Thursday, September 4, 2014

fighting creme puff itis!

This week I am hanging out in Alberta canada. As usual that involves racing my bicycle for a few hours each day which to be brutally honest is probably one of my preferred methods of checking out somewhere I have never visited before. The race kicked of in calgary a couple of days ago at the olympic park which was pretty cool. Racing around olypic venues and checking out past olympic cities is something that always makes me pretty excited to be involved with that particular bike race. Yesterday we enjoyed the temperamental weather patterns of the Alberta region with freezing cold rain and threats of snow which fortunately never eventuated! I must admit I raced like a bit of a girls blouse yesterday in the rain, sadly I think all that time spent in sunny LA has turned me into a bit of a creme puff so was determined to get out there today and punish myself and remind myself this sport ain't a place for blouses! By the end of today's stage there was no doubt that I had certainly inflicted as much pain on myself as possible and litteraly crawled over the line so I was in a happy pain cave again! As always there's a story behind getting to that point so here's a bit of a snap shot of what went on today at the tour of alberta!

After 2 stages which by no means we're easy, the time gaps within the field are still very small. Therefore when it comes to the beginning of each stage and trying to make the breakaway everybody wants to be in it for a wide range of reason. With a GC so tight there is always the opportunity to form the perfect breakaway which steals a heap of time and inturn sets the tone for the outcome of the race. When this is a possibility that simply means every single one of the 120 riders in the bunch senses the chance to seize the initiative and consequently there is non stop all attacking going of the front of the bunch. What's this means is there is always someone going full biscuit on the front which inturn ensure the peleton behind is being sucked along at warp speed! This was most certainly the case today and most certainly by the end of the day was one of my memorable days of the season!

When it's going nuts like today there is no easy spot in the bunch. It's more often than not single file and as jensie would politely put it you spend a large amount of time pig rooting a cricket ball! The thing is the pace is so high that you can't afford to be out of position as along with the pace being so high it also means you can be in the wrong spot at the wrong time very very quickly of miss that crucial move very very quickly! Also that go for following moves, you never know which one will stick as it may seem like a pointless attack but when your humming along at 60kmph on the flat and somebody drops the wheel all of a sudden 30 riders could be 30 seconds up the road which happened about 50 times in the first 100km today! Anyways simply put you need to be alert if you want to be apart of the action more on days like today than usual!

Yesterday as I said I raced like a bit of a girl. It's was raining and cold and while I usually relish such conditions all the time in sunny LA has well and truly softened me up! Anyways to punish myself today by hook or by crook I was determined to be in the breakaway and I was literally prepared to blow myself to smitherines and out the back of the bike race to achieve my goal. Today most certainly set my season record for how long it took for the breakaway to form. It wasn't until the 100km mark that finally 5 of us skipped clear and as I noted above with my daily intentions that meant that the first 2hrs was absolutely an all out attacking fest on my behalf and consequently when I finally used up my final bullet to make it into the breakaway I was on my knees! The average speed of the first 100km was 51kmph which is to my memory the fastest 2hrs of racing I have been fortunate enough to be apart off, certainly an experience I won't forget in a hurry! One positive of such a fast and furious start is the fact you have covered a large majority of the race distance of 150km in a short space of time! At usual final 50km race pace that means only another 1hr or so more to endure!

Anyways back to race and I finally had myself in the breakaway. I was absolutely blown to smitherines but as always once you escape the clutches of the peleton you often gain a second wind?? Yeah right!! Today I had well and truly burned through my 1st 2nd 3rd and any other consequent re charging winds that miraculously come your way and I was simply all out to maintain the pace of my fellow escapees. Normally I dream about these days, given a little head start and relishing the challenge of trying to hold of the hunting pack. I don't care about getting caught, that happens 90% of the time, I simply want to always ensure that whoever chases us down has to work as hard to do it as I am up the road! Make being up there worth it! Also being only 50km from the finish there is no way the peleton will give you much rope so you really have to work for every second you can prise out! Basically I was in the perfect situation to ensure that I absolutely burried myself beyond oblivion today and gave myself a good lesson in suffering after such a pitiful performance yesterday.

The 5 of us were all committed and working like a real team. At 20km to go we had 45 seconds which while a slim chance meant we had a chance. A few km's later we had 30 seconds and things were looking bleak! Then I got my miraculous 100th wind for the day and starting to give it some herbs and we all seemed to be getting a bit of a boost at the same time and at 15km to go we were back out to 40 seconds! We were back in the game! When I am in top shape this is the moment to really hit the turbo but sadly for me my best condition is far from where I am currently at some I have to be content just giving it all I have for the moment. I am sure if I suffer enough for long enough this week my condition I enjoyed in the first half of the season can't be far away, surely there's no secrets, you work hard and eventually you will be rewarded.

