Friday, May 31, 2013

Giro hangover

It's been 5 days since I finally rolled to a standstill in Brescia and I am certainly suffering from a giro hangover! After 3 weeks of strict routine it's a weird feeling being left to your own devices again. Just the simple things like all of a sudden having to choose yourself what you want to eat and when you will go to bed and when you will wake up! My body clock seems like it's been changed forever. Prior to this giro I have always been an early to bed early to rise bloke, usually asleep by 9 and up before 7. Now I am flat out locking the eyelids before midnight and having to basically drag myself under a cold shower if I want my body awake before 9 so that 29year routine has just been abolished by 3 weeks of the giro! 

So what have I done the week after a grand tour? Well not much! I have rested as much as is possible to give my body the best chance to recover.  Can honestly the thought or desire to do any form of specific training has not come within cooee of my mind and if I have ridden my bike it's nearly been as a social outing with some friends. My fist objective has been to get over this bronchitis and stuffy nose. 5 days on and it's finally feeling like it may be on its last legs. 

I have been very fortunate to have some visitors with Pete and Jenny wade popping in for a couple of days. Anyone that knows me knows that Pete and jen  have been major part of my life for the past 7 years and have been there since the beginning of my cycling career and seen it all. Pete is the ultimate sporting enthusiast and his passionate interest in what I am up to has always served as a major motivation for me. Spend 2minutes with Pete and his infectious enthusiasm rubs off on you and no matter how down or flat you were before you saw him he is certain to cheer you up and pump you up again. Pete has an incredible skill to know exactly how to keep you on track. Sometimes it means a reality check and get your yourself in order boy, while other times it's an arm on the shoulder and reassuring word that gives you confidence that everything will be ok. Whatever the situation Pete seems to know exactly how to look after you.

Jen is my mum away from my mum. Always the first to have a good look at me to assess how fit and healthy I am. Nothing gets past jen and if I am a bit out of whack she is certain to pick up on it and have me explain how I am feeling. Her motherly instincts always have a cure for an ache or ailment I may have and truth be told simply a loving caring hug that jen possesses always makes you feel better. Jen is an exceptional cook and I can guarantee that without her having me fueled up with so much healthy wholesome food over the years I would never have been able to train and ride the bike the way I do. Meals at the wades are famous among my mates not only due to the sheer amount jen dishes up but more specifically how jolly delicious every meal at the wades is. And it's not only the meals where jen is worrying about my nutrition, she is often chasing me out the door with an extra energy bar or stuffing more cakes in my back pockets as I leave for training. Yep it's pretty safe to say that regardless of what I have to do out on the road, every training  session that departs from or returns to the wades house is always a great session. I have always got the perfect belly of food when I leave and know that when I return it will be refilled with equally delicious treats. Through in the pep talk from Pete Pre and post ride and it's safe to say that Pete and jen have been an integral and major part of this cycling adventure of mine.

So with Jens motherly instincts and petes Counseling it was perfect to see them this week to snap me out of my post giro demolished coma! The first hug from jen instantly made me feel better and she was straight onto recommending all the healthy foods I needed to repair my demolished system. Pete as always knew exactly what to say and instantly had me in a more positive frame of mind so after 2 great days with them catching up jen was happy to be able to say that I looked  alot better than when they arrived! I knew I felt like a train wreck so no surprise I looked like one but still there arrival was just awesome and was so great to see them. As you ever need to reminded of it but without the support of family and friends it's a pretty lonely adventure so I am eternally greatfull to all those close to me for sharing the journey with me.

Being back in gavirate, the little town in northern italy i hang out in while in europe, has also been nice. The locals all seem to have taken some interest in this years giro and have made a big effort to compliment me on efforts during the race. I have learnt that when Italians are showing gratitude they like to do with food. Therefore every pizza seems to be a little bigger than usual, pasta becomes a range of special pastas, a small gelato becomes half a kg of there delicious ice cream, an entree becomes a bunch of special entrees and so on. Basically what ever I ask for is more than doubled and there is always something special I need to try! Fortunately after the giro I had shrunk a few suit sizes so I have a had a few notches on my belt buckle to loosen off and fit more in! This week  have decided that  need as many calories as possible to help my body mend so i am more than happy to slam down copious amounts of the italian cuisine. No it's been really touching to see everyone so excited to see me and I guess it's made me appreciate even more just how special the national tour of Italy is to it's people. 

So my weeks been pretty quiet which has been nice. Some entertaining, alot of eating, I little cycling with my mates and a majority of the time laying on the couch in front of the television. Basically I have been trying to simply do what my body feels for and fortunately I believe I am managing the recovery process pretty well. I have also been down at the Australian European training centre which is based here in gavirate a bit this week to sort out my session there going forward. The centre is an absolute goldmine for us Aussies based in the area. World class gym, recovery centre, medical facilities, simply put an australian institute of sport in northern Italy. So I am really looking forward to being back in gavirate and making the mos of this world class facility.

I am in for a big treat this weekend with the Italian moto GP round at mugello. I have become good friends with an fellow Aussie Bryan staring who is in his first year in moto GP so I am really looking forward to going and supporting him this weekend. Will be nice to watch some others deal with the pressures of competing for a change. I have pit lane passes so will be  in the thick of the action so certainly going to get as good a taste of the moto GP world as is possible. Bryan reckons his mechanics can change a wheel quicker than our team mechanics so I am going to have my stop watch out on that. Our guys are like lightning when changing a bike wheel so I will be very impressed if his guys are equally as slippery.

So after a week of r n r I am certainly starting to get the bug to get back into some sort of training routine. While I have enjoyed not having any responsibility to train and push myself these past few days I genuinely love this sport and love riding my bike so come monday can't wait to get the ball rolling slowly again. At this point I don't know what m next objectives will be, will talk the team next week once I have had this break and see how I am bouncing back, but whatever the Rd forward I am super greatfull for all the experiences of the past month and excited to use those lessons effectively in the future.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Final word from giro 2013

The giro for 2013 wrapped up on Sunday in Brescia and like the rest of the giro the final day still involved plenty of drama and unpredictability like every other stage of the race. It had been anticipated that it would be somewhat of parade stage but the fact of the matter was we still had to ride 207km before crossing the finish line! While all good intentions in the bunch planned it to be as painless as possible, we still we faced with at least 5hrs in the saddle. As expected we started slowly and I enjoyed some time to have a chat with the Aussies on the bunch and reflect on the past few weeks. I probably spent the most time chatting with Adam hansen who as always is extremely interesting to have a chin wag with. On Sunday however he was a little preoccupied as he had a flight to catch from Milan, some 140km from the finish of the stage in Brescia, and only a couple of hrs to get there after the stage. This predicament created the only excitement for the first 130km before we reached the first intermediate sprint.

After about 30km of this relaxed pace Adam started doing his usual calculations and realized another couple of hrs at this pace and he had no chance of making his flight. He was desperate to be home as he had been away for 5weeks and he was not going to concede to another night in a hotel. It was at this point he said to me do I think Astana would mind if he went and rode on the front to get it all done and dusted quicker?? I said go and ask but knowing the respect Adam has garnered over his years in the bunch I was pretty sure it would not be a drama. So off he went to the front of the group, explained his little predicament to Vincenzo, and he was on the front driving the peleton toward Brescia and making his flight ontime. Vincenzo was happy and so was his team, while they were happy and knew they had the responsibility to lead the bunch to Brescia they sure were not going to complain if a couple of lotto boys were happy to drum out 100km on the front for them and get the whole thing over and done with sooner. From there perspective it meant getting there party started even earlier!! The funny was however that everyone had relaxed and got used to the gentle pace that all of a sudden going back to race pace was met with a bit of disapproval in the bunch. It was pretty funny hearing the boo and Hoos but adam did not care, he was setting sale for home. Then things got really interesting as a few riders had stopped off in a town to say hi to there families. No dramas it had been happening all day. A quick cuddle and hello then the riders just jumped back into the line of cars and made there way back to the bunch as if the had had a flat tyre. No big deal. Only problem was now the pace was a little higher and some cross wind had blown up so all off a sudden the bunch was split into a few pieces! Once the riders rejoinder its surfice to say that there were not anymore family stop offs or howdy's along the way, Adam Hanson had a flight to catch and the giro train was not stopping at any stations! So with the tranquillity gone and 125km in the books the race finally started to ramp with the first intermediate sprint fast approaching. This was an important objective for me today as I wanted to protect my position in the sprint competition.

I decided to turn to the man that needed the sprints more than me to ensure he wore the red points jersey on the final podium at days end, mark cavendish. I said "mark I need to get some points to defend my position, I assume your going for them? What's your plan?" his response pretty simple, "do your best to hold my wheel or get as close to it and I am sure you will pick up some points" beauty so all I have to do is try and hold the fastest man in the worlds wheel and I can get some points! Fitting really, no prize should ever be easy to win in any race so I should have to earn my spot like anyone else. I just had to prey cav went about 50% throttle so maby I would be a chance! Fortunately the sprint was largely uncontested and while I was still full block holding the wheel I managed to snivel up a few points and secure 3rd in the competition so I was happy with that. It was the first time I had ever placed so highly in any classification in such a big race so can't complain. 

