VeloVeritas first met Kiwi Tim Gudsell (Française des Jeux) at Ghent Wevelgem, back in the spring; he was on the way back from a bad crash in the Tour Down Under — six months later he’s much further south, the hills are a lot bigger and it’s much warmer as we spoke to him after the Vuelta’s second mountain stage.
How’s the injury, Tim?
“I think the last time we spoke I had explained that a doctor near my home in Aix en Provence had got to the root of the problem — a: muscle injury which everyone else had missed.
“There’s no miracle cure for it, it will take time hard work to put it right; and now I’m back into a big work load for the team I just have to take it day by day.”:
How has the programme been since Ghent-Wevelgem?
“I was told I was riding the Vuelta at short notice — during the Eneco Tour; I flew home after it then flew straight back to Holland for the start of the Vuelta.
“But despite the heat and the mountains, I’m happy to be back at work — after the first six months of the year where I hardly raced, I’m glad to be riding at this level again.
“In the last few weeks I’ve ridden Poland, Hamburg, Eneco and the Vuelta — none of those races are for the faint hearted!”
What’s your role in the race?
“I’m here as a team rider — on a day like today (stage 9) I must have taken at least 50 bidons up. Maybe one day I’ll get into a break — but I’m taking it day by day.”
And team goals?
“We’re pretty keen for a stage win; Wes Sulzberger is going well and so is Mikael Cherel — Sandy Casar has been a bit tired but he’s always a rider to try to do something.
“Sebastian Chavanel is probably our best bet, though.”
You’ve ridden the Giro, how does the Vuelta compare?
“Different – it’s a lot more relaxed at the stage starts but there was a lot of stress in the bunch in Holland; those stages weren’t very nice at all!
“In the Giro you can’t ‘ride in’ — you have to be in good condition from day one, whilst in the Vuelta it’s easier to settle in.
“But in general the parcours are very tough; some riders are saying that it’s too tough for the time of year — 3,300 kilometres and six hill top finishes.”
Tell us about the Northern stages.
“It was stressful from day one; we were on bike paths and all sorts — that’s usual for the Dutch and Belgian teams but the Spaniards aren’t used to it.
“Liege was carnage, with the roads, the rain, the GC guys trying to stay out of trouble and the sprinter’s teams trying to set their guys up.
“The Dutch crowds were great but we were happy to get on that plane! The guys were saying; ‘now we can start the race, properly!’”
How was day one in the mountains?
“That was a really nasty day — we were on small roads all day, up and down all the time with 200 guys fighting for position.
“It’s the ‘elastic band effect’ — the leaders are over the top and dropping at 60 kph whilst if you’re at the back, you’re still climbing at 20 kph and the band is stretching!”
And day two?
“Silence-Lotto controlled it; maybe they rode a little faster than they had to, but it was on bigger roads and even though there were 4000 metres of climbing, it was a lot less stressful.”
What do you like least about Grand Tours?
“We’re nine days in and it’s the same Power Bars and gels every stage — you have to get ‘em down, but it gets monotonous.
“Rice and pasta for breakfast is hard to get down, too!”
How are you filling your spare time?
“The stages start later here, usually at 1:00 pm so you don’t have as much time at night after the stage after your massage and the evening meal.
“I room with Wes and we’re usually on the internet, dealing with emails, having a laugh. I make time to talk to my girlfriend — to escape the ‘bubble’ – you have to add some reality, a Grand Tour takes over your life for a month, you’re cut off from the world and you have to take time to re-connect.”
A good race for NZ with Greg Henderson’s stage win.
“Greg’s a good friend of mine; we were on the New Zealand track team together for years.
“I was stoked for him it’s taken him a couple of years to find his legs but he’s showing his class now – he’s had four or five wins this year.
“He was doing his job on that stage where he won, but things went his way and he jumped on the chance — it’s good for New Zealand cycling.”
What comes after the Vuelta?
“I plan to race up to Lombardy; I did nothing ‘til August so I have catching up to do and I’d like to try to make the New Zealand team for the Worlds — it’s always nice to pull on the black jersey.
“I’ll be riding the Franco-Belge and Paris-Tours too.”
“I’m out of contract at the year end — it’s not easy if you’re out for a big chunk of the year — but F des J have told me that I’ll be with them for another year.”
And that’s good news for the likeable Kiwi — hopefully, we’ll be talking to him again during this Vuelta.