Anyways with 15km to go we all got motivated. We were pulling through with a new vigor and geeing each other up. Well I was doing a lot of geeing up of the other guys, think it comes from my rowing days that I do that and it caught on a little with a few positive comments also coming from my counterparts! Then as we approached 10km to go our team car arrived and our director biagio conte told me to stop working and sit on he the back as a few of the guys where a big threat to villella's GC position. This situation is really unfortunate as as badly as I wanted to go all in with my fellow escapee's and what will be will be I had to honor first and foremost the objectives of the team and Davide vilella has ridden really well in the first couple of days to be in 5th overall. Anyways biagio putting on the reserve bench and not working certainly had the desired effect as all the boys lost there spark and vigor. It's very psychological for a breakaway when a team makes that decision as instead of thinking bugger it, you can just sit there and get a free ride and we will try and beat you anyway at the end, you think I don't want to give anyone a free ride and loose the spring in your step in your attempt to hold off the hungry pack.

Sure enough with around 6km to go first I was caught and the rest of the guys not long after. Once I knew the group was on it I sat up and waited and let the guys have one last dig at staying away as I knew it would be in vein, they didn't need any passengers for there final km or so of going for glory. Once back in the group I made sure all the cannondale clan where in a good position up the front which as always they were. Formolo uno formolo was pedaling with his usual enthusiasm and villella looked as effortless as usual. The one I was most excited about was junior mohoric who looked to be extremely comfortable heading into the final km's and with his superior aerodynamics the downhill in the final km suited one of his famous seated on the top tube attacks! In the end junior would opt for a crack at the sprint and would gallop to a fine 5th place against some of the fastest men in the sport. For a guy who has won the junior and U23 world title road race over the past 2 years, his season best performance only a month out form this year's world's could be an ominous sign for his first crack at the senior world title!!

So all in all was a great day for me and also a great day for the team. Juniors's promising performance coupled with vilella's maintenance of a high GC position meant we are all smiles within the cannondale clan! I was so happy to be full of fatigue up to my eyeballs when I limped across the finish line! It's a feeling or place I haven't taken myself to for a while simply because I haven't been able to as I just haven't had the condition. It's a promising sign that while the pain will never disappear in a bike race, I will start to get a little more return for my efforts than I currently am!

So will give it another crack tomorrow and keep doing so all the way to finish line in Edmonton on sunday afternoon!

CJW

Race data:
Srm was out of action but had heart rate and speed, I think these numbers illustrate pretty well how full bannana the day was!

Ave heartrate 161bpm
Max heart rate 195bpm
Average speed 48.5kmph

Ouch!!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

the truth hurts in the race of truth!

A nice little individual time trial here at the tour of colorado today. The race of truth as its affectionately known!! Always provides the answers as to who's hot and who's not! Today was no exception to this rule with the top 10 riders in the GC showing exactly why they occupy those positions with them taking the top 10 positions on The stage. The race leader TJ van garderan was in a class of his own going so fast that had the race commisers been strict on the rule book a large number of riders would have been outside the 25% time limit, I very impressive performance indeed.

Not much to report from my perspective today. The stage confirmed what I already knew, that I am feeling far from my flamboyant best here this week and I performed accordingly. I went through my usual routine and thankfully a lot better than the day before but I simply didn't have the power or ability to breathe and be competitive today so didn't bother digging myself into a hole. Tomorrow we have another great opportunity for a sprint finish for Elia so will need all hands on deck so I wanted to be certain I had as many bullets in my arsenal for tomorrow and not waste any unnecessarily in today's tt. Today's course was perfectly suited to me. Basically dead straight and ever so slightly uphill, hardly any corners, and no steep climbs! Had I been in tip top shape I would have been bouncing out of my skin for today's stage profile however the sport is so often very humbling and today I simply had to accept my fate. It wasn't that I didn't want to go hard, I would have loved to absolutely bury myself out there but my body simply won't do it. I have simply been at altitude so long and had such a disrupted build up with my crash that I am just tired. I can still do a job for the team and elia but as far as personal glory goes those ambitions will have to wait until I get back to see level, recover a little and regain some power. I am optimistic that come the prologue in tour of Alberta on the 3rd of october I will have my spark back. I am simply longing for that feeling of choking on oxygen again. Fortunately that is now only 1 day away!!

So with the tt out of the way the final hurrah in Denver is now all that left before the curtains come down on the 2014 tour of utah. All the cannondale clan here in vail took it as easy as possible today to give one final good nudge tomorrow so we will sea what we can muster up. One things for sure like every other stage here in colorado regardless of how things transpire on the road tomorrow it will take a seriously big effort to ensure a sprint for Elia. Tomorrow is also the final day of Jensie's carrier so you know he won't be leaving anything in the tank, it's a duel he has already warned me about so I am looking forward to getting some sleep and gettng up tomorrow and getting stuck right into it, no doubt it will be a very memorable day for the sport.

