Monday, July 19, 2010

looking back and looking forward

Since the giro i have been very fortunate to have a little break from racing. 5 weeks infact have past since i pushed a pedal in anger and it has given me a chance to really settle back into life in Europe. Also very fortunately for me, this period has coincided with the arrival of summer so i have been back in the ocean which is something i think Australians cherish more than most. It has also given me the chance to reflect on the very hectic start to my season and time to look forward and establish some goals for the final months of the season. More importantly i have been able to some training and enjoy exploring the surrounding roads around my European base without the stress of doing to much specific training as i continue to recover and rebuild from the first months of the season.
Alot of my thoughts have revolved around the experiences i had at the giro, where i saw myself in the race and of course admiring the feets of those animated and dominated the race. Still all be it a little biased, the way Michele fought really makes me smile and realise the work i did for him was appreciated and he showed this by his courage or grinter as the Italians call it. Second to that but perhaps almost equal was the performance of Ritchie, he was the revelation of the race and showed he was literally born to be on a bike, also along with him the victory by Matt Goss was a huge highlight and i very deserving for guy who is going to win a bucket load more big races in the future. Certainly the future grand tour success of Australia and more importantly Tassie is in very good hands with these two superstars. I hope Tassie realise just how incredible the achievements of these two truly is.
During the giro alot of little funny things happen. Firstly you stop getting tired, you are just simply tired after about 10days. From my experience what determines how you go day to day after that is all in the mind, when you wake up feeling great generally you have a good day. You wake up tired and you tend to suffer so much you wonder if you will make it to the finish. Secondly it starts to take longer for the attacks to start. Instead of km 0 everybody seems afraid to be first to hit out and waits, unfortunately this seems generally to be accompanied by it taking progressively longer each day for the break to stick which tends to lend to everybody waiting waiting as people know they have less attacks in there legs than in the beginning of the tour. Also the groups get bigger and bigger as result of this so this also tends to mean the group will arrive at the finish with a healthy gap on the peloton so therefore everybody except perhaps the top 10 on gc want to be in it. This make the initial stages of each stage harder than the start of the tour however once the break goes it is generally a pretty peaceful role along in the bunch, well in cycling terms that is, it is certainly not the same as a strole in the park. Thirdly is food. Obviously fuel is crucial in such an event so you need to stay ontop of this. I am super fortunate to have the Guidence of Doctor Luca Mondazzi at the Mapei Centre so i di not have too many diet food issues. In fact i finished the tour at the same weight as i started 72kg, however i was 1% body fat less so i managed to build some muscle which was good. The funny thing occur with what you start to crave. For me Ritchie got me hooked on Nutella and Bananna Roles much to the discuss of my very typical Italian team who don’t approve of such sustenance and also a drink bottle filled with half coke and half water. You may think this seems simple but to me this was gods own medicine during the final week of the giro. Also at dinner i stopped eating saled as i was afraid i would turn into a carrot, my hair is enough orange i think, and used this space in my tummy for extra dessert which was almost always italys version of a raspberry or apricot jam tart, i was simply addicted. Also i could never sleep properly without a camomile tea. Very simple you might say but to honest i enjoyed every meal, oh and of course i was not leaving the breakfast table without a ham and cheese omelette in my tummy, a addition to everyone on the teams breakfast menu once they saw how much i enjoyed mine. I was proud to bring this to the table so to speak! Next came the conversations in the peleton and as the race went on and you got sick of talking about cycling, you started to get to know people alot better and will be great to catchup with these people you strike up a little acquaintance with at future races and speak with a little more substance to a conversation. As i have said many times, sport is a great leveller and the giro is certainly no exception to this so naturally new friends are a great bonus from such an event. All i can say is thankgod Julia Gillard did not become PM during the giro because this would certainly have been a question asked way to many times and i am not so up to date with politics, guess its a by product of being on the other side of the world. And finally you realise how truly powerful the mind can be in convincing yourself that you are not fatigued. At the end of every stage the best advice i was given was to forget that day and start to prepare for the next. In a funny way i guess it is a great way of your mind keeping at bay how your body truly feels. I did not realise this until the end of stage 20 when i sat down on the bus. With only the time trial to come the following day and therefore scarponi being along for that one, my job was done and i could enjoy simply being able to complete the giro. My body responded in a way that i have never experienced fatigue before, it was all of sudden a huge task to make it firstly off the bus, secondly to dinner, and then when i was to lazy to change into my pj’s for bed i realised that i was simply spent. My mind had shut down and so had my body. I truly regret the now as i should have maintained my focus the final days tt and inevitably i simply had no energy, i could barely muster up the strength to warm up. I guess it is just a by product of being a domestic and having only this goal for the race however i will certainly do it a differently next time when the tt ends the race. However that’s that, there are of course billions of other things i could discuss but it would simply bore you and probably take me 3weeks to write it all down!

Now for looking forward. As i said before i have had the opportunity to enjoy some regular training without to much specific intervals. This has meant that i have the opportunity to simply enjoy riding the bike. I focused a little on dropping some weight, a decision i took during the giro where i realised what skinny realise looks like when look at some of my fellow competitors. This will inturn reduce my power temporarily however i am hoping long term it will indeed make me stronger, particularly on the climbs. With having the glangelour over the summer and being unable to ride the bike i was unable to these usually regular tasks so it is good that i get this opportunity now. I am already very excited about getting really stuck into it over the off season and hopefully starting 2011 in my best condition. It certainly has been a long slog back from the virus however i am finally starting to feel more of the sensations i had in my legs and recovery before having the virus so this is a good sign i think especially considering i just completed the giro. Finger crossed by the final 2 months of the season i will be back to my old self and that will be a very nice feeling. This period has also given me a chance to look at the type of rider i want to develope into as this season has seen a complete transformation in my role in races. I now simply perform the work for the team however i realise at time to time i will be also called upon to perform. For this reason i have tried to regain my climbing ability and as i am hoping that perhaps i can use this as a little advantage in future breakaways, also have reintroduced some tt work so i have a little more confidence that i can handle all terrain a little more effectively now. Unfortunately during the giro with all the beginning of season races requiring my work on the flats, i felt like concrete anytime we went skyward so working on this was my number one objective. I am currently racing in Austria and however my role here still being to perform the usual tasks of breaks and work and getting back some race condition after my rest, i am feeling the benefits of this climbing work so that’s been nice. Give me good motivation to stick at it when i resume more regular training after Austria.
So Next up is the brixia tour followed by vuelta burgos and tre valli verisine which is a race i am very excited about as it as close to a home race as will ever get in cycling with it being raced on the roads surrounding varese. After this the focus for our team is on all the Italian one day races so will be hoping to contribute where possible and look for some opportunities when they come along. I am certainly looking forward to the final part of the year as all the experiences i have had in the first 4 months have meant i am alot more relaxed when i am racing, it is nice having a bit more of idea what your in for as it helps me prepare for the suffering a little better. So for now it is off to Italy to the mapei centre for some testing then some training on those familiar roads of varese in the lead into brixia tour so i am looking forward to some good pizza, very hot weather, and a good gelato to cool me down at the end of the day!