From here my focus switched to the major objective for the team for the day. Getting Elia to the finish as fresh as possible for his head to head clash with cav. My role was simply to keep the boys at the front between the sprint and entering the short finishing circuits. We knew the circuits were short and quite a narrow Rd so it was likely that wherever in the peleton you entered brescia was likely to be where you would stay for final 34km as the pace tamped p to the finish. So I did what I had been doing most days setting up camp out in the wind up the pointy end of the bunch. By this time the Astana boys who had moved back to the front for the parade into Brescia but whilst there train was respected to the utmost, the Rd around them was as stressful as ever with everyone wanting to be up front for the entry into the circuits. The protocol was once we passed the start finish line on our first lap of the circuits it was business as usual and the race would be on for the final 30km.

So push push push and push a little more forward was how I was spending my final afternoon at the giro. Keeping the green train where it needed to be and when we finally passed the finish line and the race lit up we were in a perfect position right up the front. Christiano, Sami and myself I feel had done our jobs pretty well and now we just had to use whatever energy we had left to keep the boys up front and save the green locomotive engines of elia's lead out train for as long as possible. The other little thing on my mind was the intermediate sprint with 4 laps to go. I was already on my absolute rivet from keeping the boys up front so the try and be there for the sprint was just going to out of the question. I knew all I had to do was grab cav's wheel again like before and snivel a couple of points but I decided all my energy had to go into protecting the guys. If I was in the right position so be it but if not we had an objective for the day and that came above any little personal ambition I may have in the sprint competition. As it turned out I was to lose my second place in the classification and slip to 3rd on that final sprint but also at that time we were working very hard fending our position at the front. As always happens on these hard fast technical circuits everybody is fighting when there fresh. As the legs get a little more tired there is a little less fighting until finally you are able to keep fighting longer than other teams are able to and you can enjoy some space at the front. It's is nice feeling when you get close to the arrival and all of a sudden you can concentrate on peddling your bike as appose to blocking or fending for every square inch around you! At 3 laps to my tired coughing fatigued body put up the white flag for the final time in the giro. I handed the reins over to caruso who had been charged with the job of keeping the boys in pole position until 6pm to go when the green train would finally be unleashed. As I slid back through the bunch I realized why the fighting had suddenly stopped up front. The group was a single ling and nearl 300m long, everyone was on there limit so was nice to realize I was not the only one aboard the pain train. Anyways as I gently rolled around the final km's I tuned in harder to my radio to listen to our master in charge of affairs stefano zannata (he is a spitting image of Elvis preastly) guide the boys through the final 4pm lap. At 3km to go I slowed to watch the big screen and see the boys launch to the front, first longo then marunga, inside 2km to go and sitting perfectly was the tgv's of the green locomotive, Dall Antonia and sabatini and sitting perfectly behind them was Elia. I knew at this point it would be a good result. As it turned out the lead out was text book perfect and in the Elia was simply beaten by 2 world class sprinters but he as always gave it all he had and 3rd is still an incredibly awesome result in such a sprint finish. Elia's 3rd along with my 3rd in the sprint classification made it not a bad way to finish of what had been a unpredictably exciting giro. 

As I coughed and spluttered my way over the final meter of the 2013 giro I simply felt relief. Since coming to terms with the fact that my health was against me this giro 10days before I had simply had one objective, getting g across that finish line in brescia and along the way helping out the boys in any possible way I could. In the end I feel like I learnt a massive amount and particularly on helping the team. I believe this may be the greatest skill I will take from the giro. Its not important how well you can help the team when you have great condition, under these circumstances you can usually perform all tasks required without too much drama. When you don't have any power or energy you have to be creative and it's on these days you need to know how to be of use to the team. If you can win then yo need to contribute to the attempt to win otherwise your just wasting space in the peleton. Your going to have plenty of days in the bunch when you don't feel great and being able to help out is not only valuable to the team but also for yourself. If you have a bad day you can often feel sorry for yourself and dejected wpfor not achieving what you wanted to. If you can switch quickly to an assisting role and somehow conger up the energy to provide some help to your team mates you on a personal level can finish with some satisfaction in your day and a smile on your face. Particularly in grand tour when your racing for 3 weeks it's pretty important to not finish to many days dragging your bottom lip along the ground as you will be in for a miserable race! Fortunately I was able to accomplish this this giro and find ways to get every last bit of what I had out of my body and assist my team in anyway I could. As a result I can't actually recall any days that I finished with a snarl on my face. Considering how I was feeling physically I have come to the conclusion I must be a pretty optimistic person!!

Whatever I am I survived the giro of 2013, it was the greatest test of my character I have ever faced and I am great full for this test. I have certainly been through it all this season and it's still only may! Plenty of more adventures to come that's for sure! For now though it's time to give the body a little break, rebound and then think about getting back in the ring.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Snow men!

Yet another spectacular day at the giro. Sure we had a little bit of snow falling in the galibier but it had nothing on what the tre cime turned on for the final 10km. It was absolutely dumping down and was that heavy that you needed windscreen wipers on your sunnies as no sooner had you wiped away the snow flakes you were blacked out again! For me the most incredible part about today was the fact that there was still the same amount of fans on the side of the rd you would expect on a sunny day. From a personal perspective the moment I witnessed the fans still as passionate in there support as ever I realized in no way could we complain about the conditions. Atleast we could ride the bike to keep warm! Infact it was a bucket load nicer than the wet cold days we have endured so really give me snow over rain anyday! In the end vincenso did what he has done all year and showed a controlled complete and utter classy clean pair of heals to the rest of the field demonstrating once again why he is the rightfull leader of the 2013 giro d'italia.

On a team and personal front the cannondale train had a very simple objective today, Damiano Caruso. After his awesome performance in the team TT we rightly had high hopes for him in the final mt stage. All went to plan and a small group went clear that would be the days breakaway and we just sat tight and waited for the orders from the team car. Esquatel decided to control the field so that suited us just fine. With around 50km to go a crucial decent leading into the final climb began and we swarmed to the front and took control for the run into the final climb. Down we plunged and onto the flat section before we hit the 20km to go marker and start of the final climb. After a quiet boring day really in the bunch was great to get some adrenaline pumping from ripping out some turns on the front. Into the town thanks to a combination of green locomotive longo borgini, some wet coobled corners and the acceleration of our rock spider salerno as we hit the climb, there was only 8 riders in the front group, 4 of us, cadel, vincenso, and a couple of others. As I sat up after doing one last pull at the base of the climb I drifted back through the riders but it was an absolute bomb show back there. There we're holes in the group absolutely everywhere so that was pretty funny and satisfying to see as I retreated to the gentle pace of the grupetto. Once salerno ran out of steam so did the intensity at the front and the lead group eventually regrouped but was certainly good to soften everyone up a little for caruso. We had all done this climb many times during our training camps at san pellegrino so was nice to have a little local knowledge and put it to the test. As I have said many times during this race, its always very easy to see which teams have done the extra yards in research on certain days and today it was our turn.

In the end Caruso was a fine 8th again showing he was truly one of the strongest riders at this years giro. I huffed and coughed my way to the finish line. Certainly lungs legs and body feeling the effects of racing 3 weeks with bronchitis, has certainly been quite a test on many fronts, not least the lack of ability to do one of lifes most simple things, breath!

On another note I can proudly announce that I felt much better physically today after yesterdays day off so I am pretty sure that my rest day routine refinement has been a success and I finally have a pretty good process worked out. Just could never have anticipated how much I still had to learn about this sport but I am pretty sure that this giro has thrown more than a few spanners at me but rather the entire tool box.

Tomorrow should be a sprint finish so we are excited about a hard day of laying the foundations for elia to go toe to toe with the other fast men. Will be an interesting battle as I am sure after a few climbs in the sprinters legs a few surprizes will no doubt occur in the bunch gallop!

Race data
210km 5hrs 45min
Average power 235
Average heart rate 131

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Friday, May 24, 2013

Thoughts on the day

Another surpize this morning! No racing! These organisers sure do know how to keep us guessing! Luckily I had 2 trial runs at these so called "rest days" already in this giro so I had today nailed. I felt pretty good after rest day 1, worse thand the day before after rest day 2 so today I was going to combine the 2 and all things being equal tomorrow I will wake up with a body capable of racing 210km in sub arctic temperatures deep into the dolomites!

So the best parts I have taken from each rest day!

- firstly do all you can to limit the work for the staff. It lights up there little faces when you do even the smallest thing that they don't have to do everyday. An example of a few of my gestures today was carrying my own suitcase down to the truck this morning. Helping pack the teams breakfast supplies into the breaky esky which is there for us every morning. Carried my wash bag along to fabio's room so he did not have to make a special trip up a flood to my room. Due to the weather we were on home trainers so when I finished I unhitched my bike and carried it and the trainer back to the truck. The mechanics nearly choked on there expresso's when the saw me lugging the load accross the parking lot and I was certainly greeted them with many "grane cameron" "numero uno" as I had just save someone else this tedious task. After I found one of our mechanics who loves rugby. I see him watching matches privately on his I phone all the time so I was certain he would love to have a chat about it. As you can imagine there not much sport spoken about other than cycling within an italian cycling team, they are deeply passionate about there sport and live it an breathe it. For this reason I knew merino would love a good chat about his passion so was great to share some stories with him from my experience with the ruby boys at the AIS and when I was a passionate one eyed brumbies fan. Also told him about john eels being our motivator at the olympics and great stories he shared. Also what we both agreed on is that one of the beauties of ruby is that is about the team, not any single player, if all parts don't back each other up then its game over. This is one area that it really parallels cycling and one of the reasons I too have a huge amount of respect for the game. So they were my little contributions and while they we're small at least I saw some smiles on our legendary staffs faces so I am pleased I did it.

