Fortunately the organisers have been starting the stages early here. I not usually a fan of 9.30 starts but here it makes sense. At least we have been able to race for a couple of hours before midday and the ridiculous heat that comes with it! It seems there are a lot of people suffering in this race now. The temperatures and the relentless climbing (there has not been 1 km flat it seems) are starting to take its toll. Today there was just one attack and that was it! It was a bit frustrating as I felt much better and after yesterday I'm a long way behind on the general classification which gives me freedom to go in the break. Volksbank chased momentarily, but it was a case of too little too late, and promptly gave up. The lead grew quickly. Eventually Michael's second place was put in jepardy by a rider in the break who this morning was 24 minutes behind! We were sent to the front to defend his place in the classification. We rode to maintain the deficit rather that catch the break which meant we didn't have to kill ourselves, but in this temperature any efforts are costly! In the end the break was well within our safety net. Now it is up to them to finish the job tomorrow in the time trial!
When I thought it couldn't get hotter it did! On the bike computers we had a maximum of 42 C today! I know that was probably an in the sun temperature, but still, we were in the sun!! It was for a while too! The stage was supposed to be 228km today plus a 10km neutral zone at the start. That's longer than any of the stages in the Tour De France!! Not many people seemed motivated to race today, or perhaps couldn't! I felt rough again. I put it down to the temperatures but it seemed to only affect me uphill! Eventually I realised it was because my front tyre was really soft! I'm not sure what had happened but there was only 3 or 4 bars of pressure in the tyre. No wonder it felt like the road was melting. I managed to change it after about 150kms. Needless to say I felt better immediately! It was too late though as there was no enthusiasm to chase the breakaway. We trundled in a long way behind, but still red hot!
It was hot today, very hot! The temperature the shade was hovering around 34 C. It wasn't so much the racing that killed me today more the intense heat. There seemed to be no escaping it, all the climbs today seemed to be really exposed providing no relief from the sun, I thought I was going to melt! I tried to stay hydrated throughout the stage but it becomes almost impossible to drink that much, especially if you aren't used to it! I knew I was in a bit of trouble when my appetite and thirst disappeared. I tried to force the drink and food down but it wasn't nearly regularly enough. I paid for it on the really hard finishing circuit. We were told it was a stage for the sprinters. I'm not sure how a 2 km climb with an average gradient of 15% amongst other climbs on the circuit was supposed to be conducive to a sprint!! I felt awful so sat in the bunch and tried to limit the damage by drinking as much as possible. I was happy to be in the camper after this stage!
As we anticipated there was no last day lethargy in the peleton, despite the organiser offering champagne to the riders after 20km (a little bit like in the Tour De France. It seems there weren't many thirsty riders! The first attack came seconds after the official start. It was our plan to let a little group go clear, they could take all of the time bonuses, whilst we kept them close enough that we could reel them in by the finish. Classic plan, classically things went wrong. For the majority of attacks there was always someone too dangerous to let go. Eventually a group of 15 did get away, it was a few too many for my liking (we had lost Jurgen VDB a few days ago and we only started with 6) as we only had 4 of us to ride. It turned out well though as the Lampre had missed it and realised we were letting it go so they started chasing immediately! It saved us a lot of work. We concentrated on keeping Tom near the front and out of trouble. Tom hates the pushing and shoving especially as the stage nears the end. We had a scare in the last kilometer when an over zealous sprinter head butted Tom out of the way even though he was never going to make it to the front in time to contest the finish! We did joke with Tom it wouldn't have mattered if he had crashed as he would have been given the same time as the leader, so technically our job was done!
We had another 250km transfer to the start of the stage today so it was already a long day before the start of the time trial! Tom, Jurgen and Jani traveled last night to avoid fatigue from the traveling. Tom was confident he could take the lead in the race in the time trial today so the rest of us were told to take it easy, anticipating a hard day defending the jersey tomorrow. Some took it easier than others! I just rode round trying to recover as much as possible. I was well within the time limits so it was mission accomplished. Tom did as promised and took over the lead of the race. Not before giving us all a scare by crashing on the last corner with 2 km to go. It wouldn't have been too bad, however given that he was comfortably in the lead by then and there were only 3 corners on the whole time trial circuit.... Just shows how fast he was going though.
After the last 2 days, today was a welcome relief from the mountains! It was by no means flat but it was flat enough that Napolitano (Lampre) decided he could get over the climbs. His team joined forces with Elk, who still had the race lead, to make sure the break away wasn't given too mush lead and was reeled in long before the finish. I was asked to lead out Bileka in the bunch sprint so I took him to the front with about 20kms to go. He lost my wheel a few times so in the end I decided to hover near the front and if he made it I would sprint. When he still wasn't there with 2 kms to go I decided to follow the sprinters myself. As we headed under the red kite I was sitting just behind Napolitano and Brown (Rabobank). I thought it was perfect until about 500 meters to go when a guy tried to come between me and the barriers! I had already thought I was a bit close myself so I have no idea where he thought he was going. Naturally there wasn't enough room, he hit my shoe in doing so the buckle came undone, not to mention making me lose my balance. We went from 3 and fourth place to 8th and 9th! Great move! At such a late stage our sprints were over. Frustrating but that is the risk of sprinting.
There was not much to report today! After 70kms we went over a 'Hors Category' climb. The summit of which was at 2750 meters altitude. Once again the climb was red hot, until about 5kms from the summit. The snow laying beside the road cooled the air temperature beautifully. It was almost pleasant, though it was a bout 15km too late! I was in a group of about 60 riders that worked well together to make the time limit. Just to really finish the day off though we had a 236km transfer to the hotel, most of which was on small roads!!
With the climb to Kitzbuhl Horn at the end of the stage today there was loads of attacking from the start. Mostly from riders that wanted a head start before the climb however some riders that could have been dangerous for the classification slipped away in a big group. Once again nobody seemed that interested in minimising their advantage. Tom said he felt good so we were told to ride again. We chased to the bottom of the last climb, at which point we had reduced the lead to less than 1 minute. It was up to Tom then to make the most of the last 10 very hard kilometers. I didn't see much of how he did, myself Benoit and Jurgen VDB (we had ridden together) found the groupetto and struggled up the mountain. It was a ridiculously hard climb. I managed to get up to 9km/h at one point but that was the fasted I managed for the entire climb! I was tired from chasing but still..... Apparently Tom attacked almost as the road started to rise and stayed alone in the front until he cramped with 1km to go! He was caught by an Austrian from the Elk team but managed to hold on for second place. It was good news for us as it means we won't have to ride tomorrow!
