For the next 8 days I will be racing my bicycle at the Tour of Turkey. I did the race back in 2011 and absolutely loved it for a wide range of reasons. Firstly I love racing on dead slow roads which turkey seems to have oodles off! The roads remind me of riding in Tassie, Tenerife and Southern California, my 3 favourite training locations. Secondly the stages and race profiles are all evenly balanced offering something for everyone, some simple sprint stages, a couple of harder mountain stages, and some potentially breakaway friendly undulating stages in there aswell. The stages are not super long or super short so the 8 stage events provides the perfect ground for riders to work on their condition and off course opens its up for different types of riders to fight for the overall victory. As a result of the great course design the tour always attracts a high quality field which is always what you want in a national tour. Thirdly and also very important the hotels are of exceptional quality, basically we do a hopscotch up the Turkish coastline from club med to club med. Added to that the food is absolutely mouth-watering! In fact there cherry tomatoes are so deliciously sweet that if you blind folded me I would thing I was eating a lolly. Stick them on a piece of Turkish bread fresh out of the oven and add a little fetta and you have yourself one delightful snack! Most often you ride from the hotel to the start and from the finish you ride directly to your hotel. This is always a really nice and relaxing way to both begin and end the day. I take maximum advantage of having a beach at my doorstep and often go for a swim in the morning and afternoon, offer's the perfect way to wake the body up and also recover after a hard day in the saddle. So that's the tour of turkey, simply put its one of my most favourite races on the international cycling calendar.
Today Stage one got underway in typical tour of turkey style, beside the beach, and bathed in sunshine. Just 141km relatively flat km's was on the menu today and everyone wanted the same thing, I small breakaway to skip away and a nice controlled bunch sprint stage to open the legs and lungs up. The Cannondale Pro squad here is an absolute beauty. We have our team leader and one of the fastest men in the world Elia Viviani as captain of the ship and from day one as expected he led from the front. To support him Alan Motorbike Marongoni will ensure elia is where he needs to be in the final km and Mattias Krisek, the big Austrian powerhouse is as reliable as a pack horse in getting the boys where they need to be. Sagan Snr, Juraj is here aswell and is the unfortunate one who has to room with me for the week! He is the ultimate roommate, falls asleep with all lights and tv blaring and when I wake in the morning he is long gone to breakfast and never disturbs. On the road you can bet your bottom dollar that at the end of the race Juraj is caked in salt and sweat, a clear illustration that on every occasion he gives everything he has for his teammates. Senior sagan is most certainly The ultimate gentleman both on and off the bike. Next up we have GB the Canadian Cannonball whom is Elia's last man up in the sprint. He spent 1 month training with me in Tassie over the summer so is more accustomed than most for the dead roads of turkey. I expect this to give him a nice edge as the tour roles on. Last but no means we have my favourite teammate, Davide Formula Uno Formolo. As usual he has arrived brimming with youthfull enthusiasm and I can't wait to share another week racing with him. Whenever he is around there is nothing other than smiles and laughter, he really the most awesome team mate you could wish for and has a ridiculous amount of talent and horsepower to back it up. And I make up the final member of the 7 cannondale pro machine assembled here for the tour of turkey.
So back to stage 1 and all went to the script. A small break skipped away and the teams of the sprinters quickly had everything under control. We started the day with a simple objective, give elia the best chance to fight for the victory in the expected sprint finish. I personally had been waiting for a day like to today with anxious anticipation. In Stage 4 of tour down under I really let elia down with stupid attack in the final km's when I should have stayed at his side. He finished the day 3rd but wasted a lot of energy and regardless of how much better he could have gone I knew within myself I had cost him an improved result. So I have wanting a chance to race alongside elia since then to have the opportunity to help him as much as possible and let him know that I am not a selfish team mate so was really excited before the start today that I would get that chance.
From the get go today the boys were fantastic. We moved as one in the group and on the odd occasion we were separated we quickly re assembled. Lotto at one point tried to cause some chaos in the cross winds and Elia was quickly on my wheel and off we went right to front before any damage was done. I even joined in with lotto as if these is going to be a split in the crosswind you are always better off being the bat than the ball so figured I would assist in what turned out to be a trial run of things to come during throughout the tour. After this elia quickly said good job for instantly having him in a safe spot so my goal for the day was already being achieved and elia was beginning to trust me again. Yet another example of this came in the final 20km where elia explained to me that in the final 1km Motorbike marongoni will do his final effort to position elia and GB for the final sprint. He said we will pass up the left side so just be ready to take Maranga as far as you can and take the wind and he will do the rest. Now I was brimming with confidence and immediate planted myself on the left hand side of the road even though we were 20km's from the finish. I wasn't going to miss my chance to do this important job for maranga and elia so set up camp where I needed to be probably a little earlier than need be! So all was set and with 15km to run the Cannondale Clan swarmed to the front and took control of the left hand side of the bunch. Not surprisingly leading the charge was mr enthusiastic himself, davide formal!!! And Powerhouse Krisek.
