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.


Saturday, May 17, 2014


Sagan was back to his scintillating best today. Infact you would have been hard pressed finding anybody at today's start willing to bet against him winning stage 7. The course was perfect for peter, well it's hard to find a stage that isn't or that he doesn't make perfect for his characteristics such is the seemingly endless amount of ability he possesses to race a bike. So with the plan at the start of the day to give peter a shot at victory, everybody on the team had there simple part to play before peter charged through the line before anyone else in the race!

It was again a stinking hot day. It's become the norm this past week however when your racing a bike in it you don't ever get used to it! The attacks were thick and fast at the start and unfortunately for my powerless pins that again meant spending some time at the back of the peleton for the 1st hour or so. While I may not be able to pull the skin off a rice custard at the moment it's lucky I have 7 super strong team mates who kept things under control up the front and eventually let a nice manageable group of 7 riders skip clear. When I break is hard to be like today it means only strong men are in it so you need to get it under control very quickly. Fortunately greenedge had the same plan as us and immediately put a couple of strong guys on the front so that made my job a little easier. So with the race under control and some help up front I settled in at the head of the field for a little pace setting.

My role was very straight forward. That was to Keep the break in check for as long as possible alone and keep the rest of our guys fresh for as long as possible. Ideally that would mean riding the front until such time on the final climb peter gave the nod to light the fuse and dispatch the other sprinters so I knew I only had to make it 90km before I would be unceremoniously dispatched. The plan was actually for GB and ted to help me out but as I am so incredibly useless at the moment I said to them to save there legs and let me keep the gap at a manageable 2min for next 60km's or so and that way they could be the ones to light the fuse on the climb and inturn keep our real strongmen in Koran, body, saba, and George fresh for the final 40km plunge down to the finish. So all luckily went to plan, I had some assistance from big Jens mouris from greenedge to trade turns with and we had no dramas keeping the 7 men up the road in check. Them like clock work as the final climb ramped up ted and GB hit the turbo.

There acceleration was instantly effective and by the time I was unceremoniously dispatched from the back of the peleton cav had also been dropped. Up ahead I could see many more gaps opening in the bunch and just knew that the man with the fastest and freshest legs up the front was wearing a cannondale jersey and that the victory seemed a formality. Off course this wasn't the reality and while only 50 riders remained in the front group by the top of the climb our boys still had plenty of work to shut down the final seconds to the breakaway.

From the top of the climb to the finish body, koren, saba, and George covered everything and perfectly executed the final phase to the days plan. That being to ensure that when the finish line comes into sight peter was in a position to let rip and cross the line first. Off course I can't give a detailed description on what happened in those final km's as I was further back than full back by that stage but I know the boys where all over everything like a rash to ensure the group sprint would decide the winner. Sure enough as the sprint opened up the green machines most prolific winner kicked like a mule and took yet another dominant and ever so stylish victory. Peter seems to win with such ease that it seems almost a formality and in the end he makes it look that way that's for sure. The thing that makes peter so special is that every rider in that field knew what we were doing all day and planning and in the end no body could do anything to stop him crossing the finish line first. Yep, there are not many compliments or praises left for Mr peter sagan but a performance like today just reiterates what an absolute superstar he is. Not only that but he is the most humble and enjoyable captain to ride for. Anyways a great day for peter, the team and cannondale. The win certainly puts a spark in the tail of the team and tomorrow represents another opportunity so time for some much needed rejuvenation sleep and get up and do it all again tomorrow.


Friday, May 16, 2014

racing in a furnace

Stage 6 here in california was yet another barmey affair! I have decided to start using the usa measuring system as it sounds so much more impressive when you say it's 100 degrees! So that's what greeted us right out of the starting blocks today here in valencia. Not only that but we had some of those super enjoyable rollers which I just too long to be able to role over but short enough that whoever is at the front wants to launch attacks left right and centre. So this is what we faced in the first 20km and not surprisingly there were riders all over the place! I have maintained my consistent form here in california and was dully one of the first riders dropped but I didn't panic, I knew I am further back than fullback as far as my conditions goes at this race so played it safe and rolled myself back onto the group once the pace had settled down a little. Unfortunately we again missed the breakaway but not that I could I have really done anything to help that as I was more concerned about staying in the peleton let alone worrying about what was going on in front of it! Anyways with the break gone and the race under control I immediately got to work and began my bottle runs for the day!

