversation with jensie. Jens has the ability to cram so much into a conversation that you struggle to remember everything you talked about with him but I distinctly remember 2 things from our 10min conversation prior to him heading up on stage. Firstly was reminding me how much he enjoyed the hot smoked salmon my dad kindly organised for my team and buddies in the bunch to try last year. I assured him more deliveries were imminent and he was at the top of the list to receive some. And secondly the fact the went to school with the great Eric Zabel and this week will race alongside rick zabel, eric's son who makes his world tour debut for BMC. This astonishing fact led me to ask jens if it would be possible that he would race alongside his own son if he stuck it out any longer?? He said while his eldest is 18 he doesn't ride bikes but his 14 year old does and is not surprisingly quite good. Therefore he said it would perhaps 5 years or so before he made the jump to world tour! It was at this point I suggested he retire as planned now but make a one off come back for the TDU in 2020 when his son makes his world tour debut! C'mon even a jensie at 47 would still be a scary prospect for any peleton to face so will look foward to seeing how that one pans out! Never say never!

So dinner followed and now its time for bed. A great first day at school and one that has me filled with excitement and enthusiasm to wake up tomorrow and get stuck into the first race of the season, the cancer council classic tomorrow evening! Bring on TDU and the 2014 season.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

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