It seems nobody wants to win the Tour Of Austria, except for us and 3 others! On the first climb of the day 3 riders went clear which would have normally meant a perfect situation, plenty of teams to chase so we could have hidden and saved our energy for the nasty stage tomorrow. Instead the gap increased rapidly with nobody seemingly interested. Finally when the leaded topped at 10:20 we were told to set the pace and try and bring them back. Eventually T-Mobile helped to chase but it was much too late and the leaders stayed away. Rather than sprint for 4th place I was given the difficult task of keeping our climbers near the front to the finish. Those guys can go uphill fast but keeping them in the lead out train was neigh on impossible! We managed to stay near enough to the front so they didn't lose any time or crash! Mission accomplished!
It feels like ages ago I raced with the team. It is nice to be racing again, although I will probably be saying something else after Wednesdays stage to the top of the famous Kitzbuhel Horn. I remember watching Ski Sunday years ago, mostly in shire amazement at the gradient of the mountain and the speeds they descended it. I think it will be a grovel to get to the top! Today was a relatively quiet day though. A couple of riders got away and Lampre chased to set up a bunch sprint. I tried to have a go but with 800 meters I was stuck between a the curb and the lead out train. I couldn't get out until much too late and finished 10th
This race is getting to be very predictable! Once again the first 40km of the stage were uphill! Once again the attacks came from the start gun! It is really miserable trying to hold on in the beginning. Nothing seems to be working correctly. It feels like I'm pedaling in squares on someone else's bike! I was just concentrating on staying in my position on the climb, trying not to lose to much momentum on any of the numerous corners. Dirk radioed through that Noval and Beppu hadn't made it over the first climb so I had to try and Jani out as much as possible as he is 6th overall. I tried to find him in the group but he was nowhere to be seen. It was then I realised, on the sinuous climb a group had gone clear with most of the overall contenders in the front. The leader and his team were doing their best to defend the jersey on the front of our group. It wasn't enough though, the group pulled further ahead until the lead was 3 minutes. Our team car went to the front group to help Jani which meant we didn't get any more drinks until the feed. On the last climb of the day I suffered from cramp. I very rarely suffer from cramp, I can only think of 2 other occasions in my career so I'm a bit concerned at how dehydrated I was today. So I'm drinking plenty of fluids to try and limit the damage! I took it easy over the last climb and finished with the groupetto. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day!
I think mountains within the first 20km of the stage should be banned! It just isn't fair! It takes me a long time to get going, so I was really suffering as we climbed the first 14 km mountain of the day. In what has become the typical race strategy of the Spanish riders, the attacks came thick and fast from the foot of the climb. Eventually a group of 16 riders went clear. Normally it would have settled down after that, however there were 3 riders that were very close on the overall classification. Kaiku, a small Spanish team with the race leader, started to chase on the front. It was incredible how fast we were traveling. Despite a strong head wind we were constantly above 65km/h on the flat! Needless to say we caught the group fairly quickly, only for a new group to go clear almost immediately. You had to keel sorry for the Kaiku team! They chased for the remainder of the very undulating stage. I was hoping they would catch the leaders so we would have a chance for a bunch sprint. It would have been in vain for me anyway as there was a crash on the last decent, I was caught behind it and finished in a group just behind.
Today was always going to be difficult but I didn't know the classification riders were going to make it so difficult for themselves! The stage was 225km long with the majority seeming to be uphill to the finish in Andorra. I was ready for the predictable warp-speed start, hoping that I would slide into the early move, hopefully get a good head start for the final 2 really hard climbs of the day. There were several attacks, finally a group was given some day light, I went as hard as I could to get across. It was really a max effort just to get on. We were clear, I thought it was perfect. Then for some reason Moreau decided to start attacking, only 220 km to go! The group lost its cohesion and the majority of us were swallowed up by the peleton. 4 riders were left in front however there seemed no interest in chasing them! I think it was due to Thor Husvod being in the leaders jersey on such a hard stage. He knew he couldn't defend the jersey so he team didn't even try. The leaders pulled further and further away! Once they had a whopping 25 minutes lead, bearing in mind Moreau and Landeleuze were both general classification contenders given that sort of head start, Gerolsteiner decided to start chasing! The speed was really high, constantly between 45 and 55 km/h which wouldn't have been so bad if we hadn't been going uphill! There was no respite, not from the speed or the intolerable heat. It was one of the most uncomfortable days I have ever spent on the bike. To add to the joy I new we had the 2 climbs to contend with at the end! Mind you for the majority of us that is where for the first time today we were able to ride at our own tempo. The peleton split into numerous groups. I found a good group that I could follow relatively easily and tried to get to the top of the mountain causing as little damage as possible. Out of interest; today I climbed more than 3700 meters in altitude, burned approx 5700 kj and was in the saddle for 6 hours and 45 minutes. This was supposed to be a quiet day for the sprinters! By the way Moreau was caught before the finish, thank goodness!
It was really hot again today. The temperature rose to 35 C during the afternoon! I felt much better than yesterday, though far from comfortable. We had to climb the same mountain as yesterday, - the race was over by then but more on that later - I thought I was going to cook! The slow climbing speeds reduced the cooling breeze to negligible, plus I was having to work hard to stay with the group. It was impossible to replace the lost fluids so I finished the stage really dehydrated today. Pro Tour racing is starting to settle into a very familiar style. Gone are the days of the 'early soft break'. They have been replaced by really top riders trying to get away early enough to build a substantial lead in the hope they can stay away to the finish. I think it is largely due to the really high average speeds nowadays. It is really hard to make any sort of difference unless the stage finishes on a mountain top. For example, the first stage here had 3 mountains with the summit of the last only 25kms from the finish. The whole bunch finished in one group, nobody was able to create a breakaway. Today was very similar. We started at warp speed! For the first 10km of the stage I was spinning the 53*11, not daring to look down at the speed! Eventually a group of 5 riders with Mancebo (a threat for the overall) among them. The teams with general classification ambitions had to chase straight away. Eventually after a really long chase the final remenant of the group were caught just as the sprint was warming up. I once again tried to get up there but it was a strong head wind making the run in very slow. It becomes very difficult to hold a position in the front as it is very easy to come from behind in the shelter of the bunch. I ended up using too much energy before the last kilometer, my sprint suffered for it.
