The training’s done, the bags are packed and I’ve arrived in Galicia for the start of this year’s Vuelta a España, which gets underway on Saturday with a team time trial.
It’s kind of like my ‘home’ grand tour because like many Australian professional riders I spend most of my year in Spain and Andorra; this year the race heads into the principality for some rugged stages, although I’m not thinking too much about those days just yet!
Last time you heard from me I was at the Tour of Poland, which my teammate Pieter Weening eventually won; it was a great effort from the Dutchman and whilst we expected him to be strong, we weren’t really thinking he’d take out the overall!
Aidis [Kroupis] and myself shared the sprinting duties but we came up a bit short on the couple of stages made with a faster finish. For my first race back in some months it was pretty tough, although you’ve gotta get going again somewhere!
We then headed off to the Vuelta a Burgos, here in Spain. I was a bit tired for this one; the body didn’t respond too well and consequently my best finish was a fifth place on the day that Daniele Ratto was relegated for some hectic manoeuvres in the sprint. The work I did in Poland helped with my climbing but the fast twitches weren’t working as well as normal, however.
These two races were good preparation for a big season goal of mine, the Vuelta. We start with a 27km team time trial in Vilanova de Arousa, in which we could realistically target a top-five finish. We’ve got a strong squad for the year’s third grand tour, with Sam Bewley and Michael Matthews making their GT debut, Simon Gerrans, Simon Clarke, Christian Meier, Wes Sulzberger, Baden Cooke and myself.
It’s a good team for the final three kilometres and Michael and myself will sit down and analyse which finishes are better for each other then make a plan accordingly. We’ll go with Bling for the days with more climbing whilst I’ll hope to do well in the flatter stages with faster finishes.
My mum and dad will be coming to watch some of the race when it hits Andorra; if you’ve ever been to the principality that lies between Spain and France, you’ll know that it’s very mountainous and not the sort of terrain in which I excel, so they’re not expecting fireworks but will be enjoying the race nonetheless.
I’ll try and bring you updates throughout the Vuelta, along with some video highlights… It’s bound to be a tough ride!
Given what’s happened with Stuart O’Grady during the past week and in light of reaction from the media to his confessed EPO use after a French governmental declaration of riders who returned positive and suspicious test results from the 1998 Tour de France, most professional bike riders have had plenty of food for thought. Me included.
Firstly, I want to tell a short story from my childhood:
When I started in the cycling world as a kid, ‘Stuey’ was my hero; in fact, he is the reason (in a good way) that I lost my first ever road race as a 10-year-old! During the Jayco Bay Criteriums he gave me a signed Crédit Agricole drink bottle that I cherished. I then went to a 15km handicap race in Hamilton, which meant a four-hour drive for mum and dad. I was on the home straight with about 2km to go and was leading solo with a comfortable margin. I decided to take a drink from the cherished bottle Stuey had given me a couple of week’s prior and accidentally dropped it!
Not knowing a whole lot about racing at this point, I stopped, turned around, picked it up and continued to run third. You’re probably thinking ‘What has this got to do with my views on Stuey and the recent revelations of his past doping?’ Well basically, I wanted to give you some idea of the effect he had on my own career and how much I looked up to him.
Bluntly, my admiration of Stuey, one of the legends of our sport, has not changed. Maybe I’m just being an optimist or simply naïve, but when you look at the facts involved around that dark period in cycling’s history, I can’t help but feel sorry for all the guys racing in that period. It wasn’t their fault that they were racing in the 90′s, was it? They didn’t introduce the drug EPO did they? Nor was cycling the only sport using it, not by a long shot!
I think the public forgets this to a certain extent purely by how much criticism cycling has copped over the years. Of course there were some guys who weren’t taking drugs; they were robbed of their innocence and potential results but in my opinion, riders like Stuey still spent weeks and months at a time away from their families and loved ones to prepare and compete in the sport they love. It’s no use vilifying a man in 2013, in the twilight of his career, for misdemeanours committed 15 years ago.
The same applies to riders such as Erik Zabel; despite admitting to doping, in my opinion he was still one of the best sprinters in the world at the time and his knowledge of the sport has helped his son develop into a strong rider (who will race for BMC next season) and the Katusha squad in his role as an advisor in that team.
Ever since I really met Stuey as a ‘rival’ in 2010, he has been an advocate for clean cycling. He has done so many good things for our sport that I hope people won’t forget, despite the whirlwind of negative media attention in light of recent confession and may his retirement not be clouded by events that took place shortly after he announced his departure from life as a professional bike rider.
The sport has changed so much – for the better – and I believe that instead of simply casting stones as is the wont of the media and some sections of cycling’s fan base, we can use guys like Stuey and other confessed drug cheats such as Michael Barry, Christian Vande Velde or David Miller to help continue the trend towards clean cycling in the long term. As my director at Orica-GreenEDGE, Matt White, recently stated: “There needs to be a line drawn” in relation to dredging cycling’s sordid past.
Whilst I never want a return to the ’90s and early 2000s, when guys were dying because of performance-enhancing drug use, I think the experiences of the past can be used to ensure a brighter future, where riders such as myself can compete with knowledge that the professional ranks are a much more level playing field.
Stuey may be a hero with flaws but his contribution to the sport that I love and legacy for the next generation of Australian cyclists is paramount to ensuring it continues to prosper and develop. Stuey, you’re still my hero mate!
Hello from Krakow, Poland, where I’ve definitely enjoyed the rest day in this year’s Tour of Poland.
The last two days have been really testing; more so than in previous editions not least of all because they’ve been in the mountains of Italy, where you’d expect to see big stages of the Giro d’Italia. Needless to say it’s been a solid test of my preparation but I’m still here and looking forward to the next two days in Poland.
The first day was really hard, with several category one climbs in the second half of the stage; I went ‘full biscuit’ into the first cat one but paid for my efforts later… Not as much as poor old Luke Durbridge though, who suffered badly from dehydration after the opening day and was forced to retire from the event.
The second day saw us finish atop a mountain after 6.5 hours in the saddle, only to be greeted by two hotels and three coaches, which were used to shower and transport the entire field of riders to the airport before the transfer to Krakow. We didn’t get there until about 1am; such were the crowded nature of the coaches that guys were cramping up on the journey to get our flights… You don’t see that every day!
The next two days should hopefully end in sprint finishes. Tomorrow there is a 90 percent chance of a sprint and an even greater chance the following day because it’s a downhill run to the line.
We’ll see how both Aidis Kroupis and myself are feeling before we decide who will be the man to contest the sprint finish. My Lithuanian teammate is traveling pretty well and could be up for a good result, which would be great. Personally I’m feeling pretty good – the work I put in up in Andorra is starting to pay off the despite not racing for over two months, I’ve settled back into competition okay.
Another teammate, Mitch Docker, is moving really well, which is great for our chances as he’s become an important part of the fast finishes for us. Like myself, he’ll be riding the Vuelta a Burgos and Vuelta a España later next month, so this is proving good preparation for those events.
Last time you heard from me I had just returned from my ‘longest road trip of the season’ to Australia to see the family and attempt my helicopter pilot’s licence. Anyway, training is now really in full swing and I enjoyed a tip top session with teammates Mitch Docker and Wes Sulzberger yesterday near the border between Spain and Andorra.
Climbing around the authentic Pyrenean town of Castellbo, the sun was shining, the mountains were providing an incredible soundtrack with cowbells and birdcalls… And it almost made my strength efforts enjoyable. Almost…
Anyway, a solid five hours were in the bank by day’s end and all’s looking good for some racing in Belgium, which has been added to my schedule to top me up in terms of intensity and speed in preparation for the Tour of Poland, which gets underway later next month.
It’s good to have some fellow Aussies here with whom to train and especially now summer’s [finally] arrived, the chance to have the odd bbq or two! Hope the rain and cold aren’t gettin’ ya down too much back in Australia, although you did enjoy a terrific autumn, so now it’s our turn to worship the sun.
It’d be remiss of me to forget that the Tour’s almost upon us and of course I’ll be taking a look at proceedings in France… I’ll post my picks for the various jerseys in the coming days when I’ve had a good chance to see who’s doing what. In the meantime, drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter with your own predictions.
Normally I make at least one trip back to Australia during the season but it’s in the pursuit of world titles on the track or training camps. This year was an exception and I spent some quality time in Geelong with my family. It was my brother’s 21st birthday and my dad’s 50th, so the timing was perfect.
I was also recovering from a fracture of the collarbone, sustained in a crash during stage six of the Giro d’Italia. Unlike the Tour of Turkey, where I managed to scrape through the massive pileup on the second day, I ran out of luck in a big crash near the finish. I’d narrowly avoided another three crashes throughout the stage and it was a case of FOURTH time unlucky!
I made the 30-hour trip back to Australia with my head stuck in books, fervently studying with the aim of getting my helicopter pilot’s licence when I was at home. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite that simple and I narrowly missed out this time. I’ll be back at the end of the year however, having a crack at it again.
I also went to the first Geelong game at the new Simonds Park under lights… Which the home team won. Whilst I enjoy football in Europe (I went to my first Barcelona FC match this year) it was great to get some live Aussie Rules under the belt. I didn’t have a pie, however.
Now back in Europe, firmly entrenched in a training schedule for the next five weeks, the sun has arrived (finally) and summer is here. I’m doing most of my training in Andorra and the mountains are fantastic to escape the heat at lower altitudes. It wasn’t easy coming off a fairly solid break but after a couple of weeks back in the saddle and hitting the gym I’m beginning to feel okay.
It’s a fairly long way off but I’m on the roster for the Vuelta a España, which will be the second grand tour I’ve started this year and the second time I’ve started Spain’s national tour. Before then I have an altitude camp up here in Andorra during July (handy for all that climbing at the Vuelta) and the Tour of Poland, which should be an interesting event for me.
The second half of the season has started without a bang but I’m hoping at it gathers pace, there will be plenty to tell you all about. In the meantime, I’ll try to post as many photos as I can (is there such thing as a ‘half year’ resolution?) to provide a pictorial summary of my training days… More interesting than telling you my training data!
Well its been a few days since my last post but found a spare half hour to give you all an update on how things have been progressing over the past 5 stages since the race started in Naples.
