Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day 3 de panne, double shift

Tour of de panne wrapped up with a lovely split shift consisting of a 115km rd stage in the morning followed by a 14km TT in the afternoon. Its been a fairly challenging few days of racing for me with re aquainting myself to the argy bargy of the peleton particually on the belgium footpaths we have been racing on. Unfortunately this has meant wasting a rediculous amount of useless energy just trying to hold my spot in the bunch, this ideally being toward the front. Coupled with that and the fact we have been traveling along at 45kmph average for the 550km of racing over the past 3 days, its has been quite a blowout to the system here in belgium.

So the morning stage started out easy enough with katusha keen to control from the gun for there man kristof whom was leading the race and indeed went onto win the stage. You know you are starting to gain your racing rythm when the bunch is roleing along at 50kmph and it feels normal so it was a relief to be enjoying this feeling as appose to the tank running empty struggle st feeling i had felt for the first half of the race. We did a lovely little circuit through the felmish country side before entering the finish lap around de panne itself. This circuit had its usual vast amount of rd furniture to avoid but also they threw in perhaps the craziest of them all, tram tracks! As we rounded a corner at 60kmph with 5km to go not only did the the rd half in its width but also running down the rd was 3 sets of tram lines or 6 in total. Consequently bikes were hopping and bouncing around left right and centre and while it only lasted 1km or so it was certainly a monsterous relief to get out the other side without meeting the pavement. It also became evident that we were not even on a rd, they had litteraly sent us down a tram only area so i gues i should be greatfull to the organises that there ensured no trams needed there stretch of tracks at that time!! In the rain the mind boggles at what could have occured. Anyway we all pretty much got accross the line safely and my team mate aaron kemps finished inside the top 10 in the sprint and is improving his placing every day so can expect a big result from him in the future. As the team spends some more time together also we will be able to assist him alot more which will help him alot, being a new group and specially in the european peleton we need to work really hard on working as a team as the big teams do it exceptionally well, anyways step by step but as always safety in numbers and as we learn to move about as one which comes with confidence and trust in each other we will inturn make some good improvements i feel.

In the afternoon was the more straightforward 15km time trial which before the race i had been looking forward to for a few reasons, 1st to test our new kestral TT rig and 2nd as i had done some good work on the TT early in the year and wanted to see if i was at all competative. after being left pretty empty following the 1st 3 stages i knew the TT was going to be a major suffer fest and thats how it turned out. in the end in a TT you can only give all you have and accept the result you achieve, in the end i was 1min of sylvain shavanel, i can perhaps see where i could have improved a bit but 1' gap i think i would have had trouble doing on a motor bike let alone a TT bike, he was certainly a class above. After he the 2nd place getter louie vuestra the field was with 35 sec to me in 23rd so i am atleast satisfied i was not completely out the back door and have a nice marker to improve on.

I am now off to tenerife for 2 weeks of altitude training with Ivan Basso to start preparing for the hilly stage races i have coming up, races which i feel will suit me a little more and especially with the amount of suffering i have had over the past few days in belgium i feel it has certainly sent some good reminders to my muscles and lungs of what is required at this level.

Time to get back on a plane

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 2 de panne

Stage is all done and dusted and the predicted bunch sprint prevailed. I had a little more enjoyable day and even managed to get my lazy backside to the front of the bunch at an ideal time as quickstep decided to split the field in the crosswind. Being the first time i felt appart of the race all week i duly joined in and about 30 of us built a small gap for 10-15km. It is amazing how different you feel when a bit of adrenaline kicks in and you are up front, i felt like a completely different cyclist to the one that has been fighting for 100th wheel all race thus far looking for any opening on these flemish foot paths to move up a little. Anyway in the end vacansole and greenedge missed the split and eventually chased us down and from then on the bunch went back to idol pace and i resumed my position in the middle getting biffed from piller to post. Was first on the scene of a nasty crash with 1km to go so courtesy of the 3km rule was able to resume pedaling at a leasurely pace to the line and save a few bicsuits for tomorrows double day, 100km in the wind in the morning which is sure to be utter chaos and the stage i am most excited about, the 14km TT in the afternoon. Time for some rest