It was hot today, really hot. I left my bike outside the camper whilst we had out pre race meeting and the computer recorded an 'in the sun' temperature of 45 degrees C. Last week I was in Belgium, max temperature of around 19 C. There were 3 climbs today, with the last just 25km from the finish. It was going to be hard to stay in the front for the flat finish. I felt terrible all day too. I always seem to suffer for the first couple of days in severe heat. I just felt really weak. I managed to stay in the front group over the climbs to contest the sprint. The finish was near the sea, the cool breeze providing a welcoming relief from the heat. I felt much better for it so tried to go for the finish. Fumy helped out near the finish but we were both baulked on the final roundabout. It was a case of choose left or right, we chose right but it was much faster on the left! We lost a dozen critical places, the effort to get back to the front cost us in the last 500 meters. I didn't really have much of acceleration left by then. I was pleased I managed to make it in the front even feeling so rough. Hope it will be better tomorrow!
Today's opening stage was a 14km time trial. I had been looking forward to the team time trial of last year as we very nearly won despite losing 3 teammates very early on. I wanted to try and do the time trial properly as I have lost the skills required to time trial simply because I rarely ride time trials anyway and when I do the majority of them are at stage races where the motivation to to ride really hard are outweighed by the opportunity to take a rest day to recover for the following road stage. The route wasn't that great for me as it was pan flat, so it really suited the massive power houses, but anyway it was a good chance to practise. I have changed my position on my Trek TT bike over the last couple of days too. It is really hard to get a good position since the UCI bought in the rule that stipulates the wheel must be the same size. As there are very few 26" back wheeled bikes, I have to use a 27" front wheel. This makes the handlebar height really high, with the tri bars on top, it felt like a town bike! With some inventive sawing the mechanic was able to drop the arm pads by 4.3cms! It was a massive difference, which will take some getting used to but it does feel like a time trial bike now! Given the fact I had a new position I was really pleased with how the TT went. I felt fairly good, though it is just painful for the entire ride. I lost concentration in the middle section, which was reflected by times around the circuit. After 6kms I was faster than Jani, (he finished 3rd) I lost all my time in the middle section finally, the last 3 kms I were ok again! In a pro tour time trial I only lost 35 seconds at my first real time trial since 2004. I feel there was quite a lot of room for improvement too.
I suffered today. I'm really tired from the last few days of racing, especially helping out Paolo. The problem with time trialing, it is a very mentally taxing effort. I think you really need a good motivation to perform well. I knew it wouldn't be possible for me to win the stage and my general time classification was well and truly lost several days ago so the motivation to ride hard was very low! I warmed up well to make sure I didn't injure myself and rode at a pace that felt comfortable. I should have known time trialing and comfortable don't go together. The result wasn't good. I survived the Tour Of Romandie though, which was a big step forward, especially having worked so hard over the last few days.
Today was a really hard stage both mentally and physically. Paolo decided to be prudent and decided not to start today, to ensure he could recover fully for next weeks Giro D'Italia. For us though, there were 3 first category climbs to haul ourselves over during the 127km stage. The short stage meant the delay was going to be short so if I wanted to stay in the race I had to really hard all day! To my horror the first rider attacked straight away. The race was on from the first mountain. The peleton split into several groups. I made a good group, most of whom were motivated to get through. I really thought we were the groupetto, it was only at the finish I saw another group behind me with Jan Ullrich in it! He has some work to do! I was happy to have survived, only the time trial to go!
Today was a disaster. For what should have been a straight forward day, turned out to be our worst nightmare. The stage was relatively flat until the last 12 km climb to the finish at the summit of the mountain. With one of the best climbers in the race on our team we were fairly excited about today to say the least. The whole team stayed around Paolo all day, trying to protect him so much as possible, trying to save that vital energy he would need later on the climb. The first signs of the canage that was to come was Paolo mentioning he had a stomach ache about 45km from the end. 5kms later he had to stop to go to the toilet. By now the peleton was traveling well over 60km/h in preparation for the final climb. I was impressed at how quickly he came back. Which lulled us into a false sense of security. We thought it was over, but no. 10kms further he had to stop again. It was really hard to get him back this time as no doubt the other teams had seen the problem as the speed was really high now. The real test for the rest of us was when he stopped for the 3rd time just 4km before the start of the final climb. The team was sent into panic mode. Pavel and Liefe got him back to the groupetto that had already formed by the time he was on the mountain. Then Mika took over for his effort to bring him back to my group. I then went as hard as I could up the mountain, which was probably the worst situation I could think of being in in my first race back after the injury! I closed the gap to the next group where Benoit had waited for him. Benny was going really well and bought him to within a minute of the leaders when.............. Paolo decided he needed to stop again!!!!!! This time it was over. We ended up with the whole team in the groupetto. It was an interesting day out though. It was impressive to see Paolo climb. He looks good for the Giro.
The freshness in the legs has gone now! After my nasty injury and the subsequent revalidation it wasn't too much of a surprise that I suffered today. The 2 first category climbs and 2 non classified climbs to the same altitude made for a very hard stage anyway. 2 riders went clear early on in the stage which meant we had to chase. I was the chosen one! I rode initially with Benoit Joachim, then he was replaced by Beppu after about 50 kms of chasing. Eventually I stopped riding just before the final 2 climbs 20km to go. I was quite pleased really as 12 days ago I was still having problems with my knee injury. Now to try and recover and get the form back! Paolo made the front group but was a bit isolated on his own. Lotto used their numerical advantage to take the leaders jersey. Paolo did well to stay so close to Horner (Lotto) so he still has a chance on tomorrow's mountain top finish to try and get it back!
was supposed to be an easy flat Stage. However with Paolo leading the
classification we had to be careful of big groups attacking in the
beginning Otherwise we would have been chasing for the whole stage I felt
ok to start with as my legs were still fresh if nothing else! The trouble
with being fresh is you can end up doing too much! I went with a few
attacks just before a dangerous move went. Nobody from the team was near
the front so I had to go again. I caught the 12 riders just at the bottom
of a climb! The worst case scenario as the attacks came thick and fast up
the climb. I was already in oxygen debt from the bottom of the climb. I
managed to get over but it was a big effort. Still it saved the whole team
a lot of work later as there were some good riders in the group. Over the
top of the climb Konishev had gone clear alone. It was perfect for us as
it was the only stage for the sprinters so we could leave the leader out
there. Eventually Lotto started to ride for Robbie McEwen. It ended in a
bunch sprint, which Robbie duly won. I didn't contest the sprint as we
were looking after Paolo
at the tour of Romandie now, my first race since Paris Roubaix. It
couldn't have been a worse start for me! firstly a 3 km time
trial would have been bad enough but then it rained! I wanted to
try the time trial 100%, just to get used to time trialling and my bike it
nothing else! Sometimes with fresh legs after my break from racing, albeit
through injury, a short time trial is very possible. The position is
slightly different to a conventional road bike plus it handles very
differently! I slipped on the first Corner and that was it I was
frightened for the rest of the ride! Just to rub Salt into the wounds the
weather improved and the roads
dried giving a massive advantage to the later starters on the very tight
and technical circuit. I suppose it is the gamble of time trialing! I'm
sure I've been on the positive side of that gamble in the past!