We had one simply objective today which was to give George the best possible chance to do well on the mountain top finish. On stage 4 unfortunately George ran out of water in the final km's so my sole objective today was to ensure that the only concern he had with water was that he had to much of it and not on the contrary. Obviously I am far from my usual self here but that's no excuse not to try and help out where you can. Basically I feel that it's just as important how you can help when your at your worst as it is when your at your best. We all have great days, and we all have shockers but in a cycling regardless of how horrible your traveling or how bad you feel you need to do all you can to find a way to help out. So with that being said I knew that on a sweltering hot day in the Californian dessert I could contribute to the teams effort by ensuring everybody was as well hydrated as possible. It was not just important for today but we also have 2 more stages left. And with peter sagan in the team and the massive motors we have here to help him in saba, body, GB, ted and koren, it was important to try and get everybody through the day in the best shape possible.

So basically I did between 7-8 trips back to the car. Each time your carry 8 bottles for all the riders so that equals whatever it equals!! When you go back so many times, basically every 30min or so, it's important to pick the right moment. If you go at the wrong and load yourself up with 8 bottles which weighs around 5kg and all off a sudden the groups going full gas up a climb then there I a good chance you will be needing all those bottles for yourself as you could very quickly be further back than fullback behind the race! So with all the practice I have had in the past days I have been doing my very best to find the exact perfect moment to go back, load up, and get the bottles back to the boys as quickly as possible. Also I have realized I have. Developed a system that loads 8 bottles onto my body as quickly as possible and is also as easy to unload when I get to the boys.

The system is as follows. First I place a bottle in each rear side pocket. Then I load another 3 into back which stay high on the back due to the bottles in the pockets holding them up. Then I put the final 3 down the front of my shirt and off I go. I always try and anticipate when the group is bunched up as logically if the group is strung out in a long line you have a lot longer journey to get back to the front of the peleton. Generally going up a rise and charging back into the group just as you crest the top is one of the easiest ways to deploy beverages to the boys. Also anytime your going easily uphill is another good option but here you have to be confident that you know what your doing as if the you know what hits the fan and the pace goes on then you could find yourself 5kg heavier and in a big spot of bother! Anyways that's my system for getting bottles and I am in many ways greatfull for how horrible I have felt here in california as I have had plenty of practice now in sharpening up my skills in this area.

Back to the race and it was pretty straight forward. It was hot hot hot and a lot more up than down so in other words quite a challenging day for all. At one point wiggo pointed out to me how hot it was just incase I hadn't noticed! To which I quite wittingly replied in my opinion "my throats as dry as a pommy's towel" that got a laugh out of him and was a brief moment of amusement at the challenging environment we currently found ourselves racing our bikes! So George was looking chippa all day. On the bike, particularly when he is going uphill, George simply looks like he is floating. He is natural climber but as he showed yesterday with his work for peter there is a lot more to his 60kg frame than just going uphill fast. Anyways I would have loved to have assisted him today but knew simply getting to the finish would be a big enough challenge in my current state. Once inside the final 40km I just kept going back to the car for bottles for all the guys but mainly for George. I think I did 3 trips within a 20km period and when I did my final run George had that much water coming his way he gave himself I nice refreshing shower with a bottle and said he was all good. That was music to my ears as all the trips to and from the car had started to take a little bit of a tole on me and I was ready to join the laughing group and cruise up to the finish line. I watched geroge pedal off effortlessly with the best riders, he looked so light on his feet the a good breeze may have just blown him away! So was not a big surprise to find out he finished in a fine 9th place on the stage amongst all the big guns in the race which was a great result. Most importantly George was chirpy and happy with his ride and I am sure there is still a fair bit of smack down to come from his skinny pins in the final couple of stages.

