March 27, 2008
I am back in Nash-Vegas, just arrived a few days ago after a ten-day training camp in Georgia, USA. I've just arrived home from training and I can say I got snowed on. I wouldn't get too carried away, it was no blizzard but it's enough for this warm-blooded Sydney-sider to carry on about.
It was good to roll into Nashie a few days ago and catch up with a few of my old mates. The boys were pretty keen to catch up and wouldn't even take "no" for an answer. After saying "no" on the phone twice, the guys resorted to driving around to pick me up. One guy I was particularly happy to catch up with was Sharpie, I have to give this guy a 'shout out.' He's our sock sponsor and actually has a sock called 'the willo' which has four inches of sock height. His socks are the best, end of story! I am back living with my DS, good mate Jesse and his wife Jen.
The last week in Sydney was spent as it always is, running around getting stuff sorted and tying loose ends, along with catching up with family and friends. I got my annual 'going away' golf day in a few days before leaving. I shot a very impressive 125, I got my money's worth around the former PGA course. The par five holes really need to be more like a par seven.
My trip to the States was a nightmare. This is my ninth season racing overseas, and my seventh as a professional and I have had some epic journeys, but nothing like this one. It started with a two-hour drive in Sydney's peak hour traffic, which left me cursing at everything and pretty happy to leave the city. Once I was through customs it turned pear shaped, our flight got delayed time and time again and eventually left the runway 12 hours late and 10 minutes before curfew.
It was one thing after another. Firstly, engine problems, we got on the flight and the problem was still there, then they had to change the crew, then the meals went off, then they changed the crew again before we finally took off. Once getting to Los Angeles, I got on the red eye flight to Atlanta. After getting the middle seat from Sydney to LA, it was awesome to get upgraded to business class for that short trip. Door to door the trip was 39 hours. That alone is bad, but then I was straight into a ten day training camp. That afternoon on the sponsors ride I found myself falling asleep on the bike.
With the trip behind me, the training camp was great. After two easy days we jumped into a solid three-day block on the undulating roads of Madison, Georgia. We then had the team launch at Terrapin Brewery (where we got to sample a few brews), a day easy and then three days in the Georgia mountains. I pretty much got my butt handed to me the entire training camp, I felt like I was chasing my tail to recover all week. On top of all the kilometres we did, we had a fair bit of publicity to do along with photos and meeting. It was full gas the entire camp, but it was a good time. We have a great bunch of guys on the team this year, and as a first I will give a quick rundown of the squadra....
- Jesse Lawler: The "boss," not Bruce Springsteen, but our director sportif. Not only does he do an awesome job but he's a top bloke too. Best DS I've ever ridden under.
- Neil Shirley: Third in last years USPRO road race. He's riding the cloud nine after a great 2007 and new baby girl.
- Evan Elkin: He's back for his 17th year with the JJ's team. Nah jokes, he is though the longest serving rider. The former baseball pitcher is without doubt the winner of the most weight lost in the pre-season. He looks ripped and is going to shock a few this season.
- Cody Stevenson: Cody looks lean, haven't seen Stevo yet! The San Diego pre-season with Shirls has definitely paid off for the five-foot of fury. By the way, read his diary entry for the differences of Cody and me. We look nothing alike, I'm better looking.
- Matt Shriver: The worst thing he did in 2007 was say he hated the nickname 'Shirvo.' He doesn't sprint like Matt Shirvington but man, he can climb.
- Tim Henry: The man with two first names also has had an eventful offy, getting engaged. With a bad knee he's going to be sidelined for a while but should shine in summer.
- Ben 'Diesel' Kneller: Mate, how strong is this guy? A new guy on the team and a neo-pro, he turns up to camp with a broken collar bone and rides the entire camp in the saddle without complaint. Hard as nails...
- Ryan Sullivan: Just like his brother, strong on the bike and dry-funny off the bike. He's going to be a good asset, on and off the bike.
- Jonathon Cantwell: He's going to win some races! Enough said.
- Jared Barrilleaux: This young neo-pro who we have nicknamed 'Junior' is good. Watch out for this kid in the future, oozing with talent, he's a former quarter back, tri-athlete, runner and golfer. He's a born athlete.
- Chad Hartley: Already the class clown of the team he is going to be valuable on the bike and a necessity off the bike for team moral.
With the guys mentioned above we have a good team with all sorts of personalities, it'll be a good year. To my sparring partner Hoppy, it'll be a shame not to have the red mullet flapping in the breeze next to me. Also after riding with Austin King for the past two seasons, Kinga has decided to rack the bike and get a nine-to-five job; we'll miss you mate!
I am off to California tomorrow for some good weather and some good racing. The 2008 campaign is about to begin.