Thanks to everyone that has sent good wishes after my crash yesterday. I'm pleased to say it is not as bad as first thought. I hit the corner of a cobble stone as I hit the ground. The impact split the skin leaving a rather large hole just below my knee. An x-ray showed nothing was broken and the surgeon was able to open the wound and visually check the tendons around the knee hadn't been damaged, the whole process made me feel a bit worse than I already felt. So all in all, to have been able to walk away with 'only' 14 stitches and a very sore knee was a bit of a relief. I'm not sure how long it will be before I'm back on the bike but I hope it won't be too long. The wound isn't on the kneecap itself, hence it shouldn't be troubled by any bending of the knee, though at the moment that is very painful to test! I will keep my site updated with my progress. Once again thanks you all for you concern!
When the it comes round to this race the whole of Belgium changes. Everyone is talking about cycling. It is really motivating. My job for the Tour of Flanders was to try and get in the early break. It is not an easy task. I was hoping it was going to be a bit easier as there was a strong cross wind predicted for the day. The wind turned out to be predominantly from behind which made the start really fast. I jumped around for 100km trying to get in the break with no success. It was really frustrating as it took a lot of effort and I was already feeling a bit tired. My worst nightmare then happened. As we were moving past the peleton trying to get in the front ready for the critical part of the race there was a sudden heavy braking in the bunch. A surge of riders came from the left side of the road to the right. My front wheel was overlapped with the rider in front of me as I was hit. I was knocked off balance, sending me shooting of the road. As I fell I could see the cobbles, I tried to avoid them but my knee caught the last one as I fell. It was incredibly painful more painful than any breaks I had had before. I looked down and saw a big hole just below the knee. My tour of Flanders was over. On the way to the hospital the pain was replaced with massive depression. I really thought this injury was going to need a long time to heal. In a twist of fate the previous shifts 'on call' doctor couldn't get home, so she came back to work about 10 minutes after I arrived. Her specialty was deep cut wounds! I couldn't have been in better hands. She spent a long time cleaning the wound before she suggested she checked the tendons for any damage. I sat up to get ready for the exercises, instead she just opened the hole and visually checked the tendons. I felt fairly ill after that!
The 3 Days of De Panne has been a disaster for me! This race is supposed to be the final preparation for the big three races of next week. The Tour Flanders, Gent Wevelgem and Paris Roubaix. I was trying to get through without crashing or catching some sort of illness! It all started to go wrong on the first day! I was a bit worried as the finishing circuit on the first stage is really tight and with a nasty section of cobbles it is fairly dangerous when it is wet. I was concentrating on staying out of trouble - perhaps too much - when someone in front of me got caught in what's called 'Death Valley'. It is the gap between the lanes of the infamous Belgian concrete roads. It is just wide enough for a road tyre to drop in to but not wide enough to steer out of it! I saw it happening so I braked hard and swung as hard right as I could to avoid him. I was going to miss him until I got hit at 60km/h from behind from someone who had obviously not seen anything! I went straight over the handlebars and landed flat on my back! I was winded for a while and took a while to get going. I was only about 2 mins behind the front group but there were cars and people all over the place whilst I was trying to get to the finish. I thought it was because I was last man in the race but it turns out there was the main group further behind!
As Leife won the stage yesterday we had to defend the jersey. It couldn't have been a worse stage to have to ride on the front. The majority of the 235km stage was in the same direction, into a block headwind! Dirk wanted to save as many riders for the final time trial so we were with just 3 of us to ride. It was a very long day. We were able to control all of the attacks until the final 3 kilometers of the stage. It worked well as George and Leife managed to hold on to the front group. Unfortunately second placed Bernard Eisel won the stage and by virtue of the time bonuses took the jersey. In a way it was perfect as we were confident Leife could win the time trial but it meant we wouldn't have to defend the jersey on the penultimate stage.
After the really hard first 2 days Dirk suggested I didn't start the final time trial so I could start recovering as soon as possible for the weekends Ronde Van Vlaanderen!
I really don't like this race! I'm not sure why but I have never felt very good in the 8 years I have done it! As a new professional my parents used to come over to watch this race as it normally coincides with the Easter holidays. Unfortunately they rarely saw me finish! I'm sure it is due to the normally hard race on Wednesday, with only 2 days to recover I never really get going here! Still Wednesday's race was really strange, with such a long period being ridden easily I was a bit more optimistic about today's race! In complete contrast to Waregem, the attacks came from the start, though this time the speed in the peleton was so high nobody got any headway. This race is fairly simple if you have the legs that is! All the hill come in a very short section after about 115 km of racing. The roads are ridiculously small so the hardest part of this race is the fight before the first climb! I felt much better than in previous years and made the first selection fairly easily. The next selection was going to be a lot harder. On the Patesburg (a cobbled climb with gradients up to 24%) there was a fight to get into the smooth gutter on the left hand side of the road that makes the climb significantly easier. Robbie McEwen was the first rider but the tempo wasn't fast enough. Boonen passed early on the climb with Ballan, Half way up they accelerated! It was a good place to go as anyone who wanted to chase had to jump out of the gutter onto the much slower cobbles, pass Robbie in the gutter drop back into it in front of him. All this on a climb of 24% !! Nobody could do it. So by the time we got to the top they were gone. It was still a long way to go so I thought there was still a good chance to catch them. They must have been strong as most of the remaining 20 or so riders chased but we made no headway. Towards the end 3 riders clipped off the front with Lief Hoste there. I finished 8th in the end which is my best result for a few years!!!
