Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ivan's on a mission!! Vuelta stage 8

The first mountain stage of any big tour is always anxiously anticipated by both the riders and those watching the race. Its the first chance to see who is in good shape and sort out a bit of a pecking order for days ahead. Some riders will fall of the GC radar while some others will appear up the front, there's always plenty of exciting performances and an equal number of what could have been stories following the first mountain stage. It can really set you up for a great tour and equally crush you seemingly before its all began.

With that all being said today for use cannondale boys was all about Ivan. Following a finish like yesterdays we knew it would be a tired peleton so there would certainly be the opportunity to strike a blow on the final climb of the day if you had the legs. A lot of people assumed the same unfortunately which made the 1st hour of racing absolutely full gas!! 3/4 of the field wanted to get up the road in search of a stage victory and in the end a large group of 13 skipped clear. They were never given much rope and once a Netap rider dropped backed who was highest placed on GC his team set about chasing it down. For Bartos to sit up was quite a gentlemanly gesture as he knew his presence would mean the group would not get a lot of freedom. Often riders will just stay put and hope to still pull somthing off but it often does not win you any friends. So the top bloke award for the day has to go to bartos for coming back into the bunch. From there netapp took control and by days end would have the stage victory. It was a very impressive performance by there team today and they certainly deserved it more than any other team and duly earnt a massive victory in the process. Hats of to them.

We took up our usual spot at the front of the field immediately and basically that's where we stayed all day. I was feeling very good after yesterday and knew my team mates were feeling a little fatigue so I sat out in the wind all day to ensure they all had some protection, not just Ivan. Its important on days like today specially early in a big tour to sense the feeling of your team mates and subtly do whatever you can to help them out. Immediately they realise what your doing and therefore ensure they do all the other jobs to ensure I don't have to do to much. That to me is the sign of a great team thinking together. It was a light crosswind all day so just riding the extra m or so out into the road means 2-3 of your team mates can be doing as much as 40% less effort than you. Therefore if you feel good and you know they would really benefit from doing this for them its a very worth while exercise.

At 50km from the finish the race sprang to life as we hit the coastline. We now had a 35km drag race to the bottom of the climb and with it being the climb to the finish everybody wanted to be up front. From here we kicked into basso's body guard system, longo and dall antonia to guide Ivan and me safely now tucked onto his wheel. While I had been able to give my team mates a comfortable ride in the first 100km they were now repaying the favour, team work!! This fight for the front is never easy but we are certainly improving with staying together day by day. Should I lose Ivan's wheel which can easily happen I simply get myself to front knowing longo will see me there and find his way to me with Ivan right behind, the system then resumes! 25km or so we jostled and jived for position until Ivan decided it was time to strike!

The run into the base of the climb was pretty simple, 6km drag along the waterfront, a U turn around a roundabout, and a 4km drag back to the base of the climb. This 10km was littered with roundabouts so the field was always going to be in one line and would be almost impossible to move up if out of position. The climb was not super difficult, around 14km at 6% gradient so Ivan knew it was perfect for him to just stay in the wheels and at the front. He said to me this morning that todays climb is climb where its easy to stay at the front if you have good condition!! He knew he had good condition so all that was important was he hit the base of the climb in the first 5 positions and the rest would seemingly be easy for him!!

So 10km before the base of the climb the cannondale train hit the front. Ratto let rip first and showed his versatility as a rider by sacrificing himself on days we are not helping him in the sprint. Its efforts like this that make you team mates more than happy to commit to you when its a sprint stage. Behind him Heado was again showing his class with positioning and with his sprinting legs let out some fierce acceleration to keep the field in such a long line that those at the back would of had to wait until they saw us do the U Turn and come down the other side of the road to have any idea where the front of the race race was. Next to pull was Paterski who seemingly has a 50% power boost when he is lining the field out for his captain. He has a very classical position on the bike, its a very unique style in todays peleton and he is easy to pick out. He is simply all horse power and grit and determination and want stop pedalling on the front until every last drop of energy has been expelled from his huge motor. Safely tucked in behind these three hero's of the day was Ivan driving his train and encouraging his men. As I have said before he is a captain that his team mates regard with the utmost respect and would happily ride through a brick wall for him if required. And right behind Ivan was his body guard and bouncer, yep me. Tucked safely on his wheel and scaring of anyone who dared go near him. Even Valverde learnt that my word is stern today and after attempting to knock me off his wheel quickly apologised and gave me ample space when he heard my voice and took a look at my face. I have never been a bully but when I want to be a little forceful in a bike race I happy to serve back whatever comes my way.

These 3 set a searing tempo and behind was absolute chaos. First Ratto, then Heado dropped of leaving paterski 5km to keep this under control. Sure enough 3km from the base of the climb Ivan had to call on me to do the final lead out. We had hoped I could be saved for the climb but we had committed to this task and to ensure Ivan hit the base of the climb as peacefully as possible we had to finish the job. So through I came and gave it all I had in my tank for a few minutes. First I kept the pace at around 60kmph then I felt the adrenaline pumping and found another 10kmph from somwhere and we were doing 70kmph on a flat road. That was a pretty cool feeling, a few minutes later however with the adrenaline worn off my legs certainly felt the full effect of this effort! I knew after this pull I would be spent so there was no point leaving anything in the tank and sure enough when we hit the base of the climb that was it. Cancellara quickly rolled past me to continue the pace making and Ivan was 3 wheels back and in the exact position he asked to be in. The field was still a long line of no more than 50 riders which meant on a flat section of road we had managed to whittle it down nicely so all good. We had done our job to perfection for the day. I drifted back through the field to recover a little and found the strength to stay in the group for a few more km's until I saw sammy safely in the first group and knew if Ivan needed something Sammy could be there for him. By this stage there was no more than 30 up front and it would be up to Ivan to simply follow the right wheels to the finish. He has a degree in this skill on long climbs! So then I put up the white flag and listened to the radio for what Ivan served up them.

In the end Ivan would show why he was so confident this morning with a fine 5th place on the stage and climbed from 28th to 12th on GC. Also In the process, he took precious seconds out of all his major rivals for the GC so was a fantastic ride by our Cannondale Team Captain. When your captain asks for your support and delivers you simply are champing at the bit everyday to lay it on the line for him which is exactly the feeling on the team bus as we head to tonight's hotel.

Now we just need to keep the ball rolling!

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Calm before a massive storm! Stage 7 vuelta

It was a day of 2 very distinct parts!! The initial 170km was gentlemans ride toward seville while the final 35km circuit around the city was absolutely full blast! Our objective today remained pretty similar, look after Ivan and give our fast men an opportunity to open up there jets in the sprint. Today Ratto decided to hand the reins over to our canadian cannonball Bouvin which made the boys pretty excited to see what he could do in the expected sprint finish.

From the gun everything went as planned and a small group of 3 riders skipped away. The bunch was happy to let them go and was interesting that these 3 men where given more breathing space the Motorbike Martin just 24hrs earlier, another excellent example of the respect with would champion against the clock commands!!

We did our usual thing and set up camp on the front. The chances of anything crazy happening were slim but as its our system its just what we do regardless of the circumstances. As I have said before you never know if the bunch is all of sudden going to spring to life so best to be prepared. So with this said all was cery tranquillo today and gave us a chance to even have a little social chat with some of our peers as we rolled toward seville.

Fabian Cancellara saddled up alongside me to ask if I was from the same region as former aussie professional cyclist and hardman scott sunderland? He said we had the same accent and said when he here's my voice he thinks its scott. Its funny because fabian is the second person to suggest this in the past few months. I explained we were not from the same region and that I was tasmanian and his response was pretty normal, "I knew there was somthing different about, you tasmanians aint like the rest of the aussies". He is pretty spot on there, for some reason, ritchie, gossy, wez, will, and myself seem to be a little different to the other guys. Anyways we ended up discussing where he lived in swiss which led to us talking about my time in luzern floating down the rapids with the rowing team. He thought was pretty funny and also interested we had used that area as a training area and was also quite interested in my rowing career and path to racing alongside him in the 2013 vuelta. We also relived my first world championship on the bike in 2007 in stuttgart where I took part in the TT. He was the race while I was 31st over 3 minutes behind. Still he was pretty intrigued by the fact I was even there so we chatted a bit about my experience that day.

