So, my racing for 2011 is over, my first season as a pro is done and dusted and wow, what a year it was. I was part of 14 wins this year and completed a total of 72 days’ racing. Maybe this doesn’t sound a lot compared to some of the other guys but considering I didn’t take part in a Grand Tour this year, it’s a fair few days out!
I must say I have enjoyed 2011 more than any other year so far. I know you’re probably tired of hearing people ramble on about HTC and how good it was, but it really was something special and 2011 will be a year I will never forget. From riding Qatar at the start of the year, where Mark Renshaw won, to riding Paris-Tours with my good mate Cav as a world champion, it’s been a great year!
Paris-Tours was my last race with the team. It was a little sad to be wearing that jersey for the last time but I know for sure that I will call all of these guys friends for a long time to come and I will see them all again sometime soon.
Around 10-15 of us from HTC will be moving across to my new team, Omega-Pharma-Quickstep, so I’m hoping we can take a little bit of what HTC had to one of the most respected teams in the peloton, one with a lot of history and character and create one of, if not the best teams in the peloton. One thing’s for sure, we’re gonna have some fun, and thats the main thing, right?
So, what’s next? 2011 season over, I’ve been off the bike for less than one week and I’m already starting to prepare for 2012. I have a few medical issues that I still need to sort out after my run-in with the truck [which broke Matt’s legs several years ago – ed.], so at the moment that’s my priority.
I need to have some metalwork taken out of my left femur and only have a short window of time for the operation, so I’m full-gas trying to get that arranged at the moment. I’m also in contact with my physio and trainer about getting my weak spots ironed out and ready to go before I start back on the bike again. All of these things become quite difficult to do and fit in once you’ve started training again properly, so now is the time to get on it! There’s only 365 days in the year and if you want to be at the top of your game you’ve got to use every last one of them!
Next week I’ll be meeting up with my new team. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as rock n’ roll as last year’s California camp. This year, I’ve got to make do with Brussels! I’m really excited to meet my new team mates and to get a taste of what next year will be like. I’m pretty unsure of what we will be doing, but I guess a bit of media relations, photos, clothing selection and bike fitting and maybe starting to talk about race programs for next year.
I’ve already started to think about what I did wrong this year and what I could have done better and one area for attention is my race program. I really want to have a bit more structure and a plan for the whole year with some races I can really focus on and go for. This year was a little hit-and-miss and I kind of just stumbled upon form every now and then. I suppose this is all part of the learning process. The classics will once again be a big goal for me; after this year I have gained a lot more confidence and really believe I can be successful in the March and April races. I’m not putting my hand up and saying I want to win Paris-Roubaix, but I think I can be competitive and would not be far off a big result in a smaller semi-classic like Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne or Dwars door Vlaanderen-Waregem.
A Grand Tour is on top of my wish list for next year, and if I could choose, it would be the Giro d’Italia. After that, I could look to building towards a smaller stage race like Eneco or Bayern Rundfart. We also have the team time trial at the worlds’ next year. With trade teams lining up instead of national teams we could have an interesting combination.
Next year will sure be interesting. We have four of the best sprinters in the world, and the four “winningest” riders from HTC are all moving on to separate teams next year: Cav to Sky, Renshaw to Rabobank, Gossy to Greenedge and Degenkolb to Skill. Those last few kilometres are going to get interesting. There will be a fair few questions waiting to be answered: will Renshaw, Goss and Dege step up and challenge Cav? Will Sky have the balls to ride as much as we did at HTC?
I personally can’t wait to get started and I’ve only just finished!
So I just want to finish by thanking everybody at HTC-Highroad for a fantastic year and wish everybody good luck in 2012!