Davide arrived and slotted infront of me. Other teams were working away on the right hand side but davide was wanting to stretch his legs. I tried to hold him back and let quickstep do the work but there was no point, he wanted to open throttle so we let the young buck of the leash. From 15-5km to go formula 1 and powerhouse krisek did and incredible turn that scared of all comers from stting the tempo. I was safely sitting 4th wheel behind the even reliable snr sagan and the other boys lined up behind me. We had control of our left side of the road and I was champing at the bit for the final 3km banner to take Motor bike marongoni as close to the finish as possible. We turned onto the beach front in the perfect spot with around 3km to go. Formolo and Krisek has done an awesome job and now was just up to us to finish it off. I waited patiently for an opening and surged up the left side with the motorbike marunga churning away on my wheel. We flew past 3km to go and at around 2km to marunga left my wheels with gb and elia glued to his. All was going to plan. I actually at this point still felt good and when the road suddenly opened up for me on the right side I charged back the front in search of elia to see if I could give him one final helping hand. I spotted Elia a little boxed in and also spotted cav and quickstep train moving up. I forgot that the other thing elia had requested that in a perfect world he world find Cavs wheel for the sprint. Obviously every other sprinter in the race also wanted it so that was never going to be a given. So when I saw cavs wheel remarkably around 1.5km from finish I jumped on it and waited for Elia. Speaking with elia after the race he couldn't believe his eyes when he saw me perched up on cavs wheel heading toward the final km, he said was the last person he expected to be on the wheel everybody wanted that close to line. Anyway all went to the script as I boxed a few dudes off me and handed the wheel over to Elia around 1km to go and was pretty confident that from that point the end result was going to be either 1st or 2nd. GB of course was there aswell right on elia's wheel acting as body guard so it was really satisfying to see that the team had executed exactly what elia had wanted, the rest was now up to him. In the end Elia would run 2nd which when beaten by only cav is always a great result and I am sure for most sprinters fells like a win. It was so nice to cross the line and have elia with a big beaming smile obviously satisfied with his result. He has come to turkey to build his confidence ahead of the giro so definitely have started of on the right foot. Also for me it brought a big smile to my dial to get a big thanks from elia after the finish. He wouldn't have known anything of my determination to assist him today and that doesn't matter. The most important thing for me today was to ensure that hatchet from Australia was buried when I made that selfish mistake and I can in my own mind move on from that, I never want to have any doubts in my team mates minds that my number one priority is the success of the team and executing what's asked of me.
Back in the group during the day I of course found time to catch up with a few of my buddies in the bunch. The one I spoke most with today actually was the man who would ultimate beat our boy elia to the finish post, mr cav himself. I get along very well with cav and really enjoy chatting with him. I read his book during the giro last year and enjoyed daily chats about that as we progressed on our lap around Italy last may. Cav and I seem to be following a very similar program this year with turkey, California and back to Europe for the tour of Switzerland all on both our race schedule in the immediate future. As a result of the prospect of spending so much time together over the few months we kept our conversation a little briefer than usual as we don't want to waste up our topics of conversation! Not only are we facing similar programs but we also both spent time in southern California in the off season. Today we discussed at length how awesome the training is down there but also the dangers of stacking on the kg's from to many stops at the panickan café in encinites. That place is by far the most unique café I have ever been to. They serve up slabs of cake that I kid you not weigh around half a kg or close to a pound in yanky speak! I love carrot cake, its perhaps up there in my top 3 favourite desserts along with Caramel Slice and pavlova but this carrot was something else. I would demolish these slabs daily as I most certainly became addicted to them along with salted caramel lattes. I live by the slogan that I will only eat what I am prepared to burn off so in this case meant 5-8hours pretty much every day. In fact in the 2 weeks I was there I recall logging 44hrs training and still managed to stack on a kg or 2! Definitely a trap for novices training in the area and cav confided that he to fell for the panickan café curse but fortunately had a team camp immediately afterwards to snap him quickly back into shape and get back to his winning ways. Its not only the café that we chatted about but also the bunch rides down there aswell. I was of the opinion that the Wednesday worlds in camp Pendleton and the Saturday swammies rides are two of the hardest training sessions I have ever done, not surprisingly cav agreed with me so together we came to the conclusion and re-affirmed that socal is one awesome spot to spend the off season and train on your bicycle. Eventually our conversation let to our upcoming travel schedule and how we were getting between all these places. Never know we thought maby we might even get an upcoming flight in or two? As it turns out we wont be as cav loves flying with British airways and me usually delta to the usa. The reason cav insists on traveling ba is he finds it more comfortable and he was ropeable that he missed out on his gold frequent flyer card by a mere 18 points last year!! Gee I had a laugh when he told me that, one a winner always a winner hey no matter if your racing a bike or racing up the frequent flyer status's!!
Before I wrap up I cannot miss the opoportunity to compliment simon gerron's on pardon the pun but a monumental victory today in the final Ardennes classic of 2014. Its been well documented that when gerro tagets something he rarely miss fires and today was no exception. All his rivals knew he was gunning for the win and he was brave enough to let everybody know just that. Do you think they could do anything about it in the end?? Not a chance and it's the way gerro wins that always blows me away. When you see him a position like he was today, a small group at the end of an exceptionally hard race and you know he is the favourite he never ever fails. Today when I saw him in that small group at 400m to go I knew it was a forgone conclusion and I am sure deep down his rivals did aswell. When he kicked like a mule at 200m to go it was game set and match, there was no chance that any of the other greats of the Ardennes classics all lined up his wheel were going to get anywhere near me. Those are the victories which really impress me, the ones where the target is firmly planted on your back and the opponents can do is watch the bullseye ride away from them. Good onya gerro, that was one seriously impressive performance.
That's all from me for now in turkey, it's been a nice day for me and a great day for the team. 2nd was fantastic but for sure we will reload and do what we can to go 1 better with elia tomorrow.