- Steele Von Hoff
May 11, 2013, 1:33 BST,
May 11, 2013, 0:10 BST
Getting that winning feeling back and eyeing the Vuelta
One of the hardest parts of being a professional cyclist is there is there are so many things outside of your control that can affect your health and how well you perform and ultimately, the amount of success you experience throughout the season.
Ever since I got sick at Tour de Langkawi, I have been having a bit of a rough time and I haven't quite been able to get back into gear again. I moved to my new home in Girona and tried to recover from the bug that took out half of the field but since then I've been plagued with constant illness. Every time I get my health back in order I seem to catch something else. Last year when I lived in Toulouse with the development team, my year started out much the same. I'm beginning to think I just must be a slow starter to the Europe season.
A big contributor to your health is trying to keep stress at bay, setting up a routine and sticking to it. Unfortunately when you move to a new city this isn't possible and most of my time when I'm not on the bike has been dedicated to setting up my life here. Which unfortunately comes at a cost to stress levels and health. Trying to sort out bank accounts, phone issues and everything that comes with a new apartment is a lot harder than you'd think it would be. Especially in a country where you don't speak the language and no one is working for a few hours everyday when I get home from my ride as siesta is between 2-5pm.
I think I have spent about 10 hours sitting on the floor trying to get Movistar to work and my phone/TV are still not up and running. Luckily my girlfriend flew in for a few days from Australia and made furnishing my apartment a bit easier and a lot of fun (even if, like a typical girl she dragged me into every furniture store in Girona and even to Ikea in France). I probably have a few different pieces of furniture than I would've got if I went shopping on my own but I'm really happy with how my home is coming together.
Although things haven't been smooth sailing, I wouldn't even consider living anywhere else. The roads for training are amazing, living is so cheap and the support with the Garmin Sharp team service course just down the road makes it so much easier for me to live in Girona.
Although I'm stuck at home with a virus instead of getting a ride at Tour of California as planned, its not all bad. I just got the recipe for mums soup she used to make me when I was a little run down, and I get to eat that while I watch the guys race the Giro! It's great to see Haas lining up amongst the big boys for his first grand tour! It just shows how quickly things can change. All it takes is a couple of results and then you’re in. I'm hoping to get my form back and pull some results quick because a grand tour for me isn't totally out of the question for this year - just yet. If I can get my winning form going again, I might be able to snag a spot in the Vuelta. However, that is a long shot with the season I have had so far, so I'm not getting my hopes too high.
The one thing that really separates the seasoned pro's from the rookies is that with experience you learn how to conserve energy, rest and at the end of they day they are able to go the extra distance with everything. The difference is that they are organised with a good routine that allows them to eat, train, eat, stretch, eat and sleep. That's what I'm working towards but its been a long process to try and make it and if I can get that dialled this year I know it will help more than anything towards my results. The experienced guys like Robbie Hunter - I feel I can definitely learn a lot from.
So right now I haven't been the cyclist I came over here to be. Running around shopping and setting up a life overseas, as well as getting sick all the time isn't something I want to do ever again. I definitely haven't been able to complete one of Andrew's brutal training sessions that will eventually qualify me as a professional. I'm hopping soon though, so I can kick-off the next few races with some positive results!
Next on the cards will now be a race in Germany called Bayern Rundfarht and following that, if I'm successful, I will have a few more good starts too! But first things first: get my health in order and then I will get a better grasp of what I will be doing.
No one ever said bike racing was going to be easy. So for now I'll sit back and watch, rest and hope Ryder and the team can make a repeat of last year at the Giro and Tyler can get some wins in Cali!
- Steele Von Hoff
March 27, 2013, 1:07 GMT,
March 27, 2013, 3:46 GMT
Getting a taste of the Belgian classics
Langkawi is a race that I won't be forgetting for a long time for a variety of reasons. In my eyes it wasn't the success I'd hoped for. I went into it with what I think is the best form I have ever had. I had hoped to come home with a stage win or two to get the season off to a good start. Unfortunately the situation we were put in was a tricky one and we never really worked it out.
GC was pretty straight forward, it came down to two hilltop finish days with Cameron and Genting Highlands. My job was simple: ride as far up the climb looking after our two climbers who were in a shot for the stage as well as GC. I managed to get a lot more out of myself on these days, with the encouraging comments Haas was yelling in my ear as we climbed. The best bit was when he said "dude there is only 25 guys left, keep it up", it made me pretty excited and I dropped another gear! So job done when I peeled, GC was between Peter Stetina and Nathan Haas. They did really well getting 4th and 6th GC respectively in the tour.
The sprint stages were a different matter, it was game on. My turn. The guys did a great job taking me up the front to pay back the work I had done for them. Im still disappointed with the outcome as I knew we had a race-winning team. It was hard however to get the lead-out right as we kept changing the order, which in my opinion, meant that we had trouble perfecting our train.
