Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Doing My Bit

I just finished the Classica de Almeria, which was my second race of the year but my sixth day of racing. Stage races compound exhaustion pretty fast.Almeria was a bright spot, though, because our Dutch sprinter, Theo Bos, brought home our first team victory.

I hit it off with Theo at our first camp back in November. I have some orange in my blood, dating back to my junior days when I raced in Holland and was coached by the then Dutch national team coach Egon Van Kessell (who is now the Cervelo TestTeam women’s sports director), and lived with the Dutch masseur at the time, Harry Schokkenbroek. Theo and I decided a few weeks ago to go to Majorca together for some warm weather training, and I was able to witness his speed firsthand. His background is from the track, and he has incredible leg speed. You know when you’re sprinting against somebody, and no matter who it is there’s always that one moment when you think you might possibly be able to take the sprint? That never ever happened when I was sprinting with Theo.

When we would download our watts and looked at the power numbers, he was about 50 percent higher than me at the peak. Besides that, Majorca was great for me. We stayed at the Barcelo Pueblo Park Hotel in Playa de Palma, a hotel geared towards cyclists. I recommend it for anybody who wants to go somewhere for warm training. They have a bike room for storage, a full-service mechanic, a masseusse on staff, and the food is healthy and ideal for cyclists. The riding in the area has mountains and flats, and the coffee shops in Santa Eugenia round off the training experience. I’ll probably go back at some point this year. Maybe I’ll see you there.

At Almeria, I tried hard to get in the early break. I didn’t make the right group, but I was happy to be at the front mixing it up a little. The rhythm of pro races is still a little hard to explain to people. The pace was blistering until the break was established — then all of a sudden the peloton was happy with the mix of riders that got away, and collectively we turned off the gas and the race was ridiculously easy for the next two hours. Columbia had brought its sprinter, Mark Cavendish, here and Rabobank had sprinter Graeme Brown, so each team put a man on the front and controlled the race, monitoring the gap to the pack so it never got too big to erase near the end, or came back so close that riders in the peloton would start attacking to bridge up to it (and thus disrupting our controlled ride).

Cervelo took a spot in the peloton as the third team, and we rolled along comfortably. I was even brave enough to stop for two nature breaks without worrying about getting back to the pack. That’s a nice feeling, especially because this race was a little harder to come back to than most. There were only 110 riders. This meant that moving up and down the group was easy, but because the grupetto was so small (and the caravan equally reduced), if you came off the back things could get ugly quickly. Your opportunity to slip back in among other riders or vehicles was pretty slim, then you’d be faced with a long chase on your own.

Coming into the second KOM of the day, a 2-kilometer, Category 2 climb, Alejandro Valverde from Caisse d’ Epargne went ballistic, and all of a sudden we were in a stretched-out line. By the top, the pack had split into three or four groups, and I was in the last group. There were about 10 of us trying to catch a group of 40-60 that was about 20 seconds ahead. Theo was in that group. The team (especially the veteran Inigo Cuesta – 40 years old) worked hard and eventually brought him up to the front group, making his victory possible. I ended up minutes down. Not that it matters, but I was trying really hard. I wanted to do my bit for Theo. I just hope maybe I did so when we were training in Majorca.

Photos Courtesy of Raymond Kool