- Mitchell Docker
September 06, 2012, 0:34 BST,
September 06, 2012, 2:33 BST
Discovering what the Vuelta is really about
Well, after saying I felt pretty good at the end of the opening week, I can say those last few days before the second rest day really took their toll. Its slowly built up in the legs now. Even the flatter days before the mountains were pretty hard. They may not have seemed hard from the results or profile but they were solid days.
On the mental side of things, you would have heard it before but you have to take it day by day. Otherwise it all gets a bit too much. Having the second rest day was a good mental point for me to focus on because it’s too difficult to concentrate on the end of the race.
Physically everyone is screwed. I’m at the level now where I’m tired from the first kilometre until the finish. I know I won’t really recover overnight anymore so you ride with tired legs every day. It’s something I’ve had before – but nothing like this! This is completely different now. I guess I’m finding out what some of the other guys have experienced many times before in a grand tour. I have a lot more respect for those guys now.
We went into the three mountain stages and the first one really set the scene. Stage 16 was, considering the profile, quite a relaxed day. It was controlled and everyone seemed to get through ok but the end was epic. The last three kilometres finished everyone off. It didn’t matter what group you were in...It was epic.
I few times I looked down and I was doing 5km/h. It was pretty horrendous up there. That climb is steep even when you’re fresh. It was about 17km before that you were still on a good climb and then the last 3km was just the last straw. I was going so slow and just hoping that someone would give me a little push just to keep the wheels turning.
A few of us were using compact cranksets for those three mountain days just to make sure we had enough gearing. Even when you’re going slow you still want to make sure you can spin the legs. We went smaller again for stage 16 with a 34T at the front and I think a 28T cassette but it’s still not enough on that kind of climb. You really need the ‘granny gears’. Everyone I saw had a compact on – I couldn’t imagine doing it without it.
My body hasn’t changed that much so far. We take on board so much fuel through protein shakes and amino acids that the muscles remain very full and heavy. We have a set of scales to make sure no one is losing heaps of weight or putting weight on – just trying to remain steady. The legs are a little more ripped. It’s nice to get a little bit back after two weeks of racing full-on.
We had a fair bit of fun making the “Call Me Maybe” clip. It’s nice to get away from cycling for a little bit. On one of the days Dan Jones, who produces the Backstage Pass, put on this “Call Me Maybe” video from the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders and then everyday we were like ‘put that on, put that on’.
After a few days Neil said we are going to do our own version and we laughed it off before it became clear that he was serious. We filmed an underwater scene and then a few of us said ‘let’s do it’. The ball got rolling and then the guys were getting competitive, trying to make better scenes in the bunch or with Simon Clarke on the podium.
It didn’t take too much energy for the amount of enjoyment we got out of it. It was pretty funny and it’s great to see so many people take a laugh from it. Even though it’s pretty full-on here and there isn’t a whole lot of time to do other things, it’s good to try and do something that isn’t all about the race and recovering. Some of those scenes took only a couple of minutes but that gives you a few hours to talk about something else.
It was a shame to lose Cam because some of those tough days when it seemed like the break might not go or it’s hard to get into it, he managed to come through. He’s a bit of an engine. When you lose a guy like that it’s a real shame but he’s in the team for the World’s team time trial and so he’s got something else to focus on. He could have gotten to the end of the Vuelta no problem but it would have been silly for him to ride all the way till the end just to finish and not be 100% for the TTT.
We are staying at a bit of a resort today and we enjoyed a late breakfast and an easy two hours on the bike. A few of the guys opened it up on a couple of climbs and even though they don’t want to, it stops the body from shutting down. There’s an ice bath which a few of the guys might get into later on before we drive to our next hotel. As for me, I’m going to take it pretty easy for the rest of the day.
The race is by no means over but I know I’m that much closer to reaching Madrid.
- Mitchell Docker
August 27, 2012, 2:46 BST,
August 27, 2012, 3:46 BST
Looking forward to the rest day
I’ve gotten through the first week of the Vuelta and actually surprised to be feeling so good after eight stages of racing. Don’t get me wrong, everyone gets tired but it’s a different kind of fatigue compared to how you would feel at the end of another eight-stage race.
I’m mentally prepared for another two weeks and have taken a different approach to the racing itself. Now that the rest day is only one day away, I’m really looking forward to it.
