After missing the Tour of Flanders with a stomach virus, I'm happy to be back on my bike and back in northern Europe for Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.
It wasn't nice watching Flanders on television in those circumstances but the important thing is that I've recovered pretty well. I actually lost two kilos because I didn’t eat much for three days. I've put that weight back on but I don't know how much muscle strength I've lost. I suppose we'll find out on Sunday.
I saw that Lance Armstrong also suffered like a dog with the same virus and I know Petacchi had a bit and lost 4kg. It was strong and knocked me out for a few days. I actually went back to Belgium on Tuesday and rode the Scheldeprijs race to see how I'd recovered. It's not a difficult race and there's no pave, so I was okay. I didn’t have a go in the sprint because I didn’t want to take any risks but it was good to race again.
I think I could have won Flanders
I don’t want to sound pretentious because I'm being totally honest. But I do think I could have gone with Cancellara and Boonen when they attacked on the Molenberg during the Tour of Flanders. I was as strong if not stronger on the climbs than both of them in E3 Harelbeke. And the fact that Flanders was really hard meant it would have actually been easy for me to stay at the front because there wouldn't have been be as much crazy fighting for position before the climbs.
Before the race everybody said there was four big favourites: Canca, Boonen, me and Flecha. I've heard that Flecha had the with virus too and so perhaps if we'd both been ok, we would have both been there to fight it out with them on the Kapelmuur.
A lot of people think Cancellara was super strong that day but there's more to it than that: Tom has told me he had cramps on the Kapelmuur when Cancellara accelerated. That's why he got out of the saddle, was riding a much smaller gear and why Cancellara quickly opened a massive gap. Unfortunately for Tom, there's not much you can do when you get cramp.
Time for Paris-Roubaix
Anyway, Flanders is in the past and its time to think about Paris-Roubaix.
It's another damn hard race but it's different to Flanders and more of a lottery than the survival of the strongest. Tom and Canca are the natural favourites but I wouldn't write off Breschel. He was incredibly strong in Flanders but was terribly unlucky. Saxo Bank was staying in our hotel in Belgium this week and Breschel was still pissed off about what had happened with his bad bike change. He was unfortunate with when it happened but the way he chased to get back showed how strong he really was.
You maybe asking about my chances? I'm not the same rider I was before the virus but I don't think I've lost all my form, so maybe I've still got a chance. I'm just going to race and see what happens. I could run out of gas with 50km to go, get taken out in a crash or I could be up there and even win. Who knows in Paris-Roubaix?
I'm just going to give it everything, without changing the way I ride or go on the defensive. Of course in Roubaix, you've either got it or you haven't. I just hope to have enough of it to get a result.
I understand a few people had a shock when they watched the Tour of Flanders on Eurosport last week. My shoe sponsor Sidi were one of the advertisers during the race and I appeared on screen naked with just a pair of Sidi shoes carefully placed in front of me.
Andy Schleck called me a metrosexual and I suppose the commercial confirms that I am. But I'm not scared of getting oiled up and showing myself like that. I enjoyed it and I understand lots of my female fans did too….
I wanted to do something that caused a shock and when the director suggested I posed in the buff like that, I said yes. The Italian rugby player Mirco Bergamasco posed in a similar way for a calendar, so if he can do it, why can't I? They oiled me up because they wanted to make it look like I was sweating and the funniest moment was when the make-up assistant covered me in oil.
My thoughts on the Mantova investigation
On a much more serious note I want to say something about the investigation going on in Italy.
I didn’t read the papers that much but people have told me about it and I just hope it's not as bad as the Italian press has been making out. A lot of people have been placed under investigation but that is the first step in any Italian police investigation. Hopefully no big-name riders will actually be accused, go on trial and be found guilty. It would be another big blow for Italian cycling.