Thursday, July 11, 2013

Here there and everywhere

The past few weeks have flown by like a blur. I finally awoke from my post giro coma and have got back to my usual hear there and everywhere self. With the second half of my season based around being in top shape for the tour of Spain, I have also had the luxury of enjoying around 4 weeks of what I would describe active recovery!! Sometimes very active but the best part has been no obligations to a training program or regiment.

My rides have strictly been governed but the company and how much i am enjoying my ride. With training partners like Bryan staring, Ivan Basso, Matty lloyd, and william walker I have been spending plenty of time out on the bike but enjoying every second. After the bitter experience I had at the giro I was determined to get that feeling back that when I go to sleep each night I can't wait to wake up and go training the next morning, this has definitely returned with a vengeance! I have thrown myself back into the gym, I like to try and convince myself I still have a little mucho rower about me!! And then climb aboard my cannondale  evo bicycle for an unspecified period of time  with one of my favorite training buddies I have already mentioned. Through in an endless social schedule which has meant no eating at home for, um, I have no idea, but a long time ago, so It's certainly been an enjoyable start to the summer.

A few weeks ago I had the conversation with our head sports director stefano zanatta to discuss my second half to the season. It was decided that I should focus on preparing for a good vuelta espania and put into the practice the harsh but usefull lessons learnt in the giro. I was super duper excited about this as my lead up will comprise more training and less racing and also I always love racing in Spain. My next race therefore will be the tour of Poland, followed by the vuelta Burgos, throw In a couple of 2 and 3 week training camps between now and then and the race around Spain will be upon us. So with that all mapped out it gave me chance for a little trip america before the first training camp in the dolomites.

Each year our major sponsor cannondale holds there annual expo if you like in park city Utah. The Olympic town perched up in the mountains above salt lake city provides the perfect setting for such an event and it was an honor to have the chance to go along this year. Along with my team mate Elia Viviani who was also enjoying some "active recovery time" we made the trek across the Atlantic to help out our major sponsors as much as we could at there major annual event. Our roles where pretty casual, basically just be around the place to chat with whoever wanted to ask questions, test some new products, lead a few casual group rides and basically get involved with the people from with the company from all over the world, even from as far as Australia! All in all when stefano asked me to attend I did not hesitate in jumping at the chance, I knew it was exactly the little adventure I wanted to be apart of.

So while there was limited official engagements every day was literally full gas. This was due to a couple of reasons, firstly the venue of deer valley ski resort is an absolute paradise for biking of every kind, and secondly all the people that were at the expo where as energetic and fanatical about exercise as I am thus creating an environment where you just wanted to be doing something every second of the day. Elia and I threw ourselves right into it. We were up early for breaky at 7am and out on the bike for a quick spin before commonly having a mid morning function to attend. Off to lunch then back on the mtb bike before generally leading a group ride in the afternoons. Once back from the road ride we would squeeze in an extra hr or so until finally it was 8pm and time forma quick shower and off to dinner and the nights festivities. It was not unusual by days end to have racked up 7-8hrs on the bike in spits and spurts but as every second was so enjoyable it literally felt like everyday was simply a very pleasant recovery day. While the road riding was awesome the place is incredible for mountain biking, therefore Elia and my road bikes ended spending alot more time on the racks than our mountain bikes did as we were both addicted. To head out from the bike park at 2500m altitude and gently wind your way up to 3000m in the dense bush land was simply training paradise. Usually this would be seen as a little risky but in reality the trails in deer valley and as smooth as ashfelt and as such the president of cannondale, bob Burbank was the one who actually brought me some MTb shoes which kickstarted my addiction. It was such an honor to get to know Bob, until now I basically only knew he was our boss but never had alot to do with him. It turns out bob is pretty much like me, loves exercising, loves chatting cycling and sport in general, and at the end of the day enjoys catching up with his colleagues for a relaxing de brief on the days events over a long dinner. So surfice to say we got along extremely well and it was great to gain more understanding of an industry that's supports our sport from one of the men in charge of continuing it's development. Often if I was squeezing in a cheeky extra hour on the mountain bike bob would be doing same on two feet running the trails, basically the guy is full gas sport so the perfect man to lead cannondale. It was great to spend so much time with him both on and off the bike!

Elia was a little more in holiday mode and while I chose the Cannondale cross county scalpel bike he went for the more hard core downhill trigger bike. So while I eased my up the hill in the bush he took the chair lift up and bombed down. Probably the sort of contrast you would expect from a sprinter and a climber! I found the best thing about mountain biking was how humbling it can be!! All of a sudden it's like having training wheels on again and the first few days I was riding around like a grandma! People always used to apologize for holding me up, on the contrary, generally the relaxed pace through the bush was my max speed. If I went along with a couple guys with some MTb experience I was on the limit, with pascal weir of Canada and Neil Barlow from Australia I had to resort to my constant talking method to hide my fatigue! Going uphill was ok but turn the front wheel down and I was left in there dust, a great reality check for the work I need to continue to do to improve my skills. So this trip provided the perfect opportunity for that and as the week drew on I was pinching every available moment I could in the bush and by the end my cornering was described by downhill expert mark weir as "railing it" whatever that means but i was Certainly Feeling more confident drifting across the dirt. Importantly when I would get back on the road bike in the afternoon's my handling confidence was also growing so it had been a great exercise.

The expo became for me the most enjoyable active recovery week I have done. Sure we were staying in one of the best places in the world for training but the reason for being there was to support our great sponsor, cannondale.  I knew that the key to enjoying the week and also given as much back to the sponsor as possible was being available for whatever whenever and not getting hung up on any exercise plan. I knew if I worried to much about training then I would go insane so just went with the flow. This gave Elia and I the unique opportunity to spend quality time both on and off the bike giving feedback and asking questions regarding our training and racing bikes and apparel. This is a huge area of interest for me and also for Elia with his constant search for any additional in his sprints against the worlds fastest men. I am from the other extreme and looking for comfort and performance over a long period of time so it seemed we were a great combo in giving feedback on all the product from two very different perspectives in the peleton. We could go for a ride and test this or that, come back I've feedback, then go out and test so thin else. It was simply the best possible research and development opportunity for both Elia and I and cannondale so we all made the most of that. Everything was on hand from bikes to cloaths to anything in between and Elia and I relished the opportunity to give as much feedback on as many different products as possible. While many people had many questions to ask they were all intriguing questions. It often meant taking 20-30minutes to discuss the topic as a pose to usually a quick sort answer and move on. Everyone had time for everyone and at the end of the day we are all chasing the same objective, produce better bikes that will deliver our team more victories and in turn deliver cannondale more sales. 

With such an incredibly energetic fit and healthy group of people in one place it was inevitable that a good time would be had by all. Every conversation I had with anyone of the people from around the world was one of enthusiasm and excitement for there role within the company or interest in something they felt I could give them some info on. There was simply smiles on faces of everybody everywhere and as a result provided the perfect environment for me to enjoy a mid season "working holiday" completely recharging my batteries and in turn I hope provided the amazing people at cannondale a chance to get to know a little more what it's like inside there team. As much fun as I had, it also had me champing at the bit to get stuck into the second half of the season and like all good things the holiday had to come to an end and now it's time to get back to work.

CJW