Well that was a weird race! Last year this was a really hard race, aggressive from the beginning to the end! This year a group went early on, nobody appeared interested in chasing. Quick Step, were perhaps afraid of the Pettachi being on the start line, especially after he so convincingly beat Tom in San Remo seemed uninterested so the group got further ahead. They had nearly 20 minutes lead before there was any action in the group. Quick Step and Lotto reluctantly started to chase just before the hills. On the first climb of the day Tom Boonen attacked. I can't understand why, all it did was send the chase into disarray. He was never going to close the 15 minutes gap on his own, so he sat up and waited. By the time all his team mates had recovered the whole peleton was back! On the next climb he did the same thing. It was really frustrating as it meant the race never really got hard. When we eventually got to the finishing circuits the group was still really big and the leaders still had 4 minutes. I decided there were too many sprinters in the group so on the last climb I went to the front hoping a group would go clear. Boonen obliged and attacked, I went with him. He seemed to slow so I went over him and gave everything to the top. We had a gap and Boonen had been dropped! The only problem was Nuyens (Quick Step) was there. As Boonen was trying to come back he didn't help ride. Once he stopped working the cohesion of our smll group was lost. I'd hoped that when Boonen got back on they would have ridden hard to the finish. Instead they attacked us!! I went with a few accelerations but inevitably the organised chase on the front of the bunch caught us with 2.5km to go. Now we were in trouble! We had all smashed ourselves trying to get away. It was a risk that didn't pay off. I was really happy with how strong I was. Now just a bit of luck needed!
That race is ridiculously long! It just seems to go on for ever. It felt longer than last years edition. Perhaps it was because we race from the start this year! Even with a massive 296km to go the attacks came thick and fast! Within 1km of the start the bunch was already traveling at well over 55km/h! Normally the early break is given a bit of headway in this race but with Pettachi as supreme favorite his team took the initiative immediately and started riding tempo on the front. It would have been really nice as it meant we would have got to San Remo much quicker had there not been a really annoying slight cross wind. The peleton was constantly lined out, I was never really able to relax and hide in the group. Despite the high speed of the bunch the leaders managed to forge a 10 minute lead by the time we hit the coastline. It is a really nice road to ride along, with the sea on one side and hills on the right, but when you are racing along at 60pls km/h it is really dangerous. I remembered it from last year, the cafes are on the right hand side of the road and the beaches on the other. So people are constantly trying to cross the road, not to mention the dustbins and cars parked on the road! I tried to save as much energy as possible for the final climbs of the day especially the Cipressa and the Poggio. I remember watching this race on television and thinking it is just a matter of racing up those climbs as hard as possible stay in contact with the leaders and then sprint, simple! The reality is somewhat different! The acceleration towards the foot of the Cipressa starts about 30kms from the climb. With 200 riders trying to get to the front it is really hard to maintain position at the front and it cost you a lot of energy to stay there, but if you lose it, trying to come past the charging group is even harder. So by the time I got to the climbs I was already really tired and going flat out. I think that is why there were no really splits on the climb anymore as most people have used their accelerations just to get in a good position to start it! From the start of the Cipressa the race just becomes a a whirlwind experience. If the first 250kms takes forever to pass the last 45km seems to pass in the blink of an eye! I remembered from last year that after the Poggio it is really hard to move up in time for the sprint so at every opportunity I passed a rider. Even if it meant going round the outside on a hairpin corner on the decent! With 1km to go it looked like it was going to be a bunch sprint, I was sat 3 places behind Boonen and Pettachi. I thought it was perfect. Then on the last chicane Pettachi's lead out ran out of steam and the bunch momentarily slowed, enough though for me to get swamped! I went from 7th place to 27th in one corner! With only 600meters to go it was impossible to move up again! My 300km race was decided in about 50 meters!
Well that was my worst nightmare! The last stage of Paris-Nice is renowned for being hard, but I didn't expect it to be that hard! I hate starting fast but I hate starting fast uphill even more! From the start we went straight up a 15km climb. The organisers in their wisdom, decided to put a sprint bonus at the top. Naturally the Spaniards didn't need a second invitation and went flat out from the start. I take longer and longer to get going each day as a stage race progresses so this was not good news. It was a bit of a vicious circle too as the roads were really narrow and twisting, so the further back you were in the bunch the harder it is to follow! I survived the first selection, only to be faced with a really technical decent. The bunch split in half, I was caught in the second group. We chased, only to rejoin the group at the bottom of the second climb of the day. I struggled once again to hold on. My legs really hadn't started to get going, but on a short stage like this the climbers never wait! On the 3rd climb of the day the peleton split again this time we didn't make it back. It was a pity as I had wanted to survive.
That was an incredibly hard stage. With 8 categorised climbs and what felt like a stage with not 1 meter flat I think it would have been hard to just ride this route let alone race it! Once again I tried to get in the break but just seemed to miss it. I'm starting to get paranoid now! Phonac once again controlled the race and set tempo behind the break. If Floyd wins Paris Nice, his team really earned it! It was really hard in the bunch just to follow. With small twisting roads constantly undulating there was no rest! I think there will be a few abandon's in tonight's communiqué! I tried to recover as much as possible from the last few days of racing but it wasn't really possible. The break was almost caught by the time we started the final climb of the day. I moved up to see how far I could get with the leaders as there was a technical downhill to the finish in Nice that would have suited me. My legs weren't feeling to great though and by half way up the 7km climb I couldn't hold the lead group. It was a pity as with good legs I'm sure I could have made it
As yesterdays stage wasn't really much of a recovery day my legs were still sore today from the long day in the wet and cold 2 days ago. My job for the day was to try and get in the early break. With heavy legs it is really hard to go flat out in the beginning! I tried but it seemed every time I went with a group it was chased down then the next group would ride away! I think it was partly to do with not having the legs to go when it really was hard as I didn't seem to have a problem to make the groups the other day! Eventually a group went, I wasn't there. I was in real trouble now as I'd made a lot of efforts to get away and had nothing to show for it as we approached the first climb of the day, a 1st category climb up to 1000 meters! The bunch went fast! I was trying to find a rhythm but struggled all the way. At the top I was about 100 meters behind the remnants of the bunch in a small group. We chased hard on the descent of the climb and got on, only to have the leader of the race call a truce for a call of nature! Great! I wanted to attack and keep going but there is still a bit of etiquette left in the peleton! Phonac set the tempo for the rest of the day until the last climb of the day, again a 1st category climb up to an altitude of 1211 meters. My job was to make sure our climbers, Azevedo and Rubiera were well placed for the start of the climb as the road was barely 1 car wide. It was like the build up to the sprint except I wasn't leading out a sprinter so on a few occasions I lost them! It turned out well in the end they started the climb in the first 10. I rode my own tempo to the top as it had started to snow so I didn't want to sit in the groupetto. I was happy to see the finish today!
