Italy, April 3, 2005: 20:54pm
I just got home from Tuscany after doing two one dayers on the weekend. It was a stressful few days with selection for the Giro team being the reason. I felt like I was back at the Under 12 soccer try-outs. Not much has changed though in 15 years, as I remember back to the reason I left that sport.
I was trying out for right winger where I always played, but the other player trying out for that position was the manager's son. What chance did I have? That was the reason I finally left that sport and took up cycling. Now I saw myself racing other Italians to get a position in their home tour, was it possible? Well, apparently it is, as Russ and I both got the nod to ride a lap of Italy only 12 hours ago. They wouldn't want to give us too much notice, eh!
To be honest, three weeks ago I thought my chances on riding my second Giro were limited, but as soon as I unclipped after Sunday's race, I knew there was no possible reason I could miss out. The team director said the selection would go on form, but you just never know... we are Aussies, there are five Italians in the team, 13 riders in total for 9 positions, and it's an Italian tour. They stuck to their word though and Russ and I are both lining up in Calabria on Saturday.
After having five weeks with only three one dayers, I then had six days of racing in eight days. I knew it was going to be a shock to the system. I had the km's in the legs but knew I didn't have race fitness. Racing is racing, I don't care how hard you can train, you cannot go as hard as you'll push yourself in a race.
The first race was Giro d'Oro in Trentino. It was a lumpy race with two hard climbs coming in the last 30km. I was traveling alright all day but when we hit 30km to go, I just couldn't go with them when they lit it up. Just like I said, but I wasn't concerned. My team-mate Rujano was third.
Next up was Giro Trentino and I knew I was in for a rough time. I have heard plenty of stories about this tour, and they have all been bad. You pretty much climb to the clouds everyday in shit weather. This year, however, we were very lucky with the weather. It was fairly warm and never rained. Twice it rained before the stage and straight after, but it stayed dry for the race - that's what I like to see! Accommodation too, was incredible. We were staying in little hotels in the middle of nowhere, 1000m high with mountains everywhere.
On the racing side of things, it all went well. Three days out of four, I finished in gruppetto, but everyday I was feeling and getting better, and rode within myself the whole tour. I could feel myself getting fitter and stronger everyday. Normally, I start going downhill at the end of a tour, but this time it was the opposite, I was only feeling better. So yeah, it was a good, hard training race, but I also had to try and impress the team before I settled back for another day in gruppetto.
It is not easy trying to go with the early break when they are attacking at 40km/h uphill; don't know about anyone else, but I can't do that... Scotty Davis was the only other Aussie there, and in this day of age, this is a rarity. Scotty was in the same position as me, having not done much racing, so we had many chances to change up. There were plenty of comments coming from both of us about how our directors wanted us to get in the early break, but when the break goes up a climb at that speed, it's not possible for either of us. Our team only finished with four, and my team-mate Rujano won the young riders overall classification.
After Trentino, we were straight off to Genova for Giro dell'Appennino. We had a day off between the two races, but it rained all day and I didn't get much of a chance to get a ride in, so come race day, the legs weren't too good. I needed a good two hour ride to get the crap out of the legs, but that never eventuated. I started the race with sore legs and they didn't get much better throughout the day. I didn't finish, had a bad day on the bike and hurt the morale.
A couple of rest days, a 220km hard training day, a few more rest days and we lined up in GP Larciano and Giro di Toscana on the weekend. As I was saying before, there was a lot of pressure on us and to be honest, it sucked! We were not racing as a team; some riders were far from friendly to others and it was completely obvious riders were racing each other. It's not right to have team-mates racing each other, but if they wanna play that game, fine, we will too. In the Giro di Toscana, after going to the car to get water numerous times, the only time I got a bidon was off a rider from another team. In saying that though, the team has been selected and everything is back to normal like nothing has happened. The team went training today, and the team morale is better than ever. At least that's one thing.
Both races were hard and both races were 200km. I finished both and felt good both days. Going with the breaks at the start and going with the middle markers on the climbs. The form is on the way up just in time, a week earlier and I might've been me watching the Giro on TV next week, and having no racing for two months.
We are off to Calabria tomorrow in southern Italy, where the Giro starts. 23 days later it will arrive in Milan as usual. I just got an SMS off Brett Lancaster two minutes ago and we have come to the conclusion there will be 13 or 14 Aussies in the Giro this year. That is six more than last year's Giro and a record. We are going to run amuck in the tour village in the morning with those short blacks and drive the Italians crazy with the Aussie lingo and slang in the bunch in the quiet periods when we're not biting the handle bars!
I think the 14 are: McEwen, Gatesy and Vogels from Lotto, O'Grady and Whitey from Cofidis, Boss Roberts from CSC, Hayman and Sutherland from Rabo, Cooke, Matty Wilson and Renshaw from FdJ, Lancaster from Panaria and, of course, Russ and I. Put us together with Kiwi Julian Dean and Pommies Charlie Wegelius and Brad Wiggins and a few Americans, the English speakers are taking over! That's over 10 percent of the peloton.
Well, this will no doubt be my last diary that sounds this FRESH; look forward to a few pages of dribble as I lie semi-conscious writing my next few diary entries in the coming weeks. I still don't know which is worse; not knowing what is in store for me, or know that it's one big hurt-fest...