Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Final day in Beijing

‎The 2014 and final tour of beijing wrapped up today with a bit of a blast around good old olympic park. It's been the same stage for the past 3 editions of the race and like every other year a nail biting chase down of the breakaway preceded a chaotic bunch sprint. In the end it was an italian team that emerged the victor from the mele, sadly it wasn't GB from our italian but instead the classy sasha modelo from the lampre team. For me it was a rather flat end to what's been a bit of a frustrating week for me with my maneuvering to avoid a high speed crash with 5km to resulting in my rear tire exploding. I was really annoyed about this as I had done everything possible to save my energy for that final lap to help GB. At one point I managed a whole 8km look in the wheels and out of harms way with my heartrate below 90BPM. That's not so easy to do when averaging 40kmph on a flat circuit even inside the peleton. So the puncture Sadly meant I couldn't do what was planned and help position GB in the finale but guess I should be counting my lucky stars that I didn't end up with some nasty Chinese road rash so close to the end of the event. Getting through a race unscathed is always a relief and more so than usual when racing in beijing! Anyways the week has flown by in what seems like a blink of an eye and I'm now at the airport getting ready to board the plane back the italy. Will give a rundown on my 2014 experience of beijing en route to LA later in the day!


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Copping a shelacking in Beijing

‎Another picturesque and memorable stage here at the tour of beijing today. A couple of passes under the great wall and yet another perfect course for a bike race. Again there was a fair amount of challenges to blow the race to pieces but also for those with a strong set of pins the opportunity to hang in there on a mountain top finish that perhaps doesn't usually suit them so a fair course all round yet again. The stage had 6 climbs between 2-7km between the start and the base of the final 12km 6% drag up to the finish line, none of which were overly difficult but as always when the road rears upward was just a question of how hard the peleton would be pushing when we were on them. A nice small but manageable break skipped away early in the stage and our canadian cannonball GB showed his versatility by slipping into the days escape. He did a great job up the road all day showing off his condition he gained from completing his first grand tour at the vuelta espana in september and was certainly one of the strongest of the 4 being the last one caught as the peleton charged into the bottom of the final climb. Big hats of to GB as in the end he was by far the shinning light for the cannondale clan on an otherwise very uneventful day for our boys in green. 

With GB up the road setting the pace for the race we all settled in behind the team of the race leader phil gil of BMC. They rode a nice controlled steady rhythm keeping the break in check but also saving the legs of there workers all day and when we crested the penultimate climb with only a flat and very fast 15km run into the final climb there was a peleton full of beans! Garmin seized the initiative and hit the afterburner's on the front and had the peleton in a long line instantly reminding us all what sore legs feel like which made positioning for the final climb all the more difficult. Krizek again did an awesome job positioning me and at the start of the climb I was in the pole position close to the front on phil gils wheel and licking my chops for one big effort to the top of the climb. Sadly this sensation didn't last long!

Unfortunately for me there were plenty of dudes in the bunch whom also had fairly fresh legs and where rairing to go at the service of the service of there climbers. The pace was absolutely franetic at the bottom with what seemed like endless lead out trains driving the pace higher and higher. This was the last thing I wanted and it meant acceleration after acceleration which I have been suffering with all week. I knew it would be fast but was hoping for a steady continuous hard I could get into my rhythm with and grit my teeth and hang on for the ride but was not to be. The ups and downs of the rapid tempo simply blew me to pieces on the lower slopes of the climb and I was shot out the back of group unceremoniously around half way up the mountain. Taking the edge of me was an absolute understatement as I wasn't even close to producing the numbers I believed I could, I was simply cooked from trying to survive the onslaught. That's the great thing about a power meter as you always have a clear reference point as to if you did or didn't meet you expectations. I have enough data to know when I was simply not strong enough like on stage 2 and today when I was simply out of juice from the rhythm of the bike race, this is very quick and easy to ascertain. I obviously need to spend a lot more time behind the car or motorbike in long periods without racing. Since my crash I have been really nervous in the group and not fighting for position as hard as I should, I little self preservation I guess. Today and this week really I got the fight back and was at all times in the right place at the right time but today the other element to being successful at this level, race conditioning left me missing the extra gears I needed. I was finally back training at my best levels in the past week which meant I was a chance here this week if the cards fell my way but in the end and deep down I know it I needed a little longer to consolidate this condition to be able to back it up in a race situation multiple days in a row. I am disappointed for sure but I gave it everything I had and this week it's just were I am at. I have come a long way since alberta my last race 1 month ago but as always I need to work very hard to be at my best and I simply ran out of time to get myself to the level I needed to be competitive here in beijing today. Anyways to be honest was a nice feeling also to simply be amongst these guys again in a big race, an experience I haven't had at all this year. I never take for granted how fortunate enough I am to be racing at this level and that's why this week I probably over estimated my ability to fight for position and race against these and not expect it to take its toll. If your going be lucky enough to race against these guys you may aswell do all you can to get amongst it as that's the only way you can possibly ever figure out how to be competitive so I am pleased I at least managed to show that again.