I wasn't looking forward to the stage today! My legs were a bit sore from yesterday so it would have been nice to have had some flat before we started climbing to warm up the legs at least a little bit! Instead we had a 1st category mountain from the start with the top after 12.5km!!!! It was purgatory! I really had no pedaling stroke at all, at least not for the first part of the climb! It need not be mentioned but the first attack was launched while we were still in sight of the start! Half way up there was some sort of protest on the road, they blocked to road to draw attention to their cause. I hope no pictures are shown and their cause is not mentioned! All it did was mess up our race. The lead cars stopped so I thought they were neutralising the race for a few moments, a welcome relief from the constant attacking on the climb. Instead a group of a bout 30 riders got through before the rest of us were stopped! Instead of waiting for us to pass the protest a rider from Credit Agricole (a team already renowned for attacking the feed zones!) decided to push on with his advantage. We all had to chase for the last 4km of the climb to get back on terms. As you can imagine, he was popular! The first 60km of the stage were run at ridiculous speeds. There was no let up at all attacks were going left right and centre. I think a few riders were disappointed with yesterdays results! We came across another protest after about 80km. These guys were much more aggressive though. They pushed and shoved us as we tried to pass their barricade, some riders were getting punched! Just what you need after 4 days of racing. The strangest thing about it they were just kids! I'm not sure what they were even protesting about or why they were so aggressive towards us. I just tried to get through without sustaining any damage to myself or my equipment. I had to use a nice sugary energy drink to keep one over zealous lad back, I'm sure he doesn't know the value of the bikes he was kicking. I'm sure he'd have thought twice if he had to pay for it! This time the organisation actually controlled the situation to a degree and reformed the peleton before letting the racing begin again. I can't understand why they don't send more police ahead and arrest some of them to get them out of the way? Anyway the racing resumed but it seemed to take the moral of the peleton away. There was a lone leader but there was not much interest to race. Phonac rode tempo until Quick Step took over to set up the inevitable bunch sprint, which was once again at the bottom of a 9km descent. I tried to get up there but I didn't feel that great and wasn't prepared to take the risks of the 70km/h lead to the sprint.
Well that was by far the hardest stage of Paris Nice. We started in fowl weather conditions, sleet and cold rain for the first half of the race. Liberty Segeuros must half been given a talking too last night after they all lost time due to waiting for their leader when he punctured with 10km to go! This morning they came out with all guns blazing! The route wasn't easy either, up and down from the start with several categorised climbs culminating with a 1st category climb only 20 km to go. Unfortunately, my job today was to try and get in the early move! So I jumped around with the little climbers for the first 40km. I made a couple of promising groups but it seems the peleton was very attentive, it seemed no breaks were to be given any freedom. Johan told me to ease off and try to recover as the rest of the stage was really hard. Low and behold the next group went clear!!! It proved to be quite a dangerous group so Benoit and I had to chase! We chased for 40km before the group was close enough for people to jump across! Thankfully were able to recover enough to get over most of the climbs in the front group. I finally decided to ride my own tempo on the last climb. The race really blew to pieces today so I quite pleased with how I rode. I hope now I can recover over the next couple of days!
Paris-Nice has been a very strange race this year. I did Terrino Adriatico last year but people tell me it was really fast from start to finish. I'm not sure why, but this year is exactly the opposite. Nobody seems keen to race. Today, one rider was given 30 minutes lead before the peleton reluctantly gave chase. Once we got going though we were going really fast. With 5 climbs in the last 50 km it was always going to happen towards the end. Liberty Segueros tried to accelerate on the last 2 climbs but the climbs weren't hard enough to get rid of the sprinters. I was a bit disappointed as I felt really comfortable on the climbs, I was secretly hoping they would blow the race to pieces with me being able to hold on of course! It didn't happen so we had from the last climb we descended 20 kilometers to the finish. It was ridiculous how many risks people take to get to the front. Riders pulling and pushing each other. Perhaps it is because it was the last real chance for the sprinters but today seemed to be worse than normal. I felt really good but got baulked at a roundabout 2km from the finish so had to make a big effort in the wind to get back in contention. I got to the front with 700 meters to go, I tried to recover for a couple seconds, which was my downfall as I was swamped again with 300 meters to go, this time there was no way to get back.
After yesterdays prologue I was very apprehensive about today's stage! I really don't know what went wrong yesterday, I just went very slowly! Fortunately I felt much better in the beginning of the stage which was good for the confidence but very necessary as the weather was awful! It started off cold but dry, but the dark clouds rolled in bring sleet and snow with them! Temperatures dropped dramatically. There wasn't to much racing going on as most riders seemed occupied going to and from the team cars to get more and more clothes! Eventually 2 French riders got away but with Boonen at only 3 seconds of the leaders jersey and 10 seconds bonus for the stage win Quick Step didn't let them get very far. The leaders were caught 10 km to go just as the fight for Boonen's wheel started in earnest! I tried to go for the sprint but I was getting hit left and right mostly from 2 riders from Milram. I think they were getting a bit carried away with their freedom from the Pettachi train! Eventually I ended up on Boonen's wheel on the last corner with 300 meters to go only to have the 2 guys from Milram come up and shut me into the barriers. It was really frustrating as they seemed to go backwards from there. At least I know what to expect tomorrow!
Today's prologue was just 4.8km long but it was one of the most time and energy intensive days of racing a rider can do! As it is the prologue there is still everything to race for so the warm up and preparation has to be done as well as possible even if it is to just limit the time lost, as you never know what will happen over the next few stages. Our day started a little earlier than anticipated! The UCI anti doping agency arrived to take blood at 7.30 this morning. Much to the annoyance of the very sleepy riders! It meant the day was really long as the race didn't start until 3pm! I wanted to do well today so I made sure I warmed up really well as it was very cold in Paris today. The circuit was basically up a 2km climb then a back down the other side. I thought it would be best to go hard up the climb and try to hold on over the top but I hadn't reckoned on the wind picking up over the top. I went a bit too hard up the climb, into oxygen debt, by the time I recovered the race was over! My time was fairly poor which was a bit disappointing but there are a lot of stages to make up for it!