Stage 2 was a 17km TTT on the island of Ischia that was very technical and hilly, not exactly a course that suited our team. However considering the course I think we done really well finishing in 9th position only 28sec down on Team SKY. On a personal note it wasn’t my best ride, getting dropped with 3km to up the last climb after having a small technical problem dropping my chain and having to chase back on.
Stage 3 was a long stage at 230 odd kilometers, starting along a crazy coast road that was both beautiful and difficult. Fortunately the break went quite early on and the start wasn’t any where near as hard as it could have been. From there we raced along the coast down South and finished with 2 pretty solid climbs where Luca Paolini took advantage of his local knowledge and attacked just before the top of the last climb and descended to the win and ultimately also the pink leaders jersey.
Stage 4 was the second longest day in the Giro being 245km and I was 7hrs in the saddle. It wasn’t a day for the sprinters finishing up a 15km Cat 2 climb so my job was to get over the second last climb and stay with our climber Pieter Weening which ultimately ended with me giving him my wheel due to a puncture just 5km before the last climb. After that it was all about saving as much energy for the following day as possible which looked to be a day that suited our main sprinter Matt Goss down to the ground.
Stage 5 was a stage which had a big X marked next to it for us, meaning it was a day we were really targeting. With a climb 20km from the finish a small decent then another 5km drag up to the finish it was a stage that looked like a perfect opportunity to try and get Gossy up for a win. Unfortunately for me I didn’t have the legs on the last climb which was really disappointing. However Matt got over along with Pieter Weening and Jens K and they positioned him perfectly with 1km to go but our luck ran out about there with a crash on the second last corner and ultimately causing Matt to go down with it. Fortunately he was ok other than a serious case of being pissed off at a missed opportunity.
We are now on our way to Stage 6 which looks to be a 100% sprint day. I’m looking outside and seeing a lot of wind and with finishing circuits on the coast keep an eye out for teams to try and split the peleton and put some distance to guys that get caught out of position.
Stay tuned for more updates in the next days.
Good evening from Italy after another stage of the Giro d’Italia!
Today was the team time trial, a 16km test against the clock that skirted along the picturesque coast of Ischia – it’s a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, about 30km from Naples. It meant we had to get a boat across for the day’s stage, which of course was a different experience in itself!
I’ll go into a little more detail tomorrow but in the meantime, here’s a highlights package of stage one where we were working hard for Gossy in the sprint, courtesy of Giro organiser RCS.
As expected, it was a fast and furious start to the 2013 edition of the Giro d’Italia today with a 130km circuit race kicking things off in Naples.
With the powerful team we have here it was a perfect opportunity to set up Matt Goss for the win. It was a pretty standard start to the race, not many people wanting to go off the front because everyone knew it was bound to end in a bunch finish.
All went according to plan in the final kilometres, with Brett Lancaster using his sheer strength and power to launch Gossy and myself into the final 500m; I then hit out, taking Gossy to 200m to go in an almost textbook leadout. Mark Cavendish had too much speed however, in what was a pretty gnarly headwind sprint. In an ideal scenario we would have dropped Matt off 20-30m later to give him a better chance of taking the win.
Personally it was a pretty rough day, with a bike change earlier in the stage and then a puncture in the closing three laps – it took a bit of extra energy out of me to get back up to the front, given the ferocity of the racing.
I was better off than the guys who hit the deck – there were plenty of casualties – and whilst my misfortunes didn’t make the difference between winning and losing, it did make for a challenging start to my second grand tour… And in the end it’s all those extra little efforts that count in the final meters.
Tomorrow is a 17km TTT on the island of Isola d’Ischia which looks to be extremely tough and technical, and includes some solid climbs on rough roads. It’s not going to be a parcours that suits our team very well so we’re not expecting a top result. In saying that we will be going out there to finish as high up on the standings as we can.
Fingers crossed tomorrow is sunny with no rain!
Keep up to date via my twitter feed at leighhoward1 and feel free to send any questions in any time and I will do my best to reply.
Having spent the last few weeks at home in Girona following the Classics, I’m back racing at the Presidential Tour of Turkey and it’s been a crazy couple of days, to say the least.
We had a win yesterday in Antalya, with Aidis Kroupis getting up for the money ahead of André Greipel but it was after a massive pileup in the final kilometre, which eliminated Team Blanco rider Mark Renshaw from the race – he sustained a fractured collarbone and lost a tooth.
The first two stages have been marred by incidents in the finale and the crash in the last kilometre of stage two was particularly notable. Somehow I managed to do a ‘Harry Houdini’ and escape coming down… I just closed my eyes and went straight through. There were guys hitting me everywhere and my back wheel was bouncing all over the place.
I really don’t know how I didn’t come down – my SRM file says I went from 63km/h to 18 in about three seconds. That’s braking to rival a pretty good sports car, I reckon.
It was nuts on the first day, too… There was a chicane with about 1.5km to go after having merged from five-lay highways into gradually smaller roads until it was virtually one lane for the finish. Not ideal for a clean sprint as there are 25 teams here and everyone wants a bite at the apple in the sprint. We got caught behind a bit after the chicane, which meant it was ‘Game Over’ for the sprint, unfortunately.
Today will be nuts for a different reason, however; we start on the beach and finish at 1,800m via three category one climbs and a category two thrown in for good measure. It’s going to be a tough day, especially with the dodgy roads (almost like being back on the Belgian pave) and the fact we’ll be riding for Cameron Meyer in his bid for a good placing on general classification.
Cameron’s back after some time nursing an injury and he’s got good legs – it’s great to see him striking some of the form we know he’s capable of and hopefully today can go according to plan for him.
In support he’s got Michael Hepburn, who has really found some great form lately – he did Fleche Wallonne last week – plus Fumy Beppu, Thomas Vaitkus, Allan Davis and myself. We’ll do our best to make sure he stays out of the wind and can be as fresh as possible for the challenging finish.
Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be back amongst the sprints, albeit after a slightly tougher finish which should weed out some of the contenders of the past couple of days where it’s been pretty dangerous. I’m not making any predictions but I want to be in the mix, that’s for sure!
Seriously, however, I’m just happy to have it out of the past two days unscathed and can look ahead to any potential opportunities here in Turkey.
Temperatures of minus two degrees Celsius and the well-publicised extreme conditions could make a good story but the truth is I never really felt the cold during Gent-Wevelgem because we never had a chance to get cold! We raced full gas from start to finish with no rest, no ‘nature stops’ and certainly no relaxing.
Honestly, I didn’t mind the cold too much. I dressed really well. That was key. I covered my arms and chest completely with a Vaseline-style cream and I put extra heat cream on my legs, toes and feet. I had a thermal long sleeve undershirt underneath my normal race jersey with a sort of thick jacket on top of that.
I cut the arms off the jacket so it was just to keep the chest nice and warm and it was another thermal layer on the bottom under my tights, and I used Santini booties and gloves for my feet and hands.
By the time the first kilometer had passed the field was splintered into five echelons and when the first climbs of the day had arrived a few groups had come back together but soon it was all splintered again. Typical Belgium. I was lucky enough to be right at the pointy end thanks largely to a reconnaissance ride we did two days prior. I felt good all day, always staying in good position… well, nearly.
I had one lapse in concentration and it cost me. I missed a vital split about 10km before the first time up the Kemmelberg and along with a large group, spent the next 30km chasing. We got back with the main peloton just at the bottom of the second ascent of the Kemmelberg. I had good legs so I rode through a lot of riders and came out in the front group… or so I thought.
I soon realised there was a new breakaway that had formed. I was the only rider left from our team so I had no reason to work, instead I had to play the wait-and-see game while Omega Pharma and Katusha did the brunt of the chasing to try and bring back the leaders.
Ultimately we didn’t catch the break and then I messed up my sprint for 11th place. Overall I am really happy with my performance. I finished a really tough one-day classic in what were quite extreme conditions and up near the pointy end. I’m looking forward to having another crack soon!
They always say a few things about the northern Classics; the weather is generally bad and you need luck. Today in Dwars Door Vlaanderen, my first Classic in Belgium, I discovered both of these are true. The weather was terrible and one little bit of bad luck cost me a better placing.
It was colder at the start than the finish, although that didn’t say much when you see the video of the race; I made good clothing choices (that’s 50 percent of the battle) and for my first Classic it went surprisingly well. I had good legs and aside from a little bad luck on the Old Kwaremont the day went well.
Jens Keukelaire finished seventh and whilst he wasn’t overly happy with the result he rode well and it’s a good sign for Friday’s E3 Prijs Harelbeke. The plan was to keep me in reserve if it was a sprint, although Jens rode at the front of the race well and narrowly missed out on a better place.
Like I mentioned earlier, I discovered the hard way that success in the Classics needs some good luck and everything was going well until someone dropped their chain just ahead of me on the Old Kwaremont. I was seventh or eighth wheel behind defending champion Niki Terpstra but thanks to the mechanical ahead of me I had to run onto the dirt and then ride around a heap of riders to try and regain my position.
By then the move had gone and with it my chances… I’m a bit dark about my misfortune but that’s life in Belgium in the Spring (although you wouldn’t guess it by the weather!) I still averaged over 300 watts for the five hours and Jens said afterwards that it was probably the hardest edition of Dwars Door Vlaanderen he’s done.
Another aspect of riding these races is the mental approach needed to be successful; today I was a bit hesitant to go with a lot of moves. It’s the sprinter’s mindset but I have to change that in order to stand of chance of winning one of these things. In hindsight I had the legs to go with the leaders’ moves, which is a good sign for Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.
The guys also had good legs today; Heppy and Durbo were chasing down everything in the first 90km, Mitch was going well and it was Tomas’ first race back after a long layoff through injury. He was vital in helping me maintain good position because he knows these races really well and he’s a strong unit. We did recon before the event but his additional input was crucial.
Hopefully the good vibe in the team continues and I can hold onto this good form so that my next Classic bears even more fruit for me. May the learning curve and racing in Belgium continue!
Today was an ugly day in the saddle with rain and cold making for plenty of festering all day long. With the weather as it was and a category two climb so close to the finish, plus a technical descent to the line it was the first little test for the GC contenders.
If guys like myself could manage to get over the climb in a reasonable position it was also another chance to get a win under the belt but unfortunately that wasn’t to be the case though. I was just off the back of all the climbers over the crest of the berg but with the technical descent and a few crashes we never made it back in contact with the front guys.