Anyways again big hats off to GB. He put a great ride in the break today and while I am sure it took some fuel from his tank I have no doubt It would have also given him an extra spring in his step for tomorrow's traditional bunch sprint finish outside the birds nest olympic stadium. Time for some shuteye!


Time 4hrs 10min, 157km
Elevation Gain 2700m
Ave power 240 watts
10min peak power 420watts
5min peak power 455watts
Ave heart rate 130BPM
Kcal Burnt 4000

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Stage 3 tour of Beijing

‎Was all systems go at the tour of beijing today. The smog had as if by the flick of a switch decided to go and hover some place else and the was out enough to create perfect conditions for bike racing. It's was truly fantastic that all could go ahead as planned today as the course was simply spectacular. We passed through and around the great wall twice and while we were traveling at warp speed everybody took a brief second to check out the mega structure and admire what's a global icon. Apart from the great wall there was plenty to admire on our 170km journey today with in my opinion the perfect mix of ups and downs and twists and turns and road sizes you will ever come across in a bike race. The terrain to reminded me much of the mountainous range that's sits behind nice and the italian boarder. There was a vast network of rivers we rolled along beside, densely tree lined smooth roads, and perfectly manicured concrete guide rails that could have easily made you forget you were in china and not europe. The profile offered something for everyone with climbs and technical decents close enough to the finish that if we decided to race flat biscuit up and down the peleton would have exploded. Equally the climbs and decents were manageable enough that if a more passive or gentlemanly approach was taken then we could go to the finish line in a happy big bunch for a group sprint. In the end this is exactly what happened and big hats off to the American Tyler Farrar from garmin to breaking the finish tape first on stage 3. 

For the cannondale clan and myself it was a pretty uneventful day to be honest. The goals were pretty simple, keep GB and alberto close to the front on the climbs to ensure they had a chance at the sprint should it all stay together. I was to keep my witts about me and stay alert to any selections that formed on the climbs and keep myself in GC contention ahead of tomorrow's mountain top finish. We rode really well as a team all day and when the final short climb began with only 15km to the finish we were all at the front, well on it to be precise out of harms way and in the best spot to avoid being dropped. Jean Marc, french specialist manuvere man did an awesome lead into the final climb and as it ramped up was in command of the group. As soon as the climb began attacks from the climbers came thick and fact and I quickly ensured I covered them. The climb was neither hard enough or steep enough to dislodge the sprinters and at 35-40kmph on a 4% grade the group sucks along pretty quick. As expected our attacks were absorbed and large group all be it a very long and alightly tired one plumeted down the decent and into town for the sprint. Again GB had himself positioned perfectly heading into the final km's thanks to motorbike marongoni and krisek guideing him into place as reliably as ever so great job by them today. 

I felt quite good again which was a nice feeling. Slowly but surely getting my legs going again at this race rhythm. Reacting to the attacks on the climb was a nice feeling as lately I have been afraid of opening the gas too often through fear of blowing up!! Must admit today the man who instigated the attacks was none other than the croc man adam hansan. That guy is a beast and when he goes he really goes so you legs and lungs know pretty quickly who on earth your trying to follow!! Still Today I seemed confident to give it a go so fingers crossed it's opened me up a little ahead of tomorrow's queens stage and mountaintop finish.  

So with that all being said time for me to get a little rest and get ready for the fun and games tomorrow afternoon!