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

1st stage de panne

Today was the 1st stage of the 3 days of de panne, as the would indicate it consists of 3 days of racing in the de panne region of belgium. Like all races i am rapidly learning in belgium it is the most difficult flat land racing with of course a few sections of cobbles thrown in for added variety. Like my first race here last week, it took a blistering 100km of racing at 50kmph average before the first small breakaway was formed which on one hand was good as it only took 2hrs to cover 100km but on the other hand the lactate is already up to your eyeballs and you are only half way with the real race yet to start. Here position is key and to maintain good position on rds that in australia we would deem inadequate for a foot path, riding good position takes on a whole new meaning. Combine the fact that there are 200 riders on these medium strips!!! And you get real intense racing on all levels. The biggest issue i am having is that my prescription lenses are yet to arrive for my fancy new oakley's, when the gaps between you, other riders, the side of the rd and all the numerous obstacles the belgium council and inhabitents of the various villages we pass through put on the rd and i am far from feeling comfortable. As a result i am riding terrible position and as a result of that getting my backside apsolutely belted from piller to post and suffering like crazy for the privilige of getter demolished by the crafty and strong powerfull riders and teams. For example while i was 9min out the backside of the race today my old team mates at liquigas were up the front running 1st 3rd and 4th! How wide appart my world is from there's today. So with the crazyness of the rds and fighting eating in the race is becoming quite a challenge for me with my hands firmly fixed to the bars and me being very reluctant to take them off for a split second. This has resulted in me going lights out hunger flat with about 40km to go of a 200km race these past 2 days of racing and conveniently for me at the moment the racing really starts at the front. So got some work to do and experience to garner racing here in the heart of the flemish rds in belgium. Strangly i am actually loving it. I really enjoy suffering and going to limit, would prefer to be doing it up the front but for the moment that aint happening but i know with a bit more experience, my new prescription lenses so i can actually see where i am going, and perhaps finding some easy to consue fuel whilest bulleting along these goat tracks, i will be able to get myself a little closer to the front. Next year i will certainly be putting my hand up to have a nice big block of racing here as appose to the 4 days i will do this year as despite the suffering, humitiation and getting my backside apsolutely belted it is very addictive and a challenge i really aim to get the better of.

Stats for the day
200km in 4hrs 35min
152 heart rate average!! Saw north of 190 a few too many times!!!

Time for some sleep before no doubt another exciting adventure on the flemish footpaths tomorrow in stage 2.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Recovery drink, taiwanese style

This was the second best recovery formula following my choc milkshake today. I am making the Assumption that it eats up lactic acid, whatever it does it made me feel great simply drinking. Hats off to the genius in taiwan whom invented it.

