Ciao a tutti. Hello to everyone.
This is my first blog for Cyclingnews and I feel, to be honest, pretty honoured to be here.
I'll try not to be boring in the blog because I hate anything that is bland, but hopefully via this blog you'll gain a better idea of what I'm really like as person as well as a bike rider.
During the Tour of Qatar you might have seen a photograph of my back showing my tattoos. I'm in the middle of having a huge carp done, because in eastern culture it's a fish that's supposed to bring good luck.
The writing across my shoulders says: "Only God can judge me". I had it done as a message to all those people who like to judge me without ever having really gotten to know me. It's easy to be judgmental but the truth is there's only one person who can judge us.
If people judge me on my hairstyle or the colour of my shoes, then they're the ones who are superficial because they judge me on how I look, not on who I really am.
I know that some people think I'm the David Beckham of the peloton, but since Beckham has played for AC Milan, he's proved he's a great athlete as well as a global sports star.
Some people think I've failed to win a major classic in recent years because I don't like to suffer in training but I know I work hard. When I'm in Italy I go out with Ballan and the other guys in the Veneto area, and they complain that I stayed out on the bike for too long.
Of course some people think we should still live like the riders in Fausto Coppi's era did. They lived like monks and only thought about riding their bikes but they also raced for 400km and knew little about modern day physiology. We work hard; otherwise we wouldn't be able to race like we do. But after we've done our training and racing, I think it's only right that we're allowed to have a private life and some kind of social life.
I've worked a lot this winter and my SRM doesn't lie. I've clocked 500 kilometres less than last year but I've got more days of racing in my legs. I managed to avoid most of the bad weather because we had a good training camp in Calpe in December, then I rode the Tour de San Luis in Argentina in January and now I'm doing a good block of racing in Qatar and Oman.
The stages over here might not be that long and the roads were very flat in Qatar but it's a great way of putting down a base. We often rode back to the hotel after the stages in Qatar and the racing was pretty fast, so it was quality stuff, with a lot of work at your threshold. Almost all the Classics riders are here and so that indicates it's the best way to get ready for the spring.
When I get home I'll have two rest days and then get back in training and keep working on my strength and endurance. My first goal is Het Nieuwsblad at the end of the month. Even though we'll be racing in the cold in Belgium after two weeks in the sun, I want to do well there to put down a mark and see how I'm doing compared to the other guys.
My big goals for the season are as usual Milano-Sanremo, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. They're the three big ones. Hopefully I can win at least one of them. Of course if I don't win, don't judge me without knowing what really happened.