Race data:

Time 4hrs 15min
Distance 170km
Peak 5min power 470watts
Peak 30sec power 780watts
Peak 1min power 591watts
Kcal Burnt 4000
Ave power 240watts
Ave Heart Rate 134BPM
Final climb speed 2.3km @ 36.4kmph @ 4.8%
Final climb Ave Power 444watts

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Beijing stage 2

‎Well the tour of beijing continues to through up surprize's for its final edition. Today we were greeted with the news at the start that the stage would be shortened by 50km and finish atop the final mountain of the days route after just 111km. The reason was simply due to the fact that pollution in the finish town was above healthy levels to hold a bike race. After yesterday racing in such conditions for the final 50km or so when descended of the plateau the organizer's didn't want to risk an all out backlash from the riders and teams. The course changed the dynamic of the race quite a lot with now finishing atop a 1km 8% ramp as oppose to a 40km flat run into the finish line which was ideal again for the sprinters. Now the finish was destined to be a mix of the 2, a sprinter that could climb pretty and a climber with a good kick and that's exactly the type of riders that occupies the top 10 at the end of the day.

One man licking his lips with the course change at the start line was Phillipe gilbert. He has been banging on the door of a big win over the past few weeks and the finish like this had his name written all over it. Sure enough as soon as the flag dropped his BMC boys where on the front and ensuring there man had a shot at glory. Sure enough when we reached the revised finish line atop this little kicker it would indeed be gilbert who finished before anybody else so hats off to him. As a fellow competitor I am always immensely impressed by the way an unbackable favorite like phil was today is still able to go out and walk the walk. He had a massive target on his back and everybody tried to follow him but at the end of the day nobody could do anything to stop him, pretty impressive indeed! So enough on phil and he's a little recap of how the race went for cannondale clan and myself.

The objective again today was for GB in the sprint. With the course change we didn't really change our focus as we thought perhaps it could still end up being a bunch sprint as nobody really knew what the final km would look like. With the stage now measuring only 111km it's was going to be over pretty quickly. Firstly it was freezing cold and threatening to rain so nobody really wanted to be out there longer than was necessary. With this common feeling in the group a few teams planted guys on the front and kept the rev limiter pretty close to 50kmph. I felt quite good once we got underway, yesterday the world tour pace was a shock to the system after not racing at this level for so long but today I felt like I had a bit more of spark in my pedal stroke. With the pace so high before we knew it we were inside the final 15km and the fun was about to begin! 

The final 15km was a slight drag uphill of around 2-3% average with the 1km kick up to the finish. To spice things up a little we had turned off a 4 lane super highway onto a small farm road so all of a sudden the fight for position became 4 times as hard as the pace ramped up! When it's like this it's pretty simple, holding position isn't easy and you have to fight for every wheel. Often at this level the fight is to survive the original shirmish and once you have done that and in a good position in the bunch it almost seems easier than the fight to get to when the race really begins! Anyways inside the final 5km and I had held my own pretty well. I am pretty curtious and prefer to take a spot in the bunch and risk knocking someone out of the way and make an enemy. I am like this as when I guiding one of my team leaders to the front you want the respect of the other guys up there and if you haven't pissed to many people of then your path forward when you need one seems to be a little easier. Maby this is a fault and I should be more aggressive but I am not at the moment and specially after my most recent trip to the ashfelt I don't want to take any additional risks and hit the deck particularly on Chinese roads!! Anyways with 5km to go had held a pretty good position, saved as much energy as possible, and most importantly hadn't made any enemies, atleast that I know off! 

At around 3km to go the pace slackened a little and I was able to jump up around 10 positions or so get myself close to the top 20 wheels. Don't get me wrong this had by no means been an easy run in. We had been doing 40+kmph up the slope for the previous 15km and a check of the power meter would show I had averaged 400watts simply sitting in the wheels for the final 20min. Feel sorry for the poor buggers drilling out the tempo on the front!! So with 3km to go it was time to grit the teeth and see if my pins where up to the challenge. The beauty of a finish like this and slight incline like this is that you are expecting it to be like climbing pace, noticeably slower than on the flat right?? Wrong!! On a 2-3% grade like that these world tour dudes can comfortably crank out 40-45kmph so the km signs continue to fly by! It's a great feeling actually and very similar to rowing in a fast 8's race at a regatta. When you race the single scull in a tail breeze a fast time is around 7min, that's pretty quick. In an 8 man crew with a tail breeze I have been in boat that 5:28 once. I still remember to this day the 250m markers just flying by at lake barrington on a hot january afternoon in north eastern tasmania. Although the pain was insane as we were absolutely hauling arse it almost was negated by the fact that the finish line was getting closer so rapidly. I remember that masking the pain and wanting to push harder and harder on that day as you knew sooner than usual you would cross the line and pain would be done with! Well today had a similar feeling in that final few km's, the pain of going so fast uphill even in the wheels you could almost embrace as you knew soon it was over and done with! Only catch was we were about to hit the 1km ramp to the line and while it had felt like a tail wind rowing race for the previous few km's it was about to have a radical wind shift and feel like a block head wind!