Final stage tour de Taiwan

Tour de Taiwan wrapped up today for 2012 and for me, all be it a little biased was the most exciting day of the race. I started the day with 3 objectives, 1stly was to do everything possible to assist our Malaysian pocket rocket anwa in the predicted bunch sprint, 2nd ensure our Malaysian missile finishes in a good position and maintains his position on gc and 3rdly cause myself as much pain and suffering in the process of achieving the aforementioned goals. To do this I figured forcing a break, hopefully with Adiq in it would be a good idea and hope that some riders ahead of him miss it. Therefore I was launching of the front from the get go and our boys were on there toes, we were in every move and covered 50km in the first hr of racing. At this point a Nast false flat into appeared I front of us and symboled the most difficult terrain of the stage thus far. Having averaged 170 heart rate for the 1st hr is was already on suffer st but saw an opportunity to launch at a place I felt not to many would be to keen to follow and if they did I hoped it would be those equally determined as me to make the race as hard as possible. So off I went and I felt great, sure enough it did force a break, a little smaller than I had hoped, only 4 riders but most importantly it had a good chemistry. We had the points classification leader in lee Rogers whom had been in the break every day this week and was desperate to wrap up the competition so dedicated to driving, vladamire gustov of Saxobank whom is one of the peletons greatest domestics as has had ridden about 40 grand tours and along with the likes of Stuy o Grady, Matt heyman and Jens voight are the riders I aspire to ride like. Having him there was a true honour for me and with him being on 50sec down on gc he had a lot of motivation to ride. We did unfortunately have a hong kong rider whom did not wan to work with us but we did not care and the 3 of us set about trying to break the bunch. We gave it a good nudge and our lead fluctuated between 30-90seconds all day and my heart rate between 170-180 all day so it felt great to be reminding myself of how enjoyable it is to push yourself and suffer in this sport and a good reminder to myself of why I love it so much. After 80 working on our suntans and cardio vascular systems to the max we surrounded with 5pm to with now the sprinters teams sniffing the bunch sprint. It was frustrating and to be honest we could have hurried ourselves a little more and maby just maby survived but most likely survived but more than likely not. Known this and as we have the mentality of a domestic our focus had switched to our sprinters and once we retreated to the bunch it was focus on the them. So after 1km to catch my breath after probably the most painful attempt at holding off the bunch I have ever had, I rounded up anwa and was drilling it down the side of the bunch to drop him off in a prime posi. Unfortunately just as he found his little spot his front tyre decided it no longer wished to be inflated and he was out of the sprint. Now I switched my focus to Adiq and made sure he was up front and out of trouble before going back to see if I could find anwa but of course due to his flat which at this point I was u aware of he was out the back. So my last km of the tour de Taiwan was spent patrolling the back of the field feeling I had certainly inflicted enough pain on myself for the day and that my body was finally ready for Europe. In fact I was in such a state of not feeling overly well that I spotted the golden arches soon after the finish, rode straight through the front door and demanded the coolest iciest thick shape they could produce uses the nicest manners I was capable off. I think the state of me helped a lot as I received the most beautifully chilled thick chocolate milkshake ever created and my body instantly praised me from within. Adiq meanwhile was living up to his malaysian missile status and earnt a seriously classy 3rd in the very tired bunch sprint so again it was great that in one was the miles off the front had zapped a bit of the zing out of the pure sprinters and Adiq was able to demonstrate that his certainly a very all round capable rider and I am looking forward to seeing big big thing from him in the future.

For me it was great 1st race with the champion systems team and the chance to work with the asian riders was more enjoyably than I could have imagined, from where we were at the start of the week to how we worked I the past couple of days where we actually started to execute race plans was a really enjoyable experience. It's certain going to be a great season and exciting to see the program developed.

Gotta fly


Now I am in hong kong en route to Europe. One great thin about doing such a massive number on myself today is that i will sleep like a log so I can't wait to get on that plane and quite literally pass out.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tour de Taiwan stage 6

Today's 6th stage was the queens stage of the tour. A finish atop a climb meant that it would be the only stage for the climbers amongst the bunch. We approached the stage with a clear objective, to try and propel our malaysian missile Adiq ottman up the general classification. The day started well with our pocket rocket anwa slotting himself into the early break. This gave Adiq, myself and our big Chinese diesel engine xa gan whos name is English pronunciation is simply "shoe gone" so pretty easy to remember that one. Anyway he is a big strong boy who can also climb and certainly has a lot of potential on the bicycle. So with anwa in the break we just enjoyed the sunshine relaxed and worked on our suntans in the peleton which was great and waited for the final climb. We knew that for Adiq to have a chance the climb had to be as difficult as possible. The only difficulty with this was that the climb averaged 3% so not easy to drop people or for make it hard on the sprinters. Fortunately the genysis orange army had the same intention and force a vicious tempo which strung the bunch out. Once they had done all they could and we hot the 2pm to go sign I had another attempt at getting away to keep the pressure on the bunch. This time the bunch chased a lot harder and although it spelt the end to my time in the sun, it also during the process of me being caught shrink the bunch considerably and most importantly a majority of the sprinters were no longer in the bunch. The odds were now in adiq''s favor as he has a great little kick on him and while he could not follow the columbian and japanese rider whom ultimately finished 1st and 2nd but he did sprint to a very impressive 3rd and in the process moved himself inside the top 10 on the general classification so was a great result all round. Tomorrow is the final stage and it will almost certainly end in a bunch sprint which all going to plan will suit our pocket rocket anwa down to the ground so looking forward to getting stuck into that and then getting on the plane to Europe and begin my European season which I am motivated about more than ever. Time for a little bit of desperately required beauty sleep