On the bright side; while my legs weren’t feeling great, when crunch time came they responded pretty well and I wasn’t far off the mark.
The next two days are for the GC guys to do their thing so it’ll be a case of survival and conserve as much energy as possible for stage six into Nice. Although that also isn’t a clear cut sprint stage, its the closest thing we have left in this edition of Paris-Nice and I’m going to give it everything I have to try and win!
The team did a fantastic job for me today as they did yesterday and I tried to make amends… third place isn’t a bad result (certainly better than eighth) and I’ve got to concede that Marcel Kittel was a notch above.
He got held up a little in the finale and whilst I may have hit out a little early because I had yesterday on my mind – I tried to hold back as long as possible – he came flying past on the barriers, with Elia Viviani taking the high-speed German express ride to second place.
It came at the end of a strange old day; not just because the weather was pretty foul but because no one really wanted to be in the break until about 70-or-80km into proceedings. Eventually four guys went and got themselves four minutes but their chances were always doomed. It was always going to end in a sprint.
And I think that’s why everyone was keeping their powder dry – there aren’t many chances for the sprinters in this event and today was one of them. Tomorrow, on the other hand, is by no means a clear cut day for the fast guys.
There’s a tough category two climb about 10km from finish tomorrow; it’s nice to know that it may eliminate some of the other sprinters but I know for sure it’s going to be hard to get over that berg in the front group. If it is really selective, we have Michael Matthews who can handle the climbing and a small group kick at the end.
After tomorrow the pickings are pretty slim; Thursday’s fourth road stage is in the style of an Ardennes Classic – lumpy and selective, where Simon Gerrans and Simon Clarke could be in the mix. Fingers crossed that they are firing on those days.
Like I told you folks the other day, the prologue at Paris-Nice “could be a bit of lottery…” and so it was. I experienced a slight mishap on one of the corners, which really messed with my rhythm – and that was my lottery lost.
Looking on the upside, I had good legs today; a pleasant indication that the following days could be fruitful, although these are hard days in the saddle ahead, so I”m hoping I”ll have better luck to go with the legs.
The thing about a prologue like today”s is that rhythm is everything and if that”s lost for even half a second – the minuscule amount of time necessary to win or lose one of these things – then you”d better forget about making a podium appearance.
Congratulations to Europcar”s Damien Gaudin, who got the fine balance of form, luck and timing right to grab the first leader”s jersey in this year”s Paris-Nice.
Tomorrow we go from Saint-Germain-En-Laye to Nemours, a stage of 195km that is nice and flat, where all the sprinters in this year”s edition will be looking to capitalise on the parcours and hopefully the sunny conditions.
I”ll keep you posted on how it unfolds – stay tuned.
I’m a couple of days away from starting an edition of Paris-Nice and while the weather has been cold lately, it’s done little to dampen my spirits or my preparations heading into another round of the World Tour.
I did it last year and I had to pull out because I got tendinitis four days into the race. I’m at a different fitness level; I’m sprinting better but possibly not climbing as well. Although I thought that in Mallorca as well, and it turned out I was climbing better than I thought beforehand.
There’s a 2.9km prologue with 10 or 11 corners, so it could be a bit of lottery… It’s one of those things where it’ll come down to a fraction of a second. Whoever takes the most risks and gets away with it will prevail on the first day.
And there’s two definite sprint stages; there are another two which are possible sprint days, depending on how the race unfolds. The aim is to try and get up for a stage win and if I’m there, I’ll be happy.
The team for the race is quite an all-round one – there’s not a big lead out train for the sprints but I’ve got Baden Cooke and Michael Matthews to help me in the finishes. And in the mountainous stages we’ve got Gerro and Clarkey, plus Michael Albasini is always a threat.
There are some good sprinters in the mix; just one of them is Nacer Bouhanni, the French national champion. He showed in the Tours of Qatar and Oman that he’s really getting up there and a contender for big races.
As for my own racing, I haven’t competed since the Mallorca Challenge, almost three weeks ago. I was supposed to ride the Belgian season opener of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne last weekend but it was cancelled due to poor weather. Well, snow, really… And lots of it!
I was disappointed because I really backed off my training a few days before in anticipation of racing and we did recon of the course the day prior. I was really looking forward to it but we didn’t get a crack at it.
Speaking of the Classics, I really hope I can get a crack at some of them this year; I’m on the long list for three of the semi-Classics – E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, Dwars Door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem. That last one is a race in which I hope to perform well in the future. To win them you have to ride them quite a few times and I hope that I’ll do that this season and start getting the experience I need in these Spring races.
Take a look at Spanish television network Teledeporte’s highlights of the final day of the 2013 Challenge Mallorca. Leigh takes his second win of the week in a sprint to cap a successful four days of racing.
After the win in Trofeo Migjorn on Monday, it was time to double up at the Challenge Mallorca as I took out the final event, the Trofeo Platja de Muro. I didn’t race the Trofeo Deià so made it two from three on the Spanish island. And again it was a fantastic team effort that I was pleased to finish with a victory.
The day started off in rapid fashion, with the break established after 45 minutes of racing, so you can imagine how quick it was. We went through heaps of small towns and roads, plus there were crosswinds galore.
We had Michael Matthews in the break today, which was great. Within about 15 minutes of the break being established, we started the first category two climb (there were four of these for the day). I was having a good day – I never felt like I was going to be dropped on the climbs, which is a good sign.
I stuck pretty closely to Stuey on the climbs; on the third and fourth ascents Movistar went to the front and went full gas to try and split the peloton because they had Joaquin Rojas at the front of proceedings. It worked in my favour because it meant I could stay close to those guys and see what was going on.
At the top of the final climb the only sprinters left were Ben Swift, Rojas, Robbie Hunter and myself. It was good for our team because we still had about six or seven guys left – Christian Meier, Wes Sulzberger, Pieter Weening, Sebastian Langeveld, Michael Albasini and myself.
Then it was time for the guys to get on the front to bring back the break in the final 30 kilometres. I positioned myself well for the sprint and there were about 30 riders remaining to contest the kick. Movistar’s riders led out Rojas and he hit out too early, consequently fading to finish fifth. I went around the righthand side and ended up with a comfortable win.
The plan today was again to make it as hard a day as possible for the other teams – essentially a training exercise for the likes of Classics guys such as Stuey and Sebastian. I was climbing well and Michael [Matthews] was up the road so it panned out well for us. Our director Neil Stephens gave me the green light to hit out in the finale and it worked for us.
My next race is Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, and it’s a realistic goal to give it a good nudge in Belgium. In 2011, my good mate Chris Sutton won the event and last season Mark Cavendish took the victory, so it’d be a fantastic race to win.
After that Paris-Nice is the next big tour and I’d certainly like to do better there this year than last year. I’ve just been trying to focus on being more consistent in my sprinting and so far it looks like it’s working!
The second day of the Challenge Majorca, the Trofeo Migjorn, turned out to be a good day, with a fantastic team effort and the right result at day’s end – a win.
Having reviewed the race finish ahead of today’s start, the team committed and perfectly executed a plan to put me in position for the win.
Neil Stephens, sprint coach and assistant director Julian Dean plus my coach Marc Quod and I looked at the finish this morning in the car and we knew it would be a crazy, hectic and potentially dangerous sprint. I’m glad we had the preview, though. It allowed us to formulate a plan that we stuck to almost to a T. I come out on top because everyone did their jobs perfectly and gave me every chance possible by keeping me at the front all the way into the final two kilometres.
Without doubt, the team gave me a great opportunity today and put a lot of faith in me. It’s nice to repay them.
Christian Meier animated the early action, jumping into a six-rider move that developed in the opening kilometres before gaining a maximum advantage of 7:10 after the first hour of racing.
Neil paid tribute to Christian’s hard work after the stage. “It took the pressure off us. It wasn’t critical that we have a rider in the move because we wanted a bunch sprint, but we were able to point to Christian up the road to explain why we weren’t contributing to the chase.”
Garmin-Sharp, Lotto-Belisol and Team Sky took control of the tempo and slowly reeled the escapees in and as the gap fell, it was time for the other guys in the team to do their own sterling work.
“We wanted to make the race hard and come to the finish with a small field to reduce the danger in the sprint; our goal was to have only 30 or 40 riders contesting the sprint,” Neil explained after the stage.
“When it was obvious the break was going to get caught, I asked the guys to chase. I explained that it was inevitable that the break would get caught, and then they were happy to do as they were asked. We got to the front to put the race in gutter in an attempt to soften up the bunch before we really put the hammer down.”
The race was back together 27 kilometres from the finish when Stuart O’Grady, Michael Albasini and Sebastian Langeveld drilled it at the front of the race.
After Stuey, Albasini and Sebastian made it really hard in the final kilometres, Mitch took over from there. And the fact that Mitch and I were exactly where we needed to be made our jobs much more straightforward, although it was far from easy.
We wanted to be right at the front with two kilometres to go. There were some really nasty corners, and we needed to be at the front when we went around them. Mitch and I were fifth and sixth wheel when we hit these corners. It was perfect.
Then, there were two tight corners with 300 metres to go. I came out third wheel behind Farrar and then had to step on the gas to get to the line first. It was exactly as I’d hoped.
It’s great to repay the team for the faith they have put in me for the last two races – especially Mitch. We’re working really well together. Like I said during San Luis, we’re still getting used to each other. Three sprints in, and we’ve already won a race. It’s fantastic. He’s done such an awesome job. The whole team has.
After a disappointing end to the Tour de San Luis, I’ve jumped across the pond to start my European campaign at the Challenge Mallorca, which begins this Sunday.
I landed in Barcelona, Spain, earlier this week to get back into the swing of things at my Euro base of Girona (about 1.5 hours north of Barcelona) and it’s cold!
Coming from the Australian summer, complete with bushfires, floods and generally hot weather, the frigid conditions of a European winter was a little harsh, although I’m sure I’ll get acclimatised fairly quickly. I’ll have to, with the next race just a few days away!
The event is four consecutive days of competition that don’t represent a stage race but a quartet of races that offer something for most types of riders. My director for the event, Neil Stephens, has told the media that we’ll be using it as preparation for the Classics riders such as Sebastian Langeveld, Stuey and Thomas Vaitkus, who will all be important parts of the team’s Spring racing campaign.
