Australia, November 13, 2006
Well last time I wrote I didn't even know if I was riding the Sun Tour. Now the Sunnie has been run and won and the offy (off season) is nearly over - time has just gone too quick!
I went to the Sun Tour with mixed emotions after coming home from the States injured and pulling out of my pet race - the Grafton (to Inverell Cycle Classic). A week later I finished third in the Goulburn (to Sydney Cycle Classic) but was still far from happy with my form. During the two weeks before the Sunnie I did a few long rides but mainly I was recovering and hoping for the best.
Seven-days later I couldn't believe the tour I had, not only was it successful but a hell of a lot of fun. With the team comprising of (Robbie) McEwen, (Henk) Vogels, (Trent) Lowe, (Tony) Mann, (Simon) Gerrans, Matt Wilson and myself - it was not short of a few big names! What people don't know is how much fun we had. Aussie's are just different I reckon. If you took seven Italians from six different professional teams and put all together, there's no way they'd gel as well as we did.
The way we all worked for Gerrans in the last stage - you'd think we'd been team mates for years! We did stuff in the tour without mention of it and went about our job, but I suppose that's what happens when you put seven pros together. Apart from having a great bunch of blokes, that were also good bike riders, we had a great support crew lead by Davo Sanders. The other main ingredient that kept moral high one week from the end of the season was a few beers each night. It did not need to be said from day one of the tour, that whoever was first off the massage table got the case of beer for the night.
Anyone that knows me knows I am not a sprinter and not a pure climber, so wins don't come as often to me as others. So, when I finally got a stage win in the Sun Tour, after riding it for seven years, you can imagine my reaction! I was absolutely stoked and think I saluted for about 400m and celebrated a lot longer during the night. What I didn't expect was the reaction from the other guys, they were almost happier than me and knew what it meant to me. The team could've brought the race back for McEwen to win the bunch sprint but instead decided to let me have my day, an opportunity I really appreciated.
The stage itself was quite undulating and had two categorised climbs. I was aggressive from the start and determined to get into the break. Twelve of us established a break which split and dropped me back at the second climb but I regained contact after the descent. We were down to six riders and I didn't feel good all day. An in form Willo doesn't get dropped on hills and I didn't have the legs, so I don't reckon I came good, I just think everyone else slowed down.
Matt Lloyd and I attacked and attacked and finally got away. He rode awesome but, unfortunately for him, I won. Lloyd is going to be one hell of a good rider - I was very happy to see him win three days later on the mountain.
After a few close days of racing, it came down to the last day and the team won the race. The whole team rode so strong that Robbie won the stage while Gerrans took the tour victory.
On the first weekend of the offy Sophie and I went to the wineries in the Hunter Valley, two hours north of Sydney, for the weekend to enjoy some good food, wine and to blow my winnings on updating the wine cellar at home.
The following week was Noosa - which was a great week away, as always. An upgrade in accommodation overlooking the beach this year made it even better. The week was filled with two golf games, a lot of beach time, a couple of barbeques, some pubs and one hell of a hard race. One hour of hell is worth doing for the week away, but in the middle of the offy that criterium hurts like nothing else.
Apart from that, the golf sticks have been getting a work out and my scores are actually slowly coming down. Big Steve Wooldridge and I even had an afternoon down the local lawn bowls club - which is a lot of fun and never short of a few laughs.
Finally we had a great day out at Royal Randwick for the Melbourne Cup last week. As you can see (pictured right) I went for the traditional pin-strip suit while Hoppy (Jeff Hopkins) brought out the retro 1970s suit.
As for 2007 news, I have re-signed with Jittery Joe's and very happy to be back with Micah Rice and DS Jesse Lawler. My partner in crime, Hoppy, will again be back as well as Evan Elken, Neil Shirly, Austin King. Columbian Caser Graeles is making a return and they have signed three new guys. To improve the criterium team they have also signed two new Aussies - Cody Stevenson and Tommy Nankervis.
I am back in the gym and will be back on the bike starting the pre-season training on Monday.