On the bus in northern Holland, on the way to the start of my third Grand Tour of the year (I didn't finish the Giro, a planned retirement on stage 15 saw to that, so it’s not as if I'm attempting to finish all three Grandies in one year). As it is it doesn't feel too special, it just feels like I'm off to another race. The only difference is I have to pack more, but I've got that down to a fine art these days. Clear plastic bags are the key, they allow for the organized separation of the numerous items of clothing: e.g., bag for shorts, bag for socks and gloves, bag for short sleeve jerseys, etc...It took me a decade of being a pro to come up with this system, I'm very proud of it.
This is the first Vuelta I've done since moving to Spain, so it's rather ironic that we've been travelling seven hours to get to the start. As I look out the window of the bus I see flat green fields, grey skies and Dutch road signs. In the words of Ryder [Hesjedal] after finishing watching his film and looking out the window, 'WHAT?! Are they joking?! It’s been the same view for three hours!' This is not Spain, this does NOT feel like the Vuelta.
I'm arriving here after a very relaxed August, although an August which seems to have flown by. I raced twice, I had my impromptu stag weekend in Barcelona, I sat on the WADA Athlete's Commission at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin (and got to watch Usain Bolt run 19.19 from the home straight of the Oympikstaden) and I rode Rocacorba (the biggest climb near Girona) as many times as I could in the last week trying to regain some last minute form pre-Vuelta. A program, incidentally, I have cut and pasted from the Christian Vande Velde school of pre-Grand Tour brainless physical fine-tuning, or in my case, just tuning.
Today I did it three times. Well, I did the final six-kilometre, 10 percent section three times. I felt a little less bad each time thankfully, my attempts the previous three days had been borderline pathetic.
Standing at the top at 9 a.m. this morning, having not demonstrated hoax-like climbing skills to get there, allowed me to enjoy the view with a more appreciative eye than the previous days. I took a picture and sent it to both VDV [Christian Vande Velde] and Michael Barry who were fast asleep in the USA at that very moment. I knew they'd appreciate it.
So now we're here, just arrived at our hotel. Ryder is re-arranging the room so we have more than an inch between our beds, although before he did that he opened the window and declared to the world at large, 'I LOVE HOLLAND!'. He claims to have always been fascinated by the place. Gotta love Ryder-he’s going to be a good roomie.
As for the rest of the team, they're fired up. We're bringing a team that is as competitive as our Tour de France team with Dan Martin and Tommy D [Danielson] as our mountain goats, Tyler [Farrar] and Julian [Dean] as our sprint maestros, Ryder as all-out Canadian pimp, Svein [Tuft] as our ultimate fighting comic book hero, Christian M [Meier] as the man who can't say no, and Martijn Maaskant as the gentlest badass in the peloton ready to tear the Spaniards to little pieces on the roads of his motherland.
As for me, I'm gonna be having fun, looking after the boys and trying to regain my top form before we hit Madrid. I love this race.
David Millar is in his second season of racing for American ProTour team Garmin-Slipstream.