So from my 2 rest days I have come to the following conclusions.
- don't sleep all day as you will never sleep that night, sleep in aslong as possible but keep the body clock as regular as possible.
- go for a ride, more to just sweat and not give your body a chance to switch of that fraction more than you won't it to, you will pay for it tomorrow! For me my weapon of choice is the home trainer as I can rug up, spin a high cadence in a light gear, sweat up a storm and its all done in 45'-1hr depending on how I feel.
- enjoy a breaky without complex carbs, I sure don't order the eggs benedict but a morning without pasta and to much bread seems to be appreciated by my digestive system. I prefer to have to stock up on my fruit and yogurt which are things that I often don't have space for when filling the tank for a 6+ hour slog in the saddle. From lunch resume eating like its a day before a one day classic so a nice big bowl of pasta. This forms your reserves for the coming days so its important to jam it in!

- speak to your mates on the phone. My best mate Bom has been my debrief man today and its amazing how nice it is to talk about what's going on in the real world. Bom has been instrumental in my life. It was bomma who suggested I have a crack at pro cycling, he thought It be an interesting exercise and also has always loved seeing me suffer as much as I have enjoyed making him suffer! We won U23 worlds together in 2003 and ever since have been thick as thieves. I wrote a blog about him around this time in 2010 from memory when he came to visit me post the giro in 2010 so if interested look it up. Boms and absolute legend in every sense of the word.

- finally only do what you absolutely need to do. There are millions of thing you could do, waste time on the net, face book, twitter, taking photos of the surrounds. Do a few to many of these things and there goes 3-4hrs of your day and all of a sudden your at dinner and you have not relaxed on the only day you had to do it.

So that's the things I have learnt so far and will certainly report back tomorrow and see how constructive my tweaking of my recovery day program has been.      

Finally we all know the news that broke today. Its sad it came out on a day were there was no racing as by this afternoon there would have a been a story of champion winning todays giro stage to report. Alas the press had a monopoly today but I was pleased that in reality the story got as limited coverage as possible. As an athlete within the peleton I am convinced that as whole the riders are racing by natural means. I have been so encouraged this year upon returning to the world tour as number particularly on power meters don't lie. I have not witnessed anything in the races where I have been at the front this season that would indicate anything is suspect. Also when the pace is fiece I have found myself studying my power meter saying this can't continue for much longer and sure enough everytime its been the case. I believe in the sport and most importantly I believe that if you do the work, have the engine, and have the tallent, you will get the success's you deserve and for me that's all we could ever ask for. Its up to us as athletes to put in the hard yards and see how good we can be. In the past form what I have read doping dictated the sport. Well while we have had the odd relatively insignificant positive result in the past few years doping is definitely not dictating the course of the sport and that's for me what has made cycling so beautiful, it truly is man v's man and team v's team. The small portion that will no doubt continue to test the boundaries will remain this, a small part and a very insignificant part of the sport as quite simply the riders, teams, and organisers wont tolerate in anyway shape or form, this type of behaviour. The reactions to todays events were indicative of this and as a rider I was great to see the reactions that we saw. This is an incredible sport, its future is as bright as the future is for the current crop of stars we currently see at the top of the sport. Long live ciclismo!

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mountain TT and bravo Caruso!

Yet another stage I was very excited about in this years giro. I had reconned this mountain TT and at the time some 5weeks ago I was anticipating to really give it a go today. How things have changed since then as today my only objective was to make it inside the time limit. It appears there is no miracles with my health improving so all I can do is suck it up and do my best to get to the finish each day. So instead of using my Srm to calculate the power I would require to win I was crunching the number to see what time and power I needed to stay inside the time limit. I settled on 365 watts as I predicted I would loose around 8 minutes which would see me safely inside the 30% or around 14minute time limit for today. Sure enough I pushed this power from the first pedal stroke to the last and sure enough lost 7:50 so my calculations were pretty accurate. The best part about this calculation is I worked back from what I had been planning on trying to produce to go for a top result today, that being around 430 watts or 6-6.5watt/kg so at least if nothing else I was pretty accurate with predicting what was required to feature at the pointy end today. I have got some work after this giro to get back to that level that's for sure. So that's about all can take from today, another good lesson of what's required to actually be competitive in this years giro.

The course itself was really nice. A gentle 6-7% drag for 21 km with a nice 3km of undulating descending in the middle. The only difficulty about today was that it was an uphill TT so that meant no matter how easily you wanted to take it you had to pedal the bike. This is where I am pleased I chose a pace as comfortable as possible wholly and solely to stay in the race incase I needed any extra effort late on should my calculations of been a bit array.

From a team perspective it was an absolute phenomenal performance by our GC captain Damiano Caruso. He finished 3rd on the day which clearly shows he is one of the best gc riders in the peleton. Called in at a very late stage with the withdrawal of Ivan Basso, we can only imagine what he would have been capable of with a specific build up to this race. Anyways today will have surely reinforced the belief within himself that he is capable of mixing it with the best and I am sure just be the start of many more powerful performance in the very near future. Also i am really pleased for Vincenso. He has not left a stone unturned in his preparation for this giro and I remember seeing no less than 2 different bikes set up for him in Tenerife while we at the training camp which I assume he was testing the best setup. Perfect preparation always pays and today was certainly evidence of this and his day. Having said caruso was not far behind and its really exciting for cycling to see so many of the top riders so close to each other. I hope it's providing exciting viewing for all those perched in front of the tele.

So the next 2 days we hit the mountains and potentially alot of snow so will be interesting to see what happens with the course. One things for sure my objectives are simply to survive through tomorrow then reload for another hit out! Having said that I did read bernard hinaults book and remember him saying "while I can breathe I attack" that's a motto I certainly adopted in the beginning of the giro so who knows what the next couple of days will bring! That's the beauty of cycling!

Race data
21km, 52minutes
Heart rate average 160
Power average 366

Mountain TT

Yet another stage I was very excited about in this years giro. I had reconned this mountain TT and at the time some 5weeks ago I was anticipating to really give it a go today. How things have changed since then as today my only objective was to make it inside the time limit. It appears there is no miracles with my health improving so all I can do is suck it up and do my best to get to the finish each day. So instead of using my Srm to calculate the power I would require to win I was crunching the number to see what time and power I needed to stay inside the time limit. I settled on 365 watts as I predicted I would loose around 8 minutes which would see me safely inside the 30% or around 14minute time limit for today. Sure enough I pushed this power from the first pedal stroke to the last and sure enough lost 7:50 so my calculations were pretty accurate. The best part about this calculation is I worked back from what I had been planning on trying to produce to go for a top result today, that being around 430 watts or 6-6.5watt/kg so at least if nothing else I was pretty accurate with predicting what was required to feature at the pointy end today. I have got some work after this giro to get back to that level that's for sure. So that's about all can take from today, another good lesson of what's required to actually be competitive in this years giro.

The course itself was really nice. A gentle 6-7% drag for 21 km with a nice 3km of undulating descending in the middle. The only difficulty about today was that it was an uphill TT so that meant no matter how easily you wanted to take it you had to pedal the bike. This is where I am pleased I chose a pace as comfortable as possible wholly and solely to stay in the race incase I needed any extra effort late on should my calculations of been a bit array.

From a team perspective it was an absolute phenomenal performance by our GC captain Damiano Caruso. He finished 3rd on the day which clearly shows he is one of the best gc riders in the peleton. Called in at a very late stage with the withdrawal of Ivan Basso, we can only imagine what he would have been capable of with a specific build up to this race. Anyways today will have surely reinforced the belief within himself that he is capable of mixing it with the best and I am sure just be the start of many more powerful performance in the very near future. Also i am really pleased for Vincenso. He has not left a stone unturned in his preparation for this giro and I remember seeing no less than 2 different bikes set up for him in Tenerife while we at the training camp which I assume he was testing the best setup. Perfect preparation always pays and today was certainly evidence of this and his day. Having said caruso was not far behind and its really exciting for cycling to see so many of the top riders so close to each other. I hope it's providing exciting viewing for all those perched in front of the tele.

So the next 2 days we hit the mountains and potentially alot of snow so will be interesting to see what happens with the course. One things for sure my objectives are simply to survive through tomorrow then reload for another hit out! Having said that I did read bernard hinaults book and remember him saying "while I can breathe I attack" that's a motto I certainly adopted in the beginning of the giro so who knows what the next couple of days will bring! That's the beauty of cycling!

Race data
21km, 52minutes
Heart rate average 160
Power average 366


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Quietish day!

Stage 17 looked on paper to be a chance for the sprinters. A little speed hump in the last 20km of a few km's was not meant to dispatch the fast men from the peleton so with Elia fired up we were putting all our eggs in that basket. From the gun 4 riders took of and quickly they were let go for the day. I was a very tired and sore peleton this morning after yesterdays epic start to the stage and everyone was keen for as easy a day as possible. I was immediately a little worried about the break as it contained turbo durbo luke durbridge. I knew if he had a sniff of a victory it was going to take a big collective effort of horsepower to pull him in and I knew I would one called upon to do it!

