- Kenny van Hummel
May 13, 2010, 14:14 BST,
May 13, 2010, 15:30 BST
Kenny tells tales of Turkey, training and a July without the Tour
Black. One sugar. I love my coffee. Two or three cups in the morning or the day just isn't going to happen.
Last month, I tried some Turkish style coffee for the first time. Strong stuff - a little too strong - even for a caffeine addict like me. The cup I had in Istanbul summed up my week at the Tour of Turkey: Bittersweet.
As always, the sweet bits are why I love my job. Beautiful country, fantastic weather and a couple of decent results. On the flip-side, I struggled a lot in the first few days of the race with a stomach bug and then, two stages before the finish, ended up leaving a little bit of my skin on the Turkish roads.
But hey, that's racing - swings and roundabouts, as they say. At least the Tour ended on a positive note for me. I'd taken a third place result on the fifth stage before crashing two days later in the finale of stage seven.
As most of you will know, its tricky sleeping when you've acquired the dreaded road rash and that goes double when you're in the middle of a race. I woke up on the last day of the tour having barely slept the night before, but I was motivated by the fact that I'd be home the next day, so I decided to give it everything I had.
I don't know whether it was the adrenaline or the thoughts of home, but I pulled off a pretty good sprint in the end. Unfortunately, there were two guys quicker on the day, André Greipel and Angelo Furlan. Still, third place with one leg wrapped in bandages isn't too bad. And at least I was on the way home...or so I thought.
You've all read the stories about the effects of the Icelandic volcano. It's amazing how within an instant you can suddenly be so much further from home. In my case, around 28.5 hours further. A couple of teams decided to wait it out in Istanbul, but we decided to get moving. Instead of a straightforward three-and-a-half hour flight back to the Netherlands, we flew across to Barcelona and then caught a bus home from there. Bus or bike? Bike, everytime.
You can't do much about the weather, nor volcanos, as it turns out. Still, a 32-hour journey home isn't the best way of recovering from a tough eight stage tour. Needless to say I was feeling a little bit sluggish for a couple of days after finally arriving back home.
Unlike last year, we didn't have the Four days of Dunkirk on our race programme for this season. That left a week's gap, which is not what you want at this stage of the season when all your rivals will be benefiting from the speed and intensity of racing. So instead, a bunch of guys from our Skil-Shimano team spent last week at a training camp in Limburg.
We did some really long, hard sessions, including a seven-hour ride in the middle of the week. I'm really pleased with how the camp went because I've come out of it with a really good feeling - something I needed after Turkey. Robert Wagner, Robin Chaineau and I did some really good sprint work towards the end of the training camp and it's been a great boost to our confidence and motivation for our next block of racing.
This next block of racing is really important for me. I started winning races at this point last season and I've been building towards the same thing for this year. Unfortunately, as we found out in March, we don't have the Tour de France to look forward to, but you've got to play with the hand you're dealt. Without the Tour, I've planned a busy programme up to June and I'll probably take a short vacation in July.
We're hoping the Vuelta's organisers will have an invite for us this season. I've spoken to team management about it, so if it works out hopefully I'll have a chance of getting another Grand Tour start. Obviously, we're not racing the Giro, but it's been impossible not to be glued to the race with it starting in my home country.
Those first two road stages were absolutely crazy, so many crashes. I understand that it's the Giro, and they always want it to be a spectacle, but I was pretty shocked to see the finish to stage three - a corner 250 metres from the line and on such narrow roads. It would be much safer to have a sprint finish on a wider, open road, like at the Tour.
That said, I'm ready to take a win on any road. The form's there, so fingers crossed. Before I go, I'm in the process of giving my website (www.kennyvanhummel.com) a bit of a facelift at the moment, it'll be finished by the end of this month, so feel free to check it out. But keep you're eyes on Cyclingnews, I'm hoping my name will be topping one of the result sheets soon.
Now, where did I put my coffee cup...
- Kenny van Hummel
March 22, 2010, 16:46 GMT,
March 22, 2010, 16:58 GMT
Kenny reflects on a wild ride at Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne
13 per cent. Yes, I've double checked the maths, it's definitely correct: only 13 per cent of the peloton that started the this year's Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne finished it.