I survived another round and while I certainly did nothing to create any excitement in the race I feel like I didn't quite suck as much as I have done in the previous days. I definitely wouldn't say I am improving but was nice to see some other guys getting tired and joining me in the hoop group today. Tomorrow is a new days and could be a great chance for peter to add to his tour of california stage wins so looking forward to that. Whatever my role may be, on the front, on the bottles, probably a combo of both, I am simply just happy to still be in the race and still in the swinging!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

cali update

Time for a bit of an update from the tour of california. The first few days have not been some of the most enjoyable days I have had racing this year, Infact it's definitely been the most difficult ones I have faced. This time last year I was suffering through the giro with allergies and unfortunately a change in continent for the month of may has changed what's seems to be an annual miserable may as far as my respiration goes! It's bizarre, until mid to late April all feels great and then as if turning on a switch I just don't feel right at this time of year. Anyways this issues I have had here in california have been more through lack of anticipation on my part with taking my preventative medication but now I am ontop of that again I am doing my best to get back amongst the race. Basically I have spent the first 4 days well and truly playing the ropa dope simply trying to survive to the next round and help out where possible. It's had its positives, I haven't been on bottle duty much this year so has been fun re aquainting myself with the skills associated with shoving as many icy cold drink bottles down my jersey! To be honest due to the searing heat it's been a pleasurable cooling task! Anyways enough of that, I am still here and I am still swinging and today we started with a fresh slate and clear objective for stage 5.

Today's stage was absolutely perfect for our fearless team leader peter sagan. I nice but nasty little 5km climb with 30km of the finished on paper appeared to be the perfect place for the boys in green to ramp up the pace and distance some of the other sprinters and let peter do his thing on the run into santa barbara. So with a likely winner in the team we hatched a simple but what we felt was an effective plan to deliver peter to the finish.

My role was the one I enjoy the most. Stay alert at the start and do what possible to dictate the size and composition of the daily breakaway group. The heat meant nobody seemed to keen to charge up the road and it didn't take long until the field were happy to send 6 men on there way. After not catching the breakaway yesterday I wasn't taking any chances today. As soon as they had a couple of minutes I immediately went to the front to keep some momentum in the group going. Thing is if you ride easy then they can ride easy to gain a big gap, If you just ride regular, say 250-300watts which is nice and cruisey then they need to at least apply a little pressure to the pedals to gain a significant advantage. I am happy if they have there gap I would just prefer for them to take on some fatigue to gain it, makes it a little easier to chase them down later. Anyways GB, the canadian cannonball and I were incharge of ensuring we got the boys the base of the final climb with the breakaway under control. This ended up a being a little more relaxing than we envisaged as the gap never got above 2min 30seconds all day so meant we could comfortably control it and not have to call upon any help from the boys until the final climb. Ted was like a pack horse with the water bottles all day along with bodnar and the rest of the gang. The boys were so good at bringing up water bottles that I had the luxery of having one to pour over my head for most of the day. In 40+ degree temperatures this is absolutely priceless and definitely makes a big difference in your ability to drum out a tempo on the front of the bunch for 130km so big thanks to the boys for that. So by the time we got to the base of the climb, GB and I had done our job and it was now time for our climbing kiwi George Bennett to turn the screw on the field and she'll as many sprinters as possible.

Onto the climb and I immediately put the hazard lights on! I had long since over heated and was now simply in getting to the finishline mode. I am not even the faintest of a shadow of my usual self thanks to these allergies this week so need to save what limited energy levels I have. Besides we have 3 more days and I want to contribute as much as possible so saving some energy here and there is the logical thing to do to be of any use to the boys.

Back to the race and onto the climb and George started drumming out his tempo. He quickly and very unceremoniously dropped all the sprinters that finished infront of peter on stage 1 so peter was now the red hot favorite for the anticipated sprint amongst the selection formed on the climb. Unfortunately just as it seemed all the foundations had been layed a red locomotive in the form of Taylor phinney charged out of the peleton and down the decent at a bullet a gate and wouldn't be seen again until everybody else arrived at the finish line 15seconds after he had! Our boys immediately reacted and did all they could to bring him back but it seemed nothing was stopping the American today. With our biggest engines in bodnar and koren churning away on the front, a tandam that most would never bet against pulling back any move be it big or small, but today just wasn't meant to be. Best on ground would have to have been George today however. Not only did he drum out the pace on the climb but he was right there in the thick of it on the flat doing all he could to give peter a shot at the victory, a very very impressive performance indeed. But in the end we can't be disappointed, we all did what was asked and peter also duly gobbled up 2nd place on the stage which also put him into the lead in the green points jersey so we certainly finished the day with more than we started with so that's great. Also testament to peter whom it could be viewed has had a quieter than normal start to this year's tour of cali but he is still the most consistent sprinter in the race by virtue of having the points jersey. Yep sagan truly is a class act and we still have 3 days left so today should just be the start of cannondale's late run in the 2014 tour of cali!