Fortunately the team of Mark Cavenidish and argos shimano also wanted a sprint and immediately had men on the front keeping the break in check. It would never get more than 5min all day which I was relieved about as its much easier to reel in. Firstly by riding a solidish pace immediately the riders up front have to ride very hard to get away. Once they get there gap they are a little tired from this and then from behind you start to set the pace to keep them working. its a bit of a mind game controlling the breakaway and you are always trying to make them believe that your in control. The moment the break believes its got the bunch's measure it becomes a real battle to bring them.

After 120 so with 100km to I got the call up to go and ride the front. Like a kid in the candy store I quickly gobbled down an energy bar and charged up front ready to drive the bunch. My enthusiasm was quickly curved when I had done my first turn!! Hoping to easy into it I realized we were riding into a block headwind and the break had ballooned to over 5minutes. The pace was now on and to maintain the pace of the other 2 riders working on the front from argos and quickstep I was riding at 450-500 watts for 60-90 seconds. Normally this aint so bad but after a day rolling along in the bunch at 100-150watts and barely raising a sweat, it felt like an all out sprint! Welcome back to the world of lactic acid!

When riding on the front you tend to form a team with the guys your working with. Each of you having similar interests and off course there is a mutual respect for other riders will to sacrifice there own chances for the greater good of the team. There are a few protocols you need to follow such as taking even pulls, and also not slowing the pace down. There is nothing worse than having a rider up there working that everytime they take a pull it seems the gap increases, its so frustrating. Basically if you can't contribute to the chase at the pace being dictated by the other workers you are better of sitting back in the bunch out of the way with your team mates. I like to encourage my fellow pace setters, its nice to get a great work or "gee your pulling like a motor bike" anything to keep the enthusiasm and motivation in the legs and mind of your peers. Also a little push as they come past to drop back behind the last worker goes a long way as it allows you to save that little bit extra energy right where its hard as you jump on the gas to slot into the line. Also of course if you have extra food or drink its always nice to offer it around, you must never forget your all there for the greater good of your team so its crucial to work together as well as possible.

Back to today and I was really on the rivit from the get go. Firstly in part due to my failing health and physical condition and second because we had some serious motors up the road who had called our bluff and were increasing the margin. In light of this situation I dug a little deeper and pushed the pace up a bit as I wanted the gap back under 5min. My colleagues did the same and 5km later the gap was back to 4'40" with 70km to go. We were back in control. From there the gap continue to plummet and so did my energy and horsepower stocks! Not wanting to let the boys down and also my teammates, I went into survival mode to find ways of keeping the pace while putting out less power! Sounds good doesn't it in theory?? Its important to note that another major reason for having you team present on the front gives your team mates a chance to sit at the front out of trouble. Kind of a protocol like it is for the major GC contenders on the mountain stages.

So after ramping up the pace I did not want to let it off but in all honesty after 40km of 450-500 watts pulls I was really in the hurt locker. After a little thinking a figured out a great plan. If I could get a gear wound up to 100+ rpm initially to the pace I wanted to ride at then I would quickly drop it a couple of cogs and use this pedling nomentum to get ontop of a bigger gear and hold the speed. All of a sudden I was only need 420-470 watts to maintain the rhythm so I was pretty happy with myself for this little discovery. With the climb fast approaching and my energy just as rapidly fading I did my last pull a few km form the climb, about 25-30km to go and started to drift to the back. The break by this stage had continues to come back to us, we had fortunately got control of them before they got control of us and as the climb start they merely had a handfull of seconds on the bunch. It was now up to the rest of the boys to get elia over the climb and into the sprint.

Once on the climb it was not long before I was unceremoniously dumbed out the back of the peleton. Its always a harsh reality check when you look up the road to the riders on the front stringing out the bunch knowing that only minutes before that was you! Now your back in the cars wholly and solely focused on getting to the finish line and using a little energy as possible. As it turned out the climb was a bit much for both Elia and Cav. It was gianni Visconti who again showed his class and a clean pair of heels to field to pick up his second stage win.

So another stage in the books, another great learning experience as far as working and contributing even when your body is screeming at you not to. The giro of survival continues for me and always looking forward to whatever it is I might learn tomorrow!

Race data
220km 5hrs 10min
Average heart rate 120
Avergae power 200

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The REAL fast start!

The peleton full of fresh legs was back at it today. Every bodies batteries were recharged and the organisers decided it was the perfect day to set us off on what turned out to be the hardest 100km of racing I have ever endured. We started in the foot hills of the famous galibier and that meant we could either go up or down! I would have preferred up but unfortunately we went down the twisty fast col d telegraph that we climbed 2 days ago. I started in a good spot and made sure some big name riders like scarponi, Uran and cadel where behind. Bit of a security blanket should the field inevitably split on the decent. So down we dived and while we were going pretty quick as there was not much passing going on I also felt a little to calm and not taking risks and I immediately at the front it would be a different story. The group up front was definitely splitting to pieces, small ones at that.

Sure enough once down in the valley we commenced a 50km gradually uphill drag to the border between france and italy and the fireworks were well and truly set off. Nibali was the only GC rider in the top 5 in the front group and sure enough his team were turning the screw on sky, BMC, and lampre who were all with me around 45seconds behind. I immediately got excited. I was finally feeling good power in the legs again and was getting my anticipated free ride back to the front. Once we got back I had my attack all planned out, all I had to do was sit in and take it easy and them WHAMMO. Well I ended up being the one that got WHAMMO'D! All was going sweet but as the heart rate with the driving pace of sky and BMC I was seeing a lot of 500-600 watt surges which were fine for the pins but my lungs and allergy problem was kicking in. I tried to concentrate and put it out of my mind but as we drew with M's of regaining contact my lungs gave up and I litterly was left without any oxygen in my body and had to sit up and recover. I knew there were riders behind as we had been going full block so I decided to take it easy and wait for them and try and recover. Fortunately a it worked, I was able to relax and get my heart rate below what appears to be my breaking point at the moment of 170BPM, my normal max heart rate is 205 so its obvious I am far from functioning normal. The back group arrived and I jumped in and all was good until some fresh legs in the group ripped out a massive acceleration and I was in dyer straights again! Fortunately vincento reins from the lotto team saw me in serious bother and pushed me and helped me get my breath back and settle down a bit. Vincente is one of my favourite riders and I really enjoy chatting with him often. He litterally save my backside today and from there we gradually made our way back to the group. Reins is one of those classy pros with a wealth of experience and always happy to help everyone. I think I thanked him a hundred times during the day but will be certain to find a way to show my gratitude in a better way in the future.

The pace had been fierce as like post the previous rest day everybody wanted in the break so again it was always going to be a strongmans move and astana where not going to let them go easily. When we rejoined a group had a 40 second lead and our very own GC captain Damiano Caruso had spotted an opportunity to win a stage and was galloping across the Gap with ease. By contrast I was sitting at the back of the bunch trying to open my airways and using all my concentration to keep my bike moving forward. Fortunately soon after the pace dropped just intime for the final 9km kick up to the ridge between france and italy and I could finally recover. I thought I was home and hosed. 3km from the top of the climb astana upped the pace a little to keep the break in check and with it up went my heart rate. With the allergy now seriously having constricted my airways at 160 heart rate I was running out of air. I had no choice to seek the race doctor as I knew I was in dyer straights. Upon seeing me he instantly grabbed hold of me and said you need to stop, you are not breathing! I managed to garner up enough breath to explain that I knew I was not breathing but there was also no way in the world I was quitting while I was still able to push the pedals. I asked for ventoline and opened my mount and he quick pumped a few sprays in. Intant relief and he calmed down a bit as he realized it was simply a allergy/asthma attack and if I could survive the final 2km of the climb I may just make it to the finish! Sure enough he pushed me off but stayed next to me in the car to be safe. I was finally controlling my breathing and slowly I edged my way back up to the peleton and 200m from the top I was finally safely last wheel, able to breath, and most importantly recovering by not having to pedal. I had dodged a serious bullet. At this point we were 96km into the race and it dawned on me that I had not eaten or drinken anything! Lucky it was the day after the rest day so I had those reserves I was planning on chipping away at though out the week! Will have to scrap that I well and trully used them all up in the first few hrs today! Anyways good lesson, make sure you eat up on rest days! You never know when you might have to use the emergency supplies!

From there it was another 30km plunge down into italy and the solitude of the flat lands leading toward milan. As bad a moments I have had in the past week its given me great feedback to the doctor to be able to pinpoint exactly what the problem is. Now we know its allergy's that incite asthma and its antagonized much more during this period in italy. It can be treated easily with the right medicine which we are now sorting or also can be treated by avoiding racing in this period in italy. I had no problems in the early season but with the change in season between spring and summer particularly in italy its a period where many suffer just like me so most important is to know this then take a course of action to avoid these problems occurring again.