There’s also something in it for me, too. “We’re definitely targeting the first race,” said ‘Stevo’. “It’s a good day for Leigh, and he’s prepared for a big effort on that first day.”
It’s a pity that Michael Albasini will be away on that first day, attending his grandmother’s funeral, and we also have two other riders recovering from small health issues, but Neil has said that he’s “confident that the riders we have will work well for Leigh.”
With Paris-Nice on the horizon, I’m excited to get into racing on the Continent and hope that Neil’s faith is well-placed. Let’s see how it goes.
The Challenge Mallorca is unique in that teams can start up to 20 riders throughout the four days of racing, with changes to each day’s roster the norm. Orica-GreenEDGE is taking 12 riders:
Christian Meier, Michael Albasini, Michael Matthews, Mitch Docker, Pieter Weening, Sebastian Langeveld, Simon Clarke, Stuart O’Grady, Svein Tuft, Tomas Vaitkus, Wesley Sulzberger.
It was a quiet day for the team in Argentina at the Tour de San Luis (according to the donkey below).
In all seriousness though, you guys reading this probably know just as much about how the end of the race unfolded as I do. I only know what I read about it on the internet once I got back to the hotel.
As soon as we hit the big climb, Mitch Docker, Christian Meier and I took it easy on the ride in. We knew right away that we were never going to make to the finish with the front group.
Before the stage, we had hoped that there was a possibility I would come to the line with the front group. I was climbing well two days ago, so it didn’t seem like it was THAT big of an ask. You can only go on the book when you don’t know the roads, and the profile in the book gave us the idea that this was possible.
The climb turned out to be twice as hard as we had expected and the peloton raced up it full gas. I think the stage was bit more decisive than anyone imagined it would be. Personally, I thought the overall contenders would wait until the following day to do battle on the summit finish.
Stage five included the big climb, of course, but we didn’t finish on the top. After cresting the summit, there was a downhill before a rolling run into town.
Until we hit the climb, the day was actually super easy. A two rider breakaway went up the road from the start, and they built up maximum advantage of 18 minutes. Things turned hard quickly as soon as we hit the climb. The roads were a rough, cement surface with some really steep parts. It was a definitely a finale that suited the smaller climbers.
The penultimate stage looks much harder than today by the profile alone. I’ll look to save as much energy as I can and hopefully have another crack to win a stage on the last day of racing.
Stage two at the Tour de San Luis played to a similar script to that of the previous day. The breakaway went from the start and with only five guys up the road it was never going to survive. And that’s how it went down, as we brought back one of the riders who had been dropped about 50 kilometres into the stage, leaving four in the move.
We didn’t bring the break back until the final four kilometres, and it made for a hectic finale. It might not have been quite as hectic as yesterday because the stage was a little bit harder today, which meant people weren’t quite as fresh. The stage ended in an uphill sprint. Normally, a drag uphill isn’t my cup of tea. I’ve never been competitive in any sort of uphill sprint until today, so I’m happy with that.
Sacha Modolo won ahead of Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma QuickStep). I finished just behind Cav to take third. Today, I went maybe 30 or 40 metres too early. It’s a minor detail, but it’s this type of detail that makes the difference between winning and losing. Regardless, I’m happy with third today. To be up there on a stage that normally doesn’t suit me is definitely a good sign of things to come this season.
Pieter Weening represented the team at the front of the bunch alongside one of Cannondale’s guys and an Omega Pharma QuickStep rider. Our presence at the front showed that we meant business for the stage victory. We’re not always able to use Pieter in this way – sometimes at races like this, he’s riding for the overall, but he came here to get early season racing in his legs. Without any other objectives, he was more than happy to do lots of work on the front.
The whole team did an incredible job today. Everyone had their bit to do, and they all did it well. Without each of my teammates, I wouldn’t have been up there contesting for the win. Svein Tuft helped me out quite a bit in the last ten kilometres with Michael Albasini taking over from him four kilometres from the finish line. He did a huge turn before leaving me with Mitch Docker.
Working with Mitch these last two days has been great. We’re only one race in, and I can already tell that we’re going to mix it up well in the sprints together. We should have another chance to test out our partnership here on the last day of racing.
The formula for San Luis’ opening stage was simple; eight riders went away early before it came together for a bunch sprint. As there weren’t any big teams represented in the move we weren’t too stressed and let other teams do the chase work. We also had a tailwind for almost the entire stage, so it wasn’t an overly taxing day in the bunch, either.
Having said that, the build-up to the sprint during the last 30 kilometres was hectic however, with the last 10 kilometres borderline crazy thanks to several nasty corners and some high speeds on the run into town.
I had the boys looking after me, and they did a really good job. Mitch Docker, Svein Tuft and Michael Albasini helped me up to the front and Mitch did the final lead out, dropping me off with about 500 metres to go.
I think I was on the wheel of Lampre-Merida veteran Alessandro Petacchi in the final push to the line and unfortunately I was pushed into the wind for a bit – only for a few seconds – but it was enough to take the edge off in the final sprint. Mark Cavendish won in his first race for Omega Pharma QuickStep, ahead of Sacha Modolo of Bardiani CSF Inox. Petacchi rounded out the podium.
Although I’m happy with fourth, I definitely hope I can go get on the podium in the coming days; hopefully when I’ve shaken a bit of jetlag, which meant I felt pretty average during the opening stage. Mitch and I had a long flight from Australia to Argentina – with over 50 hours of travel and a monster time difference, it definitely takes its toll. I suspect most of the peloton is suffering from the same thing and that we’ll all come better in the next day or two.
This year’s Australian Open Road Championships, which took place over in Buninyong last week, were a fruitful exercise for myself and the Orica-GreenEDGE team. I picked up a bronze medal in the criterium last Thursday night whilst Cam Meyer took the win and Luke Durbridge dominated both the elite men’s time trial and road race to make it a clean sweep for the squad.
It was a remarkable effort from Durbo and showed that if last season wasn’t proof that the 21-year-old West Australian hadn’t already arrived on the pro scene with enough of a bang, he was now a bona fide star of the sport in this country.
In the criterium we planned to ride an aggressive race because we only had four riders and that’s what transpired, with Trav and Cam Meyer ripping it apart, whilst Wes Sulzberger hung about with me in case it came back for a sprint. Cam never looked like he was going to get caught and rode quite an incredible race.
Personally, the road race went better than I had hoped, which is good when I consider the sprint focus of my training lately. Everyone in the team did exactly what they were supposed to do and it showed… The plan was executed to perfection and we came away with first and second. Have a look at Cyclingnews‘ coverage of the race.
The new Nationals course may have fostered slightly more negative racing but I don’t think that was totally due to the course change. I just think that was the way the race panned out… In the coming years however, it’ll be much better if they keep that format because after seeing what happened in the U23 and elite men’s road races, the field won’t let a break stay away again!
I’m hoping that this good start continues to develop in the Tour de San Luis, as I leave Australia for Argentina this week. I’m climbing better than I thought I may be and my sprinting is coming along quite nicely. Hopefully I can put two and two together for a good stage result.
The Orica-GreenEDGE squad in Argentina includes Mitch Docker for the sprint lead outs; he’s going really well at the moment and I’m looking forward to working closely with him. There’s also Svein Tuft to help out in the finale, in addition to Michael Albasini, Christian Meier and Peter Weening.
We can cover all our bases for the race with the team selected – there are three sprint stages, three mountain days and a time trial. We should be able to mix it up in all the stages, which will hopefully net us an early-season win!
“…May break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. Or that”s how the saying goes, anyway.
This one is different, however. It”s a new cafe (named Sticks and Stones) in Torquay, nestled amongst the surf shop mecca that is Surf City and in my opinion makes some of the best coffee I”ve tried in Australia.
Owner and manager Nick (pictured left) is a coffee fanatic and it shows – his single origin, best sampled in a no-fuss espresso, sets a party off in your mouth and I”ve been La metodica ascesa in vetta tra i giochi del mondo online del River Belle, puo essere attribuita a tre ragioni:Piu di 300 Giochi del Casino sono tuoi quando giochi al Casino River Belle! Questo include alcune delle Slot Online migliori nel mondo giochi come Tomb Raider: Secret of the Sword e Slot Progressive come la Slot Progressiva Mega Moolah che rende milionari. fortunate enough to try plenty of his offerings during training rides lately.
He also appreciates cycling and is a wealth of knowledge, welcoming riders and non-lycra clad folk alike.
I know how much riders love their coffee and when you get to drink something special like this, it makes you realise that a caffeine addiction is best serviced by those who are passionate about their coffee and maybe even their cycling, too.
I opened my 2013 racing account at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic last week. This year’s was much more open than last season because we only had one big pro team there, which I think made it better racing in some ways… It was certainly harder!
All the Orica-GreenEDGE guys rode well; the first day we grabbed second place when Jens Mouris was beaten on the line by Caleb Ewan, who eventually took out the series. ‘Turbo Durbo’ [Luke Durbridge] then took an emphatic win the next day in Portarlington – he tore it up out the front of the field and won solo.
It was a tough day for me in Portarlington… I won the bunch kick for fifth, a nice consolation prize, although I was on the brink of getting a virus which then knocked me around for the next couple of days. Consequently I didn’t start the final day of the series but obviously the boys didn’t need me because Mitch Docker won the stage and grabbed the sprint classification jersey.
I’m feeling a bit better now and the focus turns to the national championships in Ballarat, where I’m doing the criterium and the road race. It’ll be the first time riding the criterium at Nationals; it’s a bit of extra racing and a good way to open up the year, testing out my sprint. With teammate Cameron Meyer in the event I might get a bit of support and give it a nudge.
This year my condition and goals are different at this time of the season, compared to the same period last year. In 2012 I was lighter before Nationals whereas at the moment I’ve based my training entirely around my sprint. Consequently I’m a little heavier but I’m sprinting better and will ride Nationals as a support rider – I’ll see how long I can get through the race and provide help for the likes of Matt Goss.
As far as the way the race will go, I think it may unfold differently to other years but I believe the end result will be very similar to last year. In January, with the heat and close to 200km of racing, you’re probably not going to see any guys at the end who haven’t done a season or two in Europe. There’ll be some strong local guys like Mark O’Brien in the mix but it’s certainly more suited to the seasoned professionals; guys like Richie Porte, Matt Lloyd and Simon Gerrans, who featured in the finale during last season’s title decider, are going to be the really strong contenders on the day.