Time for some sleep


Monday, May 12, 2014

On the ropes

The tour of California has not really got off to the start I would have liked. Simply put I have spent the first 2 stages playing the ropa dope as a result of being WBA loped in the face by some unexpected Californian springtime allergies. I had the same problem last year I. Italy in may and just hoped that relocating to another continent to race this may I would avoid such problems again, unfortunately didn't pan out that way. Anyways now I know they are here our great team doc has got me the correct medicines to deal with it and fingers crossed I will come good in the coming days. To be brutally honest I am just happy to still be in the race and survived the first 2 days all be it all on the ropes, will do my best to get back toward the centre of the ring tomorrow. I currently occupy the prized position of being the last rider in the race so at least I don't have to worry about anyone fighting me for that! Still we have a fantastic team here and when I perk back up I look forward to reporting in on how awesome they all are, for now however it's time for something I have been doing alot of latey, the greatest medicine of all, sleep!


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Elia lets it rip again

The 2014 tour of turkey is turning out to be a real doozy for cannondale pro clan! Today on stage 7 elia picked where he left off in the last bunch gallop again blasting through the line for another emphatic victory. Today's stage was a little more run of the mill but none the less we had couple of tricks up our sleeve to give elia the best chance of victory. Here's how things unfolded.

The day got off to the perfect start not just for the riders but more so for Elia. In the start town we spotted a star bucks and while you would think Italians with all there coffee class would scoff at america's fast coffee chain, it not the case at all. The italian riders and particularly elia are big fans of Starbucks no matter where we are in the world outside italy so throwing down some caramal machiatos before the stage start instantly had the boys in a very buoyant mood. Elia had double reason to smile as the startbucks sold mugs which are apart of a series of mugs that elia happens to collect. He spotted a few he thought he didn't have and made a quick phone call home to confirm. Sure enough a few minutes later the cannondale clan exited Starbucks all smiles with caramel maciattos putting a perk in step and elia with the biggest grin thanks to the bag full of porsolen mugs he couldn't wait to get home and show his friends and family! At this point I knew it was definitely going to be his day again!!

Once the race began things immediately went as planned and a small 3 man break extremely easy to control was let free. They were given a small gap but not to much as none of us could be bothered making the chase any harder than it needed to be so it was always at the easily pegbackable 2-3min make for the first half of the race. The plan was for Snr sagan and I to take turns riding on the front to ensure I still had some energy left to help position the boys in the final km's and also to ensure Juraj didn't need to blow himself up unnecessarily as the race was easy to control. Juraj took the first shift while I sat back with the boys and enjoyed the view. One thing distracting me in the early part of the stage was cavs pedaling action which I felt didn't look as sharp as earlier in the week and perhaps he was tired. I didn't know for sure but i decided to go and ride on the front in the middle section of the stage and just turn the wick a fraction on the climbs as if he was a little fatigued it was our only chance to add to that before the inevitable bunch sprint. I knew the stage pretty well so knew when best to do this and after 30km of racing I went and switched spots with Juraj.

I love riding on the front, it's certainly one of the most enjoyable parts of this job for me. You always have a special feeling knowing the whole peloton is behind, you are the one that gets to decide how fast, how slow, and where on the road you want to ride, it's a really cool feeling. The break was well and truly in check so as far as unstressfull days riding on the front go this was perhaps one of the more relaxing chases I have done for a couple of reasons. Firstly the gap was small to a small group of riders and secondly we had 2 extremely strong and experienced teams to work along side in opqs and greenedge so there was no panick at the head of the peloton. Next came my little hunch that cav was stinging a little and the longer drags ahead. I didn't want to telegraph what I was doing but just ride at a pace that was a little above what's comfortable without anyone really noticing. On the longest of the drags I did however just give it a little more stick until I heard the first "slow down" from behind and to hear where it came from, sure enough it came from cav and his men so I knew I had hit the spot. We were not going super hard, certainly no harder than in the earlier stages so was the sign I was looking for. When your on the front and you ride a little harder than necessary which riders often do when on the front, you get quite a kick of adrenaline when your leading the bunch but it's important to acknowledge that you have over reved it and acknowledge with an apologetic hand "sorry I didn't realise and will back off". With the rollers now behind us Juraj came and tagged me off the front now with around 60km to the finish.