So back on the flat and damiano was charging along up the road and looking like the stage winner and taking some big steps up in the GC. Me mean while went into bluff survival mode and again I am so greatfull in so many ways for the suffering I have incurred at this giro. The amount of energy I am learning to save and the some basic little tricks to avoid having to work to hard in the bunch are coming along a treat. Also a major weakness of mine in the past had been descending!! No anymore! I have been concentrating extremely hard at this, often because it allows me to rejoin the group but also the better you are at and more relaxed you are at it gives you a great opportunity to recover. Small things descending like anticipating the corners and so forth. In the past I have just relied on being able to jump out of the corners and rejoin the group. This unfortunately takes energy I simply don't have this week. As I said before, no matter what situation you find yourself in at a race you can always learn somthing. This season has been a tail of the two extremes, up the front early on in the year and now suffering out the back!

Back to the race and it did not take long for some teams with riders on GC being threatened by damiano. They knew how strong he was and with 70km to go katusha and radio shack en massed on the front and started chipping away at the 4minute advantage. They were in a real hurry and sadly for damiano his adventure was over 25km from the finish so unfortunately no fairy tale day for him but the most important thing was that he had a good old fashioned crack at it. Once we hit the climb, 7km up, 8 down and 8 flat to finish I found a nice gentle group and blessed my very own cotton socks that I was going to make it to the finish. The climb was harder than expected and it was no surprize to some of the GC men flexing there legs hoping to catch out one of there rivals who may have been having an off day. It worked as GC did reshuffle a little by days end. As I said yesterday I am excited to go to bed each night as I can't wait to wake up tomorrow and see how I go and what transpires! Sure I would never have asked for what happened today to fall my way but in the end, like always, its those brutally difficult days that make the good ones all the more special!

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Monday, May 20, 2013

2 rest day wrap

Reloading for the final charge to bresia

It seems like the past week has past in the blink of an eye. The 2nd and final rest day before the race reaches it's conclusion in brescia on Sunday was certainly welcomed by all involved with this years giro. We all thought we had a tuff run in the first week with weather, terrain, and sickness but nobody could have predicted it would get even more brutal in the second. Some big names have left the race with what it sounds like the same dramas I had in the first and start of the second week, it seems the common consensus is allergy problems which has led to bronchitis and followed by a respiratory infection. In a nut shell it means that as soon as you push yourself your body reaches for oxygen which is not actually there as your respiratory system is not capable of working at the level required. Once there is no oxygen in the body the working muscles rapidly turn to lactic acid and stop working for you and as you need oxygen to clear lactic you are stuck with it as your body cant deal with it. The result?? You feel like and absolute block of concrete trying to pedal a bike and just have to prey that from somewhere within you body will be able to scrape up enough energy to atleast get to the finsh. The fortunate thing for me is at least I can just plug away and if nothing else help where I can with my team mates and while I know I wont return to 100% health in the next week I will certainly take any opportunity I can to contribute again to the race.

So with all that said and another week of feeling lousy, the doc suggested today I don't bother leaving my hotel room and give the body a greater chance to recover a little bit more. I certainly did not argue with him and I can proudly announce that in the 24hrs that have past since the finish of yesterdays stage I have been asleep or at least dozing for 18 of them! That's a record for to spend so much time in bed and I think it's something I will try and do more often. Obviously your natural instinct is to o for a ride but in reality if you do or don't won't make a huge amount of difference. I have days off completely regularly at home, about every second the 3rd week so no different to that. Also with a head cold it's probably much more beneficial not going outside and stirring things up for at least one day. To honest I can't wait to get back on the Rd tomorrow, I just really want to get stuck into everyday. I have no idea how I will feel when I wake up each morning but I definitely hold out alot of hope every night when I go to sleep that when I wake up I will have a good day. With a day off you also think I better not have too much to eat. On the contrary, you spend the whole week running on vapors that the rest day offers a great opportunity to refill the fuel tank and it's reserves so as to give you the best chance to get through the final week as strong as possible. Infact you probably eat more on a day like today as usually we don't have any lunch as we are on the bike. Today's give you the chance to get an extra big bowl of carbs in the form of rice or pasta into the system which will be very valuable in the coming days.

Feeling as average as I have the past couple off weeks has not only taught me to become emery conservative on the bike but also off it. I don't think I ever really embraced the whole saving energy thing in cycling off the bike until this past week. I usually enjoy a little walk after dinner to settle the stomach, this week I have been sitting down in the elevator if there has been a seat in it back to my room! Stretching has always been a major part of my daily routine and while still do it as I know how crucial it is for recovery, I have invented new exercises basically using the least amount of energy to stretch each muscle, alot of exercises which rely on body weight for force as appose to producing it myself. With the departure of our captain Ivan basso before the race even began I also inherited my own room. With 9 riders one rider always flys solo, usually the captain and in this case I got the gig. As a result I had been enjoying plenty of space unpacking my things each day without the worry of encroaching upon my room mate. Thing with this is it always requires an extra few minutes in the morning to pack the suitcase as we transfer to the next hotel. In the past days I have learnt toto out only what is absolutely necessary and in turn save that time and energy in the mornings. Also on days where we leave the hotel not long after breakfast I pack my things before breakfast and then go directly to the bus from breaky. This gives me the chance to relax and enjoy m favorite meal of the day and also not be stressed and rushing back up to the room when every person in th hotel is using the elevator and so forth. Just little things that not only save physical energy but also mental energy which is also very draining. It's  amazing how these little things add up and give you extra time and energy to use for what most important, recovery. Again going forward into future grand tours it's been important to learn something from every situation I find myself in. At the end of the day its all extra tools to put inside your tool box.

The 3rd week has always been what I have been looking forward to the most. I prefer the bunch when it's a little more tired and a little less stress. It just feels like you can ride your bike without having to spend a bucket load of energy on fighting within the peleton. Also the final week sees the arrival of the hardest stages and they are always the ones you want to get stuck into. The opportunity to test the body against the best riders in the world on some of the most brutal stages ever ridden in the grand tours. It's truly going to be a very exciting conclusion to the final week and the 2013 giro


Sunday, May 19, 2013

A united front

Following yesterday adventure into the alps in sub artic conditions the forcaste for today was not much better. There were rumours flying around about course changes due to snow blocking the rd of the first mountain but at the end of the day the organisers had not other option than to send us on our way and hope for the best as basically it was the only road we could take to get into france from italy! Sure there are other roads and tunnels but tunnels are forbidden for bikes and I would suggest unhealthy and we did not want to have ride 300+km to find an alternative route so the course stayed as it was planned.

As often happens in cycling the riders quickly formed an agreement to make everyone happy and all stay together up and over the first pass and down the potentially cold and snowy decent before going hell for leather up the col d telegraphe and infamous galibier to the finish. This way the race went ahead as planned and all the riders were satisfied that they would be safe on this particular potentially risky part of the course. So how is this controlled? Well basically once the accord is struck up with the race leader I guess having the biggest say you would have to be a bit of a donkey to go against the wishes of the masses. The cycling world is small and it would surely bite you on the arse pretty hard if you did. So along with vincenso nibali some more senior and respected riders such as luca paolini, christian knees and our very own fabio sabatini set up shop on the front row and controlled the pace and also made it very clear that disobedience would not be tolerated. Being the end of the 2nd week of the giro is perhaps an easier time to police such a blockade as everyone is tired, everyone is sick of getting wet and cold, and I reckon everybody enjoyed the 60km or so of extra tranquillity in what's been as absolutely out of control unpredictable giro so far!

So all was going well with the agreement until the final km of the first climb where it was apparent that the road and conditions were no where near as dangerous or atrocious as was anticipated. At this point a few guys took off against the will of the bunch including the eventual stage winner gianni visconti. Its was perhaps a bit of a sneaky move but in reality a race is a race and if those particular guys wanted to break the accord then all the power to them. The peleton also ultimately has the ultimate say as we have 100+ strong dudes to pull if back if we want but it was let go and in the end gianni truly did an incredible job to hold onto the lead and win the stage.

Back in the field we descended to safety we now racing. The day was quite litteraly exactly what the doctor ordered for me and I was actually feeling much better than previous days. There were even moments of a good feeling returning to my legs!! Our job was now simple, have damiano in the best possible position for the start of the telegraph and the drag race up to the line. Sabatini and I traded turns down the vally to the base of the climb to keep the green train at the front and as we swung left onto the slopes of the telegraph saba was on the front, I was 4th wheel and damiano was tucked in safely behind me.
Once we hit the climb saba swung off job done and lotto took over. I decided to stay put at the front 3rd wheel behind them as It was nice to finally be back up the front on a major climb. After a few km and I was actually starting to enjoy being back amongst it, I knew cadel was on my left shoulder and vincenso on my right shoulder, I was great to be around these guys again where I have so much enjoyed being on the climbs in the early part of the season. With lotto pulling of the first attacks began and vincenso sent his boys to the front to start drumming out the tempo. At this point I decided I had tested myself enough and I am certainly improving but I am also aware that my turbo is still very short compared to normal and still needs more days to charge up so to avoid blowing up and prolonging the recovery process I sat up to continue it. So I dropped back to damiano, took his arm warmers and anything else he did not need, made sure he water and gells and started to role out the back of the bunch. Once at the back of the bunch I sat there while I waited for the car to arrive so as I knew if damiano had any dramas the team would be there for him and then I switched it off even more to a steady 140-150 zone so as I could enjoy these iconic climbs without suffering but also feel what there like as next time I come them I want to be racing up them not just riding up them.

