We’ve had a good week of training here but I’m a little bit over of the room at the Hilton where we all stay. It’s time to race.
I didn’t expect to be any good at the Sun Tour where I kicked off my season a few weeks ago. I was kind of just riding it to make a transition back to summer in Australia. That was a brutal one. After that, at Nationals, I knew I wasn’t going to be at 100 percent because the Sun Tour had been so hot. I couldn’t get the intensity that I would have liked but I still felt comfortable and I was pretty happy with the way it went. I was more focussed on coming to the Tour Down Under.
All that preparation seems to have worked pretty well. I put a lot of work in through December in Monaco. It was gym, training, massage every day for a month. I’d never done a lot of gym before. It was a bit different and I will keep at it throughout the season so hopefully it will help the sprint a little bit.
It was great to start off last night with a podium at the People’s Choice Classic. We didn’t win but it’s really the first sprint I’ve done since the Tour and the Olympics last season. It gives us a bit of confidence heading into the rest of the week.
I think the race overall has probably got a little bit too hard for me now having come second in 2011. If it was the same as last year – maybe. But for me, if I’m going well up Willunga I never used to get dropped up there. With the stage finish up the top, I lose maybe 15-20 seconds. So with the race the way it was, I could get that time back in sprint bonuses. Now I don’t think so. We’ve got Willunga, six laps around Stirling and we’ve got the Corkscrew 7km from the finish in Rostrevor on Wednesday. Last year the race could have gone either way but this year, it won’t be a sprinter who wins the race.
For me this year’s race is about having a crack at a few stages and trying to help Gerro as much as possible. If I can get around Willunga the first time I can definitely help him a long way up there the second time. Same with Corkscrew, it’s at the end of the race and very important. It’s a split role. I’ll definitely take my opportunities.
The first stage on Tuesday is one for me. It’s not really dead flat, it’s a little bit of an uphill sprint. It’s quite lumpy on the finishing circuit – it’s definitely not easy so that suits my style of racing. Hopefully it hurts the other guys’ legs who are still doing their first races! Suffering through the Sun Tour and the Nationals should start to pay some dividends. Getting a win would take a lot a lot of pressure off the team, myself and everyone and make the race a little bit smoother. There’s always pressure racing here in Australia but as always, there’s more pressure from yourself. If it doesn’t happen, there will be other opportunities and we’ve got a lot of other strong riders.
Daryl Impey and Jens Mouris are here to help me in the sprints, it’s also about learning to race together consistently so we get to the big races we’ve got the confidence in each other as well as the experience.
I was on my own when it came to the finish during Sunday night’s criterium but I wasn’t expecting much. It’s difficult because it’s a tight circuit, with a lot of corners, a lot of nervous bike riders and it’s the first race of the season. I think you’ll see us come together over the next week.
This is my first race with Jens since Oman in 2012. He’s so powerful. He’s incredibly strong and he fits in well with Impey and Lancaster – the other guys I’ve been working with. A lot of the time the lead-out isn’t about having one fast guy sitting in front of you. It’s about having a really strong train that can go for one or two kilometres. With Jens he’s a huge addition to that for us if it works out the way we’re hoping. Hopefully he’ll be a good link in trying to change a lot of those seconds and thirds that I had last year into wins.
Julian Dean retired last week; he was supposed to be a key part of my lead-out last year. I would have really liked to have had the opportunity to race more with him but at the same time, maybe I wouldn’t have discovered how valuable Daryl’s been. Daryl’s somebody now who I should be racing with for a fair few years. It may have been somewhat of a blessing in disguise – we know how good he is. He’s at the finish of every bike race I’ve ever been on the finish of and he’s usually bloody strong.