It’s that time of the year, when the festive season meets the pre-season before our attention turns to new goals and ambitions.
This Christmas was pretty quiet for me; I just spent the day with my family, eating way too much! I always go for a Christmas Day ride with friends and family, something I did again this year. I caught up with people I don’t get to see all year on the morning of Christmas Day and we did a couple of hours together which was great.
Whilst I got a few weeks off after the season finished, I’ve been busy since the Australian Madison Championships which I rode and won with Belgian Kenny De Ketele. Have a look at the results and photos of Kenny and I in action on the night in the cyclingnews.com coverage.
I hadn’t been on the track for a while – since riding world championships in Melbourne last April – so I was surprised with how well I was moving and I think it’s a result of the gym work and sprint training I’ve been doing. But I’m certainly going to miss the track; the Madison is one of my favourite events and I’ll definitely going to miss it but I’ve got more important things to focus on with my road career and trying to win more sprints consistently throughout the season.
I went from the Madison championships up to Falls Creek, in the Victorian Alps, with the Orica-GreenEDGE guys. It was basically just a week in the mountains, which we don’t really have down in Geelong, so overall it was worthwhile at this stage of the season. We did a lot of base kilometres and E2 work on the climbs ahead of the Michelton Bay Cycle Classic, which starts on January 1.
To help me hit the ground running at the Bay Crits and beyond, I’ve been in the gym for the first time in my career, which has been different, to say the least! It’s something professional cyclists often neglect but I’m finding the experience good so far.
I’m just trying to build a bit more strength and power for my sprinting, starting from the top down. I’ve then added that conditioning work that to the specific sprint training that has been a focus on mine during the pre-season rather than concentrating purely on big base kilometres. The combination of work out on the road and in the gym to prepare me for the season ahead has been intensive but I think I’ll reap the rewards when it counts.
I’ll let you know how it goes for me when I report from the Jayco Bay Classic; in the meantime, enjoy your New Year’s Eve celebrations and get a few kilometres under the belt after the festive season!
Well finally my turn has come around to get back up on the top step again!
Stage 1 was turning out to be a good finish also but a crash with 1km to go ruined any chance of that.
However moving onto stage 2 I was determine to change the outcome. After being given the green light to go ahead and sprint for myself in this tour I was determine to make the most of the chance I have been given. It was a very straightforward stage with not much wind and only a few small climbs, but nothing to every really split the bunch up. With help from my partner in crime, Aidis Kroupis, we moved towards the front with 25km to go and stayed around the front as best as possible. He done a fantastic job looking after me and keeping me out of the wind all the time. With everything coming back together with just over 1.5km to go, Aidis had done all he could for me and dropped me off on the wheel of Mark Cavendish. From there to the finish there were a few changes in the line up, but with 280m to go I started my sprint from 4th wheel and came to the line with about 1m to spare on the current World Champion. Relief was the first thing that came to mind. It’s been a long season so far and without a win to date I was beginning to think it wouldn’t come. To pull it off was fantastic, but to beat a guy like Mark cavendish in the finish made it all the more sweeter.
Stage 3 was again pretty straightforward, but throwing in some rain and wind and a downhill run to the finish made it a pretty dangerous finish. Mark got the better of me today and pipped me for the win, relegating me to 2nd place BUT moving me into the overall leaders jersey. A nice consolation prize.
Stage 4 and we done the duty of controlling the break today. Jack Bobridge and Michael Hepburn rode incredibly strong all day keeping the 6 man break in check before we got some help from Endura Racing and Team SKY. With 25km to go the entire SKY train came to the front and put it in the gutter splintering the field into about 3-4 groups. Fortunately I was strong enough to stay with the front group as well as my team mate Brett Lancaster. With only 25 odd guys left in the front, me and Brett decided it was best to sit back until the last possible minute and make a last minute run. 1km to go and Brett hit his afterburners took me from the back to the front in the space of 500m and dropped me off on the wheel of a Garmin rider before he swung off leaving a rider from SKY, Luke Rowe dangling off the front. I saw my chance and sprinted from 300m to go. Unfortunately taking with me Cavendish and he just came over me with 50m to go and bringing with him Steele Van Hoff. 3rd place, still not a terrible result, but that meant that I lost the leaders jersey heading into tomorrow’s stage 5 around Trent and Stoke.
Tomorrow looks to be a tuffer day and I hope with a bit of an uphill finish I can have another chance to win a stage.
Aidis Kruopis won the opening stage of the Tour de Poitou Charentes. By outkicking his rivals in the Royan field sprint, Kruopis took his third win of the season and the first of two victories for ORICA-GreenEDGE on Tuesday.
“I had a perfect lead out from Jens [Keukeleire] and Leigh [Howard],” said Kruopis. “Jens took over with one kilometer to go, and Leigh was the last rider in front of me. He dropped me off, and I sprinted to the line. It was a hard sprint because of a headwind, and I thought someone might pass me but nobody was close on the line.”
A three rider break dominated the early action. The trio gained a maximum of eight minutes over the field. FDJ-Big Mat took control of the chase.
“We had Tomas Vaitkus come to the front and help FDJ bring back the break,” explained Sports Director Lionel Marie. “We had him work until we hit the feed-zone. I didn’t ask for more from him than that because he is still recovering from a knee injury.”
While Vaitkus contributed to the chase, Kruopis stayed tucked in the bunch.
“It was a hot day and very lumpy, but it wasn’t a problem to get to the finish,” explained Kruopis. “I drank as much as I could and saved all my energy for the sprint.”
By the final ten kilometers, the escape group had rejoined the bunch, and ORICA-GreenEDGE began to line up for the sprint.
“Jens knew the finish,” explained Marie. “He raced here two years ago, and this finish was included then. That’s why we had him take charge of our sprint in the last kilometer. All three riders gave their maximum. Aidis finished off their effort and arrived two bike lengths ahead of everyone else. He made it look easy. It was a perfect day for us. We did our work, and we finished first.”
With the stage win, Kruopis becomes the first race leader of the 26th edition of the Tour de Poitou Charentes. With time bonuses at intermediate sprints and the finish, Kruopis has a narrow advantage over Thomas Vaubourzeix (La Pomme-Marseille), who spent the stage in the break.
“Aidis leads by one second over Vaubourzeix and by four seconds over two other riders,” explained Marie. “We’ll see tomorrow if he can keep the lead, but it’s no problem if not. We said we wanted to win a sprint stage, and we did that today. We’re also here for the time trial and the general classification, so hopefully we can get the jersey back later if it goes to someone else tomorrow.”
Its been a crazy few days here in Holland at the Eneco Tour, but for the moment I still have all my skin and thanks to the team, also a win in Stage 2 Teams Time Trial!
The Team Time Trial was 19km and very windy. Unfortunately I didn’t have the legs to stay with the team until the end but done part early on in the race and helped as much as I could. From there it was up to the big boys of the team to finish it off and bring home the win for us. We knew we were a good chance to be top 3, but to win was just magic.
Stage 3 was again a sprint with a crazy finish circuit. Our aim was to try and get Aidis up the front to sprint but unfortunately it didn’t pan out the way we anticipated and he was just outside top ten.
Stage 4 was a tuff day in the saddle for me spending much of the day at the head of the peloton leading the chase to the 6 escapees. With 40km to go we hit the small farm roads and cross winds, from there I held of for grim death as long as I could, but the 160km of sitting on the front of the peloton chasing had caught up with me and I cruised in the last 10km.
Tomorrow is set to be another sprint followed by a TT and then the final stage should be the hardest of all going up the Murr de Huy 2 times.
Today we kicked off the 2012 Eneco Tour with a long and reasonably uneventful 200km stage through that flat lands of Holland.
Our plan was to sprint for Aidis Kruopis in the final but unfortunately for him he got caught up in a crash with a few km’s remaining which left me to fend for myself and try and sprint.
I was positioned good in around 10th position coming under the 1km to go banner, but made a tactical error and waited to long and was swamped by a train of riders coming from behind which left me nowhere to go. It was really disappointing because it was a big fight just to be there in the finish and I had good legs. I really have no one to blame but myself.
Moving on to tomorrow, we have a teams time trial which I am really excited about and the whole team is really motivated to bring in a top result. We have a really strong team and defiantly have a good shot at taking out the stage and putting Aidis into the leaders jersey. Bring it on!
So far it has been a very hard and intense Tour of Poland, hence my lack of updates and lack of energy to upload more regularly. In the last 6 days we have clocked over 30hrs of racing and over 1100km in the saddle!
However lets start by recapping Stage 3 which was a 200km stage that finished with 4 laps of a very nasty circuit that finished up a steep cobbled climb. No riders from Orica-GreenEDGE were present in the front, however we had our eyes focused firmly on the next day.
Stage 4 was a great day all round. We took out the stage win by setting up Aidis Kroupis to unleash his power and he easily surpassed Ben Swift in the sprint. It was nice to see the teams hard work pay off and see Aidis take his first Pro Tour win.
Stage 5 was a tuff one starting with a furious pace for the first 50km up into the hills and then after 60km entering a very hard circuit which included a Category 1 and a Category 2 climb each lap totaling 3000m of climbing for the 170km stage. I was having a bad day on the bike and struggled home in one of the back groups. Its never fun!
Stage 6 (Today) was up there with one of the hardest days I’ve ever had on a bike. 5 laps of a 40km circuit which was made up of 3 Category 1 climbs (1 of which hit maximum gradient of 22% or 6-7kph full gas!) followed by some of the roughest roads I’ve raced on for the descents. There was about 1-2km of flat each lap which in my case was usually spent chasing back on. So in summary, today SUCKED to be a professional bike rider!
Sorry for giving you all such a brief summary on each stage, but after beating myself to what feels like an inch of my life today I don’t have the energy to type much longer!
Tomorrow is the last day here in Poland and is 99% sure to be a sprint. Time to go to work and hopefully set Aidis up for another victory!
Stage 1 was 4 laps of 40km circuit which included at 15km climb each lap totaling 2500m of climbing for the day. For me it was a bit of a test after a nice mid year break and a good rebuild into the 2nd half of the season. I struggled for the first half but rode into the race in the back half and finish mid field after being dropped the final time up the climb.