I think the risk of losing a few races to perfect our train will ultimately mean winning more. On the days I got to sprint I made a few small mistakes which I have learnt from. But as we all know, we all need luck on our side, which at this race seemed nonexistent!
It's a tough sport but it's a lot easier to stay positive knowing I'm chasing the next win with very good friends and direction around me.
With the craziness of Asian racing there was a lot of close calls, a lot of attacks and a lot of food poisoning. With Caleb and myself becoming victims of a bug that was picked up off the road during the day where the peloton rode through torrential rain and the roads were flooded. People were dropping like flies, pulling over every few kilometres to either throw up or abandon the tour.
On Stage 9 I had been told that the team was going to back me for the last two stages. We had finally worked out our lead-out with Haas bringing Koldo and myself to the front for the sprints and we were going to put it in to action.
With the absence of Theo Bos the sprints were becoming more than achievable. But after a night on the toilet Stage 9 was looking grim. I tried to hang in hoping the Clif Bloks would give me some energy back but the break just seemed like it was never going to go. With the pace of the peloton seemingly travelling above 50 for the first 20k, I started to drift back in the convoy in hope that the peloton would snap and slow down letting the break get some time. But it just didn't happen.
My instructions were if the second team car passes me in the convoy, I had to jump in. I battled for only a moment longer and next thing I knew was I was waking up in the car with only a few km to go. This is the first tour I have ever pulled out of. I was absolutely devastated.
Fortunately I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to fly back to Australia for one week to celebrate my brother and his wife's wedding. It was great to be able to have one more week with my family, friends and girlfriend in +30 degree weather knowing that soon I will be trying to avoid black ice on the roads. Although the weather was nice, training was not going so well. The bug that I got in Langkawi kept me off the bike for all but a few hours in the week.
Although I love life on the road, it definitely has its down sides. I would never call it a sacrifice been a professional athlete, as I know how tough working a full time job in a factory is, and being an athlete is a blessing that every kid dreams of but I do miss certain things that if I could live a double life I would defiantly want to see. My cousin Kyle trying to follow in my foot steps as a cyclist and getting second in the Austral track champs a little while back is just one of those moments I have missed.
After the long flight over to Europe, I found my new home in Girona. After only a week I realised why so many cyclists choose Girona as their home. The roads are incredible for cycling, and there are so many teammates and other riders who speak English living there too.
I can tell it’s going to be a fantastic place to settle into. Within a week I had found my new apartment. Once it’s all finalised I'm sure Haas will be happy to have a break from me - even though I am now living a few hundred metres down the road.
I just raced my first European race for the season which was Dwars door Vlaanderen in Belgium. I wore every bit of wet weather gear I owned as it was barely three degrees! After watching Milan-San Remo I wasn't taking any risks.
My fingers were already numb after the neutral so I pulled out a packet of Cliff Bloks as I knew it was probably the last time I would be able to feel my fingers to find my pocket. The race was tough but I tried to hang in to do my job as best as possible, getting in one of the early breaks which didn't last long.
However, I just had no power on the hills, I couldn't breathe without coughing and it seemed this could have been a mixture of the cold and some left-over virus I picked up after Langkawi. It got the best of me and so I ended up in the car at the 140k mark of the 200k race.
Next on the cards is Scheldeprijs on 3 April. I am hoping I have enough time to get better so my morale doesn't get beaten any lower!
Wish me luck,
- Steele Von Hoff
February 19, 2013, 0:31 GMT,
February 19, 2013, 0:33 GMT
Looking back at a successful Australian summer of cycling
Woah! What a summer of cycling it has been. Now that the early Australian racing has come to a wrap it's nice to look back on it and feel that it will have set me up for a good rest of the season.
The Australian national road race championships turned out in my favour as I finished on the podium in third-place behind a gallant ride from Luke 'Turbo' Durbridge and Michael 'Bling' Matthews. I was really happy with my performance on the day and it's pretty exciting to see such a young podium at the Australian nationals. I can't wait to see what we can all do over the next few years.
Of course I couldn't have done it without my three Garmin Sharp teammates that helped me throughout the day and especially in the last few laps around Buninyong when they sat on the front driving a hard pace to try and pull back Durbo.
From nationals most of the pros headed off to Adelaide for Tour Down Under. We spent the week in Adelaide before the race started doing recon for the stages, recovering nationals and getting back into the swing of being back on tour... in a slightly more relaxed atmosphere.
This year was my second time at TDU after I raced it last year with UniSA but this year was a little bit different than the year before. This year I was there to help my team rather than sprint for myself - to get my own results. I came into it with great form, helping everyday and working hard to make sure Jack Bauer was up the front at the bottom of the climbs, and backing that up by helping Tyler Farrar to make sure he was in good position for the sprints.
Unfortunately our team got struck with a bit of bad luck during the week with Rohan Dennis not starting due to illness and Nathan Haas having to pull out halfway through the week after he was also struck down with sickness.