Cjw

Friday, August 22, 2014

never an easy day at the tour of colorado

Pretty quiet day here for me today at the tour of colorado. After all the excitement of yesterday's stage I was greeted with the harsh reality of the efforts made to chase down jensie and my pins where far from happy with as the flagged dropped and stage 5 got underway. Today's stage was tailor-made for a breakaway to skip away and contest the stage win and that's exactly what happened. My versatile himself christiano salerno flew the green machine flag nice and hi and was one of the brave men to be in the escape. Just to make today's breakaway was a huge achievement in itself and it was until 55km and more than an hour of racing that the 10men finally were let loose. I think at this point the entire peleton was relieved after the flat out start and nobody was interested in trying to pull them back and as a result this was the last we would see of them all day.

Back in the group I relished the opportunity to try and recharge the batteries. Yesterday's result emphatically showed that Elia is our best chance of glory here this week so with another sprint opportunity on sunday in Denver we will need all the mumbo jumbo we can muster! With this in mind we all rallied around elia and each other in the bunch and saved as much fuel as possible. While the race situation was perfect for us with christiano up the road us taking it easy in the bunch, the rockies weather variability had returned!! Around half way through the stage the cloudy sky's decided to open up and dump bucket loads of ice water on us quite literally sending shivers through the bunch! To add to this we had wind coming from what seemed like every which way and it was utterly miserable. I don't recall seeing any smiling faces for the final couple of hours of the stage! Anyways off course we rolled along and with a nasty 5km climb in the final 20km those of us looking for a quiet day knew that this was the point at which we could turn the engine down to an idle and putter home at our leisure. Of course the climb sparked the GC riders into action to try and unsettle each other ahead of tomorrow's TT but in the end the breakaway was well clear and would inevitably decide the race winner. With the final 20km all above 3000m elevation I have to put a badge of honor of the chest of those brave soles who battled it out for the stage win. After hours in the freezing cold and rain to lay it all on the line when you have no oxygen takes a serious set of swingers so hats of to all the breakaway men and off course the days winner Didier from the trek team.

With the rain and cold there are quite a few things that make the day difficult. Firstly it's raining and cold so you hard pressed finding anyone on the planet that enjoys this feeling. Secondly you are constantly contemplating how many layers and which type of rain coat you would like to wear. This is more complex than it sounds as personally for example I carry no less than 6 rain coats. A short and long sleeve spray jacket, a waterproof gortex rain jacket, a lightweight & heavyweight neoprene jacket and a an additional light wind vest for cold decents. As conditions change so to does you garment requirements but unfortunately as conditions deteriorate and in today's case so rapidly, it's no so easy to go back to the car and put on a rain coat in the wind and freezing rain. Your hands are often numb and it's requiring all your energy just to stay in the peleton so you are faced with the dilemma of do I get cold and stay in the group or do I take the gamble and go and get more cloths and risk getting dropped!! Yep today was one of those days. In the end I went back to the car for additional layers and stopped on the side of the road, put on my warm jacket and was immediately feeling much better about the world! Elia did the same so I paced him back to group and while it was a rather long chase back on between the cars it was certainly worth it to be warm, well relatively speaking anyways, we at least were no longer shivering! Oh and the other great thing about the freezing cold rain is that eating becomes so difficult. Firstly water and god know what else is flying up in your face and in your mouth and as a result you don't feel hungry. You better however and know you need to eat but your fingers are frosen!! Add the fact you have 1 or 2 layers of rain coats now covering you jersey pockets containing your food and all of a sudden eating become just too hard! Infact even if you did manage to fish around and grab an energy bar or gell from your back pocket there is a high probability your numb hands will drop it before it gets anywhere near your mouth! Manage to avoid dropping and then you are still faced with dilemma of trying to open it!! Oh it just seems all to much so that's a reason while on rainy days I always carry bottles with sugar and then just hope I will have enough fuel to get to the finish line! Today I had certainly burnt through the vapors by the time I dordolled through the finish line but fortunately there was a long decent to the finish! Yep today was almost a nice relaxing day but thanks to the variability which I guess is also the beauty of the rockies, today's turned into yet another tour of colorado memorable adventure.

TT tomorrow so looking forward to that, only need to suffer for around 30minutes!!

Cjw

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chasing Jens so Elia can WIN!!!