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Taiwan stage 5

The status quo continued in stage 5 here in Taiwan. The uphill finish resulted in a bunch sprint and all In all the most uneventful day thus far at the race. A nice manageable break got clear early and the bunch enjoyed a very cruiser type day. Will a bunch full of fresh legs the final km's was the most hectic thus far and I realized why kieran racing or basically American football on wheels is so big in this part of the world. These dudes sure know how to lay a hit on you for such small dudes although that do have massively monsterous thighs and calves to through around. Not wanting to be on the ground again or come off second best bouncing into one of them I had my hands firmly fixed on the brake hoods for the final part of the race, I ensured my little Malaysian missile Adiq was up front then hit the safety button and got across the line with all bones and skin intact so I was very relieved!! Tomorrow is the last time we will encounter some hills so will hopefully be a bit more apart of the action in stage 6


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stage 4 tour de taiwan

Stage 4 of the tour de Taiwan for 2012 is now in the history books and yet another Aussie, jonathon cantwell of the saxobank team was a hectic sprint. Again on "paper" the stage looked hard with 2 major climbs, one of which supposedly up to the line. The bunch has learnt how to accurately read the race book now so the general consensus was that it would be a bunch sprint. With the knowledge of this I had the same plan as yesterday, keep my little Malaysian pocket rocket Adiq ottman up the front and out of trouble and when the opportunity presented itself in the final km's hit out as hard as possible and try and catch the sprinters napping. This opportunity presented itself with about 1pm to go and off I went, again o got the gap and again for a brief moment I thought I had enough of a advantage, then Alexander serov of the Russian national team had followed my attack and blew past me in the customary Rd bike pursuiting style only track dudes posses and once again like anthony giacoppo 24hrs before went by that quick that I lost my helmet and sunnies!! I desperately tried to get his wheel and try for one final sprint and for 500m which felt like and eternity I dangled 5m behind him and 10m in front of the bunch before the sprinters ripped passed with about 100m to go. For our troubles serov rolled across the line in 3rd and myself 9th so close again but no cigar. Guess no other option but to try again tomorrow!! The racing sure is different but it is certainly very enjoyable as there is always action. Certainly no time to get bored.

Looking forward to yet more of the unknown tomorrow


Monday, March 12, 2012

Stage 3 tour de taiwan

Stage 3 here in Taiwan has been run and won and we enjoyed a very unique experience courtesy of the climate today, the sun!!!! On paper the stage looked a little more challenging than the previous days however it did not turn out that way with the 2 climbs seemingly repesenting an ever so slight rise as appose to a climb. The race manual book at most races understates the difficulty of stages however here they depict a stage crossing the himmer layers only to be climbing over bridges!! No it's not quite that out of wack and certainly ensures for plenty of surprizes along the way. After copping the 20" time penalty the day before for getting my flat tyre changed I was pretty determined to have a bit of a go today. I tried from the get go to form a breakaway group but under the control of the strong saxobank team nothing significant was headed up the Rd. I settled into the bunch and Waited for the action on the climbs. Nothing happened on the first climb so it was all onto the second. With the first part barely rising at all the pace was a little high to try an attack. With 3pm to go the Rd pitched up for a bit and I had a dig, got a good gap and started to pull clear, at 1pm to go I thought I had it with the knowledge of the final 800m a steep uphill. Alas I turned a corner expecting wall in front of me and I was greeted by a decent instead of about 500m so guess again I failed to understand the book! The bunch was still 30 strong and momentum had them barreling down the decent much quicker than me and when the hill finally arrived with 300m to go the stage winnner Anthony giacoppo ripped past me so fas that I had to go and ask him for my helmet and sunglasses back after the stage as I swear he sucked them clean of my head!! He went on to win the sprint pretty easily which is fitting because he is really a class above this field and is certainly destined for great man great things most likely this week and certainly in the future. 100m later i got swamped by the rest of the front group and to add insult into injury to m failed attempt at the victory, ne of the riders decided to try and squeeze past me, loose control of his bike and career into the barriers sending me crashing into it with him, my the only first I achieved on the day was my first crash of the season!! So as I write this I am sitting on my bed layered with ice on my knee and elbow. Fortunately no damage done, only to my pride and I look forward to tomorrow which again on "paper" looks to be hilly and hard so looking forward to what lies on store for us. Time to rub some tiger bake into my bruised muscles and get as much of the best healing medicine available to man kind, SLEEP


