Sydney, November 16, 2005
A three week grand tour feels like an eternity, while a three week break at the end of the season feels like three days. This year I was really looking forward to the off season and I mentally needed a break rather than physically. I also had no idea what I was doing in 2006, so during those three weeks off, motivation to get back on the bike wasn't too high either.
However, that has all changed after I signed with a new team three days ago. It's a new begining, a big change and a little bit exciting. Motivation is through the roof and since throwing the leg over the bike two days ago its been great to be back out on the road with the boys in the Sydney sun. I am off to America in 2006 to ride with the Jittery Joe's pro team. Initially I was unsure weather to make the change to America but after talking to the director Micah Rice I was anything but hesitant. We came to an agreement to suit both sides and I am happy to head to the States.
Things are looking grim in Europe, with pro tour riders out of jobs, not to mention Continental pro teams. Take my team mate Raphael Illiano for example; one minute he's in the maglia azzurra in the Giro 2004, and now he's out of a job. If I stayed in Europe I would have taken a massive pay cut and I still would've been a domestique for another Italian. After talking to Micah Rice I will be taking over the captiancy role which will be a big change after being a sole domestique for four years. I will be joining two other Aussies in the team, while I bid farewell to my mate Russ after a two year stint together. Jeff "Lightnin' Hoppy" Hopkins who I grew up racing with in the U/15's, is on the team as well as mountain biker Peter Hatton, who I believe has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Trent Lowe.
Back in 2002/03 when I was with iTeam Nova I got the chance to race Tour de Georgia, USPRO Champs and Tour de Beauce in Canada, so I got a taste of racing in the US. It is definately going to be different - moving from Europe to the States - but I'm excited to make the move. In saying that I will one day be back in Europe. After finially mastering Italian I will now have to get used to the American slang. Might be an easier language to pick up, I reckon.
As much as I enjoyed my two years with Selle Italia and am stoked that I got the chance to ride two Giros. I am however disappointed how they just flicked four of their riders that made it all happen. They (or should I say WE) made a name for Selle Italia in the Giro this year. Yeah, sure, I didn't win a stage or ride for GC, but the hitters on the team can't race without water or sit out in the wind all day on their own. Raphael Illiano and Marlon Perez, who both swapped the maglia azzurra in 2004 all the way to the finish in Milan, before Raph won it, are now in the same situation as Russ and I. The reason? "Sorry boys, we're bigger and better in 2006 and have riders like Belli, etc, we don't need you, good luck." Yeah, no worries!
If any of my team mates are reading I'd like to say good luck and I will see you guys again somewhere. I would like to say G'day to my Italian family that I grew so close to at Albergo Tina, Cossato. They made Russ and my stay so much more comfortable. So from Cossato, Italy I will be moving to Nashville, Tennesse, to live with Hoppy. So no doubt the diary will be full of plenty more funny stories.
Back to the 'offy' - like I said, it went quick. Four days in Adelaide kickin' back with Russ, a few days in Sydney before heading to Noosa for the criterium and a holiday, plus another week at home in Sydney and I am back on the bike. The last week or so I have been in the ISIS gym at Castle Hill trying to improve on my chicken legs.
Noosa was great and I had one of my best holidays yet. The organisers looked after Harro and I and made it a great few days away. Once again it just went too quick. The days were filled with breaky on the beach, coffees on Hastings Street, body surfing on the beach, barbie's and a few beers. After Noosa the last week of the offy was spent catching up with mates, a bit of beach time and just general relaxing.
After two rides back into the pre season the Sydney weather is making it easy to get back on the bike and my renewed motivation just adds to that. It was a good offy but its great to be back on the bike. I am looking forward to 2006.