Little beauty!!! Finally some delight for the green machine here in the rarefied air of the rockies with elia the green missile Viviani demolishing the field in today's very selective bunch sprint in colorado springs. Yesterday was perhaps the lowest of low days for the team performance wise in my years with the team with none of us making the front group. 24hrs in cycling can be a very long time and with the scares of what went just a day before the cannondale clan stepped onto the startling ready to rally around our sprinting team leader elia and give him a shot at stage glory! In the team meeting our director gave us one simple message! Don't make a mistake and regardless of the outcome ride with intelligence. It was just what we needed to here, we have made bucket loads of errors in the past couple of races through a range of reason and they have been amplified with the suffering at altitude. Today however we had to show why we are one of the biggest teams in the world and ride the race accordingly, "important" alberto volpi emphasized, "no mistakes".

As far as race strategy goes our plan was very simple. Before the start Elia wasn't convinced he would survive in the front group on such a demanding circuit. With this in mind we decided we would see how elia feels halfway through the race and if he was confident we would start working to ensure a sprint finish. I had the hunch elia would be tickedy boo today and sure enough he said game on with around 40km to go and we began deploying the troops accordingly. The only little concern we had was the fact Jensie was up the road and had a very big lead! In his final season he seems to have more enthusiasm than any new professional in the peleton and is still the hardest rider in the world to chase down. Anyways fortunately the pace had been on for a majority of the day which proved to be crucial for a couple of reasons. Firstly I meant we didn't have to do any work for the first 2/3 of the race and secondly the guys up in the breakaway including Jensie had to ride extremely hard to gain and maintain there advantage. First we set our big diesal Ted King of the road King and Mr versatile salerno up to the front to help ramp up the chase a bit. At this stage they were still chasing a group of 10 riders but as the gap started to fall, surprize surprize!! Jensie attacked and went solo! The most impressive part about this is the fact that all 10 guys in the group knew what Jensie was going to do and when he decided it was time to fly none of them could do a thing about it! That's just another clear illustration of what an absolute legend Jensie is! Anyways with ted and christian up the front the gaps started falling, not much jens but soon his fellow escapees had been re absorbed into the peleton. With the boys rolling over on the front the rest of us rallied around elia at the front and kept his as well positioned and fresh as possible, we knew the final 25km lap would be full gas and Elia was going to need all his bullets to get through it and pull out one of his blistering bursts of speed.

Onto the final lap we rolled and we sat patiently waiting for stage 2 of our plan. After absolutely turning himself and everybody else having to follow in the peleton inside out, christiano tapped me into the paceline and chase train, my turn to step up to the plate! Jens had actually just dangerously increased his lead to over 2min 30sec with 20km to go so I knew the pulls on the front had to be all out to try and psychologically atleast let jens know we were still coming at him. I love hitting the front of the peleton, there is a strange adrenaline rush that hits your lactate filled legs and all of a sudden you seem to have a few more gears in your cluster. Luckily everyone else knew it was now or never and all went all in and finally the gap started to come down. You know when the peleton is chasing hard as you do your turn and then basically have to do another all out effort to get yourself back in the pace line! That's exactly what it was like today in those final 20km's, Jensie was giving everyone one final reminder just what an absolute legend he is and just how much horsepower that big V12 German engine has!

Today's circuits around colorado springs took place within the garden of the gods. I am told it's extremely beautiful there but sadly I had lactate acid up to my eyeballs all day though there so didn't get much of a chance to enjoy it! Must go back some time. Anyways the circuits were made hard by a 20% wall of around 500m as we entered the park. This was just to soften us up as from there the next few km's kept false flat and rolling up basically giving you no Rest bite until you finally plunged back down to down town at around 10km to go. This climb on the final lap was always going to be full gas for a number of reasons. Firstly those up front want to go as hard as possible to make it hard for those down the back. The sprinters whom can climb want it fast to try and dislodge there fellow fast men more challenged by gravity. And thirdly it's the last lap and 15km's or so from the finish so nobody is holding anything back! Basically put you simply shut your eyes and grit your teeth and go as hard as you possibly can and hope when you get to the top you are still in the front group! On the final lap I finally reminded myself how to really hurt myself again! I hadn't really dug deep since my bingle in training 6 weeks ago but today finally had that spark and urge back to see what it feels like when you have gone way beyond your comfort zone. Normally the climb wouldn't have been so bad but as I had been pulling full gas on the flat run in to the climb the climb was now absolute torture!! Anyways we hit the climb and sure enough it was full biscuit! I sat behind elia and just gritted my teeth knowing that if he got over it I needed to get over it aswell as he still needed troops for the run into the finish line. As we charged up the climb I also spotted motorbike marongoni whom absolutely turns himself inside out for elia race after race after race and after suffering so badly this week in colorado he was now showing his all round class as a rider and team mate and right in the middle of the selection being made on the garden of the gods wall! Once we were over the top not surprisingly lots of riders were dropped. This obviously meant the workhorse stocks of teams were seriously depleted and it's was all down to us. Elia noticed immediately and put up his hand and in a blink of an eye motorbike marongoni was on the front and in hot pursuit of Jensie. I dragged my lactate filled backside to front but to be honest it took all my power simply to get to marunga's rear wheel! Once there I was in big danger of completely exploding and was definitely not going to pull the skin of a rice custard compared to what motorbike marongoni was doing so I retreated to the group to recover a little. Motorbike marongoni put out an absolutely phenomenal turn of 5km or so and carved out a huge chunk of jensie's lead and with 10km to go he was down to below 1min 30sec, we now had a chance. Elia saw me struggling and simply said "Cam if you have anything left try and help marunga when you can" its amazing how inspiring calm words like this are from your team captain in these moments and I instantaneously felt as strong as ten men. My plan was to recover on the plunge down into the city and then go and give it my all on the 6km run into the finish. I sucked in some big one's and finally with 6km to go as I planned I was back on the front with marunga for one final haul!!

