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Archive for September, 2010

Worlds Camp 2010

It’s been a cool experience jumping off of the Garmin-Transitions train and into the Australian team for the past week.

Firstly there is getting to know the staff and riders much better than the nods and “hellos” that most Australians tend to throw at each other when bumping into each other on the normal pro circuit.  Secondly there is the slow build of excitement for one of the key races of the cycling season, with our team being both the home nation, and also sporting the defending champion.  It’s absolutely awesome!

Planning the training ride

I’ve had two personal highlights thus far this week.  The first was discovering that Allan “Alby” Davis is a bigger St George Dragons fan than I am, meaning we have had a week of gasbagging about how the Dragons are going to go in the NRL Grand Final this weekend.  As there are no race radios and the Grand Final will be on at the same time as the Road Race this Sunday, Alby and I are trying to work out a system where I can let him know what the score is while the race rolls around.  Motor racing pit boards are our best idea thus far, although where we’ll get one of these from is anyone’s guess.  Anyone who has spares near Geelong would be massively appreciated!

The second highlight was discovering that Richie Porte was at the Tour de Langkawi last year when I did a rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with a live backing band in the “key of angry” (as described by my fiancée Mands).  Well, that he was there wasn’t the highlight, but that he recognised me as “that Total Eclipse of the Heart

The Key of Angry

guy” was.  Absolutely chuffed with that!  And it goes to show, it’s not singing ability, but passion on delivery that counts!

One of the funnier parts of the week for mine has been listening to the gossip and rumours that each of the teams have about each other.  “We heard your bus has a frozen yoghurt machine” “didn’t your director make so-and-so ride home because they were fat?”  “I heard you blokes sacrificed a chicken every stage that you won” and so on.

The road race team have been based at the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) in Canberra for the whole week, and we head down to Melbourne tomorrow (Friday) in prep for the race starting on Sunday.  The week has consisted of a bit of team bonding, a lot of riding for the lads, and a bit of work for me, but nothing too drastic (thankfully).

The team bonding had us in a talk with a former wing commander of the Australian Airforce, which was absolutely fantastic.  His quote of “first we break them, then we build them back up” has been used throughout the week to describe pretty much any plan we have to do any thing.  Very cool.

The training that the boys have done has been interesting.  The TT lads (Richie Porte and Mick Rogers) obviously have been going through a lot of shorter, more intense work, while the road race boys have done longer, tougher stuff.  Individual riders have tweaked the final week’s programme individually depending on what works best for them, what sort of racing they have had in their legs in the month immediately prior to this week, and what type of a rider they are.  It’s been a juggling act handled with aplomb by our DS Neil Stephens and physiologist Dave Martin.

Matty Hayman chuckin a mono

We’ve had a good start to the Championships – Luke Durbridge ripping up a silver in the U/23 TT, and Rohan Dennis taking 4th, while Richie Porte and Mick Rogers came in 4th and 5th today in the Elite TT.  It was an interesting day for me, as Dave Millar was in the lead for a large part of the day, and I found myself cheering for Millar (who is a friend and team mate every other week of the year), while also hoping that Mick and Richie would go super well.  It’s all a little confusing, but for mine, it means I have more chances of a result I’ll be happy with occurring.  First and foremost will be an Aussie win, but if one of the lads from Garmin-Transitions gets up instead, it’ll be a pretty good consolation result.

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Consistent Aggression (Tour of Britain)

I’m in Ipswich, southeast England, and have finally found time to get finger to keyboard (what is the modern equivalent of “pen to paper”?) to scribble (again – what’s the digital version of scribbling? – such important questions on this blog!) down a little of what’s been going on.

This is a very cool race – it goes through beautiful countryside, and the number of fans out on the roads is incredible.  There have been a lot of tough stages ranging from mini-Classics stages, through to out and out bunch sprints.  The only beef we as the team staff have with the show is the British traffic.  It is so bad that the organisers have to get the whole stage finished well before peak hour, meaning the stages are starting some two hours earlier than we are used to.  There’s a lot of stuff that needs doing when at bike races in the mornings!  And we live in Spain!  Early morning hours are double figures where we live!  There are eyeballs starting to hang out of heads with fatigue as we prepare for Day 7 of this early morning madness.  It’s madness I tell you!

That aside, it’s been a good show thus far, despite us losing half of our team to various ailments.  As the season comes to an end I am coming across more and more fatigue-related problems – be it physical fatigue leading to pain on the bike, or just a build-up of systemic stress affecting overall health and well-being.  This is normal, and is evident in many of the teams in the peloton.  It’s a long season of racing, and we still have more to come!

At this race, Garmin-Transitions have been flying the flag with aplomb, but not as much success as we would like.  We have been awarded the most aggressive rider for three of the last four stages, and arguably could have received it for the fourth of those stages too.  Unfortunately, each of these gutsy moves (two each by Cameron Meyer and Dan Martin) have been thwarted by the bunch, with our boys being caught in the final 5km too often for it to be funny any more.

On the Queen Stage in Wales Cam was in a group of seven or eight riders, and shot off the front of them for 30 of the final 35km of the stage, only to be caught by the GC contenders in the final 5km in the move that has defined the overall standings of the race. With massive thanks to Natalie who was on the final cobbled 20% hill (yes, that is as ridiculously hard as it sounds) – here is a link to a cracker of a video of Cam in the hurt box and then Trav getting up the hill anyway he could! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BswlXBX6SRA

Not to be outdone, Dan then got himself into the break for two consecutive days, the first day launching more attacks on the peloton, his fellow break contenders, and the lumpy roads of southwest England than can be adequately described.  That he didn’t win was a huge disappointment as he had truly lit the stage up for virtually the whole show.  His second day up the road (he’s not afraid of a bit of punishment) saw him in a group of ten or so, and he made the decisive move of the race in the final 10km, splitting that group to pieces, but was probably carrying a little too much from the previous day to be able to close the deal.