Plenty has happened over the last few days. It was awesome when Simon Clarke won stage 4. The amazing thing about his win was that the team planned it. We only wanted one guy to go in the break and it was Simon who the team wanted in there. He stepped up and immediately got it the break. It was a pretty special thing to do, winning on a mountain-top finish and ahead of a guy like Tony Martin.
I heard he’d won when a car passed me with about 10km to go. From then on it was a pretty easy ride to the finish knowing your teammate had just won the day. The whole team really enjoyed that moment.
We had another close call for Allan and while it’s not the most ideal lead-out team, we’re learning everyday about what we should be doing. It’s been disappointing that Allan hasn’t been able to get the win but there are a few more chances to come. He’s in great shape and it’s been a real learning experience taking on this role with him. The lead-out is getting better and better and I think we are so close to seeing Allan throw his hands in the air.
The thing with trying to control the sprints is that you’re always short on numbers but having someone like Daniel Teklehaymanot in the team is a big help. He’s one of the few guys who, when everyone is pulling their final turn, can somehow swing back in and pull another ‘final’ turn. It’s bloody handy to have a guy like that. I really hope he’s given his own opportunity later in the race to show his strength and go for a stage win or cause some grief in the mountains - which he really could do.
I haven’t been thinking about any personal opportunities because I know that if it’s a sprint day then I’ve got to be on. I’m the last guy in the lead-out so I need to be basically feeling as good as the actual sprinter. On the days which don’t suit a sprint, I’ve got to take it as easy as possible in the peloton to make sure I’m ready for the next day. At the moment I really want to perfect the lead-out for Allan and get as much experience for the coming races in this position. I’m not going to waste any energy going in breakaways yet.
We just had our team meeting for today - stage 9 - and it’s going to be a really tough finish. Allan gets over those small hills very well - for a sprinter but it’s going to be a matter of having some support there for him at the finish. It depends on how some of the real punchy riders like Gilbert decide to ride the final climb. If he launches an attack, I’m not sure anyone can really go with those kinds of riders.
- Mitchell Docker
August 22, 2012, 0:30 BST,
August 22, 2012, 6:22 BST
New experiences at la Vuelta
I didn’t have the smoothest run to get here but you could say my progression has been pretty steady since my crash in late January. I worked extremely hard in training and racing to make sure that I arrived in the best condition to be able to race for the next three weeks and it’ll be interesting to see how my body handles it.
It’s my first time at the Vuelta a España, or a grand tour for that matter and to start in Pamplona on the same roads where they historically have the running of the bulls was pretty spectacular.
The team time trial was a new experience for me and the course was actually quite technical, more than what it looked like on TV. It was pretty hectic with nine guys on that course and there wasn’t much opportunity to pull along the straights because there were so many corners. Most of the time I was concerned with getting through the corners and just surviving - especially if you were at the back.
Sixteen kilometres might seem long but each guy only got to pull a few turns and then it was over. It was good just to get everyone safely through. We had a little bit of training beforehand and everyone stuck to the plan, no one ‘lost their head’ so that’s a good sign for the coming weeks.
Stage 2 was the first chance for the team to try and get a stage win but we just lacked maybe one guy at the finish because Allan ended up getting second. It was a stage that could have also suited Simon Clarke because he's quite a punchy rider and there was a little climb toward the end. We had talked about it in the morning's meeting and thought we could bounce off some other teams but coming in with 5km to go we were all there so we gave it a good go and showed everyone that we have the horsepower. It gives us a lot of confidence knowing that if we have to, we can line it up for the finish.
I think it’s going to be great having Julian Dean and Allan here because they’ve got so much experience and I hope I can learn from them while also contributing my horsepower to the sprint. The next stage was an important day for Cam Meyer because the GC got a bit of a shake up with the final climb that was about 10 percent. It was quite serious even though it wasn't that long and there were splits as soon as the bunch hit the bottom.
Cam was just a little bit too far behind in the lead up to the climb and ended up losing more time that we would have liked. Cam didn't quite have the legs and it was a bit too hard for guys like Allan, Julian and me.
We've got plenty of guys who can go the breakaway throughout the race and stage 4 might be a good day for someone to have a try. We'll see what the plan is for the day once I get on the bus and we have out team meeting.
- Mitchell Docker
Mitchell Docker is riding his first grand tour at the Vuelta a España for Orica-GreenEdge after spending the past three seasons with Skil-Shimano. The 25-year-old Australian had a rough start to the year after crashing during a training camp and while he began his season later than normal, he's motivated for the challenge that awaits over the coming weeks.