At this particular worlds I started 10th from the back so In all honesty I would not have been surprized if Fabian had of closed the 10minutes and caught me, he had a chuckle at that and I think quickly realized I had a lot of respect for him. I actually start 1min ahead of David Millar so was crapping my dacks about that, not to mention the long list of my role models behind him, zerbriski, bodrogi, wiggins, karpets just to name a few. Anyways I set off and to my surprize still after 20km miller had not passed me. Then that sinking feeling that you are getting closer to the ground, my front wheel was going flat. Just as I pulled over miller was on me so I had to wait for him and his car to pass before getting going again. I said to fabian I decided bugger this and went hell for leather to catch back up to millar, it was my first world championships on the bike and for all knew I could have been my last as at the time I was still considering returning to rowing for the 2008 olympics. So I caught back up to dave and zipped past. For the next 20+km we traded places now in a match race. He must have been thinking who is this little aussie pest I have never heard off!! Well atleast after that 20km he knew who I was. Fabian found all this pretty funny and when I told him I was watching millars SRM box under his seat and upon seeing the number as I passed thought man I can do that!! I almost felt like I belonged there!! I also relived the moment at the top of the course, it was 5km up then turn over a big overpass and back down. Just as I was finishing this section Fabian was entering it and I thought to myself how cool is this!! Helicopters and cars everywhere, the top 9 time trialists in the world, oh and me also!! and I am locked in grudge match with david millar! Yeah that was a special day and nice to share with fabian, we certainly have a good little chat whenever we cross paths in the bunch.

So back to today and it was nice an cruisey for 170km then BOOM!! With 35km we entered a city circuit, the road was all of a sudden 1/3rd of the size we had been on all day and it was full gas!! I immediately slipped into my bodyguard role on Ivan's wheel while Dalla, Longo and Paterski guided Ivan to the front of the bunch. These boys did a huge job today taking the wind for Ivan until the final 10km when they had used all there cookies. At this point Ivan was able to position himself while I stayed behind to ensure he did not have any dramas. On a day like today, dalla, longo and paterski litterally had to do 30min all out time trial to fight for this position as every rider in the peleton is fighting them for a front position. While they are litterally full gas Ivan and I are able to casually follow there wheels and save all our bullets for when there's are used up and we have to fend for ourselves. That's another example of where complete sacrifice from your team mates is crucial, on a day like today meant to be a bunch sprint and the pace is that ferocious that half the field is spat out the back!! Big pat on the back to dalla, longo and paterski.

During this time our canadian cannonball Boivin was benefiting from equally sacrificial work by heado. Heado is a very crafty rider and knows how to position his man and had bouvin absolutely perfectly position heading into the final 10km. Infact he never let him further back than 10 wheels and as we went under the 5km kite Bouvin was perfectly poised in about 7th wheel. Heado had done all he could and the peleton, or what was left of it atleast was dead on there feet! I got instantly excited when I saw the cannonball looking so smooth and got on the radio to give him a little encouragement and remind him everybody is suffering.

Inside 3km to go and I was on Ivan wheel. We were close enough to front that all was tickedy boo and I was bouncing out of my skin in anxious anticipation of what the cannonball could do when he opened up those monster calf muscles of his in the sprint. He was still sitting so pretty!! Then!!!!! He put the reverse lights on and before I even had a chance to ask him what was wrong he was gone from the back of the bunch with only 1.5km to go. He had touched a rider and lost a spoke or 3 and his wheel was destroyed! Bugger!! He was right there and in my humble opion certain to have delivered a huge result today. Anyways again its his first grand tour and first week of it at that. If he is already putting himself in such good positions it won't be long at all untill he breaks through with a massive result.

Ivan finished safe and sound in the main field and saved as much energy as possible for tomorrow when we hit the high mountains!! Best go and see our brilliant chef Alex and top up the tank with some perfect italian pasta!! Delicious!

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Captain of the ship, Stage 6 Vuelta

Stage 6 of this year vuelta espana was all about 1 man, Tony Martin. Tone took off at km 0 alone and with the field looking for a bunch sprint everybody was happy to let him go. Guess everybody figured I can't be that hard pulling 1 rider back!! Yeah right!! Tony Martin is the equivalent of half a peleton on when wants to open the throttle and sure enough it wasn't until 25m before the line that his time in the sun came to an end. He certainly has an incredible amount of horsepower to deploy and he almost calculated his effort right down to the Watt! I must admit I was adamant he would not be caught no matter how many riders tried to chase him down, such is the respect I have for him as a rider. Was certainly a very calculated performance by him and no doubt laid some valuable training foundations ahead of his defence of his world TT title at the end of september.

Today provided a great opportunity for us as a group to work on our system as a team. Ivan is a great team captain with a wealth of experience and as Cancellara told me yesterday, all decisions made out on the road in the race by him are for a reason. To be a great captain its not only important to be a great bike rider but more importantly to have a great repor with your team mates. At the end of the day his success hinges on 100% commitment from his team mates to that objective so that's difficult to achieve if your are not respectful to your team mates. Ivan is very respectful and as a result every rider is extremely happy to try and do whatever is asked of them.

Before the start of each stage Ivan has a little chat with us all about what he would like us to do for the day. The roles or objectives might be very small and even seem insignificant at times but they do give you an added focus for the task at hand, specially on potentially boring days like today. As Ivan often reminds us things can go wrong very quickly so its important that when it does we are alert, ready and in the best possible position to get ourselves out of any potential trouble. My role I have already discussed in depth which is basically be his body guard on these potentially stressfull bunch sprint days. Longo's job is to keep the best position in the peleton which is always in the first 30 positions somewhere. Longo has huge experience and Ivan knows that where longo goes he can simply follow as longo knows what best. While longo and my prime role is baby sitting Ivan should we be in a position to assist in the preparations of the sprint we certainly contribute were possible. We are not expected to but if Ivan is safe and sound then we love nothing more than ripping out a turn on the front of the bunch aswell. Heado has been on bottle duty and with 5 years experience at world tour level seems to know the exact right moment to bring up a fresh biddon. Also with this knowledge ivan is never worried about if he has a drink or not, he knows one is never far away. Sammy, our columbian mountain goat need to save his energy ahead of the mountains so he tucks in safely behind me. Also he can act as a back up should I not be there to get ivan out of trouble and quickly perform that role. He will be a very busy boy however once we hit the mountains!

The other guys in this first week have been delegated to our sprinters ratto and bouvin. Dall Antonia is our motor bike for the final lead out and he will always collect Ivan on his way through the bunch to ensure he is in a safe position heading into the final 3km. From there Dalla will open up the throttle to prepare the sprint for the boys and then its up to ratto, bouvin, and Heado to do what they can. The great thing about the way Ivan guides us is we all have small roles to play all the time and we are constantly performing them all day. As a result ivan is constantly giving us nod of approval or pat on the back which continually keeps morale really high amongst the team. Infact you basically want a team of riders that will happily try and ride through a brick wall for you, and without sounding corny that's exactly what all 8 of ivan's team mates would happily do for him. This sport is definitely not for the faint hearted, and the harsh reality is that if you don't give it all you have then you can bet your bottom dollar another are, and that can simply be the difference between being a good team and a great team. We have 3 weeks ahead were we want to show we can be a great team.

From within the bunch everything happens so fast so for us to have a rider like Ivan at the helm it litterly give us the piece of mind to always be calm under fire. We simply know no matter how great the difficulty we find ourselves in by each doing our small task to assist each other we will get ourselves out of it. We know Ivan would never ask us to do anything we are not capable of and therefore means none of our roles seem daunting to us. On the contrary, we are all often wanting more and more to do but Ivan insists to stay calm. The race is still young and his real work will begin in the final 2 weeks. At that time we are certain to be called upon to physically push ourselves a fair bit more so we all trust that Ivan knows exactly how to guide us into the next faze of the race. Certainly as cancellara told me yesterday riding for Ivan is a great school, and cannondale boys are certainly creating a very happy classroom.  

