I've been back on the bike for two months now but I took it pretty slow getting back into the swing of things after taking a longer than normal off-season in late October-early November. I'd just finished a long year of racing in 2012 and needed a good break. We had our first Garmin-Sharp training camp during December so I knew I needed to be relatively fit but the actual camp wasn't too strenuous.
The short trip to Tuscan, USA turned out really well as I had been concerned about jetlag and getting sick so close to Nationals but after another long trip on the plane, it all turned out great. The camp included about four hours of training each day through the desert, which was a new experience for me. I wasn't expecting it to be so dry, battled about two blood noses during my time there even though we weren't doing any hard sessions like motor pacing or anything. It was more about getting to know my new teammates as I wouldn't be seeing most of them until Tour Down Under – except for the Aussie guys of course.
Coming into the festive season I made sure to look after myself and not do anything crazy. I trained well down in the Otways, Dandenongs, King Lake and the Mornington Peninsula, managing it around seeing family and friends. I also stayed away from the alcohol. Building up for the first races of the year was all down to me getting out and doing all the sessions that my coach Andrew Christie-Johnston had set.
The real form testers are Andrews 'death' sets. I look at them as ones that either make you or break you. I've managed to finish a shortened version but I can't get through the full five-hour one yet. There are lots of continuous sprinting efforts and Andrew says: 'once I finish one of them, then I'll know I'm ready to turn pro'. It's a work in progress.
The Mitchelton Bay Classic or 'Bay Crits' was my first real hit-out for the New Year and I had been training pretty hard. After some motor pacing around Mornington Peninsular, near Arthurs Seat, I thought I would test the legs at Sandown – my local crit. I passed my test and thought I was going well. I was ready for the Bay Crits but too be honest, I wasn't expecting them to be so tough. I think the system got quite the shock racing so hard.
During my big rides, it's most likely that I'm on my own. No music, just the sound of the road. It's been so busy lately that the iPod is all too much for my little head to handle. It's the same in my car too, just enjoying quiet time and listening to all the rattles, planning what I'm going to fix next.
The National Crit on Thursday night didn't go 100% to plan with a little bit of confusion out on the road. The organised chase by Huon-Genesys exploded when Drapac hit over the top for a few laps and then stopped riding. It was a pretty important stage of the race too, because Cameron Meyer was just too strong for any of the teams to stop working. So, he road away with a well-deserved win while in the bunch we just tried the best we could for the minor placings. Second was great to steal as I thought I was a little far back as I rounded the bottom corner but the legs had a little more than I thought.
There are four guys lining up for the road race from the team with Nathan Haas, Lachlan Morton and Rohan Dennis. Anyone of us could give it a crack but we just have to overcome the ridiculous number of Orica GreenEdge riders, not to mention all the hitters from the other pro teams and NRS who will give us a run for our money too. That's the next goal. After testing my legs in the crit, I know they have the speed but after 200k I'm not sure they will get up those hills.
After the Nationals it's down to Adelaide for the first WorldTour race of the season. I'll be firing for the start because we've got Tyler Farrar coming down. It's going to be awesome getting involved in the lead-outs for him. Let's hope we can bag a stage win and come away with some good results for the team. Don't forget about Rohan, after his 5th GC last year with Uni SA, he could win the whole race!
My next post will come after TDU. Wish the Garmin-Sharp guys good luck!
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Steele Von Hoff is a first-year professional riding for the Garmin-Sharp ProTeam. Von Hoff spent the 2012 season with Jonathan Vaughters Chipotle Development squad before graduating to the WorldTour ranks as a stagiare late last year. The Australian sprinter has shown he's capable of rivalling some of the best in the bunch sprints and will be working closely with the team's top sprinter Tyler Farrar throughout his neo-pro season while also looking to capitalise on his own opportunities.
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