Janez Brajkovic: Finding new motivation with UnitedHealthcare

Slovenian climber focused on Critérium International and Tour of California

Hello Cyclingnews readers. Welcome to my blog. I want to share my experiences with my new UnitedHealthcare team with you this year. For me, UnitedHealthcare is a different kind of team. I feel happy again in this team. When I fly to the races or when I'm meeting my teammates, I feel happy. To me they're like a second family, and I've been really missing that in the past. It's nice to have this feeling back.

I just returned home form San Luis after 47 hours of travel, but it was not too bad. I got lucky, I was upgraded from Buenos Aires to Dallas, and then I flew business class home as well. Being able to stretch out makes a big difference.

Things have been going great with the team. After our camp in Asheville, North Carolina, I came home, and then before Tour de San Luis I had a little training camp in Tucson, Arizona with Kiel Reijnen. We shared a room and spent a couple weeks training together, and I got to know him better. He's a pretty cool guy.

It was pretty chilly but sunny for the first few days, then it got better, with temperatures in the high 60s all the time. We got a couple days of rain, which is pretty unusual. It was perfect compared with Europe where there's snow most of the time and bad weather. I really enjoyed that training camp a lot.

The training was good, and I did a lot of climbing. Tucson isn't as good as Colorado or Asheville - for me, Asheville has the best roads I've seen in America so far - but Tucson has better weather. I rode Mt. Lemmon all the time. It's almost 30 miles long - so it's a very long climb, going from about 2000 feet up to almost 9000 feet. It's very beautiful. We saw a few others - a lot of Canadians, Joe Dombrowski, and Tom Danielson, out there as well.

During the camp, I went to the wind tunnel in Scottsdale. It was a cool day - I got there at around 9:30 and everything was prepared. I did a three-hour session, with 17 runs, each about 5-6 minutes in the wind tunnel. It was pretty hard work to be honest. I didn't want to do the wind tunnel without simulating race conditions, because when you're going full gas it's different.

To find the most comfortable, powerful and aerodynamic position we could, I tried to go 360 watts for a few minutes in each position to see how it felt. We would measure drag, heart rate and comfort. We ended with a pretty aggressive position that's fast. We tried one that was just a little more aero, but it was really uncomfortable, and after a few minutes I stopped the test. My heart rate was way higher than it was supposed to be. I think we did a good job in the end.

I rode the bike in the Tour de San Luis and it felt comfortable in the time trial, but I just don't have the power yet. To be honest, I have not been training like other years. I hadn't done any intensity prior to the Tour de San Luis. I was pretty surprised actually to be able to put out such high numbers as I had at the race. I had a bad day on the last mountain stage, but without that I think I'd have been top 10. That's a pretty good result for January, especially since my objectives are Criterium International at the end of March and Tour of California in May.

Speaking of May, UnitedHealthcare did not get invited to the Giro d'Italia, but to be honest it was not a big blow. We still have Tour of California, which is very important for the team. I think if we have a good season we might get into the Vuelta. For the team like UnitedHealthcare, I think it's the best Grand Tour to start with. I wouldn't say I was disappointed or angry, it's just the way things work.

Now, after a day of rest, I will fly to Dubai, so there won't be much more training until the end of March. I will just try to assimilate the work from Tour de San Luis, try to get better, and not to get sick. that's the most important thing. With San Luis in my legs, I should see some higher power numbers in Dubai already, although I don't think it's the race that suits me, I'll do my best for the team and try to use the race as really hard training block.

After a few recovery days I will then focus on Ruta del Sol. I think that will be a pretty good race. I would like to be good there, there will be Froome, Quintana and all those guys there, so being competitive there would be a big deal.

After that, I'll do Malaysia, Criterium International - there's not much training going on, it's just racing and recovery and a few training days in between. After Criterium, I'll have one month to prepare for Tour of the Gila and California. At the end of March, we'll start with some serious training for Tour of California.

In between the spring races, I'll ride the TT bike. I have one here at home, so that makes things very easy. Once or twice a week I'll ride the TT bike, and it will be perfect to improve my time trialling.

I know it sounds like I'm sugar coating things, but I've never been as happy as I am on this team. Honestly, it's just an amazing team with amazing staff and management, sponsors and riders. I really feel like I'm part of the family.

That's what counts for me. If I'm happy, I'm motivated, and if I'm motivated, eventually I'll start getting results, and I have a feeling this will happen really soon.

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