So with that being said here's how it rolled out for us today. We were happy for a sprint today with the ever consistent danielle ratto knocking on the door of a big win. Our plan was pretty simple, save as much energy as possible in the bunch before putting danielle and our canadian cannonball bouvin into position for the sprint. Also of course ensuring Ivan is safe and sound all day was a major priority so pretty run of the mill day. So tony martin did a magic job of playing with the field all day which kept the pace in the peleton very pleasant and consistent. With 25km to go as always happens the stress in the group rose and fighting for position resumed. Our cannondale boys stayed diligent and up the front and never far from the action to ensure we were in the right place at the right time. I took the boys to the front with 12km to go where a series of roundabouts began, from this point we figured the fight for the front would become more difficult with all the corners so was important to be at the front. From then I drifted back behind Ivan until about 5km to when I saw a chance to jump up the front safely. When I arrived up there I realised Tony Martin still had a little gap and did not look like coming back to the bunch. So I realised I needed to ride as nobody was making headway. It was a good option anyways as I felt I could keep the pace high enough to start to peg tony back and also keep any attacks coming from the field. Around 2.5km to go the argos team wanted to take up the pace and as I could just about touch tony I figured a bunch sprint was inevitable. As I drifed back into the bunch I spotted our canadian cannondball well positioned and alone so I told him to do the sprint. The other guys were a long way back and everybody looked tired in the peleton so I figured it would be a sprint where positioning would be rewarded. In the end Bouvin was 14th which for his 1st grand tour and 1st ever opportunity to stretch his legs in the finale is a great result, he will definitely improve from there. Ivan was safe and sound in the 1st positions so all was good for the cannondale team. I enjoyed my day, followed Ivan around and then got to be a little part of the action in the final km's so all good, its always nice to be up front and see what's going on than guessing or wondering from up the back of the bunch.

That was our day, a day that could have been a little bit of a drag but as I have explained above the captain of the ship ensures there is always something to do to keep us on our toes. Its the small things that one way or another make each day an enjoyable one with the cannondale pro cycling team.


SRM Data
Max speed 98.4kmph
Max Power 1050watts
Max Heart Rate 191BPM
Max Cadence 155RPM
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stage 5 & Bus Time

In comparison to the previous hectic few days, today was quite relaxing. A small breakaway jumped up the road early and the sprinters teams slowly but surely rolled it back. At the line one of the most exciting riders born in the 90's Micheal Bling Mathews was victorious and with it taking his biggest ever career victory. Bling is an absolute class act and incredibly polite young man in the bunch so when he wins everybody is very happy for him. It won't be the last big victory for bling that's for sure, this will merely open the flood gates. For cannondale boys Ratto gave it his all to mix it up in the sprint and showed again his consistency with 9th place. He will certainly continue to move up the results sheets as the race goes on.

From my perspective today was basically a day off. After spending a few cookies yesterday Basso and I decided I needed to take it as easy as possible over the next few days until we hit the mountains. So with that said we simply worked on our little system where he followed longo around to maintain a good position and I sat safely on basso's wheel so I was right there if he needed anything. I noticed today that the more people see us in this 3 some the more space we are given in the bunch. I noticed many times when people saw Ivan pass they immediately took another look behind them looking for me to also move past. By criky does this limit the stress for me of performing this role, I just keep the fingers crossed that everyday it gets more and more like today. I rolled up along side cancellara at one point and he said G'Day Mate, seems the euro's love practising there aussie accents, and asked how I was getting on? I told him all good and that I was just babysitting basso. This is a job he also had for many years at CSC so he knew what I was talking about. I said I am learning very quickly to maintain concentration at all times and there's plenty of other hrs in the day for socialising and switching off. He said I was spot on and that rider with Ivan was one of the best racing craft schools a rider can have. Everything ivan asked you to do or does is for a reason so was nice to hear how greatly Ivan is respected by one of the greatest riders currently in the bunch. Not that I ever doubt anything Ivan ever says but for certain my radio will be doubly tuned in now to ensure I don't miss a beat and learn as much as is possible from this great bicycle schooling opportunity.

So today was all about staying out of trouble and recharging the batteries. Also a good opportunity to eat and drink and ensure the body is full of all the fuel it needs for 3 weeks racing. I always enjoy days like today which had much more uphill than down. The profile had us climbing pretty much all day gradually so you never get many riders fighting you for a front position on days like today. Infact it was not until the final 10km when half the bunch seemed to get its breath back from the rolling terrain that any stress entered the peleton. I immediately switched of at this point and drifted to the back to ensure I stayed away from any trouble. Ivan was safely up front with the boys, longo, dallantonia and paterski are much more usefull to him in these stressfull finishes. I simply stayed close enough to see him and be ready to hand over my bike if required. Once we got inside 3km which is the point you get the same time of the bunch should you have any dramas and I knew basso was safe and sound, I switched off even more to save as many bullets as I can for the next 2 and half weeks. The most important thing I have learnt riding with Ivan in these days is when I don't need to spend any energy don't spend it because when he asks me to do somthing I often need every bit of power I can muster up so it needs to be saved where possible. I am already seeing how on the money Cancellara is!

Today is also a little special in that we have a grand total of 330km to travel on the bus. 140 before the race and 190km to our hotel for this evening. I love the bus trips as it gives me a chance to firstly write my blog! But more importantly have a good chin wag and de brief with my team mates and team staff. Much easier to do in the confined space of our luxurious bus. After that I get as much sleep as possible. If you can just cram in 30minutes of sleep a day when travelling on the bus then that totals one whole extra nights sleeps by the time the 3 weeks is up. All these recovery and recharge methods were picked up very quickly at the giro as I was so so so sick that getting out of bed each day was a battle. I sure learnt the hard but had I not have learned then I would not of survived. Now my power is back and I feel good the plan is that by maintaining these methods will keep me feeling fresher for longer and longer into the race. So with all that said the bas plays a crucial role in our recovery time as beside our hotel room and our bicycle its the place we spend the next greatest amount of time! What makes travelling on the bus pleasurable is our awesome bus driver luciu. He is an absolute champ and every morning has the bus, his pride and joy, spick and span both inside and out. I get along really well with luciu and have found a way to put a smile on his dial every morning. Everyday our massures make up small rolls or pannini's for us to put in our pocket for the race. I don't really like eating too much bread during the race so often of the 4 panini's in my race bag each morning I might only take one. During the giro I noticed luciu always quickly scooping on my bag and pocketing my left over panani's. One day I asked what he did with them and he said he simply loves eating them. So I asked his favourite flavors and his eyes lit up!!! Ham and cheese was his answer so now my bag is filled with 3 ham and cheese and 1 bannana and honey for me. Luciu is so excited every morning and surfice to say anything that I even need done whilst on the bus is often done before I even have the chance to ask him for it. I love a mint cordial after the race, I am not one for sports drinks, and I like it cold. So luciu 1hr before the finish mixes one up for me and puts it in the freezer so its perfectly chilled!! Mumma mia, if I get to enjoy seeing his happiness every morning when he pounces on my panini bag then he would be seeing the same gratitude when I receive my mint cordial! It just hits the spot! The smalls things hey that in this case quite litterly keep the time on the bus an extremely enjoyable experience everyday.

So with that said its time to curl up next to our director sportif dario mariuzzo who looks like he has had a harder day in the team car than all riders had on the bike and get some rest. The back right hand corner of the bus is always my spot every single race, so if you ever want to find me before or after a race that's the best place to look.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wind and walls! Stage 4 vuelta

Beauty! I was finally of some use today! No flat tyres, no running into traffic islands, and concentration was at an all time high. Infact Ivan asked me after just 15km if I was ok as I looked so serious!! I said absolutely, was just concentrating and had my game face on, of there was action today I was determined to be apart of it.

Today we started inland and headed back to the coast for change. It was still blowing its backside off so as always in Cannondale Pro Squadra we set up camp at the front of the peleton to do our best to avoid any carnage where possible. When its windy and up and down things can change in a blink of an eye so if your at the back you can be over quicker than you can even look up and see what has happened. Infact it can be 300m from the front to the back of a grand tour peleton so through in some wind and a few corners and you would have now idea if 20 or 50 people had disappeared of the front of the bunch.

