Hi there all,
I’ve just finished the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, and felt that things went pretty well in the race. On Friday I rode to help Alberto [Contador] on the big mountain stage. I am happy with how my form is coming along, and while it was a hard day, I was pleased to be in a position to help him. Unfortunately we couldn't finish it off as he had a puncture right near the end, but I guess that’s cycling.
This race has brought some good sensations after a few tough weeks. I started feeling bad in the last couple of days in Paris-Nice, and wasn’t at full health for quite a while afterwards. That’s a really hard event, mainly because it’s raced so hard early in the season. Pais Vasco is also a tough race at best of times, but it is particularly hard when you are sick.
Anyway, I’m starting to feel much better now. I have done the work and trained well, even though it's been hard to judge how intensely to train the past three weeks with my health. It seems that I am improving, though.
Saturday’s result, second in the TT just behind Alberto, does give me confidence in my time trialling, while on yesterday’s final stage I was clear early on in a break. All things together, it shows the form is definitely on the up and up. I have had a solid block of good racing with this and Pais Vasco so I really hope my climbing is also improving. We have a good and experienced team to guide me through Romandie so now I'm looking forward to a good week of relaxation and recovery.
I’m not planning on doing the Ardennes Classics this year….that means no Flèche Wallonne, and no Liège. Instead, I will go home to Monaco for a few days, relax, and then I do Romandie. I would love to do really well there, it is where I got my first pro win last season. What’s encouraging is that I think I am ahead of my form at this time last year…if you compare SRM files and whatnot, I really am.
I am going to get stronger, the body improves with age…I am a lot lighter than I was this time last year as well. The head is good, and things have changed…I am happy off the bike as well. It’s all good!
Part of the reason for being happy is because my girlfriend has moved in to Monaco with me, so that is the biggest difference…it is a bit more stability in my life! That is probably one of the most positive changes that I could have had. It is a big lifestyle change, I guess, isn’t it?
As for Monaco itself, it’s one of those places where you can say it’s very much what you make of it. It has its pros and cons, but it is home now and I really enjoy it there. When I go back to Australia, I really miss Monaco, so I guess that means it is home. That is a good thing.
What isn’t great is just the traffic..it’s quite crazy there. But the guys say you just start your ride when you get to Ventimiglia or behind Nice…that’s when you can get moving.
I normally go training with the Tasmanians…half the population of Australia is from Tassie, so I do a bit with Gossie [Matt Goss], Gerro [Simon Gerrans] and Wes [Sulzberger], and also some of the other guys in the peloton. It is funny, if you think of it…two years ago, the thought of riding in a bunch with Boonen and Gilbert and some of the biggest names seemed unusual, but we just meet at 9.30, coffee shop…I love it, it is great.
Some wonder about the rivalries, and how we put that to one side when we are training together. To put it simply, that is cycling! It is funny to watch the Classics, Stuey [Stuart O’Grady] chasing Boonen, but off the bikes they are such good friends. Everything seems to be put aside when we are out in training.
That said, when I go to the gym with Gerro, there is a little bit of a competition between us…each trying to outdo the other!
Looking forwards, I’m heading towards some important goals, races where I hope to do well. I did a lot of work with Bjarne and Bradley McGee over the winter to make things better in time trials, as they will be important in the big events. They are probably two of the best guys out there for time trial position! I also worked with Specialized and the Shiv...I had a custom bike for the worlds and also this year...it is just a step better. I don’t mean to drop the name in, but it really is a fantastic bike.
I am a smaller guy, but producing quite big watts for someone my size. Also being low and aerodynamic, it is an advantage. I just need to work on some other sides of my cycling, my other weaknesses…I think I can be a much more complete cyclist than what I am at the moment.
As already mentioned, I won’t be doing the Giro this year. The decision was taken at the end of last season, and the plan instead to do Romandie and California, as part of a build up for the Tour. I’m not going to that France to ride GC, but I do plan to go and get some experience.
I guess if anything, I do have to take a backward step…to go to the Giro in your first year as a pro and ride general classification is not really what happens, normally. I am a little inexperienced, so I will step back and go from there.
The other thing is that if the team had made me leader of the Giro squad instead, there would be quite a bit of pressure. It is hard to go to races in your second year with that expectation. You are a marked man, in a lot of ways, and there are a lot of people who look at you to pull out results in every race. But you have to pick your battles, and that is what the team is doing with me. It takes time to build up, and they are doing things just right.
Thanks for reading!