Hola from the Vuelta! We're virtually halfway through the race now and we're about to head into the Pyrenees. I'm not looking forward to that because we'll be riding to defend Joaquin Rodriguez's race lead but it's nice to have the red jersey in a major tour.
I would have liked to have won a stage myself but it's no big deal. Everything is going really well so far as I cross off the days to the world championships in Australia. There are just 26 days to go now and I can feel my form is coming on nicely. I've still got about 1.5kg to lose before I'm at my optimal weight but I'll lose that in the second half of the race and be perfect for when I get on the plane for Australia on the Tuesday after the Vuelta.
I've been doing quite a bit of extra training during the stages of the Vuelta by doing some efforts to move up the bunch in the finale or by pushing myself to stay with the leaders on the climbers even when I knew I couldn't get a result. I finished with the front group in Vilanova i la Geltru and even had a good go in the sprint. It's all about getting ready for the world championships.
World championship rivals
The Italian national coach Paolo Bettini was at the Vuelta for a couple days and we had lunch together on the rest day. We've been speaking regularly since he took over Franco Ballerini's job and we both want to do well in Melbourne as a way of remembering Franco.
I'm letting Paolo worry about the Italian team selection and I've been focusing on studying our key rivals here at the Vuelta. Philippe Gilbert stands out as the big danger so far. He might be going very deep early on but he's shown how good he can be by the way he took the leader's jersey and then fought to keep it. He's been designated the absolute leader of the Belgian team but that's good news for us because it means they will be willing to do some work to control the race for him. At least they better do, because there's no way Italy is going to do all the work this year.
I've also been keeping my eye on Nicolas Roche, Oscar Freire and Thor Hushovd. Roche could be a real threat if he gets a late move in Australia and then attacks alone on the last lap. Hushovd was good when he won his stage and could also be up there in the finale. But he will have to be riding very, very well and often isn't in the worlds. I know Oscar Freire is still recovering from his nose problems and has been out of the results so far but he can't be forgotten. He won three world titles when he supposedly had a bad back and so he's always a threat.
Fabian Cancellara could also cause us problems but it perhaps depends on what happens at Saxo Bank in the next few weeks. We were all surprised that Andy Schleck and Stuey O'Grady didn't start after the rest day. I don't know what they got up to but at the end of the day, Riis is the boss of the Saxo Bank team and so he decides the rules that have to be followed.
We've got a lot of similar rules at Katusha and Andrei Tchmil wouldn't allow anything like that to go on. We like to joke around sometimes but we know we can't go out for drinks during a race. Nobody is perfect but I've been living like a monk for the last few weeks and will continue to do so until the Tour of Lombardy. I'll enjoy myself when it's all over, at the end of the season, and when nobody can tell me what I can and can't do.
I'm sure you've read that I'm under investigation by the Italian tax office. It's true. But I'm not at all worried because I really do live in Monaco and have done so for a few years.
They searched by parents home for four hours when I was there after the Giro. I think they were looking for contracts and stuff but they didn't find anything because the only thing I own in Italy is a house and I've always paid tax on that. They asked me about my Ferrari but I told them that the three cars I own, including the Ferrari, are registered in Monte Carlo. Of course I do spend some time in Italy but everyone knows I do most of my training in Monaco and then spend also spend lot of time away at races. I'm hardly ever in Italy.
Dave Zabriskie's brother
You might have noticed that I've been sporting a rather dapper moustache at the Vuelta.
I think I look pretty good with it but of course Andrei Tchmil doesn't agree and keeps telling me to shave it off. He's really old school but fortunately facial hair isn't covered by our internal team regulations and so I can keep it for now.
There seems to be a bit of a fashion for 'i baffi', as we call them in Italian. Dave Zabriskie has got a 'tache too. Joaquin Rodriguez reckons I look like his twin brother. I've nothing against Zabriskie, but to be honest, I think I'm a little bit better looking….
If you don't like my moustache don't worry, it's coming off after the Vuelta. I wouldn't want anything to spoil my look on the podium at the world championships.
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