So todays stage was to be characterised by a fast decent down to the coastline, a steep 2km climb, and a right then left hand turn onto the final 2km climb to the finish. The decent was crucial to take on the front as once it finished we turned right onto the coast and the wind would be howling. Again I set behind Ivan and once the decent started he was right at the front, perfect. I just floated about in the first part of the bunch behind him so I was ready to help if required. I ended up following the race leader chris horner down the decent as I knew that should a split occur and he miss it then his team would be back in the blink of an eye to get him so safe spot to be.

Second decisive point came once we finished the decent and travelled along the coast for 15km before hitting the 2km nose bleedingly steep climb. With the climb coming only 30km from the finish its was crucial to be in the front of the bunch over this climb. We quickly grouped at the front of the bunch to ensure Ivan and ratto took the climb in the first positions. With 5km to go Ivan gave me the nod to ride the front and keep us in a perfect position. This turned out to be a little harder than expected as few other teams had the same idea and meant a drag race ensured. I was on the front beside greame browny brown, fellow aussie and an absolute champion of a rider and person. Surfice to say he has all the experience in the world. He made me laugh today as when I pulled up along side him he simply said wurfy let's not make this any harder than it needs to be!! We both had the same idea. We both wanted to get our team leaders to the bottom the climb in the first positions and in the process split the peleton to pieces if we had the opportunity. Sure we called a truce momentarily waiting for the moment, I trusted brownie know when to hit the gas so sat tight. Then form behind Longo had other ideas and told me to drill, I can't disobey my team mate so hit the gas. Naturally brownie joined in and soon after we joined forces. It certainly caused some chaos from behind but the effect was perfect, both our men hit the climb in the front and had an armchair ride to the top. Infact the front of the group was already almost 500m up the climb before half the peleton started the climb so that was good. I started the climb with lactic acid up to my eyeballs again but fortunately the pace was nice and slow so I was able to recover on the climb and ensure ratto stayed close enough to the front to come back to the front group over the top.

Once over the climb we took stock and re assessed our approach for the finish. Ivan was safe and sound and Ratto had ridden a great climb to still be in the front of the bunch. So I waited at the back of what was left of the peleton till 20km from the finish where I wanted to get the boys a nice fresh water bottle to liven them up for the finish. Collecting this bottle is always the hardest one to get as the pace is now absolutely full gas at the front. Infact simply collecting this bottle and handing them out to all your team mates can often spell the end of your day. You basically have to commit 100% to get the bottles to the boys as quickly as possible knowing that once that last bottle is delivered you could be throwing up the parachute, putting on the reverse light and rocketing out the back of the peleton.

Anyways I got the bottles to the boys and it actually gave me a new set of legs. All of a sudden I was back at the front of the bunch and champing at the bit to get on the front of it and help set ratto up for the sprint. I rolled up beside Cancellara and as I had had met him in poland and had some nice conversations with him he happily let me into the perfect spot. Behind a few of his boys and only 10km to go so knew I would not hit the front until around 4km to go. At this point I would have enough juice left in the tank to crank out a 2km pull to the base of the climb and then it would be up to ratto to stretch his legs in the bunch gallop. This is exactly how it panned out and with about 1800m remaining astana took up the pace making and I put the reverse lights on. Quickly checked to ensure Ivan was safe and sound up front and ratto aswell and was optimistic of a good result for the boys. Alas ratto found the kick to the line a little harder than expected but good thing was he had gritted his teeth all day to give it a go. This determination will be rewarded for sure in the coming weeks in this years vuelta.

For me I was really happy to finally be back apart of the action. When I was behind popovich and knew it was almost my turn to pull on the front I was literally bouncing on my seat with excitement. I couldn't wait to unleash on the front of the bunch and feel all the adrenaline rush that comes with knowing you have a peleton full of the worlds best riders tucked in behind you. For that moment you are leading the race, in fact for that brief moment you are in control of the race, it really is a great feeling, specially for dish pig domestic such as myself. I don't win races so my thrills and enjoyment come from the success of my team mates and moments like this, contributing to big race. That's what has me motivated every morning when I am on the start line of the race. Fortunately the vuelta will last 3 weeks so there's going to be plenty of chances to make a contribution. Got some sore legs finally, a good sore through, a happy sore, the type you get after an enjoyable day in the saddle. Time for an hour on the massage table with munga, when it comes to experience he is the man, about 60 years old and strong as an ox, has worked for the great cippolini and now has the honour of looking after my pins! Will do an in depth blog on how awesome he is during the the next days.

Now time to relax

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Monday, August 26, 2013

A "Flat" Stage 3!

The course for stage 3 I am certain was designed to make the peleton sea sick! Not only were we next to water all day long, but also the road seemed never to be straight nor flat. In fact the only flat sections were a couple of bridges which were buffeted by wind so hardly made a friendly respite, quite on the contrary!

I started today super fired up after yesterdays pussing footing around on the positioning front. I was determined to be at the front and I have always loved windy days so was champing at the bit when the flag was dropped for the 3rd stage. When its windy, twisty and rolling its always a hard day in the bunch, good thing is its hard for everyone. Everyone wants to be at the front due to the constant threat of turning a corner and the consequent change in wind direction can have the group in pieces. To be at the front takes energy and a fair bit off it. You basically have to keep fighting for position until people stop fighting you for it basically as a result of them no longer feeling they have the energy to keep on fighting. At this point riders just concede and move back in the peleton and hope they will be far enough forward to avoid being left behind the a team decides to turn the screw and split the race to pieces.

So with my enthusiasm at an all time high was anxiously awaiting the first skirmish. Sure enough as we approached a wind swept bridge I sensed some nervous moves from moviestar and astana. Determined to be apart of the action I looked for my team mates and saw them safely positioned not far behind me but not close enough to orchestrate an all out assault in the cross winds. So with the right hand corner now fast approaching I drilled it to ensure I was first around it and in the process slowed the moviestar and astana teams getting to the front. As expected they both sprinted to pass me and attempt to split the bunch. By the time they had got to this point my boys were with me and safely set up camp behind ready to join in if necessary. As it turned out with still over 80km to race neither team wanted to commit fully and a truce was called but as always this first fright put the nervs in the bunch and everyone started fighting for the front! Perfect, now we were really racing. For the next 40km or so it went like this, fight fight fight and then sure enough we hit another nervous section and the first crash of the day happened close to the front.

Ivan and I have a very simple system for race situations such as this. That being windy days, the final 30km of fast technical stages and anytime basically that should he be in difficulty I am right there to get him out of it. His safety as he calls it, the emergency button. It might be taking him to the front or if he has a flat tyre or problem with the bike he simply takes my bike. Its quite fortunate we both have exactly the same measurements on our race bikes. So with the stress now high he immediately said its time to implement this system.

So when the first crash happened I immediately saw ivan scoot around an unfortunate Simon Gerrans laying on the road. The group was not split in half be we were safely in the front one. Then 5km later we hit another small town and down went a heap more riders. Straight away I saw Ivan just ahead of the chaos but I was blocked and had to retreat to foot path. A pretty impressive bunny hop by my standards due to the high curb and a duck and dive between a couple of lovely old ladies in the mid sixties that had the witt to ask for a quick photo!! And I was back on the road and still in the front group and still only a few spots behind Ivan. Only about 40-50 riders remained up front and we had 7 guys there so all was well. Well almost.

No quicker had I accelerated back up to warp speed, we were not mucking around now, 30km to go and GC contenders teams up front wanted to nail home an advantage over those unfortunately being left behind, I had the horrible feeling of my rear wheel rolling around! CRAP, I had a flat tyre!! Straight on the radio to get a spare and mario or DS say put up your hand so they call us, I said it was up and he said put it up higher as the judge was not calling them forward!! I looked around and realised why, the cars were no where to be seen, the crashes had split the field into 3 groups and the cars were about 1minute behind! So back I went through the groups I had been so diligent and motivated not to be in today until finally I reached the car and changed the wheel. I got going again knowing my time up front in the sun was over and gradually starting picking my way through the cars to the now chasing 2nd group. I started to gain some hope of regaining contact atleast with this group when we turned onto a bridge that was barely wide enough for a car. Sure enough the was another crash and all the cars were stopped again. Not even my skinny little pigeon chest could squeeze past the parked cars and I had to twiddle my thumbs and wait for them to move on for another minute or so. Now I was miles behind and the adrenaline was all gone. Like yesterday where I was reminded how quickly you can go from the front of the peleton to the back, today I got the reality check of how exilerating and also demoralising it can be racing in crosswinds. One minute you are dishing out the suffering, the next you are pleading for forgiveness and just wanting to be in the middle of a peacefull peleton.