Back in the group I settled onto cavs wheel and again studied the way he moved on his bike. I was again convinced he was a little tired and relayed this to elia, if nothing else increase the belief in his mind that he was fresher than his sprint rival. It drew and approving nod and amile from the Green machine Missile and again I knew it was another day for him. Sprinters seem to fuel of confidence and while I will have no idea if my hunch's or ideas today were on the money or not I didn't really care, all I wanted to ensure was that elia was in the best shape mentally and physically for those final crucial crazy km's. Around 30km's from the line I swapped again with elia and was back on the front.

Another reason I was very excited to be riding the front today was I wanted the opportunity to get some subtle TT training in before the tour of california. The TT may not be decisive but will certainly be important so riding at 50kmph with the wind in your face is always great training so was a golden opportunity to finish of the good week of preparations here in turkey. Also during my second stint I rode in the most aerodynamic position possible to start activating the small muscles that you use for the TT. When you bent over in the TT posi it's a very different way of applying the power so was a good chance to switch some of these reactor muscles on. The final 30km again was extremely enjoyable. Again the race was well under control so we could comfortably knock out nice long turns at 50kmph+ to get some great training in the legs. With around 10km to go the break was finally brought to heal so now we just Waited for another team to decide we were not riding fast enough. It didn't happen as everyone seemed keen to follow Opqs and us so at 5km to go I swung off to go back and give motorbike marunga a hand back in the group.

The last 5km of course is always scrappy so you want to stay as safe as possible. Today after the work on the front I would have the same spark at the finish I did on stage 5 but I did still have a couple of km of energy left to shelter marunga as he guided Elia onto the prized wheel of Cav. Somewhere between 2-3km to go marunga left my wheel for the final time with elia spinning his legs effortlessly warming up the turbo. As usual I tacked onto the back of them ready for any last minute mishaps in position but in the end a crash around 1km would prevent me from contributing anymore. No stress marunga had again done his job perfectly and Elia still had his bodyguard GB for company. Infact the only annoyance was the fact that having to stop for the crash I didn't get to watch the big screen and see the final sprint and how amazing was Elia's victory!

In the final few hundred m's I have no idea what unfolded but Elia was no longer behind cav. 2 big gaps opened infront of him in the final few hundred m's which he had to close simply to get on cav's wheel. When he finally got there around 100m from the line he quickly realized he had the superior speed and didn't hesitate blasting straight by him and powering to his 2nd victory of the tour. That's surely was a an even more dominant display than stage 5's victory and one I am sure will give elia an incredible amount of confidence as he heads toward the giro d Italia.

So great stuff boys. The week is just going along so incredibly well. Everyday we continue to gell as a group and get to know each other better and the results are speaking for themselves. Cycling in my opinion is certainly the most teamly sport there is and being apart of the Cannondale pro cycling team this week here at the tour of turkey has been simply oarsome!!


Friday, May 2, 2014

formolo uno formolo

Stage 6 in the tour of turkey and most probably the last chance for a chance to shake up the GC. After his powerful display on stage 3 formula 1 formolo was our card to play today and was rocking around like a duracell bunny this morning charged up and ready to rumble. The stage was not super hard however the conditions of the road and wind were certain to play there role which they duly did and by the time we arrived at the final short climb to the line it was a pretty tired peleton. So again like everyday plenty went on before the final climbing skermish at this year's tour so here's how it unfolded.

Not content with his monumental ride in yesterday's breakaway, the austrian oxe Mattias Krizek again formed part of the days strong breakaway. He must have become a bit claustrophobic within the peleton as the race progressed as he showed no signs of saw legs on the 10km leg stinging undulating start today and seemingly effortlessly blasted of the front of the bunch. Mattias has just come of a very strong period of racing in belgium where he finished all the major cobbled classics. This is no mean feat on your first foray into the hard man's land of belgium and the experience has not only improved his condition greatly but also his confidence and he has been an absolute beast of a bike rider this week. It's been really great to see Mattias going so well as he is a big talent and super nice chap to go with so I am very happy for him. He raced the month with me in australia and was certainly a crucial cog in our teams success in down under and later at the suntour. It goes without saying that I have really enjoyed racing along side him in the early part of the season, he's a great fella to have on your team! Anyways off krizek went again and again this was a perfect situation for us as like yesterday whoever chased was going to be chasing hard and that would only play more into the youthful hands of formula uno formolo on the final climb of the day.