Kuurne has an image of the 're-match race' for all those teams that had bad luck or generally just missed out in the Het Volk yesterday. We were definitely a amongst those trying to put yesterdays poor showing behind us especially as the start and finish were in the hometown of Dirk Demol's (Discovery's sports director) family! With temperatures hovering around 0oC, dark clouds looming ominously in the distance it looked like it was going to be a repeat of last years race in the snow! Fortunately we all changed at Dirk's brothers house just 100 meters from the start. It was just like my amateur days in Belgium. It is a sort of tradition in Belgium that the local habitants open their garages on race day to let riders change in the warm, if you're luck the hosts quite often provide hot water, coffee and sometimes a bite to eat. So it was quite fitting really to be in someone's house preparing for the a race in the Belgian opening weekend! It worked well for all of us, once the racing got underway Discovery was represented in every break that went. In this race there are always a lot of attacks too, despite most of the bunch having sore legs from the day before. The hills of the race are all very close together just after the feed zone, which is where the real racing began. On the first of the 5 hill the attacks started in earnest, a group went clear but it seemed too early. I decided to wait a bit to see what happened. On the 2nd climb several guys from the front group were dropped leaving a much more manageble 3 riders in the front. Once we we over the Old Kwaremont the bunch had been reduced to 19 riders. I was starting to get worried as there was getting fewer and fewer riders to chase. I decided it was time to go across. I attacked, shortly afterwards Posthuma (Rabobank) joined me and we set about trying to catch the leaders. It was quite a hard chase as the wind had picked up and was blowing straight into our face! Eventually we caught them but I knew it was going to be a long ride back to Kuurne! We persevered, but the worst case scenario happened. The bunch regrouped behind us, which meant Quick Step had more riders to chase, hence they didn't need to take a risk with Serge Baguet in our group. So they began to chase. Baguet then stopped working with us and the unity of the break was lost and we were quickly caught. It was a pity because it left us all tired. It is the first time I can remember the bunch regrouping after the hills which made it all the more frustrating. On the finishing circuits Quick Step dominated so I have to admit their tactic worked but still it was frustrating!!!
That was quite a hard race! It is always a shock to the system to race in Belgium in February, no matter how much or how hard you during the winter it always hurts! I came here this year with better form than previous years, but still, I don't think I would have had many style marks during the last 20kilometers! For once though we had relatively good weather, clear skies sunshine and no ice on the roads. The predicted snow for last night didn't materialise so we all lined up at 11.30 this morning. It was hard to recognise most of us though due to the massive amounts of clothing required to keep warm! Het Volk is the world champs for Belgians so as you can imagine with 2.5 hours live tv on offer there wasn't any shortage of attacks! Before the official start I had a maximum of 55km/h!!! Once under way it didn't take long for a group of 13 riders to go clear. It wasn't the best scenario for Discovery as we were not represented. It became the Discovery story of the day - always playing catch up. It just shows how important it is nowadays to be there in the breaks from the start. It was clear that if we didn't take the initiative the race was over once the leaders got more than 5 minutes lead. It changed the way the race was ridden though. As there were several team chasing the usual accelerations for the climbs were must less, plus the climbs were not really attacked as in previous years. The result being a much larger group stayed together for longer. It was only on the last climb, with the leaders in sight the explosion first happened. Boonen, keen to show his jersey off in Belgium for the first time attacked causing all sorts of problems. A group of 40 riders formed, however there was still 60 km of flat to the finish, punctuated only by 5 sections of flat cobbles in the last 20km. The fight for the first of those cobbles was more like it! Riders everywhere, on the pavement, in the grass anywhere they could to gain that vital place. I just tried to stay as far in the front as possible but not take too many risks. Unfortunately I didn't fight hard enough and somebody 3 places in front couldn't hold the wheel, causing a split. The cobbles were so bad I had to wait until the end of the sector to pass before I tried to bridge across. I felt strong though it seemed to take ages to get across. By the time I got there 4 riders had already gone clear, once again I was playing catch up! This time though Quick Step had a rider in the front so Boonen just chased anyone that tried to close the gap. It became a race of cat and mouse, with nobody really strong enough the go away. In the end the four stayed away and I came in with the remnants of the break. I was happy the condition is still good. Hopefully now I can recover for tomorrows revenge match, Kuurne - Brussels - Kuurne!
I'm now in our team hotel in Kortrijk Belgium awaiting tomorrows world championships as far as Belgians are concerned, Het Volk. I'll be using my SRM cranks during the race. Cycling.tv will be broadcasting the information during their coverage tomorrow! You'll be able to see how I'm suffering!
Cycling is funny sometimes! I felt the worst I have felt for the entire race today but managed to get my best result in the sprint! It was cold today, even by Belgian standards. There was the obligatory climb at the beginning of the stage which failed yet again to cause a major split. However the little Spaniards tried to make it as uncomfortable as possible for the rest of us! Once over the top on the more rolling roads, the wind picked up so I tried to get my revenge by attacking. It was more to see if I could get my legs going rather than go away. As I was caught a group counter attacked with Boonen and Pettachi. There was a massive panic in the bunch, riders everywhere, trying to get to the front to help the chase. It is quite funny really because when sprinters normally attack it doesn't really every cause much of a reaction. I think it is proof of just how well those two are going at the moment. The race was really on for about 40km until it started to rain. Then all of a sudden the front group sat up and waited. I think they didn't want to take any risks as the roads were absolutely filthy and very slippery. Leif Hoste and Eric Dekker continued the effort but with all the sprinters back in the bunch there were never given too much lead. Milram set up the inevitable bunch sprint. I was able to get Pettachi's wheel with 2 kilometers to go. It was the perfect place to be all I had to do was hold it! That is easier said than done! When Pettachi accelerated to go past Boonen he went really fast, gaining a bike length on me before I had time to react! He passed Boonen with ease then seemed to stall, as if he was waiting for us! Boonen got back to him but I stayed at the same distance to the line to finish 3rd. I was happy as I was climbing and sprinting well. Now for the Northern classics!
Today's stage was almost a re-run of the past few days! A small group eventually went clear with nobody dangerous to the classification, which meant the leader's team didn't have to ride given the huge lead they have after the first stage. Instead, once again Milram took control of the situation and rode tempo so the leaders never got more than 3 minutes advantage. We had Benoit Joachim in the front so we sat back and hoped they would stay clear. As the finish got closer it was clear the break wouldn't survive as several more teams started to help chasing. It is always interesting to see who has the confidence to send their team mates to the front to ride to go up against Pettachi and Boonen in a bunch sprint! Interestingly enough Boonen didn't send anyone to ride! I felt good again today but the finish was really dangerous today. A 4 km descent into a tight chicane with only 800 meters to go. There was the inevitable crash, which fortunately happened just behind me. The main problem was, the downhill approach meant everybody and their dog was fighting to be in the front causing carnage all over the place. Then just to finish things off the last 700 meters were up hill so there were riders getting dropped left right and centre! I got stuck behind someone from Unibet that couldn't hold the wheel and my sprint was over! That's the problem with bunch sprinting, you need a bit of luck... unless you are Pettachi it seems!