Anyways there's always someone worse off and while I lost the chance to again be of any assistance to ivan on the final climb I did not hit the deck. I was in a group now with simon gerrans who looked like he had gone 12 rounds with mike tyson so I realized things were not so bad. Ivan had plenty of team mates with him to take the climb in the front position and in the end he put in another fine display to be 10th on the day and continue his climb up the GC standings. His smile is getting wider and wider everyday and with it the moral of the team. Its a great atmosphere at the dinner table so looking forward to getting some sleep as I can't wait to wake up in the morning and go race my bike. Really really champing at the bit for tomorrow!!

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Day 1 on the open rd

The first road stage of this years vuelta is now behind us and was a positive day for our captain Ivan Basso. The plan for the team today was pretty simple, ensure Ivan started the final climb of the day in the front of the peleton knowing so long as he was there at the start of the climb he would also be there at the top of the climb. By days end he would 8th on the stage in a small group containing all the GC contenders and following yesterdays disappointment there was a big smile back planted all over his dial.

Now taking the climb in the front is much easier said than done. Add to the fact you have a peleton full of fresh legs on day one and its always a absolute chaotic 20km before such an important corner to start a final climb. As always the cannondale boys were working perfectly all day keeping us up at the front. Infact until 5km before this all important turn I don't think I was ever further back than 20th wheel, perfect! Yeah almost! At this point I realised ivan was not at the front and started drifting back a little to find him. Sure enough I did, well momentarily as he came roaring passed me around the outside of the bunch with longo borgini, paolo is the out and out expert at positioning his team captain at these crucial moments. So seeing this I immediately moved out to follow only to boxed out of the the way by some other riders sensing the chance to follow our team captain to front. This would have been manageable but all of a sudden we only had half the road and I was forced to stand still with the front of the race travelling at 50kmph. So with only a couple of km's until the climb suffice to say I had to bite the bullet and hope that I would be able to ride my way back on the climb. While I eventually made my way to back of the split in half peleton there were riders getting dropped left right and centre so with Ivan safely in the front I put up the white flag realising I would not be any help to him on the final climb today.

Taking the climb in the front is one of the major lessons you learn at this level of racing. The reason is pretty simple as the rubber band effect of the peleton when you hit a climb means that you can often be doing double the power at the back of the peleton to that of the smooth pace at the front. Also from my physiological perspective I am always going to struggle with a surging rhythm as its simple not an ingrained rhythm instilled in my legs from a young age. I have a diesel engine so for it work at its optimal it needs to be a nice consistent pace.

For example at the front the pace can be high such as 500 watts + for a few minutes at the start of a climb like today. That's not so bad when you are right there and your wattage merely varies 30 watts either side. Today however being nearly 100 riders back you are constantly accelerating and decelerating going from 700 watts to 300 watts and I can only handle this for a short time. Sure you can train for it and by spending a bucket load of time at the back of the bunch or trying simulate these accelerations. Our last races we have spent all our time up front so was an extra shock to my system today to experience this difficulty and instantly found myself in the red zone. Anyways simplest way to fix the issue is start the climb at the front next time.
Whenever I have had my better days on the bike the pace has always been nice and constant and also I have always been in the first positions. Its simply how I role and its probably taken until this year where I have more consistently been at the head of the race to really understand this about myself. So there you go I should have know to be up front to do my job properly and I wasn't and ended where I did, out the back!   
Having said that it always is a big shock how quickly you can be out of position in a world tour peleton full of riders wanting to be at the front. Anyways will ensure I don't make the same mistake later in the race when we next hit the mountains. Fortunately all the cannondale boys were at basso's aid and had him safely in the front so my mistake did not cause any damage today, still I could not just shrug my shoulders about it, I need to accept it and remember how responsible I feel for potentially letting Ivan down and its a feeling I don't want and will add a few % of concentration to my approach for the rest of the vuelta. Most important thing is to move on and avoid it happening in the future.

So a good first test for our captain and again was great to see all the boys doing such a brilliant job keeping him safe. The system we worked hard on the past couple of races was clearly evident and the moral of the group is nice and high at the dinner table this evening. Its been great having bouvin, a young canadian kid on the team for this years vuelta. He did an awesome job today for his first day in a grand tour peleton. He was completely un daunted by the task at hand. Also its funny seeing another culture that is not italian at the table. I always seem to eat in a little different way to other guys, just my order of things and what I mix and match. For example top avoid over eating I like just 1 plate of food. So I push my pasta around my plate until my steak or fish arrives, plont it down on top of my pasta and much away. The italians love there 3 course serving style and seperate everything. So with bouvin at the table its nice to not be the odd one out anymore as he does exactly the same thing. Little things that are making this vuelta experience, discounting todays balls up, a very pleasurable and enjoyable time with the cannondale pro cycling team. Its funny how such small things can make you feel that little bit more relaxed. The more relaxed you are off the bike the more energy you have to concentrate while you are on it. Alls things pointing towards an enjoyable 3 weeks ahead.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013


We quite literally set sail in the 2013 vuelta espana today. The start line of the TTT was set on a temporary glass bottom jetty which required teams to take a short ferry ride to. Certainly quite unique and considering my back ground in water sports I felt it was a good omen for the cannondale boys for the first stage. Alas by days end it would not prove to be the case on this occasion.

We certainly had high hopes heading into todays TTT and started with this enthusiasm. Ultimately it was probably our downfall as before half way we had already lost 3 riders and a 4th had set up camp on the back. Its so easy to push a little harder than your body wants you to in a TTT. Firstly your adrenaline is pumping as its a race, secondly your team mates are all giving 100% on the front and you are constantly champing at the bit to get forward and do your bit, and thirdly you simply don't want to be seen to be letting your team mates down. So sadly all these positive and team orientated objectives can unceremoniously come back and slap you fair in the face when your legs decide they won't do what your head is asking them to do.

So our situation was this and very early it was clearly evident we had 2 extremely strong me in dall antonia and Basso and there fearsome turns of speed were putting the team well and truly aboard the pain train. Dall antonia particularly is an absolute machine in these TTT's, I guess you only need to see the destructive leadouts he performed for elia viviani at the giro to understand the horsepower that bloke has in these type of efforts, he is truly I highly valued team mate.

Back to the day and I immediately knew with our final 6 we had a few more in trouble so took on the role of keeping the pace smooth for them to recover and fill in the gaps on the climbs when they just needed that little extra breather. Its was no point me putting the pedal to the metal aswell as at the end of the day we needed a minimum of 5 to finish as the team time is taken when the 5th rider crosses the line. As it turned out with 5km to go we nearly had 3 left so caution was needed by someone and today that person was me. Its days like today that my rowing days really come back to me as in a rowing boat its no point ripping the side of the boat if your partner or partners cannot match you, you will simply go around in circles. So today was just where we were at as a team, that's why they call it TEAM time trial as you need to pull as one and as one that was what we were able to achieve out of today.

The positives were that Ivan looks in absolutely impeccable nick and is certain to get even stronger as the race goes on. Also every rider absolutely committed to the cause and while it may have meant a few seeing red a little earlier than they may have hoped it still shows how determined we all are to give all we have for the teams objectives so that's a huge positive out of the day. I was really happy with my ride today, was a big improvement from the giro I believe and also I did it with a much cooler head today. I would have loved to lay it on the line a little more but in the end so long as I am improving in the discipline I can't really ask for much more of myself self. I now have another 20 days in which I can bury myself till my hearts content to keep ivan in the GC race so I am certain to not have any drama ex pending any extra energy I may have kept in the tank today.