Jensie could sniff the big victory and we could sniff a bunch sprint! To paint a picture there were 4 of us guys all over 6 foot tall on the front of the peleton going full full blast and Jensie was still holding us at bay! The only saving grace we had was the long straight roads so we could see our prey and that always gives you that extra little bit of mumbo jumbo. Motorbike marunga was still absolutely powering along like a locomotive on the front as he had done for almost 15km's now, an absolutely brilliant best on groud performance from the green machine. After Elia's pep talk I had an extra kick in my pedal stroke back and as we hit a few km's to go I knew Jensie wasn't going to survive. Also remembering your chasing Jensie always adds to the motivation, you really really have to earnt and if you catch him it's a special and always memorable feeling. It's funny as your in two minds as you want to catch him so bad but you also want to see him win!! It's just a special race anytime jens is involved! With the line in sight and no more than 2km to go there were plenty of dudes will to chip in with a pull on the front mush stronger than I could bang out so I went back into the group to ensure elia was all ok. I had enough juice in the tank to get him out of trouble and up front if need be but certainly has used up all my turbo boosting effort so any type of lead out was out of the question. Elia simply asks that with 1km to go he is in the right wheels to contest the sprint. He doesn't expect a big lead out train when the whole team is not built around him but make very good use of the resources he has available to him. So with 1km to go the jens show was over and elia was on the wheel he wanted so all I could do now was sit back and watch the show!

It was a head wind sprint so the final 500m seemed to happen in slow motion. The group even smarmed for a second before ty magner of the hincapie team finally hit out first and guess who was on his wheel?? Yep the green missile himself! At this point I knew the win would be elia's! He allowed ty to drag them away from the rest of the field before kicking like a mule with 200m to go on his way to yet another emphatic victory. I call him the missile as from watching from behind that's what it looked like, he picks his moment to come out of the slip stream and fly by his opposition so fast that he sucks there helmet of in the process, it's jolly awesome to see!!

So that was an absolutely brilliant day for the green machine. After our performances here in america it was one we so desperately needed and has now got our swagger and confidence back. Fortunately for us we still have 3 more stage left here in colorado so bet your bottom dollar will keep trying to replicate the enjoyment of today all the way to Denver!

Cjw

Race data
115km in 2hrs 35min
Ave power 275 watts
Kcal burnt 2800
Average elevation 2000m
Peak power 1337watts
1min power 619watts
30sec power 685 watts (the average length of pull and effort required to pull back jensie!)
5min peak power 436 watts

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

survival!

It was the queens stage of the tour of colorado today and with a man whom goes by the name of King (ted) in the cannondale clan we figured it was a good omen for the green machine! We had a very simple objective today being to be in the days breakaway as it stood a good chance of arriving at the finish before anyone else and while at the end of the day that's exactly what happened, the make up of that breakaway was quite unexpected.

It seemed pretty much every team had the same idea when the flag dropped today as riders shot out of the peleton left right and centre!! With the altitude you need to do your best to just your attacks as you don't get many of them so it's a little more of a chess game than usual to enter the days escape! My tactic was to wait for something that looked threatening to form and then jump across which I did a few times and was convinced it was gone but as often happens on days like today someone wasn't happy with the moves make up and a lack of cooperation up front and a chase from behind would kill of and threatening moves. The stage was pretty simple in terrain, 1 single road! The first 50km was on the flat to the base of the the days major climb which we would ride up and over the other side, do a couple of laps of a town and ride back up the side we just descended to complete of 150km of racing. My biggest fear before the stage began was that I would shoot all my bullets trying to get into the breakaway before the first climb which rose to over 3500m in elevation and would then explode on the climb!! When I saw so many other going bazzerk for the break along with me I figured it was worth the risk as worse case scenario I would have quite a few guys for company if I failed and was spat out the back! I had no idea however just how massive that group of guys in that position would turn out to be!!