As expected the powerfull break with Mattias at the helm pulled out a sizable gap quickly. The teams of MTN and Astana obviously wanted to chase the stage win and it meant from the get go they were riding full gas along with cofidis, the team of the race leader. Back in the group marunga motorbike marongoni and the Canadian cannonball Boivin did the perfect job of keeping formolo and I protected from the wind. Snr sagan Juraj again had the beverages on tap and fresh bottles where never far away which is real luxery on a hard hard windy riding in the gutter stage. Elia was the man with the experience and guided us through the bunch, when to move up, when to relax and was the calming mentor for the ever exuberant formolo just wanting to put the pedal to the metal! Basically put the team continued to role along as the drilled unit we have become over the past 5 stages so we were all calm relaxed and exactly where we needed to be when we needed to be there. The course was basically flat for the first 160km with 2 climbs inside the last 25km, the first a long 8km drag which did nothing to split the bunch but the final 5km kick to the line would be another story.

As we blasted along the flat and inside 10km to go our boys took control. Motor bike marunga and Cannonball Boivin took the reins ahead of the peleton while elia guided formolo and I into position. Sure enough as the climb began at 5km to go we were 5-10 wheels back and where we needed to be. The pace, as it had been all day was fierce as the peleton starting shrinking. I made sure formolo was in the perfect place and waited to swing into action. It was important to isolate all the favorites from there team mates as then formolo was not at a disadvantage to any of his rivals. Formula uno formolo was spinning his light gear and looked as fresh as a daisey. Like elia 24hrs before you could simply see in his pedal stroke, the calmness on his face, and his positioning in the peleton that it was his time to shine. As we passed under 3km to go the pace momentarily lulled and not wanting anyone to gain a respite I swung into action.

Onto the front I went and on a climb that's always a nice feeling. The old bat and ball scenario and for that time you have the honor of taking the wind in your face you are the Bat belting the ball as hard as you like!! The plan was simple once I took the front go full gas. Infact formolo had instructed me to go full full full gas as he felt so good so there was no need to hold anything back! I felt good, not as good as I would have liked this week but good enough to make a difference today and turned the throttle as hard as I could. As my heart rate headed north of 200 beats per minute I knew I was heading toward the explosion point and was committed, was just going to interesting to see how long I lasted. The pace had been high since the bottom so even taking the front I was already well and trully in the red zone but that's racing, you go until you blow. I didn't really pull for all that long, perhaps 2minutes or so but succeeded in thinning the group down and isolating the GC favorites from there teams. As I swung off and formula uno formolo effortlessly spun past still perched up in 5 position in the group it was obvious he was one of the freshest there. Sure enough 1km later the eventual winner adam Yates, another 21 year old super talent leapt clear of the field en route to the stage win and race lead. Formolo waited patiently as the race leader tried in vein to cose the gap and when formolo sensed he could serve him no more he blasted of his wheel zooming to a phenomenal 2nd place which catapulted him into 4th position on GC. What a fantastic effort by the young charger and also a performances that showed all the class and hallmarks of a rider with a massive massive future ahead of him.

Once I swung of the front around 2km to go I turned of the engine and rolled up as effortlessly as I could to the finish. I had an absolute ball yesterday working in the sprint and once my job was done today I immediately switched to energy saving mode for elia tomorrow. I can't stress enough how much I have enjoyed the environment within the cannondale pro clan here in turkey this week. We have simply had an absolute ball and become a real unit both on and off the bike. We still have 2 stages to go so work still to be done, looking forward to getting stuck back into it tomorrow.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Elia Elia Elia!!

That was one very very enjoyable day for the cannondale clan here at the tour of turkey! Elia Viviani did what most thought wasn't possible this week beating Cav to the line in today's bunch gallop! As always there plenty that went on between the flag dropping at km 0 and the green flash of Elia blasting though the finish tape ahead of the field so here's a little recap.