So that's day one down, not a great start result wise but one that's behind us now. Tomorrow immediately sees a mountain top finish so there will definitely be another shake up of the field there. Judging by what I saw of Ivan today you would have to put pretty good odds on him climbing back up the GC rankings by days end tomorrow.

So in true what I believe to be true vuelta style its almost midnight and I am still wide awake so time for me to knock out a few more pages of sean kelly's book to calm me down and get some shut eye, the adventure has only just began!!

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Vuelta seed was planted!!

The eve of the vuelta espana is finally here which means team presentation then show time tomorrow. I am super duper excited to finally be at the tour of spain as my fascination for the event had a big influence in my decision to switch sports in some respects. In the respect I feel I have come full circle to finally be here so pretty special moment for me. The reason for this I will now explain.

Following the rowing world championships in 2006 I had my vacation in san Sebastian. I had just been through a very difficult season riddled with injury and to finish 4th in the final only added insult into injury. Once I arrived in san sebastion with Jess, her sister Lanny and my partner in crime Matty Ryan, all those disappointments seemed to vanish. I simply sunned myself all day on the beach and let my battered body repair, particularly my tendonitis'd wrist that would ultimately provide me with the opportunity to spend more time on my bike. But long before this played a part those days in san Sebastian really planted a cycling seed in my head. As I lay there on the beach I dreamed of one day being a professional cyclist and living right there in San Sebastian. The place at the time provided me with the idyllic dream home town for the profession I was dreaming of taking up, beach, golf course, and off course great food available on every street in town. Also at the same time the Vuelta was underway and I was determined to go and see a stage as I was there. So with that I found a map of the race in a local newspaper and set about finding the closest opportunity to see my hero's ride past, even just for a split second. The stage we decided to attend finished In the town of altamira so with a few calculations we figured we could be there inside 3hrs and have my first ever day watching a professional bike race.       

The big day finally arrived and off we went in our rent a car in search of altamira. In retrospect purchasing a GPS would have made life a lot easier but instead we stuck with the map. With jess navigating we were on way and quickly headed straight for altamira and the vuelta. There was plenty of excitement in the car to see the cycling stars in action and I have to probably admit that it effected my common sense in that regard! We were soon for want of a better word in the middle of know where, still on the path to altamira, however jess, lan and matty were now pretty dubious as to weather we had the right altamira. I was certain all was fine and convinced them that its probably normal for a bike race to use these back roads. In my opinion I figured it would be easier to close them so the argument seemed to get across the line and on we pushed. As we got closer we got a little lost and had to stop to ask for directions to altamira. Upon reflection people looked at us pretty strangely wondering why on earth we were wanting to go to the altamira we were pointing to on the map. They looked even more baffled when we explained the biggest bike race in spain was finishing there in a few hrs and I am sure had I have understood even the slightest bit of spanish the truth would have been realized there and then!

The signs that we were in the wrong spot were pretty obvious, firstly we had not seen another car or person for a long time but I just assumed that maby in typical spanish fashion everybody would just arrive later. Infact I managed to convince the others of how clever we had been in arriving nice and early and we would be able to get the best park!!

Well as it turned out parking was never going to be an issue. When we finally arrived in altamira there was nothing to resemble the town at all apart from a sign the others made me pose infront decked out in my T-Mobile cap and aussie flag to cheer on robbie mc ewan. With my tail now well and truly between my legs we retreated to the bar we had previously asked at for directions but this time without insisting that particular altamira was where we wanted to go. Sure enough there was another altamira, a major city and from san Sebastian the same distance we had travelled just in pretty much the opposite direction!!

So I learnt a couple of things from this failed attempt to go and watch the vuelta. Firstly always travel with a GPS while driving in europe and secondly if I want to see the vuelta espana live its probably best I stop rowing, take up cycling and take part in the race itself!! So with the start of tomorrows TTT I will finally tick of that second objective. Its funny that this crazy adventure has been the endless amusement of jess, lany, matty and I for the last 6 years so nice to finally bring a little closure to the story. I am now going to go through the race book with a fine tooth comb and see if we go through altamira, that would really cap it all off.

I will never really comprehend how much this day in the car failing to find a bike race influenced my decision to change to cycling. I would imagine probably more than I can imagine as it was during this period that I was toying with the idea my head. I also remember not being mad that we did not find the proper race town but being more concerned with getting to a TV to watch the stage I was meant to be seeing with my own bare eyes on the side of the road in altamira. I believe this probably makes me a cycling fanatic, where your blinded by your passion for the sport, that's somthing that I certainly am.

In any case I am here, we have had the team presentation so now all that's left to do is get the show on the road starting with the Team Time Trial tomorrow night.  

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Burgos final day

Burgos saved the most pain for the final day! The race concluded with what was the absolute queen stage of the event and in the end our captain Ivan Basso showed why he is firming as a big favourite for this years vuelta!!

The day started horribly for me, my teammate got tangled up in a bit of crash and his bike decided to fly into mine like a missile and I hit the deck! Bugger, first crash in europe this year and a good reminder of how quickly you can find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anyways need to be more attentive. It was certainly a good bingle as I destroyed everything from my jersey down to my shoes, lost skin from my pinky finger down to my heel bone so all can be greatfull for is that my head remained unscathed.

So on the deck but that was the least of my dramas. Unlike the first few days the breakaway was just not going quickly and the pace was on and I was flapping around in the follow cars trying to get myself back to the peleton. I learnt a few years ago that when you crash the first thing you do is get back on your bike and get back to the peleton as quickly as possible. Once back in the safety of the peleton and you have a chance to relax a little do you then check your bumbs and bruises and decide weather you need any medical attention from the race doctor in the car following the race. Today that moment did not come for about 50km and at which stage there were 3 groups on the road, fortunately I was in the front group which had formed on the first climb but the doctor was back behind the other groups. Fortunately Although I was in a fair amount of pain, enough that I felt so sick I wanted to through up a few times I decided I could clean myself as best as possible with some water and wait for the end of the stage for treatment. So did not need the doc anyways. The race finally had a break away and pace settled. I kind of wish it had not as it gave a chance for the adrenaline to wear off and feel my aching left side!! Anyways that's just racing. When you want it easy its hard! When you are happy with it being a hard tempo and small groups forming, the bunch decides to have a cease fire and you can feel average as quickly as you felt like 10men, just the funny little ups and downs you go through in a bike race.

Unfortunately an upset tummy and throwing up is not ideal for the energy system so I explained my situation to Ivan and he said I needed to stop or do as little as possible as it was not the day to destroy myself. You only have so many dig deep biscuits in the jar in one season and I don't need to waste them on a day like today when the vuelta is only 2 weeks away. The most important thing was nothing was broken and I just had to take it easy. So that what I did, just rolled along and when it got to the point I felt like vomiting again just backed it off and had a steady ride up the finish climb and ensure I got some climbing km's in the pins and did not push at all into the red zone unnecessarily. So all good in the end and still capped of a good 2 weeks of racing in as best a way as possible considering the circumstances.

Ivan was fine up front and had our columbian rock spider to keep him company and get him out of any trouble he got into. As it turned out he was quickly in an elite selection with the tour de france runner up quintana, his big rival for the vuelta vincenzo nibali, and a very experienced Spaniard in david arroyo. In the end he was 3rd distancing nibali in the final and finishing just behind the other 2 so was a great result for him and in reality has capped of perfectly 2 weeks of preparations for what has become his biggest objective of the season.

So all good her for the cannondale boys as we finally get to go home to our respective bases and absorb what's been an intense month of preparations which began with an altitude camp in san pelligrino, tour of poland and now burgos. All our bodies are going to enjoy some quiet days that's for sure!  

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Saturday, August 10, 2013


The almost perfect day for the cannondale pro boys! Daniele the Rat Man Ratto finally crossed the finish line in first place and finally got to celebrate a victory that seemed inevitable to arrive sooner rather than later. So after all the fan fare and excitement and pats on the back all round from a perfectly executed team plan we all retreated to the bus for a de brief while ratto awaited his victory ceremony. That's when the disappointing news arrived that FDJ had protested and ratto had been disqualified for an irregular move during the sprint finish, BUGGER! Anyways from my perspective not a lot changed. We still did the work we were prescribed to do and Ratto crossed the line 1st so from a team perspective its still a win in my eyes and of all those that watched on TV, its just the record books that will show a different winner.