Fortunately the climb at the beginning of the stage was not as hard as the previous couple of days otherwise I think we could have had another day of frustration for the sprinters! Today the climb was hard enough for the break to get away but not hard enough for them to get enough of a gap to stay away to the finish. Milam and leaders Unibet shared the pace setting in the bunch, which didn't seem to drop much below 50km/h all day. The break was finally caught 30 km to go. Milram continued to keep the tempo high to set Pettachi up for a bunch sprint. I was feeling better as the stage went on so I decided to have a go today! I was able to stay near the font on the frantic build up to the finish. It was a good finish to compete against the lead out trains as there was a strong head wind, which makes it much easier to move up and if you're strong, to stay there. There were 3 nasty corners in the last 2km - which we had studied as we thought it was going to be a good stage for Max - which again was to my advantage as corners are great for messing up lead out trains! I was luck and came out of the last corner, with 400 meters to go on Pettachi's wheel, Perfect! I was waiting for the acceleration, but instead Marco Velo (Milam) came from behind! I was afraid of getting swamped so I went with him. I think he realised I was there so he stalled, baulking me for a second as Pettachi went the other side of the road! I went after him but I couldn't get my 11 sprocket! As it was a flat and very fast sprint the 2 really small details were enough for me to lose a bike length, against Pettachi and Boonen that is too much! I'm pleased with how I'm going though.
Today was almost a re-run of yesterdays stage! Thanks to the organiser for putting a 9km climb at the beginning of the stage again! Literally we rode about 500 meters after the start flag and the road went up! With the start of the climb came the first attack and the race was on until 9 riders prized themselves clear. I was good enough to stay at the front of the peleton but to go with the leaders wasn't possible...yet! The sun shone today though so there was much more enthusiasm to race today, at least with the sports directors. T-Mobile started to chase immediately. I heard later it was a directors decision much to the dismay of the riders! They rode fast though! It was a long gradual decent but we seemed to be constantly above 65 km/h! They chased for 30km but only took 30 seconds off the lead before Milam (Pettachi's new team) joined the chase. They took a further 30 seconds before both teams gave up. I was impressed at how fast the 9 riders in the front must have been riding. The peleton seemed to be in one long line for ages! In the end the leaders stayed away, Tricky (Beltran) from Discovery finished 7th. The finish was really hard, the last 5 km were uphill so I tried to stay near the front to see how I am going. It was frantic towards the end with the 7 riders from yesterdays stage trying to attack each other! I was able to stay in the front but in the sprint I was boxed in a bit and didn't want to risk forcing myself out so I eased off but was happy I was in the front
There it is! The first race of the year. How strange it was too! After our second training camp and a 6.5 hour transfer yesterday I was feeling a bit bloated today. I needed a few kilometers to get going and ultimately to find the racing rhythm but it wasn't to be! With the first climb after 24 kilometers it was always going to be hard to start but I didn't anticipate it being that hard! I felt pretty rough on the climb but there were nearly 30 riders dropped so the fact I stayed in the front was good for my moral. By the top of the 5 km climb though 3 riders had gone vaguely clear closely followed by 4 others. The remainder of the bunch - me included - started the decent about 30 seconds in arrears. Normally not too much of a problem given the fact a lot of the teams were not represented. Over the top of the climb there was a really dense fog which made the roads wet. In Spain the roads are so dirty, with the slightest humidity they become ice rinks! Somebody punctured on the descent, 3 riders tried to brake and fell immediately. Several more panicked and joined them on the floor! I was happy I had ridden some 'cross this winter as I did do quite a lot of sliding around, in a straight line! The temperament of the peleton must be very fragile as that was enough for majority to throw them towel in for the day and with that any chance of the overall. The bunch coasted in more than 30 minutes behind! I got my recovery day after all!
Finally the new season is upon us! Today is the first stage of Ruta del Sol. It is the latest I have started my road season for many years! In the mean time we have been training hard. Last week we spent another week in the South of Spain (Javea) putting the final touches to our winter base training, coupled with the obligatory races up the long climbs!! It was also a chance to test the new products we'll be using this year. The bikes will stay the same as last year apart from the 2006 paint work. We got to try out the new deep section carbon wheels from Bontrager. Garmin have also leant me a GPS computer called the Edge. It is amazing the things you can do with this computer. The function that fascinates me the most is the ability to race 'yourself' around your training circuits. The routes can then be plotted on a computer to be analised! Finally Nike have developed their road shoes. I used the Lance model last year. This shoe has been further developed for 2006 with a few subtle changes. The full carbon sole has a more curved shape making it more comfortable for longer rides. The shape of the upper has also been altered to maintain the snug fit, they definitely feel very comfortable.
Happy New Year to you all! We have now moved from Solvang (where we have been based for the last 10 days for our pre season training camp) to Ojai, California for a Sponsors weekend. It is the final part of this trip before we head back to brave the cold conditions in Europe and the opening races of the season!
The camp has been a success personally. I have been able to train really well and have felt better everyday despite the long rides and hard climbs! We have been riding between 4 and 6.5 hours per day with a rest day in Los Angeles for the team presentation half way though (more on that later!)
There is a lot more to the camp than just riding though. We have been given all our new clothing and some new equipment for the 2006 season. The Jersey has been changed this year to make it more visible in the peleton, which was a problem for us last year. It has been a bit like Christmas all over again, it never ceases to amaze me at how much clothing and equipment is needed to keep us going! Also, AMD have given us all a Lance signed laptop to help pass the time and to hopefully enable me to keep my site updated as the year passes! In between times we have various media commitments, such as team photos and interviews for the Discovery Channel and the other Journalists that have traveled to California to see our preparations for the forthcoming season. Which bring me onto the team presentation! We were once again treated like rock stars! We stayed the night in the Beverly Hills Hilton (host to the Golden Globes 1 week earlier. We were then taken to the Museum of sound and motion in the centre of Beverly Hills for a glitzy team presentation followed by interviews with the press. It was all a bit strange, even the car rentals were really posh, I've never seen a 'Hertz' with Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porches ready for rent!