Archive for August, 2009
Welcome back to the circus of Grand Tours! It’s been over a year since I have embarked on one of these adventures, though I have made it through one Giro already, this time round will be a different experience. After only getting the call up 5days ago and still just in the building stages of my form, I will be taking it day by day.
Today kicked off with a 4.8km hit out around the Assen GP circuit in Holland. What looked to be a very simple exercise, proved to be a lot more difficult as the wind gusted and strom clouds keep rolling over making the circuit quite treacherous for some.
It was a very cool sight though, its not often you start a time trial in front of a packed grand stand where the Dutch crowd held strong in testing conditions. I was lucky to have the rain pass before I hit the track, though I was left to ride though a small lake. I was fairly happy with how the legs felt but really didn’t want to take too many risks. To be honest I think I would have looked like a full on hubbard taking some of those corners, but hey I really have tasted the tarmac enough already this year.
If any of you had the pleasure of watching Gent Wevelgem this year, scope in tomorrow because I think you will be in for some good action. The forecast is the same as today, and with some small Dutch roads, and a few cobbles thrown in the mix there could be some GC contenders asking themselves is this really the Tour of Spain or a northern classic?
Ok well it’s time for me to climb into bed and get in a good kip before we really start battle tomorrow. I will do my best to keep you all posted, and hope you enjoy reading. Plus feel free to drop me a line too, I love getting your comments and am always open to questions if there’s things you want to know.
ps. check out the following link, an article from cyclingnews http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/gudsell-to-the-vuelta-hopes-for-end-of-troubles
Well I had thought I would be still writing from Holland after another stage of the Eneco Tour, though as pro cycling goes changes can be made at anytime. I was listed as first reserve for the Vuelta Espange or Tour of Spain, though with one rider not fully healthy and my condition slowly building the team decided it was in my best interest to continue progressing in Spain.
For me the Vuelta will be purely form building, in preparation for the last race of the year, but more importantly next season. After six months out of competition you don’t just regain the strength and recovery straight away it takes almost the same time you had out. So for me Jan/Feb/Mar is my main goal. I will be a supporting rider to guys like Sandy Casar and we do have a sprinter but I will just do what I can.
The Eneco Tour proved to be a real test, with Saturday and Sundays stages being raced over the roads of ‘Liege Bastogne Liege’ and ‘Amstel Gold Race’ respectively. I did what I could during these tough stages, and tried not to really go too deep into my reserves so to keep something for the last couple of days. This ended up being a good plan, as now that saved energy could be vital during the next month.
Well folks, I have to keep this brief as I still have some packing to do before getting back on the plane tomorrow for the depart in Assen (The Netherlands) on Saturday.
Will do my best to keep you posted on this next adventure…
Well kicking my own arse to get over yesterdays frustrations, today there was no time even think about it or feel the aches and pains from the spill. As we hit the first of 10 bergs after only 40km, so it was race on from km 0.
These are the climbs made famous by races like Tour of Flanders and Het Volk, 10-20% gradient on cobbles it makes for some exciting viewing for the spectators, but for us its pretty much just chaos. The fight for position starts a long way out and just getting to the foot in a good position is hard work let alone once you’re on the climb.
For me there were just a few too many climbs for my current form. The relentless fighting for position and intensive efforts on the climbs took their toll and I found myself off the back after around 120km. Though I was happy I was not alone, with a big grupetto of over 30 guys.
Hopefully today will be a little more low key, with a very flat parcour before Saturday and Sunday when we hit the Ardennes for more classics style racing.
Thanks for reading, time to chammy up here.
I will keep this one brief but try to get the last week across at the same time.
After finishing the Tour of Poland with a top ten and some really promising signs it didn’t take me long to realise I hadn’t raced a tour at this level for almost a year now. So peeling myself off the couch to do anything last week was a big task. It was nice to feel real fatigue from a race but it did last a lot longer than I hoped.
On Sunday I raced the Vattenfall Classic in Germany which I was really motivated for as I thought it could be a good race for me. Though this time my legs didn’t have a lot of juice in them, and I was back to the hotel for an early shower after about 180km.
The next morning we were on the plane to Rotterdam for the start of the Eneco Tour. I got on my tt bike yesterday for the first time in a year and my result showed it too.
Today it didn’t get any better, it got worse to be honest. Belgium has always been renowned to be quite a dangerous place to race and today it sure lived up to that. Even on a dry sunny day there were plenty of pile ups.
I really couldn’t believe it today, while reaching into my pocket for a bar after just dodging a crash, my front wheel dived into a pot hole and turned left sending me head first into the pavement! I don’t often get angry but damn I was pissed when I was scraping myself off the road. Though I do have to feel for my team mate Yoann Offredo who was here just to prepare for the Vuelta Espange and was taken down in the bunch and busted a collarbone.
Below is a link to how not to sprint.
Well time for kip and fingers crossed for a better day tomorrow.