The day got off to the perfect start for the team with the austrian oxe Mattias Krizek jumping into the days breakaway. Today's stage started on a 3km climb which obviously meant it was going full gas so the men that make a breakaway like this are always the strong men so was a big hats off to krizek forging clear with his fellow escapees! It was a good sized group up the road and 3 climbs in the first 30km's of today's stage all the sprinters were happy for the break to get away early so the climbs could be done at a more gentlemanly pace. For us it was a golden situation as we didn't have to contribute to chasing the breakaway and could save our legs for the final km's. Coupled with this the fact that such strong riders were up the road meant that although there capture was seemingly inevitable, the chasing teams would have to use a lot of biscuits to do it and in the process weaken there sprinting trains, this was going to prove to be a big advantage for the Cannondale Team and Elia at the finish.

Following the 3 climbs in the first part of the stage it was basically a gradual downhill for the remaining 150km. As always once the race was under control we assembled our troops around Formolo and Elia to keep the as protected as possible and out of harms way. At one point around 70km from the finish Cav asked me if we were going to help chase? I said what do you mean we are contributing to the chase!! We have our strongest engine up the road and you guys are having to go full gas to try and catch him!! We had a laugh and he called me a smart arse but I knew from this exchange that he wasn't happy with how hard his boys were having to chase and burning precious matches, another advantage for us!

Today Elia and I spoke much more than usual in the race. The tour of turkey has been really enjoyable for me earning back his trust following my letting him down at the tour down under in January. Half way through the stage we both realized we had done this stage finish before in 2011. It was a harder run in over the final 30km than it looked on paper and unique in that it had a nasty kicker climb at 1.5km to go, downhill until 500m to go, and then flat to the finish, all on a massive road. Last time the finish was real messy sprint as no team could keep the pace high enough on the decent to form a train. We realized this was going to be an important element in elia executing his perfect sprint so luckily I had a good idea of how we would make this happen!! Elia's face really lit up when we realized how well we knew the final 50km of the race. He beamed with a big smile and said to me "that's really good for us isn't it?" and I of course said "absolutely! Today's our day". The plan was basic, withstand all the inevitable attacks on the rollers and on the final kicka 1km from the finish we had to have Elia on Cavs wheel. My job was to keep motorbike marongoni, GB and Elia protected from the wind onto the climb so at the top they were in the perfect position. When spelled out like that it seemed easy and I have to admit being able to visualize exactly how that could play out made me 100% confident we could execute the plan. I realized today more than ever there is a lot to be said for experience and homework on the lay out of decisive points in a bike race!!

Up the road krizek was driving the breakaway along. We were absolutely motoring all day and that meant that the quickstep team were working very very hard all day. Elia looked confident from km 0 today and all of the team realized this straight away. When you spend so much time racing and training together you can often see in a team mates pedal stroke and in the position he is holding in the bunch how he is feeling. Today Elia looked sensational and as we know he is one one the fastest men in the world on a bicycle that means there is a good chance he can win the bike race. The 6 of us left behind by krizek back in the bunch continued to move as one ensuring we were always where we needed to be. I barely had to look around at all for elia or formolo today, we always knew where each of us where. It's been really great to see how this group has gelled over the first 5 stages in the tour of turkey.

So into the final 50km and our plan began. Motorbike marunga and I kept the boys in a safe position up the front and out of the wind. The pace was really picking up and you could sense a lot of fatigue in the group thanks to the strong men still 2 minutes ahead in the breakaway, again, great job krizek! Snr Sagan ensured that we always had a our drink bottle cages full with fresh beverages. It seemed like every 15min he would arrive with a fresh cold one, when your going all out a nice refreshing cold bottle can be the difference between imploding and charging on and with Juraj around there was no way we were not going to be nicely hydrated! Inside 20km from the finish lotto played there hand and while adam hansons attack was neutralized quickly it did dispatch 2 of cavs workers under the forcing of the pace. The rollers kept coming and into the final 5km fighting for position became so much easier. We were still all together and people where not trying to push us around anymore, it was going to be our day! You could see the difference in the way the sprinters tackled these rollers most of which powered over in a big gear. Elia on the other hand maintained a high cadence and spun a light gear, another great sign for the finish! Of the sprinters that would survive the rollers Elia was surely going to have the most spark left in his finishing sprint kick! My optimism continued to grow. At around 5km Krizek was swept up. He had made a massive effort and contribution to the team plans today by being one of the hairs being chased by the greyhounds and again underlined what a great team player he really is. Every single stage of the race this week Mattias has been present and accounted for doing way more than has been asked of him and most importantly he has done it all with a massive grin on his face! He truly is a real great motivation to be racing along side, great stuff krizek!