These type of finishes are by far the worst for me. 1km 1.5-2min all out explosive power is about as opposite to my physiology as you can get. Still today I knew I hit to grit my teeth and simply try and follow the wheels. So as the head wind sensation hit I began to feel the proverbial grand piano fall down and playing on my back! No matter how determined my mind was my legs were beginning to turn in squares and in retrospect it was just a matter of when the knockout blow would be dealt to me! Still with 500m to go I was right there and 300m to go sitting in that front 20 or so riders. At this point I actually believed I might survive the pace, I could see all the favorites ahead of me and I was finally back in one of those exciting positions when your apart of the bike race with some of the best riders in the world. I feeling I haven't felt for a long long time sadly. Then just as we swung left for the final 200m and the red flash of Phillipe gilbert blasted out of the peleton I went to go with the group and completely blew my pooper valve and was on my knees groveling to the finish line! I just didn't have that extra % at the moment, the percent you miss when you miss the world tour level racing. Still I am where I am and again was nice to be at least closer forward than back and if my feeling are correct and am on the improve then the next couple of days will offer opportunities to enjoy some hard racing, time will tell on that one!

Of course following an explosion like that your curious as to what caused your explosion. Where you simply not good enough?? Well of course on this occasion but more importantly did you perform to your ability?? A quick check of the SRM would indicate with my current condition being a little light on race days I performed to more or less my capacity. The final 10min of the race I averaged 445 watts, not super high but when it's made up of accelerations of 700watts and idles of 200watts it's pretty high. For the final 5' I averaged 502watts which is kind of a bench mark for me during a race. I have done 525 in training but of course that's when your fresh and chances are if I did that today I would have stayed up front but that's the difference, being able to handle the race rhythm and still bang out your best numbers. On the flip side the higher the numbers you can produce in training when fresh the higher the number you will produce when your tired in a race?? Higher you are higher you can fall?? Anyways for the final 1min I averaged 600watts which is again a bit of a bench mark but minus that explosion in the final 200m it would have been quite a bit higher and needed to be to keep up with these front guys. Anyways was what it was and in reality I performed to where my current condition is at and I would have expected. Had I produced bigger numbers would have been a bit of a miracle or lucky break or super freaky day so have to be content with just having a solid day.

Time for some rest, tomorrow's going to be a GREAT day we traverse the GREAT WALL for the first time in this year's race! 


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Friday, October 10, 2014

Tour of Beijing day 1

‎The final edition of the tour of beijing kicked off today and I was on the start line to be apart of the historic occasion! Well not so historic really as the race has only been running since 2011 but I can proudly say I have apart of 2 of the previous editions. It's sad that the uci has decided to shelve the event however also very understandable from a logistics point of view. Sadly traveling to china is by no means as easy as traveling to and competing in all the other parts of the world we take the world tour road show to and with all the logistics and so worth involved with putting on a bike race it's understandable that's there has been a review of the events inclusion on the world tour calendar. I will write a little more about my experiences in china in a blog a little later on when I have some time to think about that side of things. Anyways the fact is this will be the forth and final running of the event and as in previous years the organizers seem to have continued to improve the variety of the course and today was certainly quite a leg sapping kick off to the 2014 event. 

We began this year's tour of beijing 300km away from the city in the ski town of chongli. The stage had the potential to literally have every sort of outcome imaginable due to the profile however in the end it came down to an expected battle between the fast men. As always a lot went on between the flag dropping and luka mezgec of giant shimano celebrating the victory after 168km so here's how it looked from aboard my Cannondale evo.

The course on paper looked pretty straight forward. A couple of short but nasty climbs after 30km followed by a nice rolling plateau for 90km or so and then a gentle 50km plunge and flat run into the finish. Perfect for the sprinters really!! The catch?? The following! Those couple of short 2km climbs after 30km had ramps of 20%. By the time we crested the second one we were at 2000m above sea level! And from when the climbs began to the end of the 90km plateau was the biggest stretch of wind farm windmills I have ever seen anywhere in the world! So 1 guess as to what happened!! Yep was a shit fight to get to the front on the climbs and while we climbed them at a casual pace if you were not at the front it was going to take a big effort to move yourself up any positions. As soon as we hit the top and the wind started blowing the road across the plateau was the size of a belgium country lane and never ever was straight and was never ever flat. It was littered with leg snapping rollers and equally steep and technical downhill sections so again whatever position you were in at this point was going to take a lot of effort to move from! Let the chaos begin!