So as it had been for every stage so far this week we started the race with a simple objective, set Ratto up for the sprint. The idea was to stay calm until 4km to go when we would hit the front and ensure the pace stayed high and ratto had the perfect positioning for the sprint. Longo and I were to do the pulling in the final km's and heado would do the final leadout for Ratto.

Up until this point the stage was pretty cruisey until the final 25km. A small break was up the rd and there was no shortage of teams wanting to pull it back so the catch was inevitable. The final 60km comprised 2 laps of a 30km circuit which I love as when you hit circuits I call them free km's! Not that the race is easy, to the contrary, usally when you hit circuits the speed and stress rises considerably which for me make the time pass much quicker than normal. For this reason I call them free km's. Upon seeing the 1st lap I realised that a 10km section of very narrow rough road between 20-10km to go was going to dictate the outcome of the stage. For this reason I knew it was crucial that out green train took the left hand turn on the front, not to actually ride tempo from then on but once on this rd the path forward would certainly be blocked and there be impossible to be in bad position for the all important final 10km of racing.

So although we did not discuss this in the meeting I decided that I would ensure all 8 cannondale boys were lined up on the front when we made the left hand turn onto what seemed to be a poorly managed footpath. To achieve this I spent way to much time in the wind anticipating the corner but I was going to make certain I was there first. I did not have to look behind me in the final 500m from the corner as I took the front as I knew the boys would know what I was thinking and be right behind me. Sure enough as I rounded the corner and straightened up I looked back and there they all were with big grins on there face.  Tick! So from there we were never more than 10 wheels from the front all the way to the finish as people jostled for position from behind. It turned out to be crucial as astana set a fearsome tempo on the rolling narrow winding goat track which really had the whole field including themselves on the limit. Fortunately we were right on there wheels so when we turned on the final 10km wider rd we were as fresh as possible and ready to pounce at 4km to go.

So I waited and waited and as soon as I saw the 5km banner charged forward and got in the line ready to pull as hard as possible. Finally just shy of 4km I hit the the front and peddled as fast as my long legs would go at this point in the race on a fast downhillish section of rd. At 3km to go longo the motor bike borgini ripped past and put in a huge turn for 1.5km or so where I think people were scared to pass him. Once he pulled past me I looked for ratto and ensured he was in the perfect posi. I waited behind stage winner simone ponzi and sure enough ratto found my wheel and I duly moved aside to give him ponzi's wheel. Perfect, inside 1km to and he had the wheel he wanted and heado was doing his final leadout to keep the pace high. From there I sat up and stayed away from the chaos and listened to the finish, RATTO VINCITORE!!! Awesome! All had finally worked out! Just as planned and as usual everybody had done the jobs asked of them. Another great indication that this is a team ready for the big show starting on the 24th of august!

Some longer mountains tomorrow so with a peleton of what seems to be packed full of columbians its sure to go off like and absolute fire cracker tomorrow so looking forward to that. Also gives a great opportunity to put the finishing touches on what's been 2 excellent weeks of race preparations.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Burgos stage 3

Quiet day here in burgos today. It was one of those days where the 175km seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. Infact it was not until we crossed the line that I finally got a chance to see just how much ground and climbing we had done, 2000m of elevation gain to be precise in 4hrs 10min so was a pretty quick one on such terrain. Hopfully this is a good sign that it seemed to breeze by as certainly when you are counting down the km's the days can be very long! One of the big positives from racing the tour of poland and doing so many long hard days is that anything less than 200km seems like a stroll for the moment! I hope this feeling continues for the entire 3 weeks of the vuelta!!

So todays plan was stick to the same plan. Set up ratto as best as possible for the demanding uphill bunch sprint. The sprint would again be defined by a left hand turn onto a narrow rd 2km from the finish and everybody knew if you were not there in the first wheels you were gone. Basso continued to demonstrate his vuelta legs are on the up by jumping into a selective move in the final 10km's. It would be swept up inside 5km's to go but was great to see he is getting jumpy ahead of his big season objective. From there my attention turned to getting ratto to the front for the all important left hand turn and with 3km to go a drag him up the front and dropped him about 5th wheel. From there he was on his own as I can bombarded by kamikazi's from behind want to risk life and limb to take the corner first but I knew from where ratto was he would get a good result. Sure enough he would cross the 3rd so another great showing and again proving his consistency whenever he pins on a number.

For me I am finally getting the race rhythm in my legs and enjoying the feeling of zipping over the rises that in poland seemed like mountains! Another fast flat day tomorrow to keep topping up this energy system!

Power data
time: 4hrs 15min
Speed: 41.5kmph av
Av power: 257watts
5min peak power: 480watts
Max power: 1200watts
Average heart rate: 134bpm  
Kcal: 4000

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Burgos stage 2

Day 2 of burgos was a windy affair. Not enough to cause chaos in the field but enough to cause a lot of nervous stress in the bunch. The positive of this means that generally the pace is also nervously high so the 157km was knocked over pretty quick, in 3hrs 30' to be exact. Again today we put all our eggs into the ratto basket as after yesterdays showing felt he had a good chance of taking the victory. In the end he was a little out of sorts in the final 500m and did not figure in the sprint but the team ensured he had the best chance to do so which was important.

An early breakaway formed and the race leaders astana quickly gained control of the escapees and set a solid tempo at the head of the field. With 40km to go the break sensed there chance to go for glory and the margin started to inch up a little dangerously. At this point I went to work on the front of the bunch and along with the astana lads lifted the pace for the next 15km to get the break back to a manageable margin. With 20km to go we had the group pegged at 1min 30sec so very much under control. At this point astana decided to start playing silly buggers with us and refused to help so as I was not in the mood for games I just backed of the pace a little and pulled for longer to ensure I still caught the break but also did not burn myself out prior to this happening. My team mate canuti came up to help me out which worked perfectly and as planned we reeled in the final escapees with around 4km to race. At this point as expected other teams took up the pace setting for the finish and we still have 5 fresh guys to help ratto in the final km's. The boys put him in a perfect position but unfortunately unlike 24hrs before his leathal sprint eluded him in the final push for the line.

None the less it was another positive tick for the team with regard to working as unit and committing to the daily task. From my point of view I was really happy to get a good solid 45-50min of work in on the front of the peleton as I have not done much of this type of work on the front this season. Until today most of my work has been in the climb or in the final km's at a higher intensity so was good to work on the engine just below this above threshold area for a change. Looking forward to feeling the benefits of this next time a do a time trial. The experience of the giro has certainly served me well as I am much more aware of pushing only as hard as is necessary to perform the task that's required. In the past I have been perhaps a little over exuberant with my effort and spent my biscuits a little early so I am enjoying have a little more of a race brain on my shoulders now.

All in all another good day heading toward the vuelta, looking forward to seeing what comes our way tomorrow.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Burgos stage 1

I love racing in spain so was pretty chippa when I woke up this morning knowing it was the 1st stage of the vuelta burgos, our final tune up prior to the vuelta. In spain everything outside the race is so relaxed, you rarely have long transfers, always good hotels, awesome food, and just the general tranquillo nature of the paella kings seems to have a soothing effect on me!

So onto the race and it was stressed to us in the meeting that this is merely a tune up race and not the time to bust the old bolla prior to the big show beginning august 24. Having said that our team always wants to be present in every race and stage so our only objective was to set ratto up for the predicted sprinters that can climb sprint finish if that makes sense! My specific role was simply to stay with ivan all day and ensure he is as safe as possible and in the right position to avoid any trouble. This will be crucial in the vuelta that I stay concentrated on this exact task as thee moment I am a bit sleepy you can bet your bottom dollar that's when he will need me so important to continue the good work on this front we started in poland.

I was very motivated at the start and duly had myself perched on the front row. Sure enough a dangerous group jumped away and I had to close it. It was on a nasty incline which was not steep enough to slow the bunch down but also not easy enough to ride a tempo to close so I was full block! So after just 5min of racing I could taste blood in my mouth, somthing I have not experienced for a long long time and got the day off to the hardest possible start. Eventually the race settled down and movistar set about controlling the race. It only took 65km to remind me how important being with ivan and up front really is. A crash about 3 or 4 wheels behind us blocked the road and all of a sudden on 15 riders remained in the peleton. It was spitting rain and windy so important to be up front and out of trouble however this always requires extra effort. On these occasions you are reminded how important it is to use this bit of extra effort.

