Wednesday, 16 November 2011

I will be a cyclist in 2012

I've come to a deal with my current team to continue. I'm not thrilled but at least it should be an interesting year. I start right in mid-January with the Tour of San Luis in Argentina.

I'll give it my best shot again.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A climb up to Foia, next year and plan ahead.

A climb up to Foia.

Today I did a little test up Foia. This a 7.5km climb that rises from 450m to 900m. It's got a shallow gradient and you usually get a head wind going up it. I forgot how chilly it gets just 900m up! I did it in 20.27m which was good. I've only been training for two weeks after two months off. In the summer I could do 3x sub18m up the climb! So there's a lot of work to be done.

Next year.

No news yet, regarding cycling next year. It's funny though, I can't help feeling calm about things. I had a word with a friend about things, he told how much a certain cycling team are paying people and I just thought that that wouldn't do. So if I get a similar offer, it will be ciao aí (bye there).

Plan ahead young sports person.

There a couple of kids who want to go training with me, or do go training with me. I might make it a point that only kids working doing an apprenticeship or studying may train with me! Seriously, it seems like a game when you're 20, but when you want to actually make a life, it's very unlikely you'll be doing it pedaling a bike.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Tic-toc, tic-toc...

It's coming up to the end of October and I haven't had one word from any team about cycling professionally in 2012. I can't wait for ever. Already this I've made big sacrifices this year and really I'd be disappointed to quit without having made a boat load of cash in the Pro Tour. They say domestiques earn well there, if this guy is anything to go by I'd say they're right!

Previously I thought the lack of interest was for being stranded at the corner of Europe in a peloton famous for a rampant doping problem, but evidently the doping problem has been adressed and this year unlike previous years I have had people help out and try to get a team for me else where in Europe. I don't know why there is no interest. I could say the lack of results, but my winning "Equipier do Ano" (domestique of the year) kind of explains that, doesn't it? Okay in cycling, there is a huge team element... blah, blah, blah. -It's a small bell, but I'm ring it!

I love sport and am training like it's a normal pre-season; running and doing strength training exercises. But I am wondering where will I apply it?

  • Fun running? -God forbid, but like death it comes to us (athletes) all.
  • Ironman triathlon? 
  • Mountain bike stage racing? 
  • The hour mark? -Hour p.b., I wont get ahead of myself here.
  • British time-trail championships? 
  • Something totally mad like a HPV (not herpes but human powered vehicle) record.
  • Something totally mad like the RAAM -it's got a big prize which appeals to my sense of greed.
  • Something totally mad like cycle round the world with a huge beard?
  • Free Diving?
  • Fell running? 
  • Quit? -No, I am happy tilting at wind mills.
Which one shall I go for? Votes please!

My closing words are a genuine thank you to everyone who has helped and supported me!

Monday, 24 October 2011

My Birthday Suprise.

It's unusual to have anything directly cycling related happen during the off-season. Here there is no track racing or cyclo-cross, just the odd mountain bike race.

I had my birthday on the 22nd. I am 27 and feel like I'm hurtling through life much too fast. I wish the days were twice as long!

I first celebrated my Birthday with my family on the 21st which was good fun, then the following day I went with my girl friend to Tavira where we celebrated with some friends. Luis Silva, one of my team mate is two hours younger, so we usually celebrate together.

Te following day I was awoken to a doping control. I was amazed at the timing. "Will have drunk a lot of alcohol the day before affect the test?" I asked. To which they said "no". I was just thinking that I do not as of yet know whether I will even be a cyclist next year. However the "vampires" must think I will be, so I took it to a good omen!

Doping test done I went running in the mountains. 16km up and down the hills and in the rain, it was great craic.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Volta a Portugal Stages 9 and 10

Stage 9

The Torre stage "broke the engine", but I could see this was a general thing for the entire peloton and my maximum heart rate of 170 wasn't something exceptional.

The stage started in the worse possible fashion: I had a mechanical problem durring the neutralized section of the stage and barely got back to the bunch before the flag dropped.

We were told to let a small group of six go, with no one from the top 15 in said group. Because of the nature of this type of stage and the fact that a group could arrive just about everyone attacked. To add to our problem João Cabreira was making it very hard for us as he kept jumping (he was in the top 15). I suffered so much on the first climb of the day that I wasn't sure I would make it over in the lead group. I did make it over and Cabreira did get in a group of about 12-13.

Me doing my job.