Damiano did an awesome job hanging with the favourites and finishing another fine 12th so was a good day all round. I was really pleased with the day as now I can look toward tomorrows rest day and the final week with a little more optimism, am going to see if I can sleep for 20hrs in the next 24hrs!!

Race data
150km 4hrs 50min
Heart rate average 130
Power average 230

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Chalk it up to experience

I must congratulate the giro organisers on designing such an exciting course for 2013! In all seriousness and truth you go to the start line everyday basically having no idea how the day will transpire! Nobody could ever brand this years giro predictable or boring!

Today was much the same but this time the surpize was a course change an hour before the start. The bonus was we missed the climb to sestriere however it was the decent that we were most worried about as it was snowing ontop. With the course change however came an extra 12km so not a bad trade off. The forcaste was for dreadfull conditions and at the start was only light drizzle. This was just to get us into a false sense of security as soon after rolling down the road it started pouring and would continue to do so until the final few km of the stage were it turned to snow!

It made me think during the stage that I had never experienced so many different circumstances in a race before and also such extreme conditions. The most important thing you need to think about on a day like to today is dressing properly. For me this always causes quite a period of deliberation but after having frozen to death on a couple of occassions this giro I have decided I would prefer to be too hot than too cold! So how do I dress for a raining freezing cold day! On goes an undershirt, over the top the race jersey. Arm warmers are next followed buy a neoprene rain jacket which fits tight and keeps you toasty. This is a starting point and as I get cold or too wet a simply add an extra raincoat as required. Today I took a long sleeve rain coat after an hour and a short sleeve one to go over that after about 3hrs. I would have grabbed another after 4hrs but I did not have any more in my rain bag! As I was ceremoniously dispatched from the peleton with 20km to go had no need to consider taking anything off as I would not be charging up any final climbs at threshold today.

Gloves are crucial and today I went with the neoprene dive gloves. Usually a great choice for the rain but found out that when combined with freezing cold they are like riding with you hand in a bucket of ice! Infact my hands got so cold today that I just took them off and kept them warm by waving to everyone and anyony on the side of the road! Anything to just keep them moving! This is an area I still need work on! Overshoes are easy as sidi seem to have a product for every occasion so the feet are always tickedy boo and it cap things of quite litterly with a cotton cycling cap. Again I am not convinced this should have been my weapon of choice and will look for a waterproof beenie think that also give the ears a little cover and warmth. Oh and the 3/4 leg warmers for the pins. Not totally convinced they keep you any warmer once they are soaking wet so will probably flick them next time and just enjoy rolling ice bath for the quads and calves, who knows It may be an excellent during racing in the rain recovery trick!

As far as the race goes it was a stock standard drag race to the bottom of the final climb before the GC men were let lose to do there thing. Sky again took control in the valley gradually climbing up to the climb and this dislodged more than half the field, me included with around 15km to go. Our plans were unchanged for a mountain stage keeping damiano up front and fresh and ready for the action. He had another awesome ride finishing 10th on the stage and moving up another place to 18th on gc. A place a day continues so his effort is really providing a great purpose and motivation in the group for the hard stages going forward.

I am certainly not seeing to station that's allows me to get off the pain train! From feeling lousy I have decided to focus on the positives I can and the skills I am learning basically to survive in the race are ones that will serve we very well going forward. I am learning the art of when to use the group on climbs to get over as easily as possible and certainly when to put in the efforts to charge forward in the peleton. These are areas I have certainly taken for granted this year and wasted a bucket load of energy getting to whereever in the bunch I wanted to be as I have just felt so good in all the races so far, until the giro that is! Now I basically don't have the energy so I need to use the bunch as much as I possibly can so its a very good exercise for me. When its a case of survival its amazing how inventive you can be when I comes to saving energy! Better to learn late then never hey!

So tomorrow should see more of the same, freezing cold, rain, climbs, and most likely some snow. Will give me an excellent opportunity to put into practice my survival and dressing that I have been forced to work very hard on!

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Friday, May 17, 2013

Calm before the storm

It was the case of calm before the storm today. The longest stage of the giro at 254km presented like every giro stage a chance for anything and everything to happen! After a pretty rapid start were we banged out 25km in under half an hour a manageable sized group of 7 skipped clear in search of stage glory. The following 40km followed a regular occurrence in the professional peleton, the who's going to commit to chasing first? We wont pull if you don't or we will give one guy if you do is bantered around between teams interested in the contesting the stage win and of course a large element of bluff aswell in trying to see which team cracks first and starts riding. The problem with this little game going on is that the peleton is Rollin along quite literally at pedestrian pace and the breakaway are pulling themselves km's clear of the field at the same time. So it's quite an interesting period in a race to see how it pans out! Often and like today it is the calm before the storm as one minute you rolling along enjoy your favorite snacks and chatting with your buddies and the next once a team team Decides to work you are all off a sudden in the middle of a nervous peleton with the only thing you are chewing on is your headstem!

Today was once of these such days. Not only did quickstep make an abrupt decision along with green edge to set the pace to ensure a bunch sprint today, where they started drumming out there tempo coincided with extreme crosswinds! This immediately put the peleton into 5 groups and this would be the way it went for the next 140km, split, re group, split, re group so we had had the calm and the storm unfortunately lasted alot longer and was very severe. Our goals for the da were as usual, look after Elia for the sprint and keep damiano up front and out of trouble so fortunately we were not on the wrong end of splits in the peleton but it certainly required alot of stressful energy to ensure this so was a nice solid day that's for sure. In the first 60km I was enjoying my choc coated multipower bars but in the next 200 I was living of the rip the lid and slam down gells to limit the amount of time my hands were of the handlebars!

The only obstacles on the stage were a few climbs in the final 50km but in the end were not enough to dislodge the motivated sprinters from the front group. I had a flat tyre just before the first climb on a fast descent which like the other day left me a long way behind the bunch. Fortunately my habit of acknowledging other staff members from other team gave me the turbo hand today as I fought my way back from the back of the convoy. The Astana director whom I met in Tenerife saw me in a little difficulty and put out his hand with a gel and gave me a nice turbo sling right into the back of the main convoy. Another reminder of the importance of always being polite and acknowledging those within the sport. This saved me and I then made my way into the back of the bunch just as the climb began. Unfortunately not long after a big gap opened up and I was still well and truly aboard my pain train as I have been for the past 2 weeks and had the put up the white flag and save whatever energy is still in my body for the weekends mountain stages ahead.

Up ahead elia's green locomotive train was in full swing and shepperding him all the way the finish before performing a text book lead out inside the final km. It has been a long hard couple of weeks and in the end Elia would sprint to a very respectable 5th, showing his class as alway being among the best I. The bunch sprints at this years giro. Damiano finished safely in the front group and courtesy of the retirement of sir wiggo he moved p to 19th place overall so continues to keep moving in the right direction.

They say the giro really begins tomorrow which is a pretty scary thought so think I am going to need a big sleep! No worse, no better, I am hanging in there! Always going to sleeping dreaming that tomorrow things will start to improve!

Race data
255km 6hrs 15min
Average heart rate 115
Average power 220


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Shortest stage! Expect the unexpected

Today was considered a straight forward sprinters stage and basically a day off for most when the course was released. The script was torn up and thrown in the rubbish bin today as the giro continues to through up a bucket load of unexpected surprises. I said to my team mates this morning that we need to be alert tomorrow as there is rain expected, we have a tired peleton, and everyone is expecting an easy day. I was certain that somthing would transpire be it from some opportunists or the misfortune of others but I had a feeling today would be anything but easy.

Our plan was simple, set up a bunch sprint for elia. As forecast the rain arrived in droves overnight so the peleton was rugged up like michelin men! The funniest part was that today the organisers had some technical issues before the start leaving us all sitting the startline an extra 10minutes in the pouring rain! Great day to decide to have some organisation troubles! Once underway 5 opportunists shot out of the field straight away so that immediately brought an element of control to the race. Being a short stage I knew we could not give them more than a few minutes so despite the abuse I copped from others in the bunch about keeping the pace going and keeping the break on a tight leash I planted myself on the front until quickstep arrived and chimed into the pace setting. Interestingly they were of the same opinion and kept the pace high all day to ensure a bunch gallop. As it turned out if we had of been any more lenient we would never of seen the breakaway before the finish as they were only caught inside the final couple of km's.

So from here the day went as planned. As I am on light duties it was my job to do the grunt work through the middle of the race and keep the other guys as fresh as possible for the finished. This plan suited my just fine as its a bucket load easier for me to be up front when its raining than back in the bunch battling for position. After the final climb and inside the final 30km the pace ramped up considerably as the break could sniff a victory and turned on the power as expected. Luckily we had them on a tight leash as while they had a gap to keep that gap they hard to ride hard all day as we were pushing hard all day. If we went easy and they held a 2min lead with 20km after also going easy to hold there advantage then we would not have caught them on such a short stage so that plan worked out quite well. Into the final 10km and elia had his green locomotive train with so I collected there rain coats and stuffed them in my jacket, gaining an extra 10km in the process, and listened to the radio and what had been planned as a great sprint by elia. Unfortunately he ended up a little out of position and did not get a chance to stretch his legs but in any case we tried and executed our plan so we can't do much more than that. But it was certainly a bucket load harder day than anyone expected and is sure to now add a little bit more nervousness to an already edgy peleton as everyone is realising that in this years giro anything and everything can happen in the blink of an eye.

