March 8, 2008
Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. It has been way too long since my last diary entry and I am truly sorry for that! But we'll skip the excuses and jump right into things with a brief re-cap and what is going on with myself at the moment.
Last year saw the end of an era. The Navigators Insurance Pro Cycling Team closed up shop and a 14-year reign as one of the top US teams on the planet ended... That meant everyone had to find new jobs in or out of the peloton. Luckily, for most of us we can still be found cruising the roads in a new set of colours. Myself, Ben Brooks and Valeriy Kobzarenko all picked up a ride in a new US-based Continental Team, Team Type 1. We are also lucky enough to have the director and assistant DS from Navs with us here, Ed Beamon and Vassili Davidenko, which is always a good thing, to already know your management when jumping into a new team. The team has a great line-up and great initiative but I will explain that more another time.
First event on the cards was the NZ nationals in early January. After toughing out the winter here in Belgium and a few other problems along the way, I left myself a little under-done for some early season form and the defence of the time trial. But I headed over anyway and gave it a shot. The event was held in Hastings and organised by my NZ club Ramblers. Hastings is also where my good mate and ex team-mate Jeremy Vennell lives, so it was great to catch up with him and his family. Running fifth and unable to walk properly for the next two days was how the TT panned out and I got ninth in the road race; it was a pretty good circuit and damn hot – by the end of the race the tar had totally seeped through the stone on the roads. At some point you weren't sure whether you could slip on the stuff or totally stick to it??
So that was a quick trip to Aotearoa (Maori for NZ, which translates to 'The Land of the Long White Cloud') over and done with and I headed back to Belgium for a couple of weeks, before going to Malaysia and the Tour de Langkawi, which didn't actually race on the island of Langkawi this year?
So this was first official race as Team Type 1 and we weren't about to disappoint our ever increasing supporters and fans. The line-up for the tour was myself, Ben Brooks, Matt Wilson, Fabio Calabria, Ian Macgregor and Moises Aldape. We were all greeted with nice hot weather, nine stages and all flat but one. An early break at the beginning of the tour was always on the cards and Matt and myself were part of a 19-man group to finish more than 20 minutes ahead of the rest of the field on stage one. The first stage had a few time bonus sprints during it and our objective was to try and get Matt across the line first in a couple of them, which he did no probs! The rest of the tour saw not much action GC wise, but as many riders were a long way down on time that gave everyone of them the thought of being able to attack and attack and attack until finally after a while a break of three or four would get away and the field was happy with that. Most of the small breaks were formed due to Asian riders attacking when the field stopped for a piss stop. There were quiet some interesting arguments in the peloton at times, which gave everyone a good laugh!
My hat goes off to an Iranian rider who was getting picked on by a loud-mouthed Italian (which one you ask? there are so many...), anyway, he was going off at him and I think there was even a bottle thrown at him and when the Iranian had enough and told him to step off the bike and let's get it on, the Italian faded away back into the protection of his fellow mouthers!
By stage six I had turned into survivor man, as I woke up with a massive headache and high fever. I thought that maybe I could keep battling through and I maybe become better by the final couple of stages. I didn't just wanna give up as I was riding for GC and we were also running second on teams, which was a great result for us. Plus my wife was reading me all the supporters mails on our team web site, www.teamtype1.org, and how can I stop when we get so much support like that! So I just kept on trucking and surviving, visiting the race doctor every afternoon for some re-hydration meds.
Stage nine was upon us and I had even managed to move up into 13th spot overall, but a small hill on the final days circuit race in downtown Kuala Lumpur was to be my demise, the fast and furious pace of the final laps saw the elastic band between myself and the bunch snap with two laps to go. But I cruised around fast enough to keep me in the top 20 overall – at 19th. Matt ended up tenth overall and we finished second in the teams classement. A good first outing for the squad.
Directly after the stage we popped past the markets in Chinatown for some lovely products, which were all guaranteed genuine replicas.......
And thus ends part one of a New Beginning, otherwise my story would be way too long. Stay tuned in the coming days for the second half of my tale.......