Stage 2 was an extremely long day. The 240km stage plus 10km of neutral totaled nearly 6.5hrs in the saddle and was finished with one of the most crazy sprint finishes I’ve been involved in. It was my job today to try and look after and lead out Aidis Krupos in the final, but unfortunately due to the some crazy riders and a hectic final circuit we got separated and didn’t get a chance to contest the sprint.
With another 2 sprints to come on stage 4 & 7 we will try again in the final and hopefully can do better next time.
The only sprint day and supposedly the flattest stage of the whole tour and still 2500m climbing and ended up in the dirt/mud with 6km to go. I wish I could say I pulled a miracle out of my rear end and got back up the front to sprint, but I didn’t/couldn’t. After being run off the road and sinking in the mud and only just holding it upright, I managed to pop back out on the tarmac in the cars out the back of the bunch. I gave chase and managed to reach the back of the bunch again, but that took every ounce of energy I had left and after that it was lights out.
I’m left with a feeling of anger, disappointment and regret at the fact that, that will probably be my last chance at a bunch sprint and a possible victory until my next race in Tour of Poland. It one of the most frustrating things when you know you have good form and have been doing so much hard work and sacrificing so many things to try and win races and then, in a split second, all hopes of that are gone. But as disheartening as it is, I’m not going to stop trying and I will be back more motivated then ever at my next race.
After looking at the next 4 stages I can tell you now there won’t be a lot of action from me. Ill be doing my best to help out the team and make it to the finish inside time cut each day. So until my next post, enjoy!
Just a short download about todays race. It was only short in distance today, but it certainly had some sting in its tail! 160km, close to 3000m of climbing. 1500m of this was done in the first 45km of racing and with an average speed of almost 39km/hr….well I’ll let you do the math….HARD!
Anyway, put simply it was a day of survival and trying to keep as much energy in tank as possible for tomorrows 1 and only ‘sprint’ stage. Hopefully I can make the most of it and be up in the mix.
So the last 2 days haven’t exactly gone to plan for me on a personal note. However from a team point of view yesterdays prologue went outstandingly with Luke Durbridge taking the win in style over Brad Wiggins and subsequently moving into every jersey there is. We also lead the teams classification after Simon Gerrans 6th placing and my 23rd placing. On a personal note, I was a little bit disappointed with my final result, however in saying that the course was really not suited to my style of riding with long straight and not many corners.
Stage 1 was not one of the best days Orica-GreenEDGE have had. Today was going to plan perfectly, but with 25km to go Simon Gerrans was caught up in a small crash and had to use valuable energy chasing back on a charging peleton. I also had a bad day, puncturing 7km from the bottom of the last climb which was situated just 10km from the finish, so for me it was all over after that. I did chase and end get onto the back of the bunch right at the foot of the climb but was again caught behind a small crash at the base and from there it was all over red rover. As for our yellow jersey man, Luke Durbridge, he managed to just hold on over the climb but due to strong cross winds across the top he just got tailed off and lost a bit of time.
Thats all from me today. Fingers crossed for some more fortune in the coming days!
I’ve had the question put to me about nutrition. What do we eat and drink throughout a day of racing on tour? So I thought I would run you through a general day on your for me.
My day, like most other people, starts with breakfast. The difference being for us though, is that ours is timed specifically depending on the start time of the race. For pro cyclist, we generally eat breakfast 3hrs before the race kicks off. Now I can’t speak on behalf of everyone else, but my breakfast usually looks a bit like this:
-First things first, COFFEE!
-Big bowl of oats or muslie with a banana and honey.
-If we have a chef on tour, an omlette or some form of eggs with some multigrain bread.
-Again, if we have a chef, usually a smoothie to finish things off.
Once we arrive at the start of the race in the bus, which is usually 1hr before, I usually have a couple of small snacks like a protein bar or a small ham and cheese bun just to keep my body running before the start.
Now when it comes to race food and what we carry in our pockets, this always changes and greatly depends on the length of the race. Remembering that we nearly always have a feed zone and a car following with food available, it’s not necessary to take a huge amount of food. However, I personally always take enough food in my pockets to get me to the finish regardless, that way I’m not relying on getting a feed bag (which is’t always possible or as easy as it sounds) and if the race is really hard it’s also not always possible to just drop back to the car and collect some food.
As for food I take in my pockets, I’ll give you an example based on yesterday’s 190km stage here in California which took around 5hrs.
-1 protein bar.
-1 grained bar for longer lasting energy.
-1 energy bar.
-3 gels, 2 of which had caffeine for the final 1.5hrs-2hrs.
-I also have a tendency to cramp, so I also take a salt tablet or 2 depending on the temperature.
Post race recovery starts with a protein shake with added amino acids and magnesium. From there I have my shower and get changed and then have some solid food. This always changes depending on what’s available, but generally I’ll have a some rice and eggs mixed together or a sandwich or some fruit salad.
As a general rule they say your body can only absorb 80g of carbohydrates each hour, anything extra turns to fat. So from the finish of the race until dinner I try and eat smaller portions (with no greater than 80g of carbs) every hour until dinner time.
Dinner. Now again this changes from night to night, but as a generally I will have a plate of pasta or rice, along with some meat or fish, maybe some veggies or salad and then depending on how full or how good my will power is I’ll have some fruit for desert….or maybe a small piece of cake if it happens to jump on my plate.
Hope you all enjoyed to inside scoop on what we eat on tour.
Well again close but not cigar for me. 3rd was the best I could manage today on what was a very tough stage.
After a stage I always like to analyze where I wet wrong or what I could have improved on to maybe get a better result. It only takes the tiniest of mistakes that make the biggest of differences in a sprint finish and today my mistake was simply not carrying enough speed through the last corner. This meant Sagan got a good run in my slipstream and was able to carry a lot more speed of of the corner and in turn meant he won the bike race quite easily. That and also he was simply faster thn everyone else which is also hard to beat at the bet of times.
However on the bright side of things, I went 1 place better than yesterday and got to the finish of a stage where know one thought it would be a sprint at all.
Anyway, just a short one from me today as its about time for me to hit the hay and get some rest before tomorrows stage which looks like it could again be a sprint from a select group. Fingers crossed my form aland results keep going in the right direction and I can get on that top podium soon!
Well I gave it a red hot go today but in the end it wasn”t enough and I came off 4th best. I would be lying if I said I wasn”t very disappointed with myself as I know I have to ability to be on that top step, but as it goes with sprinting, one small mistake and that”s the difference between being on the podium and not. More so I”m disappointed because I hate to let down my team mates who done such a great job keeping me up the front towards the end.
On a positive note, my legs felt very good, especially on the hills which is going to play a big part in the coming days. On the main climb of the day with 40km remaining I managed to make it over in a very select front group which is very promising for the coming days. When I look at the stage profiles for the next 3 days I defiantly think there are more opportunities for me “IF” I can continue to climb like I was today.
That”s all from me today, time to go get a massage and relax before another grueling stage tomorrow.
For those of you interested, I thought I would share with you ‘some’ of the training I have been doing since the Track World Championships finished and I switched my focus back to the road in preparation for the Tour of Romandie (which is now done and dusted) and the upcoming Amgen Tour of California.
As always, your feedback and questions are welcomed. Please send me any questions via twitter @leighhoward1
After the Track Worlds finished on Sunday the 8th of April I had 1 week before flying back out to Europe. In that week I done a total of 21hrs of training which included a day of following the Madison and 1 rest day on the Thursday. I then flew to Europe on the Sunday afternoon. My week looked a bit like this:
Monday- Day off Tuesday- 3hr 15min (flat) Wednesday- 3hr 45min (hills) Thursday- 2hrs Easy Friday- 4hr 45min with 30min worth of S.E (strength efforts) Saturday- 5hr with 5x5min hill efforts and 2hrs Motorpace. Sunday-3hrs medium before flying to Europe in the afternoon.
So that is just a quick overlook at what my first week back on the bike consisted of post Track Worlds. After arriving back to Europe the real fun began and I was back into the full swing of things for 1 week before Romandie kicked off. It looked a little like this:
Monday-2hrs easy after landing on Euro soil. Tuesday-4hrs medium in the hills. Wednesday- AM ergo session with sprints. PM, 3hrs, 2.5hrs of which was motorpacing. Thursday- 4hrs 45min in the hills with some sprints thrown in for good measure. Friday- 5hrs with 4min hill efforts and 2hrs of motorpacing to finish. Saturday- 5hrs 20min. Just a very solid ride with some climbing and a nice coffee break in the middle! Sunday-1hr 30min Recovery.
Monday-Departed for Tour of Romandie. Done 1hr on the Time Trial bike after arriving.
Tuesday- Tour of Romandie kicked off!
So now Tour of Romandie is done and dusted, its time to sit down and discuss what my strengths and weaknesses were for the tour and then put it all together for 1 more block of training before Tour of California.
I came out of Tour of Romandie quite tired. I noticed this in the last 2 days when my heart rate would not exceed 165-170bmp which is quite low for me. So after discussing it with coach Scott McGrory, we decided to take it easy for at least 2-3 days and fully recovery before ramping it back up for another block of intense training. I always remember a quote made to me when I was a young fella; “recovery is the key”. Very simple but very true! SO here is what I have been up to in the last week since the Tour of
Monday- Day off due to travel situations. Tuesday- 2hrs Recovery Wednesday -3hrs Easy Thursday -4hrs 30min with: 1x10min@310 watts as warm up. 3x15min ‘special’ Strength efforts@ave of 360watts Friday -3hrs 30min with: 2x5min@320 watts as warm up. 5×8 second, big gear, uphill sprints. 3×10 second max sprints, high rpm. (I now have a slight head cold, so time to back it off for 2 days) Saturday -1hr 30min Recovery Sunday- 4hrs 30min with: 2x15min strength efforts, a little easier than thursday as I still have a head cold. Also 5x sprints.
Anyway folks, now you are all up to date with what I have been doing to keep myself occupied over the past month. Again, I hope you enjoyed it and please stay tuned for some more interesting stuff.
Up next for me is the Amgen Tour of California which will be broadcast on SBS, so get on it and keep your fingers crossed that my hard work will pay off on the coming weeks!
