Although my season started over a month ago in Argentina, the Portuguese season opened on Sunday the 12th February with the “2nd Trofeu Cidade de Luís”, followed by the Volta ao Algarve.
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2nd Trofeu Cidade de Luís
There were a few things that really limited me during this first race.
One was my new bike – an excellent bike – but it was handed to me on the morning of the race and it’s very different to my old bike.
My handlebars are 0.5 cm closer and 1.5 cm higher than the old bike, despite using a negative rise stem. It would usually take me about a month to get used to it.
Another problem were my shoes – these only had three days use and are far too comfortable, I got used to a very hard pair of shoes last year and normal shoes feel like slippers, with very little support.
Then there were the tactics; at the time I didn’t agree with the ideas, but I stand fully corrected!
I didn’t get the chance to open up the throttle, bar a couple of km’s in the last five. I don’t like not doing anything in a race, it leaves me unmotivated.
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Volta ao Algarve
We started by a place called Dunas Douradas, a posh resort right by the sea.
I was quite nervous which was good, I like to feel a bit nervous, it helps me focus. We carried out perfectly our orders, with Ricardo Mestre getting in the breakaway group on the hunt for a jersey and the rest of us carried on quietly in the peloton.
The course was a tough one, really hilly, but Omega Pharma/Quickstep kept everything controlled and we clipped alone at the steady rate.
At the end usually things get really tough, there are two hills in the last five km. I’m usually left standing at some point along there since I’m not very quick, but today I passed it all ok.
Today I broke the engine – well, I ran out of petrol “glycogen” in physiology speak.
I was told to get in the break and did that. I am quite good at getting in the right move. My team’s aim had been to win an intermediate classification at the beginning of the race, but when Mestre didn’t come up with the goods on Stage 1, the team turned off that objective.
I’ve won plenty of intermediate classifications without any help, so I thought I’d aim for the mountains classification as I knew the roads well and knew that after 110km race I would probably be stronger than my breakaway companions given I’m a thoroughbred diesel.
I won both mountain summits, but in the processes of racing round these curvy roads I didn’t eat and ended up bonking.
I stuffed myself with food and was okay in a few minutes. Ironically it was my team pulling at the time I lost contact with the bunch -I only needed to arrive in the bunch to win the mountains classification jersey.
Today was sort of a rest day.
My aim was to get in the break and I failed at this. I made a schoolboy error, attacking at the wrong point.
Later in the race, unmotivated for anything else, I stayed in the grupetto.
A couple of my team-mates finished in the top 30.
A comedy of errors today.
I had ideas about winning the mountains competition, but I knew right from the get-go this wasn’t going to be possible – I was terrible!
I could barely stay in the bunch. My legs were killing me and while this may be 90% my imagination I put it down to the bike, which is totally different to my old bike.
I haven’t had any time to get used to it, as I said earlier, I received it on Sunday morning.
It’s 1cm shorter, the saddle is set on the limit back and the handlebars are 1.5cm higher even with a negative rise stem.
I also have a new pair of shoes… Someone had promised me shoes in December, but they never appeared, it was always “prá semana!” [next week], ’till last week when I lost patience and just bought a new pair.
I dropped off the bunch several times during the stage. I just couldn’t apply any force. I was like a diesel-electric locomotive with the electric engines on the blink.
I actually did the last 40km completely by myself in under an hour, so the aerobic part is fine…
Anyone whose “broken the engine” will be familiar with these sensations!
I don’t know why I finished the stage. I have nothing more to gain from this race. I guess it was pride, but I don’t have that burning yearn for accomplishment that lead me to suffer to the end of races, even win races and classifications when I was younger.
I guess I need somewhere to go. I’ve already proved myself in the small pond that is Portugal, I’ve already proved myself as a domestique, and since there are no other extraneous motivations, I find it really hard.
I can’t see myself making the jump to another “pond” or another team. I can’t see myself finding an environment where people will be interested in helping me improve. I can’t even see the potential to earn a salary that could help me put my private life together.
I need to find something to aim at, something to keep me motivated. Any ideas folks?
The TT was another comedy of errors…
We arrived about 45 minutes before I was off. I was second-last off the line. So I did my best to warm up, but between measuring the bike which took 20 minutes and the fact there was absolutely no interest in my TT by the team and a puncture just before the start, one kilometer up the road on my “warm up” meant that I actually didn’t get one.
Never mind, I wasn’t taking things too seriously, not even a heart rate monitor to measure my performance.
I love the TT bike though and I love those roads and had a fantastic time racing round familiar roads.
I went really well for the first 15km, but passing a speed bump my handle bars dropped a bit and I lost my nerve.
I lost 3:40m to Bradley Wiggins at the end of the race and I never felt so happy for such a mediocre result.
* * *
A week on from the Volta.
The Volta ao Algarve is a beautiful race. I managed to do “something” and I am happy with that.
But events during the race have been knawing at me. I started thinking of all the races I had spent on the front of the bunch gutting myself, giving everything for someone else to achieve a victory -even improbable victories.
[pullquote]I just had to arrive in the bunch to take the mountains classification overall.[/pullquote]
I was thinking particularly of the Volta ao Algarve last year and recently, the Volta a Portugal 2012 with a particular emphasis on stage 2, the second hardest with 3200m of climbing and pouring with rain.
I was in the break, I was flying that day and bridged across quite easily. In that break was a team-mate and I pulled that break along pretty much single handedly till the penultimate climb, giving him the best possible chances to win…
During stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve there was one team pulling when I got dropped. My team. I just had to arrive in the bunch to take the mountains classification overall.
I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt though.
Team Sky were sublime, not perfect, but very, very good.
I felt like I was motor-pacing every time they got on the front. Just super, super strong.
I think they’ve come of age after a couple of seasons familiarising themselves with the demands.
My next race is a 2.12 National race in Albufeira on the 10th of March.
Ciao for the time being!