So as we flew along the valley at more than 50kmph I started to realize that the break not sticking before the climb was a real possibility. Still threatening moves were forming which you I had to be in and when one almost got away at 45km I thought beauty but then just as quickly oh oh oh!! Sure enough after less than an hour of racing on a false flat we hit the lower slopes of the climb and all the GC men whom had been saving there pins where drawn into action by attacks from the big GC boys of this year's race in ton danialson and t j van garderan. It was not the sight I wanted to see so early in the stage these boys countering the final failed attempt by us opportunists to jump clear but I had made my bed and now I had to lie in it and try and survive this 15km climb without any oxygen available that my body desperately needed! Immediately the strongest guys were clear and I was in the middle of the peleton and the break. I recovered as best I could and did my best to keep the lead group at a manageable distance while riding at a pace that I could form as many allies around me as possible. I quickly had a good sized group so just kept the pace solid enough to give us a chance to come back on the decent.

At this point I realized there was only 12 riders or so up ahead, another 20 in-between me and them and that meant more than 80 were behind me. I was instantly worried about elia as it was important today he saved as much energy as possible for the 3 upcoming potential sprint stages and what for the green machine has become the best chance of us having some success this week! I realized even if we got back on terms, like yesterday I wasn't at the level of the best guys this week so backed the chase of. I had been doing the pace setting as sadly we were the only team without a rider in the front group as our captain basso was having some difficulties with his breathing at the high altitudes. With the chase backed off elia was now able to plonk himself in the middle of the group and save some energy. You need to pick your battles in this sport and particularly as the green machine is hardly fireing this week we need to be even more precise with the how we deploy our lagging resources!

So that was the race there and there. Within the first 60km around 90 riders were out the back of the race and the strongest 15 were up front. The rest somewhere in the middle. Basically everyone was simply trying to get to the finish at there own pace, some to fight for victory, and most, to simply live to fight another day. As our whole team was in the 90 rider group we kept a nice moderate pace for all to enjoy for the stage and made sure elia was able to save as much energy both mental and physical for the coming days. Basically was a day of 2 parts, out and out aggression for the first 50 or so km, and then out and out defense and survival for the final 100 or so km. Really the big positive to take out of the day was that the green machine lived to fight another day! Will see what we can do tomorrow, hasn't been the greatest of weeks so will be working hard to see if we can turn things around quickly!!

Cjw

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

in the rockies, always pack a warm pair of gloves!

It was a good old fashion 4 seasons in one day here in colorado today. As my good mate timmy Duggan said at the start when I ask what to expect weather wise?? He simply said in the rockies always pack a warm pair of gloves just in case!! He wasn't wrong and by the time we had covered the 170km between aspen and crested butte we had most certainly experienced all the seasons. Unfortunately for me I momentarily forgot timmy's advice as after the clouds cleared mid stage I decided I wouldn't need my rain coat that I had carried just incase of a rockies thunderstorm and of loaded it to the team car! That proved to be a mistake! Before I found that out the hard way there was plenty of pedal strokes done by the peleton and here's how things looked from aboard my cannondale evo!

Today was a strange day. Everything seemed to be in slow motion except in the first 2hrs we covered 90km! That's the point at which the breakaway finally was let loose as the teams of the sprinters decided they wanted to mop up the intermediate sprints which came during the first 60km. While it's always nice to get a big chunk of the stage out of the way in the first couple of hours, it's a double edged sword as it also means that it won't be long before the race ramps up for the fight for stage honors, that's exactly what happened today. Junior mohoric craftily put himself inside the days breakaway and with a long fast decent coming inside the final 15km he had an excellent shot at victory should he still be clear of the clutches of the chasing peleton! Sadly for junior, BMC and Garmin had plans of winning the stage and as we hit the slopes of the final climb there advantage started to plumet!

To spice things up a little the final climb of the day was all on gravel roads. Infact the first 8km of the decent down the other side would also be without bichimum which made for a few nerves in the group. Through in the fact that we topped out at over 3000m elevation and while it wasn't a steep climb it certainly through up enough challenges for the group. Through in the flash thunderstorm that would save itself for the final steepest km's and treacherous decent and it safe to say the climb was made as difficult as possible.