I had a hunch the you know what would hit the fan either on the climb or very soon after it so positioned myself in a nice safe position, 2nd wheel to be precise when this section began. Our sprinter for the day the canadian cannonball Boivin was close behind me so all was el capa in casa cannondale. Once we crested the 2nd climb and the rollers and wind whipped up there was no looking back. Everybody wanted to be at the front and you knew that meant it wasn't overly nice being at the back! GB and I were safely in the first 10 riders and sure enough after about 20km of this stress filled full gas battle for the front of the peleton sky hit the front and it was on like donkey Kong so to speak. Fortunately I spotted the big black sky clad kit of austrian bernie eisal chatting on his radio and a second later his men whipped into action. I followed and like always in these conditions you simply have to hang onto the wheel in front of you for grim death and hope when the dust settles and the pace subsides a little you are at the front of the bike race. Not long after I spotted the big burley figure of matt heyman of greenedge who dulley chimed in as well and while all this was going on I realized nobody was fighting me for 5th wheel anymore!! It's a good lesson cycling that when there's wind around and matt heyman is near the front, something is about to go down down!! Sure enough once I saw him ripping out monster 1000horse power turns on the front it could mean only one thing?? The race had blown apart! There were about 40 riders or so in the front group but unfortunately with still over 100km to the finish no team was heavily enough represented or wanted to commit to trying to keep maintaining the advantage. The peleton was now in around 5 groups and eventually when the dust really settled around 20km or so later a lead group of 80 riders had reformed and that would be the family that would trundle along to the finish together. As it regrouped and the numbers swelled the stress in the peleton resumed and it now took a bit of fighting to keep a front position. The cannondale clan were well represented in the front group with GB safely riding great position and looking sharp for the finish. The only real obstacle between all hell breaking loose and group exploding again in the final 50km was the final decent down to the flat run into the finish. 

As we approached the decent to the finish I said to the boys I will ride on the front for 20km. I did this as the fight for the front was getting nervous with the potentially dangerous windy decent fast approaching. By me riding on the front with sky it meant our boys could safely and stresslessly line up behind sky at the front of the peleton and save precious energy both physically and through stress should the fuzz be re lit on the front. It's a simple etiquette in cycling that the team riding on the front get to sit at the front so our boys could have a nice armchair ride to the finish. The breakaway at this stage was only 1 rider and at 50 seconds with 30kms to go so we did not need to ride very hard on the front so I was pretty pleased with this situation as it was the first opportunity I had all day to recover a little and spin some of the leg sapping fatigue out of pins from the slug fest we endured on the 2000m high plateau! It's very therapudic riding on the front for me and those few gentle turns I did in the final 50km or so made me feel a hell of a lot better than I did 60km before!! GB and the boys sat patiently in a comfortable possy at the front of the field and into the final 5km the pace ramped up as the sprint trains wrestled for control of the front of the peleton. I drifted back until I found the boys and stayed close by to GB to give him one last effort to get him out of trouble should he need it. He had motorbike marunga piloting him into the final 2km so I was certainly rendered useless, marunga is a magician in this situation! Sure enough he dropped GB off on the eventual winner's wheel around 1.5km to go and all GB had to do now was hold position and open up the sprint at the right time. 

As expected after a hectic leg burning day like we had just endured everybody was scrambling in the final km's. A day like today catches up with when you go for the turbo and that final km sure showed that with many teams attempting to gain control but finding it a little hard to maintain. In all this chaos GB sadly lost mezgec's wheel but the positive is he put himself in the best possible position so close to the finish. So tomorrow should end in a similar situation so we will try again for GB as he is obviously not far away from a great result! From my perspective I was happy to get though the day unscathed and not completely on my knees. It's been a long road back from my crash in big bear and an extremely long time since I competed in a world tour race so was nice to be amongst it all day. Anyways time now to get some rest and recovery as as today showed the courses here in china turn out in a by no means predictable way, looking forward to seeing the cats are pulled out the bag tomorrow.


Race data:
Distance 170km
Time 4hrs 20min
Ave Power: 235watts
Max power: 1156watts
Ave Heartrate: 140bpm
Ave Cadence: 90rpm
Kcal Burnt: 4200
Ave power without zero's: 295watts
Peak 30sec power: 720watts
Peak 20sec power: 820watts
Peak 5min Power: 445watts
Peak 10min Power: 400watts

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