Lady’s and Gents, for those of you who are all about the numbers, facts and figures, (or just enjoy browsing) I give to you my data from the recent Tour of Romandie. It took me quite a while to compile all this, so please let me know what you think and don’t tell me that you beat my numbers. I may get sad!
Prologue- Unfortunately no SRM numbers from this day as I don’t run a SRM on my TT bike. I came in at 22nd place and after discussing it with some other riders that had a SRM, I can gestimate that I would of averaged around 450 watts, give or take. It was an average speed of around 58kph. After running 3rd last year I must say I was slightly disappointed with today’s results.
Stage 1, 185km, 5hrs 5min
-Normalized ave power, 288 watts.
-Peak Power, 1200 watts (no sprint)
-2700m of elevation gain
-Done a PB of 412watts for 12 minutes on the final climb after 150km of racing.
Stage 2- 158km, 4hr 15min
-Normalized ave power, 285 watts.
-Peak Power, 1064 watts (no sprint)
-2196m of elevation gain
Stage 3- 161km, 4hr 30min. (Went in the break away today with 4 other guys) -Normalized ave power, 305 watts.
-First 30min of racing establishing gap on peleton. Ave 371 watts.
Last 1hr of racing, ave power, 326 watts.
-Peak power, 1165 watts
-1977m of elevation gain.
Hope you enjoyed reading and comparing. As I said, it took me quite a while to put all this data together so I hope you enjoy and please any feedback is welcome.
Remember if you want any questions answered, my twitter is @leighhoward1 i’ll try and answer as many as possible.
It’s pretty simple to describe, actually. It was a long day. It was a hard day. It was my best chance for a stage victory.
I was essentially in the break from kilometer zero. Gatis Smukulis (Katusha), Anders Lund (Saxo Bank), Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Belisol) and Matthew Brammeier (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) joined me up the road. We had to fight pretty hard in the first 30 minutes to establish our lead. The field was intent on closing us down. Fortunately, they finally relented and we stayed away.
We built up our lead to about five minutes, and wanted to hold it there. We took it easy through the middle section to ensure the gap wouldn’t go up to much. If it had, the bunch could have panicked and started the chase earlier. With 50 kilometers remaining, we all went 100%.
We did everything we could to hold off the field, but it wasn’t enough. There’s a climb right before the finish. We anticipated this would be the trouble spot. We knew it would be tough to get over the climb without the field catching us. I heard that there were three or four teams on the front racing us, so that tells you how hard we were going. The peloton hunted us down.
The team spoke about the potential for a break to succeed today. My roommate, Fumy Beppu, was in the break two years ago on this exact same stage. The break stayed away that day, and he ran second. Of all the four road stages, this appeared to be the most likely day that a break could hold off the bunch. That’s why I put so much effort into the break. It was the team’s best chance, and my best chance, of getting a stage win.
As the week has gone on, I continue to be pleased with my road condition. This is my first road race with the team since Paris-Nice, and that was a fair while ago now. I’m still not 100% but I’m definitely happy with my current fitness. This race has proven to be the perfect build up for my objectives at Tour of California.
As far as I know, it was a pretty hard day out there for everyone. The stage included 2700 meters of climbing over 184.5 kilometers between Morges and La Chaux-de-Fonds. That’s a pretty sold day. There were three categorized climbs in the second half of the race with the second of the category two climbs, the Haut de la Cote, coming 30 kilometers from the finish.
We knew all along that it would be a race to the bottom of the Haut de la Cote. It was a given that all the teams would want to go hard up the climb. They wanted to drop guys like Mark Cavendish (Sky Procycling) to take the pure sprinters out of contention at the finish. That’s exactly what they did.
GreenEDGE was focused on getting myself and Allan Davis over both the Haute de la Cote and the final categorized climb, the third category Le Communal de la Sange, that tops out with slightly more than 10 kilometers left to race. Fortunately, Allan and I made it over the Haut de la Cote. We were five or ten seconds down from the main group, sitting just off the back over the top.
The field split on the descent, so Luke Durbridge and I tried to get on the front and chase down the front group. It took a lot of energy. We had to go as hard we could to get back to the main peloton.
Two or three kilometers after we regained contact with the front group, we faced Le Communal de la Sange. We had gone so hard to bridge the gap between the climbs, that I had nothing left in the tank to get me over the final climb. Allan made it over a bit in front of me but wasn’t there to contest the finish.
Looking at results, you’ll see that Bradley Wiggins won the bunch sprint. Pieter Weening was our top finisher in tenth place. Amongst the guys in the top ten, there’s not a sprinter’s name to be found. The climbers got the better of the sprinters today.
The stage ended up being a harder affair than it appeared on paper. Among the riders, there was so much talk about the final two climbs, but no one talked about all the uncategorized climbs that preceded them. I was quite fatigued by the time I made it to the second category climb I had been charged with getting over, and the teams really went full gas there.
If we hadn’t had to chase for ten kilometers in the crosswind between the two climbs, I think we potentially could have had a different outcome. The chase left us without any opportunity to recover and prepare for the next short burst. The category three climb didn’t seem like much, but it was hard – and I didn’t have enough left to stay with the leaders.
All in all, I’m feeling quite good. I’m pretty happy with how I’m climbing. There were a lot more riders that were dropped than left in the bunch over the Haut de la Cote, and I was there. I’m definitely happy with that. When I compare myself to Alby, who is in good shape, I see that I can nearly stay with him. It shows I’ve rid myself of my track legs at the moment.
Three road stages remain before the final time trial. My focus will be to look after Allan Davis. From Romandie, I got to the Amgen Tour of California. I’ll be looking to win some stages there.
Well Tour of Romandie is now underway with the Prologue done and dusted.
I went into the 3.5km race with high hopes of pulling off a good result, especially after last years 3rd placing but it was not to be and I could only manage 22nd place. Although only in 22nd place, I was still reasonably happy with my ride. My time was only 2-3 seconds off a top 10 finish and 5 seconds off a podium, so in a world class field like it is here, it wasn’t all bad.
It set to be a very hard and hilly race this year and is unsure if there will even be any ‘real’ sprint stages. So lets just hope I have my climbing legs on and can get over the hills and either get support from the team in the sprints or support Allan Davis who is in great shape and edging for a win.
From a different stand point, I have the pleasure of rooming with Fumi Beppu, our Japanese rider and he is an absolute champ! Its great to see some of the different traditions and formalities he follows. I’ve always said that other than Australia, Japan has, so far, been my favorite country in the world.
My tendinitis is still lingering, but its certainly not hindering my training and or performance. I’m 6 days out from what I hope to be my third World Madison Title in a row partnering with Cameron Meyer. It hasn’t been an easy few weeks leading into the championships with both Cameron and myself out of action for nearly 2 weeks with injury or illness, but now things are starting to look up and our form and fitness is coming back fast.
It’s going to be a pressure packed World Championships this year being on home soil, but I think everyone within the team is ready to go and I hope we can break some records and put the rest of the world on the back foot before heading into the Olympics.
Anyhow, just a short update and I will try and write some more post Worlds.
I’ve recently been asked what I do to pass the time while traveling. Whether it be traveling to and from races in the team bus or airport transfers to and from Australia.
For me, killing time comes easily. I’m actually sitting in Bangkok airport right now, killing 10 hours between flights on my way back to Australia. (only 3 hours to go!)
Firstly I always make sure I pack the essentials. iPod, Macbook and/or iPad, head phones, portable hard drive (with a LOT of movies and TV shows) and a good eye patch for sleeping! I’m not a big reader, so generally spend more time watching TV shows or movies. I’ve just recently finished the whole series of Sons of Anarchy and Modern Family. Also if I have the time when I’m at airports i’ll always try and get a relaxing neck, shoulder and foot massage.
If I’m on the team bus traveling to/from races its mostly spent relaxing and listening to music, either because I’m stuffed from a hard days racing or still trying to recover from the previous days racing.
As for the music on my iPod that I listen to. I am not a 1 genre person, I listen to almost everything. Currently I’ve got the latest from Kings of Leon playing. (trying to block out the snoring of the man next to me!) I have an old album from Triple J’s 2010 hottest 100 which never seems to get old, some Foo Fighters and I always update myself with the latest top charts music.
I said I wasn’t much of a reader, but I did just recently finish a book called ‘Chicken Hawk’ which is about the life of a helicopter pilot on the Vietnam War. (highly recommended!) I also just read the latest RIDE magazine from front to back and love flipping through car magazines.
Hope thats answered a few questions and like always, feedback is always welcomed.
Just wanted to give you all a quick update on the progress of my injury so far. It has been almost 10 days now since my tendinitis first started and after a boring week off the bike and a lot of painful physio sessions, I’m pleased to say its well on the way to being back to normal. I will begin light training again on Monday when I return to Australia in preparation for the upcoming track worlds and then I will assess with the Doc if I can get back into some serious training. (fingers crossed)
It definitely put a dampener on my spirits after a solid Paris-Nice. I was hoping to come out of the race tired but not totally wrecked, recover well and start straight back into a heavy training phase leading into the worlds. Unfortunately it didn’t work out as planned, but these things happen and i’ll just have to work with the card I’ve been dealt.
I’ve got a good coach in Scott McGrory who is leading the way for me and I’m hoping with his guidance, Cam Meyer and I can head into the Melbourne World Championships in top shape and take home our 3rd straight World Madison title. Well at least thats the plan!
So I’ve been asked a question about who are the good and bad room mates and why. Sorry to disappoint those of you who were searching for some dirty little secrets on some of the riders in the peleton but then again I don’t want to be put on someone else’s list of bad people to room with do I?
So let’s start with why I think people make good room mates:
-They have to be tidy and not spread there things all over the room.
-No pissing on the toilet seat!
-Talks to you and doesn’t just sit on the laptop all night.
-Generally a happy and bubbly personality.
Why people make would make a bad room mate:
-The opposites of above!
-Wakes up early
-Someone who always farts.
-Eating with their mouth open.
-Someone who always complains and is a glass half empty person.
Anyway folks, I hope that has satisfied a few questions and ill do my best to keep answering some more in due time.
So as some of you may have read via twitter I have pulled out of Paris-Nice with 2 stages to go. It was a decision not made lightly, but after discussing it at length with both my team Doctor and also my directors it was what we thought was best.