It's been a few weeks since I was part of the smaller section of the equation and its given time to digest what was definitely one of the more incredible experiences of my professional career so far. As a Dutchman I'm used to riding in the wind, even the rain, but I've never seen a race like that before, let alone been part of it.
For those that might have missed it, a storm system violent enough to be given a name - Xynthia - whipped its way across Europe on the Sunday of Kuurne. While France, Spain and Portugal were worst hit, for us in Belgium it meant a very wet, very windy day on the bike.
In my last Cyclingnews blog I mentioned how many layers of clothing I'd been wearing to fight the bitter cold of winter in the Netherlands. Ironically, it was a decision to cut the number of layers I was wearing during Kuurne that I think helped me make it across the finish line.
I rode the race with just two jerseys, and my rain jacket stayed in my back pocket the whole time. Sure, I got wet, but whenever there was a break in the rain I had a chance to dry out a little, instead of being wind-chilled by a sweaty, rain jacket-covered jersey.
I finished 17th out of the 26 of us that finished. You might ask why I rode all the way to the finish on such a horrid day? The answer is two-fold. First, it's not the way we do things in our team; to get off our bikes without good reason. I've never heard our director Rudi Kemna's voice through my radio saying 'okay, it's cold, it's wet, you can get off your bike now if you want'. We always keep fighting.
The second reason is a little bit more practical. In the confusion of that race, with riders constantly dropping out, it wasn't really clear what was going on, so I just kept pushing to get back towards the front groups. You've got to be in it to win it, as they say, and especially on a day like that, you never know what might happen.
I heard some guys had been pretty scared in the conditions, worried about crashes, possibly breaking a bone and undoing all their hard work throughout the winter. I never really felt scared, but I can understand why they wouldn't want to take the risk. Everyone seemed to come away from the race with their own story, and when I lined up at GP Samyn a few days afterwards everyone in the bunch was still talking about 'Kuurne'.
I feel pretty proud to have made it all the way through that race, but I've already had a couple of others to keep me busy since then. I'm still building up my own form for the moment and I'm expecting to reach a peak in a few weeks. Everything's on schedule and for the meantime I'm really happy to be able to help my teammates out at races as I'll rely on them soon to help me out.
After Samyn we headed off to the Three Days of West Flanders. I was really happy to be able to help Robert Wagner get our team's first win of the season. He's flying at the moment and finished in the top-10 each day, as well as winning the second stage. Racing with Robert's a blast because we have pretty good instincts for one another when it comes to working together in the sprints.
For now, I'll just keep progressing and hope the cards fall the right way for me to add some victories of my own when the time comes. After all, this sport's a numbers game and like Kuurne I'll keep on trying to shorten the odds.
- Kenny van Hummel
January 29, 2010, 9:21 GMT,
January 29, 2010, 14:50 GMT
The indoors and outdoors of season preparations
Happy New Year from Majorca. Yes, I know, last time I wrote I was just about to head to the island for training and here I am again. But I don't want you to get the wrong idea; I haven't been kicking back on the beach, there's been plenty of work done both here and at home in the past few months.
The temperature here in Spain has been around 15-20 degrees Celsius this week for our official Skil-Shimano training camp. Nice? Yes, and definitely a long way from temperatures at home. Don't get me wrong, I love being at home, and I have no problem training there, but let me give you some idea of what's been required to contend with the winter we've been having in The Netherlands:
1 x pair ski gloves. Check.
1 x pair thick overshoes. Check.
2 x long pants. Check.
2 x thermal jackets…I think you get the idea.
It's a lot of clothes, but when I've got to do five hours, I've got to do five hours. Besides, I'd much rather be out on my bike looking like the Michelin man, than indoors on the rollers. I've done pretty well. I've only stayed indoors to train on a couple of occasions. The snow and ice have seen me grab the mountain bike from time to time, but I prefer to use my road bike whenever possible because it's much better for doing the efforts I need to in the lead-up to the season.
I'm starting the season at Challenge Mallorca. Yep. It'll be the third time I'll have been here in as many months. But I'm hoping for a good start to the season and hope to be in top form by April and May.
