A big boy schedule for 2011

Happy 2011 everyone. It's nice to be able to turn the page on 2010. 2010 was a big year for me personally as well as the team. I started out the year pretty tight lipped, worried of becoming that neo that stepped out of line. By the middle of the year I was much more comfortable and was making fun of everyone. Here is a little look back on some highlights of the things I made fun of my teammates for in 2010.

-Cavendish walking around the bus naked yelling "where's me f***ing DZ-Nuts?"
-Bert Grabsch for singing "it's raining men" before the Dauphine prologue.
-Lars Bak for having 1,000 names
-Lars Bak for being Danish

Over the winter I had some fun traveling around, drinking wine, eating out, going to Las Vegas, riding the mountain bike, shopping, as well as spending time with friends and family. Now, though, the season is close on the horizon. All of the above have been scaled down and it's back into the routine of being an athlete. It's sad that I've had to stop with the mountain biking now that I am back in Europe. The skills really do go away if not practiced, and I don't mean to brag but I was getting very mediocre.

Our first camp is out of the way, and now we are halfway through the second. It is fun to see everyone returning from last year, and it is great to see all of the new faces. It was a bit sad to see so many names missing from last year, nine in total. But there are some good new additions to the team that will certainly add character to the team. Surely a few (if not all…) will make it to the list of people getting made fun of throughout 2011.

A few key notes that I've learned upon getting to know the new mates. I'm not going to be able to understand a word of our new Irish teammate Matt Brammeier. He claims his first language is English but I don't believe him. Also Gatis Smukulis is the most flexible person in the world. This 6-foot-tall Latvian, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the incredible hulk, can do the splits easier than most of us can twiddle our thumbs. His limberness is best displayed on the dance floor where he was without a doubt the life of the party (and the heartthrob of all the young girls of our HTC women's team).

I'm glad to see a couple more Americans on the team with Danny Pate and Caleb Fairly. Both will make super strong additions to the team, and also give me a few more guys who understand my American sense of humor.

I more or less know what my race schedule is now. There was talk earlier of me aiming for the Giro, but we decided California was going to be my first big focus for the year. So now I have an outside chance of making the Tour, which is exciting, but I won't hold my breath. It's a hard selection to make and there are never any guarantees.

So here is what I have to look forward to; Challenge Mallorca, Vuelta Algarve, Paris Nice, Vuelta Catalunya, Vuelta Pais Vasco, Fleche Wallone, Liege Bastonge Liege, Tour of California, Something, the Tour maybe. This really is a big boy schedule, no "easy messing around races". This also means it may be a bit harder for me to pick up results, but I think I'm ready to rise to the challenge.

So that brings me to the radios, I'm not sure if it really does but I couldn't write a blog without voicing my opinion on this pertinent issue. As you may have read on Twitter, I am for keeping them. I also don't think it turns us into drones by having them. Or at least that's what my director just told me to say via radio. In all seriousness though, none of us are thickheaded robots simply following orders.

Bike racing back before radios was still raced the same way it is now. If you guys are hoping for more attacks like Oscar Pereiro, who in 2006 gained a half hour and stole the tour from all the frontrunners, I think you will be disappointed. We will still be getting time checks from the motor bikes and the breaks will come back the way they always have, barring a few unusual circumstances. To be frank I would be upset if cycling were raced that way. I would rather see the GC men duking it out on epic climbs or in time trials and not lose the tour because, "oh shit, we did even know that guys was up there." I can get behind imposing a ban for time trials only, but not on the road.

I know cyclists like to complain a lot about how hard their lives are, but I am not one of those cyclists. I love my job, I love riding, I love traveling and racing, and as professionals we get compensated for it. But the one thing I will say, and I don't think anyone will disagree, is that this job is stressful. Most people have never experienced the stress of hearing a crash that just happened two wheels behind you and not knowing if one of your mates went down, or the stress of getting a flat tire and watching the peloton ride away from you. Or the stress of defending a leaders jersey and not knowing if a GC threat just snuck into the break.

The people who never experienced any of that are the ones making the decisions to impose the ban. I understand that some people don't care what any of us think because, after all, we are only out there for entertainment and to make the sponsors happy. However, I strongly feel this is an issue that should be decided by the athletes. And over 90% of them would say to keep the radios.

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