For me, believe it or not I don't mind riding in the rain. I use positive reverse psychology on rainy days to find a way to enjoy it as much as possible. Firstly I like to get wet as quickly as possible. Once your wet you can get any wetter so the quicker that happens in my opinion the better. Secondly I prefer the road to be absolutely soaked, I feel much safer on a wet wet rd than one that's only half wet or just wet as under these circumstances it was be extremely slippery. Once the road is soaked I assume it may aswell be dry as atleast you know what to expect around every corner. And third and finally I fight like bellyo to be up the front for 2 reasons. Firstly to stay safe but also to stay warm. For me its not a day to be rolling along in the bunch as not only do you get wet you also get very cold! On a day like today I love the chance to work on the front as achieving being safe and staying warm is much much easier. Another thing I love about rainy days is eating a massive breakfast! I assume that I won't be taking my hands of the handlebars very often, let alone fosicing through my pockets for food and as a result figure its best to build up a nice big reserve of calories before the race begins. I love my food and I love burning it off so rainy days give me a great opportunity to put both of these enjoyable activities to the ultimate test!

So I am hanging in here, still feeling extremely average and am a shadow of the condition I felt in the days before the race began. However I can only draw positives from this very humbling experience these past 11 days. Its taught me to realize anything and everything can happen in the giro, both good and bad. Also I could not forsee the allergy problem I seem to be suffering from this week but better to find out now than in a situation where the stakes were higher. Sure for the moment I have not been able to perform at the level I has planned to but atleast I can change roles and assist the team in other ways and in the process give my body a chance to recover and adapt a little to this complaint. Also we are only half way through this race so there is always the chance the problems will leave me as quickly as it arrived so its important to keep looking forward and look for any opportunity I am capable of taking advantage off. Keep on keeping on.

Just when everyone was on there knees following todays "easy day" which turned into an absolute suffer fest! We now have a 200km transfer in the bus. That means arriving in the hotel around 8:30-9, massage, dinner, maby in bed by Midnight and to cap it all off tomorrow is the longest stage of the race which means the earliest start of the race aswell! Talk about the organisers tossing a spanners into the works! Infact I think they just decided this year to through the whole jolly tool box at us!!

Just chalk it all up too experience!

Race data
134km 3hrs
Average heart rate 140
Average power 280

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stage 11 and a race start on a decent!

Stage 11 kicked off with the first 70km slightly downhill. It also was a stage on paper that looked ideal for a breakaway so it does not take einstein to figure out how the first 90minutes of racing went before the escape was made 75km into the race! From the gun it was go go go, everyone thought maby just maby they could sneak away but the reality was with peleton often moving at 60+km/h to get away you had to sprint like Elia viviani to get even the slightest gap on the field. Still that harsh reality did not deter the opportunists and bang bang bang they shot of in pursuit of glory. I was given a day of so was happily sitting in the bunch observing these escape attempts and pittying the poor guys that would be reeled after busting there gut at 70kmph per hour to be very unceremoniously dumped toward the back of a charging peleton. I certainly felt there pain particularly after my failed attempts yesterday. The start was not unincidental  for me however with a flat tyre around the 50km mark. Normally no drama when rolling along at a solid 40kmph but have one at 60+km/h and you are very quickly a long way behind! Infect as it takes around a 30-45seconds to do the whole change process at this speed it equates to almost 800m in real distance you need to make up. Sure we get the comfort of the cars but the actually move forward you need to go faster than the peleton so no matter how good a wind  break you have in front of you pedalling at 70+km/h is absolutely full gas! Upon finally making contact with the rear of the field I realized we had done 50km so feed was open so stuck my hand up for bottles. At this point the lactate hit me from my chase back on so I knew getting the bottles to the front at this speed was going to be even harder than getting to the back of the field! So much for my easy relaxing day off in the peleton! 

So I rolled through the bunch and handed out bottles to my tireless teammates whom at been trying so hard to enter the break and had just finally reached our final rider when and attack went on my right hand side which looked like a sneaky move and I jumped on it! Alas it would go down again as one of those almost made it attempts and after doing a 1000+ watt sprint to get clear I now also had the opportunity to experience the unceremonious dumping back through the field! Day off completely gone out the window! Finally not long after this the move went and our little columbian rock spider Sami was one of the crafty riders to sneak inside the 19rider move. The relief was not only for me that the break had gone as you could sense the gratitude of the entire peleton for the rest bite. Also with all the riders up the road no threat to gc the race would be won from the breakaway and the pace in the main field was nice and steady all day. Just what the doctor ordered in my case. Sure enough the status quo occurred until the final 7km drag up to the finish where some of the gc men decided to test if there were any sleepy bodies back in the field and move up some spots. Most of the field were uninterested in this and sat up at the bottom of the climb as soon as the pace went from an idle to first gear! Our GC Damiano was on such rider who showed hat diligence on every single days pays dividends as he moved inside the top 20 for the first time on gc after leading home the group of favorites so was an excellent performance by him and just reward for remaining alert all day up the front of the peleton. He is making a habit of riding perfect position and being there when it matters most and that is certain to pay dividends as the race ramps up over the final 10 days. 

With a grand tour the daily routine can become monotonous. Also eating the same old food day in day out can also get a little long in the tooth so to speak. In the race I always use maltodextrine drink bottles which contain around 50gramm of easily digestible carbs. I like to use these bottles for 2 reasons. Firstly I find I can digest carbs better through liquid. Secondanly and perhaps the more practical reason is that when we are going bullet a gate be it like to day doing 70kmph for over an hr or up a climb full gas it's much easier grab a bottle and squirt it than fosic through your pocket for food, unwrap it, and try an consume it, let alone digest it. The sugar bottles are kind of like a security blanket for me in the form of a fuel source, I know that now matter how crazy the race situation while I have a bottle on my bike I can grab a quick drink and keep the tank as topped. 

When it comes to eating food I have been super duperly enjoying the products from our food supplier multipower. We have these choc coated rise crispy nougat bars which are utterly delicious. I carry these and consume them when the racing is less than intense as there the hardest thing to unwrap and probably hardest food I carry to digest. After these I use the jelly packs. These are perhaps my all round favorite!! They are relatively easy to open and then you simply squeeze the orange flavored jelly down your gob which is in my opinion utterly delicious! I use these during times of moderate racing intensity where I want to eat something substantial but all know it will digest easily and quickly at the same time. And finally the gels which are the turbo fuel for the final part of the race. These are what I consume when we are going full tit as they are very easy to open, consume, and most importantly quickly give you the energy you need for the final part of the race. They also often contain caffine which has the ability to give you that little bit of extra sharpness when you need it most. So I am very content with what multipower have our bus stock up with for race fuel. During the giro one of our legendary massures Carmine Magliore has been whipping us up steamed rice with sugar and chocolate mixed through. Outside of our specific race fuel this is something I enjoy immensely. I love my rice and I love my chocolate so really for me its the perfect snack. The only catch is it falls into my eat when we are cruising category as it's a little harder to unwrap, eat and digest than our sport specific multipower products. So I have to prey that Carmine prepares the rice on days that we have plenty of easy moments in the race. As if we don't my pockets are still full with rice at the finish which does not worry me so much as it makes and excellent post race recovery snack!

Sprint tomorrow and in the home town of our green missile Elia viviani so I am looking forward to doing all I can to help make that all happen for him.

Today's data
180km 4hrs 50min
Average power 230
Average heart rate 130
Maximum power 1050


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Freddy fresh legs (for some!)

The post rest day stage always throughs up a few surprises, specially when its the first forray in the higher mountains. A couple of things are certain however, everyone "THINKS" there legs feel awesome and fresh again and it certainly is the case for a majority of the peleton! As a result the breakaway is destined to require an hour of power of effort to enter if you fancy starting the second phase of the race up the road. And thirdly nobody really knows how's there body will react when the smack goes down and the script for the day will be rewritten a number of times throughout the stage!

So I was part of the clan that thought I was finally at 100% health and fresh as a daisy. As a result my goal was to begin the 2nd week the same way I started the first and head up the road in the breakaway. I picked some strong riders to follow who obviously had the same plan and off we went. I would fail in my attempt but not until I had completely burried myself in a number of moves that "ALMOST WENT" the ones the group seems content with and you grab 10-15seconds and all looks good when all of a sudden someone decides they want in on your party and a flurry of new attacks begins! So this is what happened to me today and sure enough after being brought back for the last time the next move slipped of the front.

Unfortunately the group was large and we were not inside it as the boys were I little far back to counter my previous attack. Immediately our ever reliable green train locomatives of paolo longo borgini and alan maranga marangoni rushed to the front and started to close the gap down. This is not as easy as it sounds as there were already 12 riders going full blast to get away v's our 2 men. Immediately Elia Viviani and I drew from the strength our seeing our men sacrifice themselves for one of us to enter and we clawed our way to the front in anticipation of a counter attack. As the our boys closed Elia launched out of the field with the fearsome kick that has seen on him being capable of going toe to toe with cavendish and in no time he had bridged across and the break was free sailing into the dolomites. At this point we were 40km into the stage and I was already ready to see the finish line so knew it would be a long day. One thing was for sure however longo and maranga had put in best on ground performances and Elia repaid them by finishing of this selfless work that is never witnessed outside of the peleton on one of the hardest days we will race in this years giro.   