I started the day in a very positive frame of mind. I had felt good yesterday and made a bit of a blunder so was keen to see if I could put up a good performance today. As has often happened for me this season my best laid plans didn't quite go to plan and I for some reason was really struggling with keeping my airways filled with air today. I suffer a little from asthma and for some reason today I found myself quite short of breathe uncharacteristically. There is always a couple of reasons for this, firstly the lack of oxygen at altitude seems to trigger my attacks and secondly if I am not in super super shape which it appears I am not at this moment then I have to work a little harder to stay with the front of the race than I would like to. So with these couple of things not on my side today I decided to put up the white flag and save my pins to have a crack at some breakaways in the remaining stages. At this point we were around 10km from the top of the climb and the front group was no more than 40 riders so I had plenty of time to comfortably pedal my way to the finish. Like I said yesterday at altitude the ideal scenario is to ride at your own pace, if your the strongest in the race which is the preferred position to be in everyone has to march to your drum beat. If your not then when you choose to ride your own pace it means simply one thing like it did for me today, the front group is riding away from you! Anyways while initially I enjoyed my peace and quiet pedaling along on my lonesome up the final km's of the gravel climb timmy's advice was about to be become a humbling colorado rocky reality for the peleton!

Just as I had slowly but surely floated out the back of the team cars following the front group, a flash thunderstorm hit! Now being alone wasn't such a great feeling as it was raining cats and dogs and I had no raincoat and no team car close by to give me one! One car was just up ahead behind the front group which still contained our team captain Ivan basso and the other was 15minutes back down the mountain following the gruppetto! Fortunately the first car realized I was close by and stop and waited a minute for me to catch them to give me my jacket. This however meant that now ivan was alone up the front without a team car for support so they offloaded a couple more jackets to me and told me to wait 15minutes in the pouring rain for the gruppetto to arrive! At this point I was only a few km's from the top and boarderlining on hypothermia so I wasn't about to pull over and wait in the pouring rain as I would have most probably snap froze. I also knew how cold I was without my coat so I knew I had to get the jackets to the boys somehow. I slowed down as much as possible to see if there was a group remotely close to me as I figured ted and junior were probably halfway between me and the back group. I could see them in the distance so backed it off enough so as I kept myself warm enough to function but so they could catch up as quickly as possible. Fortunately when they finally came into clear view I could see they had raincoats already so now I switched to plan b. I figured I would find a friendly looking supporter on the side of the road and give them to them to give to the boys down the mountain so they would atleast have them for the decent! I found just the type of dude I was looking for and explained my predicament and he was more than happy to help out. I'm not sure of the man's name except he had a blue rain coat on but he delivered the jackets to the boys so need to thank him for being such a integral member of today's cannondale pro support staff!! I was now close to the top of the hill so backed things of a little more and waited for ted and junior so I could enjoy the final plunge down to the finish with some company.

Up ahead and obviously un beknowns to me the race was full of drama. The lone survivor of the days breakaway held on for the narrowest of victories following a controversial late race nueatralisation. Obviously when you mix rain with dirt you get mud! While going up hill this is not so much of an issue except you go a little slower, going down hill in the mud on skinny road bike tyres is a little scary! The race organisers decided the same so called a cease fire for the muddy decent and restarted the race when the ash felt resumed with the lone escapee setting of 45seconds ahead of the pack of wolves chasing after him with a mere 8km to race, 5km of which was down hill! The hincapi development dude by the name of carpenter must have descended like a stone in Search of victory and managed to increase his lead and at 1min 10 seconds up his sleeve for the final 2km kick up to the line. The peleton was breathing down his neck as he raised his arms in victory but he held tuff to add a super exciting suspense filled finale to a exciting stage that true to timmy's prediction at the start where anything and everything can happen in the rockies! I am really pleased for the hincapi team getting such a huge win as its been one of the standout teams in both here and utah over the past few weeks. They ride so well as a group for gang of such young guys and I am sure today's succes will ensure the team with big George at the helm will only prosper from here on in.

By the time I rolled across the finish line I was a little freezing to say the least, along with everyone else in the race! I walked immediately to my hotel room which was conveniently located only 500m from the finish and straight into the shower still completely dressed in my cycling outfit including helmet, sunnies and shoes! I cranked the hot water and sat down in the bottom of the bath to thor out. It took me a few minutes to regain enough feeling in my fingers to take the sunnies of my face, 5minutes before I had the strength in my fingers to unclip my helmet, and the shoes stayed on my feet for more than 10minutes before I pulled them off. After 15minutes I finally removed my final piece of lycra and regained a normal core body temperature! Just another amazing experience you seem to have time and time again in bike racing so to be brutally honest I am looking forward to shutting my eyes and getting to sleep as no doubt tomorrow will be another unpredictable rockies adventure, fingers crossed it's a more successful one for the green machine!

Cjw

Monday, August 18, 2014

kicking things off in colorado, dumb and dumber!

The tour of colorado kicked of today in the lavish alpine town of aspen. The movie dumb and dumber was the first time I knew about this place and sadly that would be a pretty good way of summing up my performance on stage 1. Cannondale assembled a very competitive team on paper with me being a late edition. I had been keen to do this race all season however I wasn't given the green light until after utah when our young gun Davide numero uno formolo was rulled out with sickness. I jumped at the chance to add my name to start list and lined up today along side the green bullet elia Viviani, our captain Ivan basso, motorbike marunga, the German Koch, kich, salerno, and junior mohoric. It is a team pretty well suited to the race and with a sprint finish expected today we were confident in out chances with Elia and attacked the stage accordingly.