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Getting a taste of taiwan

Tour of taiwan has kicked off for 2012 and en route back to europe i have stopped of here to get my season underway. Its a pretty exciting race for me as its the 1st race of this type i have done in asia and most importantly the first race i will do for my new team Champion System.

The 1st stage kicked of yesterday with a city circuit around taipei square in wet and pretty crazy conditions. They certainly like rd furniture here and i think perhaps even push holland and belgium of the top of the pedistal for objects to avoid. Anyway survived the mayhem of cast iron cats eyes and cobbled marble wet sections of rd to get my season up and running. One bonus was it was a critirium so only 1hr long so we were out of the rain pretty quick. I dont usually like the first few days of racing, takes my system a while to wind up and as a result missed a crucial move that to a few seconds out of the main field and was won by the emerging tallent from the genysis wealth advisors long list of rising stars, anthony giacoppo. From my perspective i was simply happy to get through without meeting the taiwanese ashfelt!

Stage 2 today and we were out on the open rd for the first time. A couple of gentle climbs followed by nose bleeding steep wet desents were on the cards. Was a pretty tame day however the scenery was somthing to behold, it was about as close to italian conditions as you can get and was pretty much a mini milan san remo, i must suggest to the likes of matt goss and phillipe gilbert to not waste there time racing the more prestigious tirreno adriatico this week and using taiwan to prepare for the bit monument this weekend coming. Anyway it started inland, went over a climb and a nasty decent led us to the coast. We rolled along there under the control of the geneysis boys and then hit the poggio!!! Or taiwanese equivilent which split the bunch to pieces and continued to do so on the nasty decent but with 30km of flat coastal rds still to the finish our small front group was not going to get to far. Once on the flat and roleing along beside the ocean once more attack after attack after attack went of till finally 7 slipped away. As i always seem to do in my first races of the year i attacked and was in all the moves that did not get away and sure enough the next one went!! Big big bugger, anyway its a bit like when you have not played golf for a long time, your short game and distance judgement is the first thing to go, for me not racing for a while my ability to pick the breaks eludes me for a bit until i find my rythm again hopfully somtime soon. Anyway alas the small group survived and on a reallyu positive note one of the japanese riders from saxo bank secured the leaders jersey on the day japan remembers the victums of the of the sunami 12months ago so was a great moment for him and fitting tribute. For our team we are just not quite amongst it yet but with some more challenging days ahead I am hoping that that may change. Anyway none the less its great to be pinning a number on again and excited about the opportunities that lie ahead this week in taiwan and indeed for the remainder of the 2012 season.

Time for some sleep


P.s also managed to obtain my first ever fine in a race today. Had a flat tyre and as the only way to return to the race is to ride back though the cars I did what I always do and what billions of cyclists have done in races in the past. The taiwanese race officials decided that it was against the rules as I was "attempting to draft" and slapped me with a 20" time penalty. Point taken next time I will put my superman cape on and flap wings and fly over the cars to get back to the bunch!! Ah new races, new rules I guess!!!
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