Cameron’s second day up the road happened today.  He was rolling along with one other rider, with quite a handy lead over the bunch when they passed us in the feed zone.  We drove along listening to the race radio updates, oscillating between hope and deflation as the numbers first meant the break would stick, then seemed like it wouldn’t, then vice versa and repeat.  Cam spent the final 10km or so dangling off the front of the race, having done away with his break companion earlier.  We were shouting at the radio (similar to when JackyBobby was up the road in Eneco) willing Cam to stay away, or for the peloton to lose organisation, or for him to suddenly find an extra 5km/hr, or SOMEthing, and were finally deflated to hear that he had been caught just before the 1km to go banner.  We’ve been super proud of their efforts, and disappointed they haven’t been rewarded as well as we would like (and think they deserve) for them.  But that is bike racing.

We also have Christian Meier sitting in 7th place overall, having been in the key break on the second stage of the race, and so are in there swinging.  If just one thing goes our way, we’ll be sending them out of the park.  It’s been a strong performance by a weakened team thus far, and we still have two more stages to get a little more action out there.

I have to wrap it up here though.  Apparently there are TWO six o’clocks every day, and I have to be up for the one I didn’t know about.  Ohhh the agony of this job.  Hahahaha!!!  Still living the dream.

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The finale of the Eneco Tour was a time trial, and as hoped, our man Svein defended brilliantly, winding up fifth overall for the race.  This was a great performance by the big fella, and the bare minimum of what I believe he deserves for his persistence, determination and talent.

Trav looking like he's been shot by a dirt bazooka

The race had been very tough on our boys, some coping better than others.  The final stage ended in Genk, a town on the eastern side of Belgium, right near Holland and Germany, and as usual we were to head back to Girona (in north eastern Spain) afterwards.  As a rare bonus, we were booked to fly back as all of the vehicles we would normally drive were to head to another race in the area.  Sweet!

Then our physiologist Marc Quod (Quody) read about a Trappist brewery that apparently served the best beer in the world, and we made a snap decision that despite the rules of getting into this place being pretty strict, we’d turn down the flights and offer to drive the only car going back to Girona.  It was somewhere around here that the fail-athon really kicked off.  I should have known that Quody reading non-scientific journals was a bad idea.

As I noted, the brewery was pretty tough to get in to: there were no official booking hours, and no official booking office, you just

JackyBobby after the final road stage: I swear it was tougher than it looks!

called as often as you could.  If you did get through, you would only have one chance to book, and then your phone would be blocked for a month, and the one time you did book, you had to provide your car license plate, which would be allowed to enter once only for the month.  And you could only take one case of beer off the premises per car.  “Pretty tough” here means getting in to the place was akin to hitting all of the notes of the final, key changed “I really need you tonight” line in Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. It is possible, but you’ve got to be bloody lucky, and it happens nearly never.  I’m still waiting for both my time with the perfect notes, and to go to that brewery.

Fail number one.

We had already committed to driving, so figured we see about going to another brewery in the area, which we duly organised, and which didn’t require seventeen hoops to be jumped through.  Excellent.  The hotel we stayed at that night was in Ghent, a beautiful, happening university town with a great night life.  We chose there for closeness to the brewery, and the possibility of having a bit of a good night out.  University towns, however, are not so good for nights out when the uni is on a break.

Fail number two.

Quody had been to Ghent previously, and had been enthusiastically regaling me with his recollections of the Aussie Pie Shop (or so he called it), which was in Ghent, and allowed homesick Australians the chance of a true taste of home – a hot meat pie.  We were particularly excited about this, and so decided to forego the (included) breakfast at the hotel so we could maybe fit a third pie in when we hit the pie shop.

Fail number three

We then headed in the vague direction that Quody thought the shop may be, and there were several moments of “ooh this looks familiar” followed by “nup.”  We attempted to use the technology we had with us, putting “Pie” “Aussie” and other similar search terms into our Garmin, but to no avail.  Garmins are good, but they can’t completely overcome the hurdle of being used by two starving Australians desperate for a pie.  We definitely saw a great deal of Ghent, and found ourselves at the Great Australian Ice Creamery twice (it was news to the two of us that Australia is a noted ice cream making nation – I’m sure there’s fancy Belgian ice cream you can buy in Aus), which was (predictably) closed.  It turns out we should have searched The Great Australian Bite, which I’m told does a great meat pie.  I can’t comment either way, although I will attest to it being particularly difficult to find.

Fail number four

We ended up with quiche and coffee from a nice little cafe, but this was several hours after we’d skipped breakfast, and several kilometres of walking later.  Curses!

A grand booty after a less than grand trip

Things definitely took a turn for the better thenceforth though, as we found the St Bernardus brewery without too much difficulty, and despite the proprietor locking himself out of the brewery when he came to greet us (true story), we had a great visit.  So good in fact, that we bought two cases of beer, two cycling jerseys (got to love Belgium!) and two beer glasses (you apparently MUST drink St Bernardus out of St Bernardus glass).

If you ever get yourself there, talk to Markus and tell him I sent you.  It won’t make a lick of difference, but will add a pleasant piece of random to his day.  He’s a great bloke, and makes a cracking beer.  Admittedly it wasn’t all “fail” after Eneco.

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