I had a very good feeling about today at the start. Elia was confident and all the boys were geed up to deliver him perfectly to give him a shot at victory. As soon as the flag dropped the boys were rapidly into action and ensured a manageable group was let loose and we went about controlling the race. All went perfectly according to plan and entering the final 15km the race was all together and only a 1km climb posed any threat to derailing our plans.

Today's course was a deceptively challenging 95km route. 3 laps with a few short but leg sapping climbs and some nice technical decents thrown in there for good measure to keep us on our toes. What makes racing here in colorado so challenging is the altitude and lack of oxygen which really means you have to measure your effort. Push a fraction too hard and explode and you simply don't recover and very quickly find yourself further back than full back. Ideally you ride at your own pace or happily follow a pace slightly less than you are capable of going however as its a bike race it pretty rare you going the pace you want unless your on the front. As a result of this and due to the lack of oxygen you are seemingly always uncomfortable. Anyways that's how it should be as its a bike race and certainly adds a huge degree if unpredictably about how every stage can pan out which I imagine makes watching races held at altitude pretty exciting.

Anyways back to bike race and the boys did a perfect job of controlling the race. On the penultimate climb the pace started to ramp up a bit so I got myself to the front and ensured the pace was nice and steady heading into the final climb to give elia the best chance of staying up the front. As we hit the final climb I was on the front and did my best to slow the group down to ensure elia the easiest possible ride up the final obstacle. Sadly the uhc team knew what I was up to and barged past and ramped up the pace sensing the opportunity to drop our missile sprinter and give there own speed demon and eventual winner keil reijan the best shot of glory. They really set a ferocious pace reflecting there belief in keil and quickly the group started to break up. At this point I was still at the front but knew elia would be in a little difficulty so started to drift back and wait to see where he and the boys were as there was still plenty of time to ride back some splits in the bunch so long as we were not to far behind over the top of the climb. This is where my stupidy kicked in and as I drifted back to regroup with the green machine I underestimated how much damage UHC had done to the group and I was quickly behind and out of the front group which I did not anticipate to be so small. I tried not to panic and look around for elia in the hope now that I would be able to ride back across but when I realized he wasn't there now I was well and truly on the back foot. Over the top of the climb I wasn't far of the back but at altitude your turbo is very limited and with bmc, UHC and garmin driving the pace I knew it would take a miracle to ride my way back into the front group, in reality with the calibar of riders up there I had no chance! That's where the the movie dumb and dumber comes to mind! I was in the perfect position when we hit the final climb and instead of sand bagging I should have simply kept my rhythm and the power on the pedals and I certainly could have made life a lot easier for myself. I was so confident in elia however that I just believed he would not far behind and hence that was my first thought. He had said to me on the final lap that not to panic when people attack as we need to simply stay together as its easiest to get ourselves out of trouble. Elia is a great captain and I always believe in him so today was no different but in reality at that moment on the final climb I should have just focused on staying at the front which was hard enough at altitude and should elia have been there great, unfortunately in the end my indecision meant we had nobody in the front and after the boys doing such a brilliant job all day we had to return to the hotel empty handed, that was one big blunder on my behalf.

While I am mad with myself on one hand on another I don't regret what I did. Yeah I blew a big chunk of time in the GC competition but my mentality always seems to be one to look out for my team mates first and foremost, especially elia whom a respect greatly. To be honest the front group was not that large so there's no guarantee I could have been in it however I should have at least tried. Better not to die wondering! When he asks for the teams the support he rarely let's them down and being apart of his victories has been some of the the best moments I have had on this team so from that perspective I don't regret my decision for a second. In reality he could have just as easily been right there and won the stage but today it went the other way. Sure on this occasion I should have just looked out for myself on that final climb but I didn't and today that backfired on me big time. I went very quickly from being in the perfect position at altitude of being the bat and quickly became the ball that smacked out the back of the bike race, the harsh reality of how the wrong decision at the wrong time in a bike race can be so costly. Anyways no use crying over spilled milk and we will just have regroup and reassess our goals and get stuck back into it tomorrow. It's going to now be a tuffer road to hoe but fortunately we have plenty of road to get it done before we get to Denver on sunday. I have to also say how pleased I am for keil. He is an absolute class act of a rider and has been knocking on the door of a result like today for years. Today his team really took the race by the scruff of the neck on that final leg snapping climb and keil showed everybody just why they did by winning the stage in such thrilling fashion, I am sure it's just the start of many big victories for him!!

Cjw