Aug 16 – Vattenfall Classic, Germany
Aug 18-24 – Eneco Tour, Holland, Belgium
Aug 30 – Chateauroux Classic de l’Indre Trophee Fenioux, France
Well to be honest with you I would have written this earlier but after a long delayed flight home yesterday, and the need for an afternoon at the beach today (with what seemed like the rest of France) I’m back online to fill you in on the action of stage 7 and where I’m off to from here.
Stage 7 was a 135km blast out of the mountains to the center of Krakow. The race book’s profile didn’t really illustrate how difficult the stage would be, as we wiped up and down some nasty climbs for the first 100k. To add to this an 11man group got away on the hardest climb of the day just 15km into the stage and with 4 riders close on general classification it was race on! Though like I’ve said before this is the Pro Tour, and teams don’t let races slip away that easily, Lampre demonstrated just how strong they are and reeled in the break with just 20km to go. By this stage the sprinter’s teams were ready to take over and as predicted what was left of the peloton roared into Krakow for a bunch sprint.
I had set myself a small personal goal for the stage, to finish in the top 10. I knew I was capable if I put my mind to it, even with how tired I was feeling when I woke that morning. As we started the mad dash to the finish line, I was positioned well but at the same time the sensations I felt rubbing shoulders with the other sprinters at over 65kph felt quite foreign again. Team Columbia’s Andre Greipel was by far the strongest winning by 2 bike lengths, though for me it was a 9th place that sealed my own victory. As we all slammed on the brakes to miss the mass of photograpers, I instantly felt happy and satisfied with my performance. Though it didn’t take long for it to turn into a feeling of missed opportunity, I had hesitated as Greipel went by me thinking it was too early instead of backing myself to go with him. Hindsight eh! I didn’t have the legs to beat him, but maybe if I had set a goal of top 3 or even for the win, would I have done better?
Back home resting on the couch, I reassessed things again before setting new objectives. Now I feel completely happy, content, and motivated for my upcoming races. Really I achieved all my goals, finishing the Tour of Poland, and attempting a bunch kick, so I have to be satisfied. There were riders there that had just stepped off the Tour de France in full form, and really for me it was less than 2 months since I even knew what my problem was.
The Tour of Poland was a month earlier than last year, and what a difference it made. Last year we were belted with freezing cold weather and a lot of rain, stages had to be shortened as hypothermia was a real risk. Though this year we were treated with mild days of 25degrees and sunshine almost all week. It definitely changed the mood of the peloton which meant for a more exciting race for the crowd. What really impressed all of us though, was the organisation of the race. It was quite incredible, every day when you left the hotel there were signs directing the teams to the start village, and after the stage directing us to our next hotel. I mean every hotel, when there were at least 5-6 hotels needed to accomodate all the teams each night. Well done Poland, I say.
So this week I am in real recovery mode as its been almost a year now since I have done 7 consecutive days of racing and my body can sure feel it. Though there’s not long to wait, Saturday I am on the plane to Hamburg, Germany for a very prestigious race the Vattenfall classic. Then its direct to Rotterdam for the start of the Eneco Tour, taking in Holland, Belgium, and Luxemborg in one week. Now the goal is to just keep progressing with the injury and my form in general and hopefully I will get through this next block of racing in one piece.
Thanks for reading and all your comments, they are really appreciated.
Well I’m happy to say I survived to live another day here in Poland, I’ll be honest though there were times I thought I was on my way home.
From the gun we started climbing and from there on in there was hardly a meter of flat road. After two nasty climbs we arrived at the days circuit of 25km that we had to do 4 times. Which consisted of 2 climbs and 2 descents, it felt like it could have been a real World Champs circuit. Along with the Polish crowd, which I can’t speak highly enough of. They have been packed along the road side everyday rain, hail, or sunshine cheering us on. I don’t agree with everything the UCI do as an organisation, but I really do like the efforts of taking the Pro Tour away from central Europe. It can only help a sport that has been so battered in past years to grow stronger again.
Bike racing confronts one with a lot decisions to make and often with not a lot of time to think about them. Yesterday I had one of those decisions to make, after losing contact on the 2nd cat1 climb of the day not wanting to red line the heart too much too early. I found myself hurtling down a dodgy little one lane road at 80kph amongst the team cars, which take just as many risks as we do. As sand and grit from the road battered me in the face, and pot holes and bumps nearly sent the rider in front of me over his handlebars, I looked down to see my drink bottle bouncing out of the cage. I thought to myself “risk life and limb by taking a hand off the bars to keep the biddon” or “go thirsty for a few k’s and continue to hang on for dear life” Hmmmm. Hang on for dear life! And sure enough 15km later and I had more fluid than one could ever need, as I loaded my jersey with biddons from the team car to take up to my team mates.
Today, hopefully we will have a slightly quieter ride to the finish in Krakow where there’s a 99% chance of a bunch sprint. World Champion Alessandro Ballan still leads the race showing some impressive form in the mountains, and with his Lampre team who never say die when defending a jersey he will almost surely take home the victory.
With a 3pm start, all organised for the live TV coverage here we have a bit of time to relax before the stage, though I must go now as it’s time for a little extra rice and coffee before donning the chammy and onto the bus to the start.
Will let you know how I get on and where to from here soon.