At 2km to go the final kicker was infront of us. We were in the perfect position ready to make our charge for cavs back wheel. I was so chomping at the bit to execute our final play and Motorbike marunga, elia and his bodyguard GB were lined up behind keen to get the party started. As we started the climb marunga spotted cavs wheel free and promptly roared past me and dropped elia of onto it, his role was executed perfectly. GB was locked to Elia's wheel so if anyone wanted his spot they would have to fight the cannadian cannonball for it first, good luck!! With the boys in the box seat it was now time for me to do what I should have done on stage 1, get to the front and drive the pace as high as possible to ensure it stays lined out and elia doesn't have to focus on anything else than roaring of cavs wheel. As I broke from the pack to ride to the front Davide Rebellin Attacked hard in the hope of a solo victory. Sorry Davide but not on my watch you ain't going anywhere, this was our day and promptly closed him down and let him know he can ride as hard as he liked but I was not leaving his back wheel. Not surprisingly he relented and slipped back to the bunch. It was now just over a km to go and I took a quick look to ensure elia was still glued to cavs wheel. I waited momentarily for what was left of cavs lead out train, being 2 guys, Pettachi and Mark Ren Dog renshaw and promptly drilled it!

We were now on the downhill drag to the line and inside 1km to go. Behind me Peta was doing a great job in instructing me on how to ride with left and right and good and a lot of faster's! Problem was we were going downhill and I was spinning like a egg beater at 70kmph so I resorted to the technique I had decided to use for this exact moment earlier in the stage. Back in california in January Junior matty mohoric had taught me his much famed sitting on the top tube while pedaling technique. When he did it I realized I had to do a million watts to keep up with him going down hill so knew it was effective. I decided this downhill was the perfect place to adopt it for 2 reasons. Firstly my legs were screaming from the effort of the stage and secondly and although maby not so sporting of me I knew the man behind had to take on more wind. As it was a crucial leadout man for cav the less Peta had at the finish the better for us as cav would have to start sprinting earlier into the headwind and elia would get more time to plan his blast straight past him! So, onto the top tube I went and pedaled as fast down the hill as I could. It was my only possible way to increase the speed as my power was gone and if quickstep or any other team thought I was going to slow well they didn't have to stay on my wheel and could pass me at anytime. I quickly realized that there was no one coming up on my left so knew the group was strung out a little and Elia was sitting pretty!! As the road flattened out I returned to the comfort of my saddle dug as deep as I could for a few more m's, had a quick look over my left shoulder to see that there was still nobody challenging me for the front position and got the jolly hell out of there before I slowed down the train. I had the birds eye view of watching elia fly by on the 3 quickstep boys wheels and thought little rippa, Elia is definitely going to finish this off!!

And did Elia finish it off!! He blew past cab so fast that even cav retreated to Elia's wheel to ensure he finished 2nd. It was an emphatic victory for Elia by over 2 bike lengths which gave him time for a big salute as he ripped though the finish tape and although my heart rate was still north of 200 beats per minutes I somehow found enough oxygen to let our a cheer of my own. That was a really special day.

You don't get many days like that where you have the chance to really execute a plan. The most important thing today was that all 7 of the cannondale pro cycling boys here in turkey believed we could do just that. Quickstep have really dominated all week and to be fare they almost did everything right again today. Perhaps had elia of not had the knowledge of previous finishes here then things may have been different but he did!! Also don't underestimate the massive contribution krizek played by being up the road. They breakaway was never allowed more the 3min and that meant strong men were riding very hard up the road and the group behind was riding even harder. The only way we could take on cav and his merry men was by trying to tire them out. I have to admit they are a class above and if they are all fresh and have it all there own way they just give everyone a wholopping! Today however we got our chance and while Elia was the star of the show it was awesome simply to be apart of our support act. To Motorbike Marunga, austrian oxe Krizek, Canadian Canonnball Boivin, formula 1 formolo, my roomy Snr Juraj Sagan and of course the lead singer of the band Elia lightning Viviani, thanks so much for putting on today's show, from where I was watching, it was extremely good viewing