2011 has been a dream start for myself. I travelled out to Australia early to get a good week of sun-filled training and then set off on my first experience of the well-known Bay crits. I was excited to get started with the season and the Bay crits didn’t disappoint. They were fast, furious and a little bit dangerous - just how a crit should be! I managed to keep myself upright and blew the cobwebs well and truly out of my legs and chest. I came out of the week feeling good and looking forward to getting started with the road races.
Next stop was the Aussie road nationals. It was a strange experience riding a foreign championship, but I did have some company, though, with fellow Brit Tom Southam in the race. It was on a course that produced a deserving winner in Jack Bobridge. I used the day to have a big training day and worked as hard as I could for our man Simon Gerrans, who ended the day in third. With the first road race under my belt, I was ready for the trip to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under.
I was looking forward to returning to the TDU after 2010...it’s a great way to fully get the season started, with a really relaxed and fun atmosphere not only in Team Sky, but the whole race. 2011 was no different. The Cancer Council Crit had some ups and downs. The team really came together and did a perfect lead out, but then disaster struck and our sprinter crashed. But we took confidence that we beat all the lead out trains with our Team Sky Train.
I had the biggest surprise on stage 2 when I took the biggest win of my career. It was down to the quick thinking and even quicker pedalling from team mate Geraint Thomas that I got this win. We lost our two main sprinters due to crashes but ‘G’ made a fast decision and came around me with 800 meters to go, shouting “you're sprinting.” Before I could even think about it I was crossing the line with my hands up, probably the best feeling in the world. Not so lucky was G who also crashed hard in the final. We lost our man CJ (Chris Sutton) due to a massive hole in his knee from the crash, and I found myself in the position of team leader. The next few stages were all about trying to repeat that victory. It came on the final stage with what was the best lead out I have ever had. The pulls from Matthew Hayman and G where unbelievable, I got delivered perfectly with 200 meters to go, and to top it all off we got ourselves a one-two with Hendy crossing the line just behind me. That also bumped me up to third on the GC. A great way to finish a great week, with a great group of guys in a great race.
Before it had all sunk in I was back on a plane back to the UK, where I was meeting up with the GB boys for track training. Our first target coming up was the Manchester World Cup. It’s amazing how you can go from having perfect form on the road to getting battered on the track. My transition to the track didn’t go as well as I had hoped and I really struggled. I got my first chance to ride in the Omnium in front of a home crowd. The Omnium is a truly hard event - I enjoyed it, but the result wasn’t the one I wanted. It was good to be back with the GB boys and our next mission was the Tour of Sardinia.
Sardinia is about as far away from the track as you can possibly get. I don’t think we saw one flat or straight road on the whole Island! It was a tough first few days as only two days before we were racing in Manchester, so we had to quickly find our road legs again. It was a fun week, though, and I think we surprised a few people as nobody was expecting to see a group of GB jerseys showing the pro teams how to do a lead out.
Now just as am getting my road legs back, it’s back onto the track with that World Team Pursuit in the back of our heads. Wish us luck and if you have enjoyed my first blog I will write in again soon. You can also follow on Twitter at @swiftybswift