A Busy Week

09Mar09

This is more of a diary from the past week so it is fairly long but so is the time spent on the road.

 

Le Samyn

There is no way to stay warm when it is 3 degrees and raining when you are meant to be racing your bike. Ah Belgian sunshine how I missed you. I was warm up until 5min before the start thanks to the fact I was sitting in a café next to the start line waiting until the last possible moment. Me and Matty made the old blokes in there so happy. They weren’t happy that we wouldn’t drink the beer or cognac they offered though. I may have been the last rider in the bunch but it was a sacrifice that was worth it thanks to the extra minutes of warmth. I was riding on some awesome deep section FSA carbon wheels that are really fast. The only problem is that in the wet the brakes were barely working on the carbon fibre rim. By the end of the 3km Neutral section I had had enough of not being able to break so I stopped and changed my front wheel to one with an alloy rim.

I was able to rejoin the race no problem and with confidence in my front brake at least I was able to move through the bunch and to the front. I then started to go with the brakes. Not thinking that it would stay away but more to do a job and with a tiny thought in the back of my mind that maybe it might work in conditions like we had. I was in one with two other riders that got my name out over the radio but nothing was staying away for long thanks to the tail wind that was pushing us along at well over 50km/hr.

The bunch was cruising along with 10km to go until the first hill when there was a big crash ahead of me. Thank god I changed my front wheel because no way would I have been able to stop if I was still running a carbon wheel. However, I now had to chase with a number of other riders to get back onto the bunch. We made it on just before the first climb. I was in the box and popped on the climb along with a number of others we began the chase at the top. We got back on only to get spat again on the next climb. Shit weather and spending the whole day chasing isn’t something I love doing. So over the top of the second climb and with lactic pouring out of my eyeballs I chased. I got back on for what proved to be the last time because as soon as we went over a small rise I was out the back with no way of coming back.

When this happens its back into the gruppetto and a very cold and undignified ride to the finish line. By the time I got off the bike I could no longer feel my arms and could barely lift them off my bars. My fingers were past the point of numbness and were in severe pain. Now because I know a lot of my friends will pay me out for complaining about being cold I will recite a quote that I heard when I was 17 years old. “It’s not tough to be cold… It’s F*!@in stupid.”

Wezley Sulzberger from FDJ having a chat on the start line with me and Dan

Wezley Sulzberger from FDJ having a chat on the start line with me and Dan

 

Team Presentation

The day after Le Samyn was off to the other side of the country for the team presentation.  In a beautiful hotel in Dornick we were presented to media and sponsor. I still can’t believe how much fuss is being made over us. However, I am more than happy to take it in my stride.  We now have a lot of team casual wear that is extremely nice and the public seems to approve of it, which was especially obvious on the walk through town we went on after the presentation to go and get a coffee.

The riders who are doing 3 Daggse West Vlaanderen are now staying in the same hotel that was used for the presentation. I am currently writing this in my room with my legs up awaiting my massage.

3 Daggse West Vlaanderen is a very tough tour that uses a lot of the same roads as the classics coming up. The weather is meant to be bad so it will be a good and hard test. This blog will be pretty long by the time I finish because hopefully I will be able to write something after every stage. At least you will get an insight into racing life and my moods.

Before the Presentation

Before the Presentation

Team Cinelli-DownUnder

Team Cinelli-DownUnder

Getting introduced to the media next to Sven

Getting introduced to the media next to Sven

VDB(Captain), Nico(DS) and Rudi(team manager)

VDB(Captain), Nico(DS) and Rudi(team manager)

Me and Chris showing off the kit to the media

Me and Chris showing off the kit to the media

 

Stage 1. 3 Days West Vlaanderen

Yesterday’s team presentation was all over the papers today. Most of the papers were concentrating on Frankie but one of the papers did have a team photo with everyone in it, too bad I couldn’t read what it said. Lucky there were pictures to look at. While we were looking at the papers over breakfast the Team Bus turned up. It’s an old bus but it looks awesome painted mostly in black with massive Cinelli logos down the side. Now when I say bus I am not talking about a mini bus I am talking about a full on bus that has been converted so that it has tables in between two sets of seats as well as a kitchen, toilet and two beds if you feel the need.

I am so blown away by all of this its not funny. I just keep shaking my head. This trend continued because when we arrived at the race a huge crowd formed outside the bus all looking in the windows at us prepare and waiting to try and get a autograph and photos of us. Again most of the crowd was for Frankie but it was still very cool none the less.

The race started in typical Belgian style, fast and crazy. Luckily the sun was shining although this didn’t mean it was warm but it was nice not to be riding in the rain. Everyone was trying to be at the front because of the amount of wind about. Whenever it is windy the race can split really easily so it is important to be at or near the front.

Once again I was held up behind a crash. This is a trend that I am going to have rectify very quickly if I am going to get a good result anytime soon. Being stuck behind the crash put me straight into chase mode and made me start to chew the stem. Something that was going to continue for the rest of the day. Not long after I was back in the bunch the race hit some cross winds coming off a long section of cobbles. The race split into 5 or so bunches with me finding myself in the third. We chased for around 20km to get back in contact with the first and second bunches and lucky me getting on at the bottom of a small climb. With lactic coming out of my eyeballs I found myself off the back by about 10m at the top of the climb. Straight into the 11 and the negative fact of my weight turned into a positive as I dropped down the descent and back onto the bunch. By the time I got back on there was only two other teammates in the main group so I was fighting to stay there and try and help them out.

The pace was really high and I found myself dropped a few times from the bunch. I ended up off the back in a small group losing a fair bit of time to the winners. I live to fight another day. I am still really positive knowing that my form is coming and I am still going well against 13 Pro Tour and Pro Connti teams.

 

Stage 2.

Today’s entry is going to be a short one. I woke up this morning with my legs feeling pretty good. Today I was planning on going in the early break and was motivated for a good race. Overnight a saddle sore had come up and was feeling very tender.

Once the race started I knew I was in a bit of trouble. Thanks to the saddle sore I couldn’t sit on my seat properly and therefore couldn’t pedal properly. What was worse than this was the fact that I because I couldn’t sit properly my legs couldn’t recover from efforts. After awhile of racing and getting nowhere near the front I new I wasn’t going to be in the break. Once the bunch hit some cross wind I was off the back in a group. It is normally no problem to get back to the bunch in this situation and for the guys with me it wasn’t. However I was on struggle street and spent the next 45min in the cars struggling to get back. The suffering was immense trying to hold the back of cars doing over 70km/hr to try and get back.

Eventually I was out the back of all the cars and by myself with broom wagon for company. Tour over for me.

 

Stage 3.

Obviously I can’t start so for me today has been very boring and frustrating. I have been beating myself up over yesterday pretty much since I got off my bike. I don’t want to feel like this ever again so now it is time to make sure I don’t.

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