I thought I had experienced it all this winter until an earthquake measuring 1.6 on the Richter scale struck my hometown in county Donegal on the northwest coast of Ireland.
Although it only lasted a couple of minutes the earthquake was nothing compared to Arctic conditions that have gripped the country since mid-December.
Ireland is currently enduring its worst winter since 1963 - which just happened to be the coldest since 1740 - with temperatures dropping to minus 12 degrees Celsisus.
The country used more salt and grit in three weeks than it would ordinarily use in one whole year just to keep main roads open and Dublin Airport was forced to close more than once.
The weather has certainly had an impact on my training schedule which had already been upset by a slight knee injury that I picked up in Switzerland towards the end of November.
I had planned to start training again on December 1st but the injury held things up for almost three weeks and when I was finally fit to get back on my bike the weather conditions were so dangerous that it was unwise and unsafe to attempt to ride on even the main roads.
The turbo-trainer was the only option even though my mum was not too happy about me turning her sitting room into a temporary gym each day so that I could kill time on the turbo by watching MTV and Sky.
A couple of days riding one hour each morning and afternoon and few others riding two and half hours straight got me back into shape but I’m conscious that I only have only done half of what I had done this time last year.
It’s a little unfortunate but I know that it’s important not to rush back and to try and stay calm about it. It’s not ideal, but that’s the situation I’m in and I have to keep to the same programme that I would have been on.
Where I have been lucky is that my race programme is not due to start until the Tour of Murcia on March 3rd. That gives me time to turn things around and this week’s team training camp in Portugal will provide a boost all round.
I was lucky to get out of Dublin Airport on Saturday. It didn’t reopen until 3 p.m. and I was travelling for a good twelve hours before joining up with the team in the Algarve.
I’m looking forward to getting back into the groove of things this week and to concentrating on this year’s goals and objectives in greater detail in consultation with the team.
I will also be riding the Volta Cilista a Catalunya from March 22nd to 28th in the build up to the Ardennes Classics (Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallonne, Leige-Bastogne-Liege) in mid to late April which are the first big goals of the season.
I am a big fan of Liege-Bastogne-Liege even though it is a seriously difficult race. It is not as dangerous as Amstel Gold where there is a lot of street furniture to contend with and it is more about staying the course over the six to seven hours of the race.
A top ten finish in either classic would be brilliant if I could manage that, but right now that seems like a bigger goal than it may be come April. I will not be the team leader for either race but I expect to figure in how they play out.
There is a break in my schedule before heading to the Tour of California in May where I intend to build form for the Dauphine Libere in June which will determine whether I achieve my biggest goal of being selected to ride the Tour de France.
I usually ride the Tour of Switerland in June but I’m looking forward to riding the Dauphine for the first time and, if the condition is good, to having a serious crack for the GC or a stage win.
The prospect of riding the Tour de France is already a huge motivation for me. It is probably my main goal this year. It is the only big race that I have yet to ride and it is the only race that people know in Ireland. It is the biggest race of the year and riding it means a lot to me.
I know that Carlos Sastre has only planned up to the Giro but he has ridden three Grand Tours in one season before and I’m preparing for the Tour with the intention of being in the best condition possible to help him get a podium place or to win stages.
July seems so far off right now but the clock is ticking and it’s back to business. This is my first diary of the New Year and I look forward to bringing you updates and to sharing my experiences of whatever the 2010 season holds for me.