It's almost time for the Vuelta and so that means it’s only about three weeks until we leave for the world championships in Australia. And I'm starting to get ready for the biggest goal of my season.
Of course, Paolo Bettini hasn't announced the Italian team yet but I know he considers me a key part of his squad and I've been working hard to be at my very best on October 3.
For the last ten days I've been training at altitude in Livigno, high up in the Italian Alps. I did a week up there in July too before the Tour of Austria but this time I got in a serious block of training. I did a week of long hard rides and I've done some speed and threshold work in the last few days. I was there with my teammate Marco Bandiera and Luca Paolini for most of the time, then Alessandro Ballan, Mauro Santambrogio and Cadel Evans arrived too.
A stage win in the Vuelta
I'm really looking forward to the Vuelta. I intend to go all the way to the finish Madrid this year because there's an extra week between the Vuelta and the world championships this time. Some riders might pull out after two weeks but that will mean they won't race for three weeks before the Worlds. That is far too long. Of course it's tricky to balance recovering from a three-week race, a 27 hour flight to Australia and a nine hour time change. But we're flying business and I'll listen carefully to my body in the final week of the Vuelta.
I'll be looking for stage wins at the Vuelta. Like I said, I'm confident of securing a place in the Italian team but I know I have to prove that I'm on form if I want an important role in the team. I've spoken to Bettini a lot and he pointed out that he always tried to win a few races before the Worlds to let everyone know he was on form and deserved to a team leader.
I get on well with Paolo and he's already shown he's a good national coach even though he's only been in the job a few months. I don't envy his position though. He's got to make some tough decisions in the next few weeks and is responsible for building a good Italian team and then delivering a result under huge pressure.
Too tough for the sprinters
I've seen some of the recent stories on Cyclingnews about the Australian team for the world championships and the decision not to select Robbie McEwen. I feel sorry for Robbie, he's a good guy, a dedicated pro and a good teammate but to be honest, I just can't see him being up there because the circuit in Geelong is too tough for him and for most of the other pure sprinters.
I don’t know if Cavendish has seen the course but I think he will also be in for a shock. He surprised us all when he won Milan-San Remo but I went to Australia in July with Bettini specifically to see the course and came back knowing that the two climbs on each of the laps and especially the rising finish will be too tough for the sprinters. The climbs are short but they hurt, while the finish has a gradient of 2% for the first part and then rises at 4% for the final four hundred metres.
It's similar to the finish in Stuttgart in that respect, where Paolo won his second world title in 2007, but I think it's probably even harder. That's why it doesn’t suit the sprinters and is more suited to classics riders who are also fast finishers. Hopefully that includes me.