As Iʼm typing this Iʼm on my way to Pisa for Trofeo Laigueglia on Friday. I think it hasnʼt really sunk in yet that the season has officially started again. I guess with the busy travelling schedule coming up it wonʼt take long.
We recently had our first 2014 European training camp in Mallorca. We spent 2 weeks in Iberostar Hotel close to Playa de Muro before the 4 one day races of Challenge Mallorca. We were greeted with perfect training weather, windy, but dry.
We immediately got straight to business doing 3 day on 1 day off blocks of training. We made sure we got comfortable in our new Castelli chamois as the hours we spent in them were long. Our daily routine started with a core session every morning before breakfast. After calibrating to the slightly earlier wake up time than Iʼm used to as Iʼm living the real ʻSpanish styleʼ lifestyle I got to enjoy it. Nothing wakes you up faster than doing a plank!
Training started 10am and it ranged anything from 4-6 hours depending on the training block and efforts we had to do. Some days we split into 2 groups dividing the Classics and Climbing squad or as we preferred that day.
I was really excited to start the season in Trofeo Palma. A few laps up and down the beach front of Palma. Flat and definite huge bunch sprint. We used the day to get the blood flowing through our legs. It was a ordinary race. Quick break which got brought back 15k to go. And then the chaotic 200 rider bunch sprint to the finish.
The next race suited us much better and we had a good chance with Gerald to win. It was a VERY windy and tense day. We raced 3 laps to total 183km and basically all along the route there was a possibility for a team to do damage to the field. This meant everyone wanted to ride at the front and thatʼs impossible on some of that narrow road.
We had bad luck as Gerald smashed into a rock lying in the road. Plan B- work for Kristian. I tried my best to keep the guys out of the wind in the gutter sections and staying at the front as much as possible. The finish was super fast with a tailwind. We were knocking on 70km/h heading into the finale. As usual there was a crash 2-1km to go which made our sprint train lose each other. Kristian still managed a respectable 10th.
Tuesday, the 3rd day and race, finally had some hills in them which I was looking forward to after spending 2 days in massive 200 rider sprint finishes. We started in the home town of Linus. Heʼs an even bigger coffee addict than me so we obviously rumbled his Nespresso before the stage started. We needed all the caffein as the start was 8km uphill. Then a windy and dangerous decent followed by a twisty undulating road along the coast.
With Linusʼs extensive knowledge of the area it was kind of easy to know where to be when. The race started flatbox with everyone trying to be in the break. Everyone was on the limit going up there. Ignas did a great job to cover a dangerous break. Along the coast, just as Linus said, the bunch was strung out in single file with gaps appearing. Most of us were at the front ready for whats to come.
Again, after setting up a perfect race, we suffered bad luck. My job was to deliver Daniel top 15 positions entering the Coll de Soller (twisty switchback climb with even more twisty downhill). Martin Reimer had to do the same with Linus and Ignas with Sergio. I delivered Daniel in the chaos and as we started climbing realized Linus was M.I.A.
I slowly slid back looking for him (Oh ja, he was our main rider of the day). He suffered a few broken spokes and had to change wheels with Martin. I eventually found him in the convoy and did a long pull to try and bring him to the back of the strung out peloton where Ignas was waiting. Once I did that Ignas took over the pacing and they tried to get back into the race. It was basically mission impossible as he lost sooo much time changing wheels, twice, but still they gave 100%.
Sergio was our top finisher. I found the grupetto and cruised (as easy as one can up a 15km climb before the finish) to the end.
The last day gave us another opportunity to get a result. If Gerald recovered well and fast from the crash, and it wasnʼt too fast up the two cat 2 climbs after 40km, he could finish it off for us. If not, then we had Linus and Sergio to climb with the best.
As always the break took ages to get away. I really wanted to be in it. The previous night a fellow Saffa and friend Jeanne Nell had a fatal crash on the velodrome. I wanted to make the day special and try to make a difference as you realize how quickly it could be your last race. Over the top of the first cat 2 I saw Sky slightly let up the fast pace to let the break of 10 riders open up a gap. I took the opportunity and jumped across. Made it. It wasnʼt an easy break.
It consisted of many good riders and most of the big teams which meant Sky kept us at 1min20-1min30 all day. Up the Coll de Soller they opened up the gas and the gap came down quickly. My mission was to get to the top of Soller and still be in the first group with Linus and co. Made it again, just just. By then I spent too much energy and entering the final climb my legs gave in with the high pace of Sky. Once again I found myself in a big grupetto and we rolled to the finish.
Iʼm happy with how the season started. No personal result, but good solid racing and efforts to open up the legs. I also surprised myself with my climbing ability during these races being able to go over the top of big climbs comfortable with the first group. It was great to be back home in Girona for a few days after 2,5 weeks in a hotel. My girlfriend Melissa came for Valentines weekend and it was the perfect breather to get ready for this Fridays Trofeo Laigueglia. Hopefully my legs keep going as they did in Mallorca.