It took a long time for all the riders to rejoin our 15rider peleton and sure enough as is always the case on 1st stages ensured a stressfull final 50km. The stage was characterised by one thins and one thing only! A right hand corner about 800m from the finish. From there only a 200m rise followed by 200m of cobbles and followed by a final 400m kick up to the line separated us from the finish line. Its was pretty simple, take that corner in the 1st positions and it was very unlikely that many would pass you.

So my roles was simply to look after ivan. We knew with 6km to go there was a drag uphill exposed to the wind on a wide road that would enable us to charge to the front and take a safe position. Sure enough we were perched close to the back when the rise commenced and basso gave me the word to charge forward. So off we went up past the bunch and just as we approached the front I saw 3 riders up the road from movistar, sky and astana which was a very dangerous move and nobody committing to the chase. So instead of catching my breath once at the front I simple charged on and set about pulling back the 3 rider move to ensure ratto had a clear run for the sprint finish. I pulled full block for 4km in the knowledge that my team mates were happily perched on my wheel and when longoborgini sensed I was beginning to suffer kept the pace up inside the final 2km, after him ivan showed what a great team leader he is by continuing the pace setting to the right hand corner with danielle safely tucked onto his wheel. Once on the climb ivan was spent and from there ratto almost played his cards to perfection only being passed 20m from the finish! Non the less I was really pleased with how the stage went as every team wanted to be at that corner first and it was the green train from cannondale that was the first to arrive at the station. A good sign that we are working well as a team and instinctively doing the jobs we need to do to help our team mates. Sure ivan lost some time on the stage but in reality we did not want to chase GC here so its a good thing. Besides if he was to open the gas on the final days 9km mt top finish I am sure he will finish high on GC so that's all good.

So a great day to kick of our spanish program for the cannondale team. Tomorrow looks very similar on paper so look forward to doing all I can to help ratto finally climb the top step of the podium. He has been so consistent all season so in my opinion a big victory cannot be far away.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013


Writing is on the wall so to speak for my 30th birthday dinner. Great to celebrate the occasion in typical italian style with my fantastic italian team mates right in the heart of krakow Poland! 31 here I come!

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Friday, August 2, 2013

Poland stage 6

Was quite to race of attrition here in poland for the final road stage of the 2013 tour. 5 laps of a 40km circuit with 3 x 5km climbs in each lap. In total 4000m of climbing elevation would be completed by days end so not surprising it was quite simply one of those days where the field just got smaller from behind!

Our objectives today were simple, keep ivan as high on GC as possible and by the end of the day he had climbed 2 places to be in 9th spot and finally inside the prestigious top 10. Was a pretty crazy day to match the crazy course with 30 riders going clear in the early breakaway. We had ratto inside to represent the team while the rest of us were instructed to stay with ivan to ensure he was safe and sound in the bunch. Slowly but shawly the teams of saxo and the basque's from spain started to wind in the break. When sky injected some horsepower into the chase the gap really started tumbling forcing those remaining up front to push a bit harder.

Ratto was on fire today and by the time he succumbed to the increase of tempo of the climbers in the front group only 6 riders remained up the rd. At this point when he was dropped he showed his true class. As now it was still a 1'30" gap to the front and 4 riders that were a danger to Ivan on GC we took up the pace making. Well infact Ratto picked up the batten straight away and absolutely rode himself into the groud on a fast but pedalable decent. To put it in perspective I was on his wheel getting an excellent draft and still doing 450 watts so was not surprized when he told me at dinner he was all out pushing over 500watts down the decent. His efforts paid huge dividends and with 18km to go the gab was down to 1min as we hit the second last climb. For me Ratto was certainly best on ground for the cannondale boys today! This was my cue to take over at the front but I knew I had to be carefull!

I was suffering so I know ivan would be suffering aswell so while you may think its a great idea to show how strong you are for 5' and pull like a madman on a climb you have to appreciate that once your job is done your captain had to finish the job. So for the first 4km of the climb before we hit the final 1km 15% average ramp to summit at 10km to go I found a pace that could gradually chip away at the lead of the 6 riders up the rd and also ensure ivan was feeling as good as possible for the final 5km climb he would have to do all alone. Its fortunately worked out perfectly and when we hit the wall at 1km from the top of the climb the attacks started and now ivan had to follow, my job was done. At this point the gap was down to 20 seconds and by the top of the climb the 15 riders left in the peleton had joined the 6 up front and Ivan was now in a perfect position to improve his GC standing. All day as a team we were never further back than 10-15 wheels and I never looked behind once. I knew it was hard but also knew if I looked back and the whole group was there then I would think I am suffering too much and everyone else is doing It easy. When I finished my pull I figured the group would be small but I did not expect it be less than 20 riders, I was a bit annoyed actually because it meant I had to ride the final 10km all on pat ma lone with nobody to winge and wine to about how hard the day was!

Anyways all worked out for the best in the end and ivan did a great job on the final climb. With only a TT to come tomorrow, it will be nice to round a great week of team work and preparation as we head to the vuelta. From a personal perspective its been great to atleast contribute in some capacity each day, always nice getting some extra tanning time on the front of the bunch!   

That rounds out my blogging as a 29 year old, tomorrow expect a more mature tone to my contributions as I will be turning 30!

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Poland stage 5

Wowsers trousers, that was a welcome back to the world tour race day! The course today seemed to be just perfect for inflicting pain on each other. From the gun the attacks were fierce and while no climbs were long enough or steep enough to create significant selections, they were the perfect length and gradient that it seemed someone wanted to go full gas at the front all day! In the bunch sprint eventuated, all be it with a reduced sized field with our Mr Ratto continuing his improvement throughout the race to arrive 3rd behind infamous thor (god of thunder). So for the cannondale boys all went to plan today. Ivan was protected and ensured he kept his GC position intact and ratto was up there in the bunch gallop. Paterski was perhaps best on ground for the team today shutting down countless dangerous attacks and also slipping into a decisive move in the final kms that was only neutralised within 3km of the finish so great to see him putting on a show in his home race.

In the bunch it was a stressfull day which seems to happen when the pace is high and you always feel like you seconds away from getting dropped! It means that once the pace slows a little or terrain eases of about 3 quarters of the field dive bombs to the front so you are constantly trying to defend your position.   Anyways its racing so you just have to cop these days with the less stressful ones.

But still I had a feeling that today just seemed to be full jolly tilt all day so that's the beauty of having a power meter, you can find out if it was actually hard or your just not in very good nick! Fortunately on this occasion a quick study of todays file pointed out a few confirmations of the ferocity of todays stage. Firstly when 0's are removed so when your coasting in the race, my average power while pedalling was 325 watts which is pretty high for almost 4hrs! Secondly I like to assess the 5min peak power as todays climbs were roughly that length and I was delighted to see that when I was chewing my head stem at a couple of occasions throughout the day I did 500watts for 5min which is a nice little psychological fitness barrier for me, when I can do this I know I am headed in the right direction. 10min peak power was low in comparison as the climbs were not so long but still a max of 430 watts for 10' which would have included some decending is certainly keeping the pedal to the metal. A max power of 1040 was also recorded so all in all I had some nice numbers todays and good signs that the body is not so disappointed to be back racing. I only did a little work on the front today in the final kms of the major climb as many sprinters were dropped so I wanted to ensure they did not rejoin and make it more difficult for ratto in the sprint so I was again happy to make a contribution. Once over this climb paterski slipped into the dangerous move so from there it was simply a case of ensuring ivan and ratto were in the perfect positions to ensure they were all tickedy boo for there respective jobs in the final kms. From there I just kept myself out of trouble and upright and ensure I lived to fight another day tomorrow with all my skin intact!  

Tomorrow is going to go off like a fire cracker if its raced like to today with similar climbs but a little steeper and twice as many of them so going to need a good sleep tonight!

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