So I’m home now after the Volta ao Algarve, which, like always, proved to be very hard. The stages were all mammoth 200k slogs on twisty-turny roads through the hills. The stage finishes were a bit sketchy and the whole thing was topped off by a 35km TT through the hills on bad roads which were wet for the first half of the race.
I suppose this epic parcours was chosen to try and compensate the reduction in number of stages this year (four versus five in previous years) but I don’t think the ProTour guys liked this idea very much as they were complaining bitterly.Full Story»
The season has started, my sixth season as a professional. The weather here has been brilliant (a little cold at 10-12ºC) but always sunny and it’s been fantastic training up for these races.
It’s such a pleasure getting out the in the hills working away, seeing all the beautiful views and interesting things, testing my form on the climbs. Of course for the Volta ao Algarve bad weather is forecast and I go badly in bad weather, but we’ll deal with that as it comes…
I haven’t written since the penultimate stage of the Volta a Portugal. I have been wary of writing bullshit in such stressful, emotional times. I don’t like to speak of the problems in cycling, since I find them so boring. It’s the first thing anyone outside the sport mentions when I say I’m a cyclist. The Armstrong fiasco affected me quite a bit.
I was one of those kids that took to the roads because of the Armstrong myth. My mum, Kate Swift, died of cancer when I was 19 during my first year at university. Armstrong was a huge motivation for her and I, or at least gave us reason for optimism. That winter I watched my first bike race too: the Volta ao Algarve; won by Floyd Landis.
The stage started with a ceremonious 37km where we pottered along behind the winners.
I felt awful.
I found it very hard to congratulate David Blanco. I told him so. I felt crap, humiliated, embarrassed; it was the first time the reality of loosing the race had sunk in.
David is a friend, he’s a very intelligent and interesting guy. He’s off to work in Africa next month, his record of five victories in the Volta a Portugal set, I said I’d visit him and I’d really love to one day, finances and career permitting.
What a FARCE. My TT bike was exactly at the right length when I came to this race, yet at the prologue they told me it was 1cm past the limit… It was duly cut and shortened.
Today, remarkably it was 2cm passed the limit! Did the bike grow? No, it was bloody measured with some contraption a 10 year old might have bashed together. It’s a disgrace.
I wasn’t able to update this immediately as we had a nightmare getting to the hotel and only arrived at 12sh.
This race started in the highest city in Portugal, Guarda. It’s the queen stage and one that sees us climb the only hors category climb of the race, Alto da Torre.
The first stage after the rest day is a bit tough.
The rest day can do more harm than good and I for one like to just keep on going, to get it over and done with.
Today we were given the same orders as before the rest day, which was to make the race difficult for whoever was meant to be controlling. Hence I attacked pretty much as soon as the race started and it stuck, I was joined by another 13 or so and we got stuck into a long day in the break away.
I had a bad day today.
It was just one of those days where I just felt crap. I pushed through, did my work at the beginning, attacking, jumping across to break away and the like, but didn’t get away.
I nearly got lucky when I and Yelko Gomez from Caja Rural got a space, but that was reeled in by others trying to bridge across.
For the rest of the stage I’d occasionally go to get water, but that was it work wise.
This stage was a tough one, we had a huge mountain right at the start and several others to follow. The roads were crummy also, which made descending awkward.
I was told to save energy and cart water about.
But I felt brilliant, it was one of those days I had to temper my enthusiasm. I escaped on that big mountain at the beginning about half way up and then at the top also.
It was great fun.
Last year this stage wasn’t so hard since we had four ‘rouleurs’ rather than just two this year.
The race started in the beautiful town of Viana do Castelo and ended on a large mountain called ‘Senhora da Graça’ it was epic.
This region is called Minho and it’s nothing like the rest of Portugal, it’s green and mountainous, looks like some mountainous part of the British Isles – but feels much warmer!
I had my work cut out today.
We’re in the Minho, in the far north western corner of Portugal.
It’s a wonderful place and feels like home away from home.
It’s tough for racing though, it’s extremely hilly; you never go well, you’re never comfortable.
Today was brilliant!
No long transfers this morning and I didn’t have very much to do. It was fantastic, a rest day practically.
United Health Care (UHC), a US pro continental team set the pace and controlled the entire stage expertly. It was great watching them work I got the impression that perhaps they’d be even more effective somewhere like Belgium.
The day started with a long transfer from our hotel in the magnificent town of Covilhã situated at the foot of Serra da Estrella. We’ve been run of our feet with with reconaisance, various signings on and parading around the palce…
It’s been a tough few days just for the fact we haven’t had any proper rest, or training since last Saturday, our last day at home.
Today’s stage was terrible, it felt like I had no extra ‘oomph’ I did my job okay, but didn’t manage anything special. I think this was mainly due to the hectic days spent mostly seated in a car.
Such a big fuss is made about the Volta that people forget there are other good and important races on the calendar. As ever, we put all our eggs in the one basket. I never really understood this.
We’ve been training hard for ages now. Real killer stuff up to 6 hours in length.
Recently in training we had 46ºC and I felt utterly rotten, it was like sitting in front of a hair drier for three hours. It’s cooled down recently and I sincerely hope we don’t get temperatures too far above 40ºC.
I raced the Trofeu Joaquim Agostinho this weekend past weekend.
The Prologue was very tricky, very technical. I did my best and I was very pleased.
I didn’t have any great expectation for it, which was a good thing as I missed quite a lot of my warm up, due to everyone going berserk when my team mate and Time Triallist Alejandro Marque broke a gear cable just minutes before he was due to race. I also haven’t touched the TT bike since February.