It feels like the TDU has only just begun and already I’m on the plane, heading back to Europe.
We finished off on Sunday with a 90km criterium race around the city of Adelaide. 30 laps of a fairly flat circuit with only a couple of tight corners. Looking at it from the outside it would be a walk in the park, a formality one would think. As always in the world of cycling, assumption is a mistake. I started the race ready but relaxed; the plan was we would ride as conservatively as possible early on, saving every last ounce of energy we had for the final three laps. If a breakaway went we didn’t care, we were putting all of our eggs in one basket today for Gert [Steegmans] in the sprint.
So, as I said, I started the race pretty chilled out, happy to be coming towards the end of the TDU and ready to enjoy a few laps around town. Lap one and the race was on, full gas from the start. Again, like two days ago, I was too far towards the back. I didn’t anticipate how fast we would start. GreenEdge, for some strange reason, thought it would be a good idea to go on the attack, even though they had the leader’s jersey and not much to gain.
I was cursing them for the first five laps as I was fighting to move up and be on the right side of the elastic that was about to snap at any moment. One by one, riders were being dropped; after just a few kilometres of racing, there were people dropped! I forgot to mention it was touching 40 degrees again, with not much wind at all, so that just added to the torture.
For a few laps I was on my limit, trying to move up the group as fast as I could. One thing I’ve learnt over the years is that 99% of the time, when you’re absolutely on the limit, you feel like your legs are about to explode and you’re about to come to a total standstill in the road, the rest of the peloton usually are too. Just a few more moments of pain and it would ease off. As soon as it did I was straight to the front and didn’t leave the top 20 until the final lap.
What should have been one of the easiest days this week turned into the most painful moments of 2012 so far!
A few breaks went away and came back and soon enough we were heading into the final laps. I was riding near the front and was just waiting for the rest of the troops to arrive, from now on we needed to hold position and, as always, stick together. When going into the final kilometres of a race, I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay together as a team. Individually against a strong team one guy is nothing, but when we are together we can go where we want and do whatever we want.
Before I knew it we were heading into the final lap; only Gert and Andy Fenn were with me. Three guys against seven is never going to work. Usually the slighter-built guys will help us hold position early on and keep us out of the wind. In turn the more explosive riders will be as fresh as possible for the last few meters where it really counts. They were not there so I had to take on their roll and hope Andy and Gert could do a bit of ‘surfing’ on some other teams’ trains and be close enough to the pointy end of the peloton out of the last corner.
After my last effort my parachute was out and I rolled in at the back of the peloton totally exhausted. I did all I could and finished on my knees so I was happy with my day and my whole race, in fact.
In all honesty I was a little disappointed to come away from the race without a win for the team, only coming close on stage three with Gerald [Ciolek], but my primary objective was complete. Seven days of racing are in the bag. Nobody can take that from me now and for sure I will be in a better position than I was last year and will be one step ahead at the start of Qatar in a couple of weeks time.
With a well-oiled team, with the right attitude, ready to throw it all on the line, being prepared to finish each day at the back of the race totally dead for their leader, I’m sure we can win a lot of races this year.
Now it’s back to reality, a little over one week at home keeping the legs turning, keeping warm and healthy and I’ll be back on the grid at the start of the tour of Qatar.
Already looking forward to it!
Australia, thanks for having us! See you next year (I hope).
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