In just four days the first rider will roll down the start house at the Tour de France, in Rotterdam. There will be great crowds and even greater pressure as months of tension, preparation and effort euphorically explode with each pedal stroke. The Tour is upon us.
And it's upon me too. There is pressure on my shoulders, I'm one of the favourites – as so many keep of you keep reminding me – but I'm relaxed and calm. My preparation has been very good – not excellent – but my form is coming and by the time the race hits the Pyrenees in four weeks time, I'll hope to be in the form of my life.
As a rider in the pro ranks you have to handle pressure, it's part of the job description, part of the ethos of being a rider in the spotlight. Thankfully, I've got some really good people around me: there are my teammates, the team staff, and of course my brother, who I hope will have a strong Tour too.
There has been a lot of speculation about my team for next year but all I can say is that there's no news from Frank or myself and I'm utterly focussed on performing at the Tour. If you must know I have four options for next year: staying with Bjarne, Kim and Brian's new team and two others that I can't discuss. But right now I'm a Saxo Bank rider and the most important thing is the Tour de France and where I finish come the end of the race.
I spoke with Bjarne at the Tour de Suisse and we'll see him tonight and we'll chat about the future, I'm sure of that. Yes, I have a few options but there are no new negotiations with Bjarne – they can't start until there's a sponsor.
As for my form I'm in recovery mode right now. After winning the national time trial championships I crashed my bike while training. There was a large rock in the road, I couldn't avoid it and you can guess what happened next. Just like the time I was hit by a car last year, the first thing I did was check my body for broken bones. Luckily I was fine, but I've lost a fair amount of skin. It's a bit sore but I'll ride a bit before Saturday.
I'll do a few hours today and then tomorrow I head to Belgium to recon the cobbles again. You can never get too much practice on such difficult terrain. But other than that I'll be using up as little energy as possible. It's a case of saving as much energy, too. A rider doesn't want to pick up any illness or injury before the Tour. We've spent our entire year getting ready for this race, so putting in that final effort now will make a big difference.
The objective is to win but it's going to be a very long Tour. There are the cobbles of Belgium, the cross-winds in Holland, the Alps and the Pyrenees. The Alps will be tough but they won't house the decisive action as the main guys will want to save their powder for the Pyrenees when things will be harder. Want a prediction? How about this… the top three from the Tourmalet won't change all the way to Paris.
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