We still had a solid week, but we definitely felt it being two guys short on the road. Using Tyler and myself to work for Jack definitely impacted our power for sprints at the end of the stages but in saying that Greipel and Lotto Belisol had their sprint train dialled and they came out hitting from the opening race - the People's Choice Classic.
After TDU everyone has a couple of drinks on the Sunday night and a bit of a dance, which is nice before we all get serious about the year ahead. I had a week back in Melbourne and caught up with friends and my girlfriend. It was pretty quiet as I had a recovery week after being away for three weeks.
The last few weeks have just been hard training for Tour de Langkawi. I'm heading over as the main sprinter so the pressure is on. I've raced in Malaysia before so I have a bit of an idea what the terrain is going to be like, but there are four other ProTeams racing, so I'm expecting hard, fast and hot days. It should be fun!
Anyway wish me luck, just hoping to keep my skin before my brother's wedding the week after Langkawi!
Catch you soon,
- Steele Von Hoff
January 12, 2013, 19:44 GMT,
January 12, 2013, 20:07 GMT
Building for a huge Australian summer with Garmin-Sharp
I've been back on the bike for two months now but I took it pretty slow getting back into the swing of things after taking a longer than normal off-season in late October-early November. I'd just finished a long year of racing in 2012 and needed a good break. We had our first Garmin-Sharp training camp during December so I knew I needed to be relatively fit but the actual camp wasn't too strenuous.
The short trip to Tuscan, USA turned out really well as I had been concerned about jetlag and getting sick so close to Nationals but after another long trip on the plane, it all turned out great. The camp included about four hours of training each day through the desert, which was a new experience for me. I wasn't expecting it to be so dry, battled about two blood noses during my time there even though we weren't doing any hard sessions like motor pacing or anything. It was more about getting to know my new teammates as I wouldn't be seeing most of them until Tour Down Under – except for the Aussie guys of course.
Coming into the festive season I made sure to look after myself and not do anything crazy. I trained well down in the Otways, Dandenongs, King Lake and the Mornington Peninsula, managing it around seeing family and friends. I also stayed away from the alcohol. Building up for the first races of the year was all down to me getting out and doing all the sessions that my coach Andrew Christie-Johnston had set.
The real form testers are Andrews 'death' sets. I look at them as ones that either make you or break you. I've managed to finish a shortened version but I can't get through the full five-hour one yet. There are lots of continuous sprinting efforts and Andrew says: 'once I finish one of them, then I'll know I'm ready to turn pro'. It's a work in progress.
The Mitchelton Bay Classic or 'Bay Crits' was my first real hit-out for the New Year and I had been training pretty hard. After some motor pacing around Mornington Peninsular, near Arthurs Seat, I thought I would test the legs at Sandown – my local crit. I passed my test and thought I was going well. I was ready for the Bay Crits but too be honest, I wasn't expecting them to be so tough. I think the system got quite the shock racing so hard.
During my big rides, it's most likely that I'm on my own. No music, just the sound of the road. It's been so busy lately that the iPod is all too much for my little head to handle. It's the same in my car too, just enjoying quiet time and listening to all the rattles, planning what I'm going to fix next.
The National Crit on Thursday night didn't go 100% to plan with a little bit of confusion out on the road. The organised chase by Huon-Genesys exploded when Drapac hit over the top for a few laps and then stopped riding. It was a pretty important stage of the race too, because Cameron Meyer was just too strong for any of the teams to stop working. So, he road away with a well-deserved win while in the bunch we just tried the best we could for the minor placings. Second was great to steal as I thought I was a little far back as I rounded the bottom corner but the legs had a little more than I thought.
There are four guys lining up for the road race from the team with Nathan Haas, Lachlan Morton and Rohan Dennis. Anyone of us could give it a crack but we just have to overcome the ridiculous number of Orica GreenEdge riders, not to mention all the hitters from the other pro teams and NRS who will give us a run for our money too. That's the next goal. After testing my legs in the crit, I know they have the speed but after 200k I'm not sure they will get up those hills.
After the Nationals it's down to Adelaide for the first WorldTour race of the season. I'll be firing for the start because we've got Tyler Farrar coming down. It's going to be awesome getting involved in the lead-outs for him. Let's hope we can bag a stage win and come away with some good results for the team. Don't forget about Rohan, after his 5th GC last year with Uni SA, he could win the whole race!
My next post will come after TDU. Wish the Garmin-Sharp guys good luck!
- Steele Von Hoff
Steele Von Hoff is a first-year professional riding for the Garmin-Sharp ProTeam. Von Hoff spent the 2012 season with Jonathan Vaughters Chipotle Development squad before graduating to the WorldTour ranks as a stagiare late last year. The Australian sprinter has shown he's capable of rivalling some of the best in the bunch sprints and will be working closely with the team's top sprinter Tyler Farrar throughout his neo-pro season while also looking to capitalise on his own opportunities.