I was happy to spend some time indoors earlier this month at the Six Days of Rotterdam. My career is on the road, but it's always fun to hit the track, especially in front of the huge crowds that six day events attract. I was really pleased to be partnered with a German mate Andreas Beikirch for the race. I rode with him on the track before in Amsterdam in 2008, so we were had a pretty good understanding of how to work with one another and it was a lot more fun because we could be a little more competitive. That said, we were never likely to win, and with a lot of crashes I was happy not to put my season in jeopardy. It was a great way to get some high cadence work in before my sprint objectives begin next month.
Rotterdam was also the site of our Skil-Shimano team presentation last week. We had the usual on-stage interviews and our whole organisation together for the team photos. But one thing that really made this year's presentation special was after all the on-stage formalities were finished, we jumped on our bikes to ride the prologue course for this year's Tour de France. It was fantastic riding through the streets of the city, and it's going to be an awesome start to the Tour. Obviously, we're really hoping to be there for it, and we'll fight hard in the months leading up to it to impress for an invitation. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we get selected so I get a chance to finish what I started last year.
July's a little while away yet and there's a lot of racing to be done. Time has flown since the end of last season, but after three months of hard training, I'm itching to get back into it. Thanks for reading and I'll keep you posted on how everything goes!
- Kenny van Hummel
November 28, 2009, 17:41 GMT,
November 30, 2009, 8:53 GMT
One season runs into the next
Welcome to my first blog for Cyclingnews. After the year I've had, I'm hoping to keep you guys up to date with another exciting season in 2010. We're already racing towards racing again and, to be honest, it hasn't really stopped for me. I finished with my major races on the road and went straight to the Six-day's of Amsterdam, but there has been some time to relax in the past few weeks.
I was lucky enough to have ten days vacation in Curaçao with a lot of the other guys from the peloton. We were all there for the Amstel Curaçao race, but it was just a really good chance to relax after a long season. I managed to get a win over Johnny Hoogerland in a warm-up criterium, but that was more fun than anything else.
Johnny and I have known each other for years. We came up through the junior ranks in the Netherlands together and rode on the same team at Eurogifts.com for a couple of seasons. The Netherlands is a small country, so most of we professionals get to know each other pretty well as juniors.
Johnny's had a good year this year and so have I, my best ever in fact. I had a lot of injury problems after my crash at the Tour de France, but I'd won five races in the first part of the season, so overall I'm pretty pleased. At the Tour I struggled a lot and was fighting with myself to finish inside the time limit each day. On the plus side, there are a lot of people in Holland who only watch the Tour and most of them now know me because of the Tour. I would have preferred it that they'd got to know me as a Tour de France stage winner, but it's good to get the recognition anyway.
A few of weeks ago my private sponsors put on a fan day for me. It was the first time I've had one and we had about 100 people come along to go for a ride and do a riding clinic on the road. I told the story of how I'd become a professional, starting from when I was six years old all the way up to my time at the Tour de France and the time since. We had a lot of fun and it was a really good day. Everyone was very positive, so we're hoping that next year it'll be even bigger.
But before then there's another season to race. I got back into the gym last week and the first three weeks will all be power training there. It's pretty hard, although it's necessary and it will pay off later. In a couple of weeks I'm heading to Majorca to do some base training there.
Originally it was just going to be me and a couple of my Skil-Shimano teammates, but we spoke to one of our trainers and now it looks like it's snowballed into most of the team going; we even have two soigneurs coming along with us. We'll a lot of long hours in the saddle and it looks like it'll be a really good camp to get set up for next year.
In reality, it's not that long before next season starts again. In the last week of December I'll go back to the track for some training and then in early January do the Six-days of Rotterdam. We've got another (official) Skil-Shimano training camp in Majorca planned and then after that it's back to the road and, hopefully, an even better season than this one.
I look forward to letting you know how it goes!
- Kenny van Hummel
In his fifth season as a fully-fledged professional, Kenny van Hummel made a big impression on the world cycling scene in 2009. He was a winner of five races, but it was his performance at the 2009 Tour de France which drew worldwide attention.
He became a cult hero to many as he fought an often solo battle with the Tour's time limits. A crash just days before the finish in Paris forced him to retire from the race, but the Skil-Shimano rider has bounced back and will keep Cyclingnews readers posted on the 2010 season.