So for me and the boys remaining in the bunch it was onto looking after damiano caruso to ensure he is in a good position for the start of the climbs at around the 110km mark. We assembled on the front and all seemed perfect as we sat comfortably between the astana and sky trains until 10km from the climb a hiccup occurred, damiano had a puncha. I stayed in the group while a couple of others dropped back to help. Once he was back to the group it was then my job to escort him back to the front. Easier said than done on a typical dolomites rd that twists winds and roles and would be flat out fitting 2 scooters travelling in opposite directions let alone 2 cars! So back in the group and the calmness of pole position was replaced with stress on behalf of us workers charged with job of getting our GC man up front. Damiano as usual was cool as cucumber and guided me forward telling me when to move and relax. When we moved however it was an all out sprint to duck into a small hole that was probably not there but it succeeded and by the base of the climb Damiano was back in a prefect posi! I meanwhile had left my lungs and legs partly 60km back down the rd and the remainder a few km before the climb began. I retreated to the bunch for some recovery but it is was all in vein. Once we hit the climb where the road incredibly somehow got even smaller!! Was now being lit up by the black sky train and riders where being dropped left right and centre. I was trying to ride around riders but as usual wasting way to much energy and before I knew it the bronchitis was back and I could not breath! Last years winner ryder hesjedal was also having some difficulties of his own so I humped onto his wheel in the hope of recovering a bit and riding back to front. How wrong I could be as once the breathing issues started they only got worse and in no time the only focus I had was getting oxygen in let alone getting over the climb!

So from very early on in the first mountain test I have no idea what so ever happened up the road, all I can do is read the report but I do know Elia won an intermediate sprint and so preserved my sprint classifcation lead and also lifting him to 2nd in the red jersey competition so that's nice. Its always nice to be leading somthing than be behind! Damiano did an awesome job continuing to mix it with the best in the race and jumped to 21st on GC after finishing a very very impressive 16th on the stage. Me meanwhile finally recovered on the decent enough to make it up the final climb but with some serious concerns regarding my breathing issues. Its not the first time its happened in italy in april/may but I have never been able to put a finger on it.

It must be bad as now I have many other riders offering me assistance as they see me suffering on the climb so it was definitely time to relay these concerns to our team doc Roberto Corsetti who is veteren of 20 giro d'italias. As only a few weeks ago my condition was building up perfectly and I was certainly in the best condition of my life the doctor has suggested that I am suffering from a bad allergy which is very common in italy for this time of year and basically riders whom he says there are many that suffer from it simply don't race in italy during this period! So if he is right I am probably in for some more difficult days over the next 2 weeks but fingers crossed I will find a way to manage it and also find a way to utalise the work I have done for this race over the past month. Just another harsh reality of bike racing and unfortunately until you give it a go you never never know but one thing is certain! The amount of suffering and desperation I have been through this past week is going to make me enjoy beyond comprehension how good it feels when I am back to 100% health like I was only a short time ago! Will keep on keeping on!  

Todays data
170km 5hrs
Average power 255
Average heartrate 140
Max power 1100 watts (trying to unsuccessfully get in the break)

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Monday, May 13, 2013

Team behind the Team

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

RDO (Rostered Day Off)

After 9 days of racing this morning we finally had the opportunity to not be woken by an alarm clock. The first rest day was finally here and has given us all a chance to take stock of the weeks that's past since the giro began and look at what we are going to try and achieve moving forward. More importantly it gives the body a chance to absorb some recovery and freshness and get rid of it's arch rival fatigue before the race really ramps as we finally hit the mountains. 

So what happens on a rest day for us riders? It's funny as I was scratching my head this morning thinking the same thing, what on earth am I going to do today?? When finally i realized it is no different from an easy day at home when you have just finished an intense period of training. Just because your at a bike race it does not mean you need to avert away from routines you have built up over years and years of training and racing. The only difference is that there seems to be some much significance placed on this day by all those involved with the race that makes you think perhaps you should be doing some extra special like sleep for 22hrs, leaving a couple of hours for eating! But really it's not the case at all.

I woke at a nice pleasant hr of 9am and was super excited to see that my resting heart rate which we take every day along with blood pressure was the lowest I had been all week. Perhaps a sign that my body had finally finished it's battle with the bronchitis and I was finally back in A1 health, thanks the conclusion I will draw anyway! I strolled down to breaky, was not so hungry as I had the mother of all schnitzels last night at the auto grill which I reckon probably measured 60cm in diameter and weight half a kg. I am pretty confident that it will give me a back up fuel supply to last well beyond the final 2 weeks of this giro. From there we assembled the troops for a lazy 90min spin on the bikes. The mechanics really looked after us today and had fitted our bikes with compact cranksets which every rider duly indulged in a light effortless pedal in the 36 tooth small chainring! The legs just loved the opportunity to spin freely without having to feel like you were doing a 100 deep squat every time you turned the pedals as has been the case due to the rain of the past few days.

Following the ride was lunch and time to focus again on racing tomorrow by ensuring the fueling of the tank process begins correctly. So some pasta, ham, and mozzarella along with the customary side salad were in abundance on the table. After lunch I decided to try my hand at the greatest invention I have ever heard of, the "siesta", and zoned out for an hr or so. Took the opportunity to catch up with a good mate of mine Todd Skipworth on the telephone whom if you don't know and follow triathlon you will know alot about him very soon. He has been a member of the national rowing team for past 7 years, competed in the Beijing Olympics, was world champion in 2011, worlds silver in 2010, and more recently 4 in the London Olympics. Following the Olympics he decided he would pursue his other passion being triathlon and by january had already earnt his pro license and a few weeks ago finished 4th in a half ironman in Asia on his pro dubut however should have 2nd if not the winner had he not been sent the wrong way on the Nike course. When it comes to talent skippy has the name and the class to shine as Australia's next big thing in triathlon, that's for sure. So was great to catch up with him and share some perspectives on 2 different professional sports.

Next up it was massage time and now some down time before dinner to write my blog and get focused and organized for tomorrow. As always these easy days simply go way to fast, it's a result of you being so tired that you want the day to last as long as possible! Unfortunately the opposite always occurs. Having said that after my very pedestrian like performance's in the first week I am champing at the bit to get stuck into the next phase of the race. I have felt absolutely horrible at time this weeks and to finally be able to take a deep breath again and also sniff the roses is something have been craving every moment of every stage! I have no idea how I would have been affected by my sickness but i certainly felt a lot better yesterday so all things being equal I am confident this progression will continue.

One thing I was interested to observe today was what our team of tireless staff get up to on a recovery day? As you can see by the photo it is far from a recovery for them, if not an even busier day than usual. As you can see by the photo they are all hard at work from well before us riders lift an eyelid. I opened the window as soon as I woke and the picture was what I found, they are simply the back bone to the team. I took the time to have a chat with the mechanics and masseurs to ask what they did and basically the day without racing give them the chance to catch up on all the not so important things that have pushed aside during the first week and then once that's done start to do any many things as possible to ensure they can make the next week of racing as efficient as possible for us riders of the bike. So mechanics are preparing bikes and wheels for specific hard mountain stages like tomorrow, reorganizing all the bits and pieces in there big truck so they know exactly where everything is at all times, and basically ensuring that they are that well prepared should anything go wrong they have anticipated it and can get ontop of it ASAP. 

The masseurs who's job descriptions is far from just dishing out the odd massage are on much the same schedule with all there bits and pieces. A trip to the supermarket to stock up on supplies and ensure none of us ever go wanting for anything. Offering to do any extra washing like our tracksuits, pj's and any other garments of clothing that after a week are starting to become let's just say a little on the nose. If any rider has any little highly injuries then extra time can be allocated to tending to that to avoid any potential problems and then to top it all off give us all our daily massage on top of all this extra work they have taken upon themselves to do on our day of rest. I feel terrible asking them do anything as you know they will always say yes, no is simply not part of there vocabulary as they take there jobs as seriously as us riders. For them i am sure its as much of an adrenaline rush to see us succeed when perhaps they have given us a massage or prepared that banana and honey sandwich they saw you munch down before piling on the pressure on the front of the field. A mechanic can admire the way Elia viviani pumps over 1400watts through his cannondale evo as he goes head to head with cavendish. Knowing he pumped up those tyres and oiled up that bottom bracket to ensure Elia gets every bit of bang for his buck as he turns the bike inside side out. In my own personal opinion to perform this work could not be jus for the sake of it, these guys and sometimes there is the odd women working on teams, are so passionate that's it's simply infectious. A cycling team is an environment where people fuel of each and everyone involved and ultimately success breeds success. It's just so awesome to have such unconditional support meaning all we have to do is the easy part!! turn the pedals! Oh and of course I cannot forget our legendary bus driver lucio who's absolute pride and joy is his cannondale pro cycling team bus! What does the bus driver do on his day off?? Well as you can see by the picture he is up early giving it good wash and polish to ensure that everyone that walks past our team bus can use it as a mirror and straighten up there hair! There is no other way to describe them, the staff are just absolute machine.

So the rest day 1 is now just about in the books for 2013. I certainly feel fresher than I did this morning so from my personal perspective I reckon I have performed I pretty good giorno di riposo!