I have ‘started’ to develop tendinitis in my ankle/foot. At this stage it is quite sore but wasn’t stopping me from riding. After speaking with the doctor he informed me that if I continue to aggravate it (racing a 220km stage through the mountains) it is surely going to get worse and this would mean 2-3 weeks resting it which is not what I want at this part or any part for that matter, of the season.
I will be back in action soon on home soil trying to defend my World Madison title (with Cameron Meyer) at the Hisense Arena in Melboure on April 8. I hope you can all come and join me and help me across the line for what I hope will be our 3rd straight Madison World title in a row.
Will be back to check in soon with an update and how things are progressing.
Well, what can I say about today’s stage…quite simply it sucked. With 40+ km/hr winds at the start it was always going to be a shit fight and as soon as the flag dropped it was bombs away. Absolutely full gas for the first 50km and within 5km the bunch was in 5 echelons! I was in a good position up in the 2nd bunch not far behind the leading bunch but as the first climb started so did my days woes. I’ve started to develop some tendinitis in my ankle and also some other little issues which turned my day into a very long suffer fest. With the help of Simon Clarke I did make it to the finish and ill live to fight another day.
Tomorrow is set to be a mountainous day and hopefully my woes and injuries don’t flare up any worse and I can see out the day.
Hopefully I come back to you again tomorrow with some better news.
Well, what a day! GreenEDGE gets its first win in Europe in the TTT at Tirreno Adriatico and in a bloody fine style might I say winning by 17sec over Garmin and Radioshack and putting Matty Goss in the leaders jersey ahead of tomorrows first road stage.
As for me here in Paris-Nice, I also had a big day out the front in the break away all day. Unfortunately it didn’t quite go as planned with Rabobank keeping us in check all day, but none the less was nice to get out there and give it a go and pick up a bonus sprint in the process. After we got caught it was up to Simon Gerrans to again have a crack but unfortunately he crashed with 6km to go and was then out of contention.
Tomorrow is set to be a long, hard and very hilly day and my bet is I could pay a price for today’s efforts.
For those interested in figures and data, today I averaged 280 watts (including zeros) for 4.5hrs/180km, 155bpm and used 4500k/cal.
Fingers crossed my body recovers well from today and I make it through tomorrow in one piece!
Stay tuned for more updates from here at Paris-Nice stage 5 tomorrow.
Close but no cigar! Today was almost an exact repeat of the ‘Old Willunga Hill’ of the Tour Down Under that saw Simon Gerrans just getting pipped on the line by Alejandro Valverde again. None the less it was an incredible ride and a glimpse of what’s still to come in the coming days and more importantly for Gerro at the Ardennes Classics.
As for me today, my legs were pretty good and I was up in the front group until just over 3km to go which for me is a sign of good things to come. I’m hoping to get a chance to make it into a break away in one the next days and really test myself and see if I can come up with a good result.
Feel free to throw some questions at me on my twitter @leighhoward1 and I will try and answer on my blogs in the coming days and give you some more in site into the Pro Peloton.
So now you have all caught up on the first part of my season and now we arrive here, at Paris-Nice.
Stage 1 and 2 are now both complete, my hands and toes have finally thawed out enough for me to fill you in on what so far has been a cold and wet start.
Stage 1 was a 9.4km Individual Time Trial. Not exactly ideal for me, probably about 4-5km to long, but non the less I gave it a good crack and came up a bit short…as expected. Still I was happy with my time and when I look at some of the riders I finished with and some that I beat, it made me realize it was a decent ride.
Stage 2 was a very interesting stage to say the least. We started out the day slow, really slow. Not one attack went until 60km into the race when 1 guy from Lotto attacked and jumped clear. Then as we came up to the feed zone at the 100km mark the peleton started speeding up frantically and shuffling for position.
Unfortunately for me I wasn’t in position and was caught at the back. As we hit the feed zone not one rider even attempted to grab a feed bag, it was all hands on deck at the gutter action started. By the end of the feeding zone the peleton was in 5 echelons and it was all over red rove for me and the riders around me. The front group of 20 riders rode clear and from there until the finish it was full gas rain and wind in really cold temperatures. One thing that kept me going was knowing that the showers would be running hot when I arrived. Day 2 done, tomorrows another day!
To all my devoted followers, I”m back online with a new and greatly improved website and am going to try and bring you more frequent updates of my day to day activities and racing schedules.
So it all starts here….
Before I get into where I am right now (racing in the freezing cold in France) I want to give you all a quick fill in my season to date so far.
My first official race in the new GreenEDGE colors kicked off at the Jayco Bay Criteriums and it all went great. We ended the week winning the series with Allan Davis and being on the podium every day.
From there we headed to Buninyong for the Australian Open Road Championships and even though we had all the expectation on our shoulders to deliver a GreenEDGE rider to the finish line first, we still managed to do so in fine style with Simon Gerrans being that man that delivered the final blow and get the honor of wearing the Green and Gold bands for the 2012 season.
So far so good, 2 from 2, but now it was time for the big boys to come out and play at the Santos Tour Down Under and start mixing it with the big professional teams.
I wont go into detail of every stage, but as most of you who are reading this probably already know, we won! Quite simply we had the best bike rider in the race and we all worked so well as a team all week and put Gerro where he needed to be when it mattered and he took it from there. The rest was history. Australia”s first Professional team wins the first World Tour event of the 2012 season….PERFECT!
Following the Santos Tour Down Under, Cameron Meyer and I flew straight to Europe to compete in the 101st edition of the Berlin 6-day. Again sporting the GreenEDGE colours but this time around adding the rainbow bands of the current World Madison Champions, we came up with the goods and won the overall title after coming a close second the previous year.
With track palmares that most riders would dream of and a fast developing career on the road, Leigh Howard can hardly complain that his professional cycling career has not been fruitful. However, now that his key event on the boards, the Madison, has been removed from the Olympic programme, Howard will participate in the track world championships in Melbourne as his last non-road event of 2012.
At just 22 years of age Howard is in his third year in the WorldTour, and after two seasons with HTC-Highroad, where he mainly held a lead-out role, the Australian is hoping to start winning a little bit more in 2012 with GreenEdge.
“I’ve definitely spoken a lot with Whitey, and I see myself as the second sprinter behind Gossy,” said Howard to Cyclingnews. “There are a lot of really good riders like Allan Davis and Aidis Kruopis as well, but I’ll definitely be one of the top sprinters in the team and have quite a free role for most of my races.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do to prove that I deserve to be there, but I’ve said time and time again that my main goal for this season, that I just want to win bike races. It doesn’t matter which ones they are I just want to be back on the winner’s podium – that’s the next step to being a top sprinter.”
Howard made a big personal landmark last year when he rode his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana, after an at times frustrating year with crashes and injury.
He’s currently in Adelaide for the Santos Tour Down Under, the debut for his team in the WorldTour. Howard is not quite at his best this early in the season and as such will be doing his best to help Gossy in the sprint and Gerrans win the overall. After that he’ll turn his eyes to his own personal ambitions.
“We’re going to wait and see how Gossy fairs in the first few stages. If he’s got those sprint legs that we all know him for,” said Howard. “My role here first and foremost is to help the team win bike races.
“I’ve improved in a lot of areas since I’ve first started. Mainly being my strength and my physical maturity as a bike rider. It’s about putting that all to use now.”
Well another stage down and another 2nd place and also in the yellow jersey.
It was a pretty cruisy stage today, after 30km a break of 3 riders went clear but were really creeping along out front which made it a relatively easy day back in the bunch. The real race started with about 50km to go when the bunch really started to ramp up the speed in anticipation of a nasty 2km climb maxing 16%, 20km from the finish which a lot of non sprinters were hoping to grab there opportunity to get away on. The bunch did split a lot over the climb, but with a fast decent and a big, wide, fast roads on the finishing circuit, they were never going to stay away.
With 15km to go once we arrived onto the finishing circuit the whole team got on the front and controlled the race perfectly, really ramping up the speed with 5km to go. Coming into the last corner with about 700m to go I got taken back a few wheels and in the end that’s what cost me the stage win. But all the same I am happy to once again be on the podium.
I am feeling strong, fast and have been doing everything leading up to the finishes really well, just a couple of small mistakes are costing me the victory’s. I guess all you can do is learn from them and look forward to the next stage!
Until next time,
Not a bad start to the tour, but it’s still not a win….hopefully tomorrow!
Today’s stage was a nice change from the hectic roads of Dunkirque, not much wind and only enough water on the road to get the white it nice and dirty…always annoying! The break escaped after only 5-10km and quickly gained over 10min lead on the bunch before Milram started to get working and bring down the gap. With 35km to go there was a 10km climb and the bunch really nailed it all the way up, luckily I was feeling good and got over the top with the front group of about 50 guys and after that the whole team got on the front and really turned up the pace in order to try and get the break back which at that time still had a VERY nice lead on us. After a fast decent we entered onto the finish circuit which was quite tuff with 2 hard climbs and a super tricky final kilometer which involved U-turns, pave’ and the last 500m uphill.
With 2km to go on the last steep climb we caught the breakaway and then I went into the last U-turn in 4th position behind team mate Peter Velits before hitting it up the 150m hill on the rivet and with 500m to go Peter stepped out and started the final lead-out. With about 300m to go 2 Euskatel riders came flying past us on the uphill run and I stepped out with 200m to go and narrowly missed catching the winner.
All in all I was super happy to do so well, especially on a hard finishing circuit like today’s. Hopefully I can go one better tomorrow.
It was a pretty solid day, still around the 180km mark with pretty strong winds all day and a pretty high pace all day because of a 15 man break that got away from early in the race. Over the last couple of days I started develop a small problems with my achilles tendons, so after about 2 hours of racing I nearly called it quits, but decided to soldier on and get through the stage.
After 110km of racing we entered onto a kermese style circuit which followed some roads around the beach front and back through the town, we done this circuit 10 times. After getting to the circuit I basically just sat in the bunch and got around in the easiest manor possible trying not to aggravate my achilles anymore than necessary. As it turned out the 15 man escape group survived and a Française Des Jeux rider won the stage with a late attack at 2km to go.
So to wrap things up for the week, overall I wasn’t going to well for the tour but hopefully in 2 weeks time for my next race in Germany, Bayern Rundfarht, I will be back in some good form and hopefully can get on the podium in one or two of the stages.