As I write, I'm sitting here in Galicia, preparing (but mostly waiting) to start my first Vuelta y Espana this Saturday, for Team Netapp - Endura.
The process that led to me being here for the start of my first grand tour started a long time ago of course, but in the short term I was told by my team after the Tour of California finished in May that I should start to prepare for the Vuelta.
My first reaction was excitement, but quickly came back down to earth and went about preparing in the best way I possibly could in order to give myself the best possible chance, not only of making the selection, but of being in a condition to be able to make a significant contribution to my team's success during the race.
To be honest I've taken a roundabout route to get to this point, but that has made me all the more motivated to prepare for this opportunity. Over the years I've watched every rider from the AIS group of 2008 that I was a part of (Travis & Cam Meyer, Johnnie Walker, Wes Sulzberger and Simon Clarke) be selected and complete in their first grand tours.
I watched closely as they fought to make breaks, gain results and at times survive brutal stages and illness. Watching them perform at this level at once left me in awe of how tough a grant tour can be, but seeing them achieve great things in these races also provided me with great examples to strive toward.
In the build up to the race I spent a month at altitude, training my arse off to make sure I arrived at the start of the race in the best possible condition physically. Now though, the days before the race involve getting everything 100% with equipment via the mechanics, doing some team time trial training and resting a lot. It's nice to recover after the training you complete leading into a race like this, but I already get the feeling I honestly can wait to roll down the start ramp and be thrown into the chaos that will no doubt ensue.
Our team for the race is made up of mostly opportunists, we'll be looking to be involved where we can and prove that our Wild Card invitation was merited. On a personal level I'm hoping to get a look at the few sprint stages here, especially considering the peloton is largely made up of mountain goats. We re-coned stage 2 today, think it'll be a biggish group (10-20) come to the top.
Of our team, six guys have completed grand tours in the past, and three of us are grand tour rookies. While the other six may be familiar with the level of suffering involved - I am sure that it will be the three of us rookies, (Mendes, De la Cruz, and myself) who are about to probably find out a lot about ourselves we didn't already know, in the next three weeks.