Now came the part at which I excel at: Controlling a break. I can do this pretty much by myself and after the "warm up" on that first terrific climb of the day I found my legs. Me and two team mates were able to control the race for about 140km. Cabreira duly broke the "engine", I had to congratulate him on "beating on the little guy" because the only people he was causing problems for were I and the other Tavira domestiques. I believe this was the fastest stage in the race due to Cabreira.

My team mates controlled the rest the final 12km into the finish and we defended the lead perfectly. The race was won in impressive style by Jabob Rathe.

Stage 10

I don't like complacency: A race is only won when you cross the finish line. And indeed the last stage of the race proved complicated as Caja Rural were desperate to get someone in the breakaway.
Ricardo risking everything :-P

I had recovered my legs by this stage, feeling better and with the finish in sight we brought order to the bunch and had a few kilometers to celebrate and drink some champagne. Still the thought that a fall or a puncture could ruin everything lingered in my mind. These feelings were only amplified by all the treacherous roads we passed. On entering the final circuit in Lisbon we had to cross a series tram lines between very uneven cobbles. This broke my nerve and with my job doen I dropped to the back of the bunch and just chased back on every time someone fell, or dropped of. I was lucky I was strong enough to do this! I finished in the bunch in 32nd that stage, safe and sound, Volta completed, a Volta I helped  in a big way to win.

The team on the podium in Lisbon

"Stage 11"

Needless to say, after winning the Volta I just wanted to eat and drink and be merry. Unfortunately other people had other ideas. We were carted round from ceremony to ceremony and that big greasy meal I had dreamed of, those pints of beer cool never really materialized. This was the 11th stage of the Volta a Portugal which no one acknowledges!

We were however treated like heroes. There were so many people in Tavira that the whole centre of the town was full. We toured round in an open top bus, got interviewed, put on stage, filmed on live television; the works, I had never seen anything like it, not even when David Blanco had won the race.

So although it's tough, one must be patient and give people your ear and be paraded round the place. It's just another job for the cyclist.

These celebrations went on for about 10 days. We went on national TV, and a whole series of events in the Algarve. This time as I had rested and eaten I didn't resent them. I actually rather enjoyed them.

Video of Stage 11

Since then

I have done nothing much cycling wise. I still ride nearly every day, but only an hour or two. It's weird I have no racing baring a track festival on the 5th of October but I still have a tremendous desire to ride my bike.

Although next year is still a quagmire, baring some unforeseen I will be a cyclist.

I can't wait for next February, to be on a start line on cold morning fit and ready to race. I already miss it enormously.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Since the Volta a Portugal em Bicicleta (Grandissima).

It's nearly two weeks since the Volta. I'm back up to 74kgs, from the 70kgs I had during the Volta. I've trained very little, but well. I have only one race left on the road, it's a circuit race tomorrow. I hope I can get around okay and maybe get a few euros to take home.

Although bike racing hasn't been at the fore front of my mind, I've been working hard and I've been quite stressed -just the way I like it.

Bike racing has this thing, that it's thrilling. There is nothing like it anywhere. It's got everything: high speed, challenging, self-sacrificing, a "brother in arms" type camaraderie even with the opposition. It's dangerous, very dangerous, the money is shit, but it's something I love. When a cyclist isn't bike race they need some way to get their "fix". It used to be nights out on the tiles, mountain bike races and any other crazy sporting events that were going. But now I want to build a life and having this as my objective also has tantalizing challenges that keep my "thrill buds" quenched.

The first challenge I guess is that I want to continue racing. The fact that my season ended in mid-august is something that hurts me. It's the same for most of the Portuguese peloton, but I really would like to keep things rolling well into October. I'd love it if I had a Tour of Britain of a Tour of Bulgaria like previous years. Those years I would finish and really feel like I needed the rest. To continue racing I need a contract for 2012. There are interesting developments in this regard, but I will not sell short and if I don't get something that justifies the effort, I will switch back to another sport at which I have previously excelled. So you'll see me on a bike in 2012 no matter what happens.

The other challenge is that I've had to move out of my first real home: My adorable cottage in Pé do Cerro. I will miss this place so much. Here I lived in peace, at a pace of life that suited. The place did me good and I excelled in everything I had to do. Ironically I can say that the difficulties that forced this decision are passed, but I promised never to allow those difficulties to return, so I let that decision stand. I will Pé do Cerro and the friendly people of Santa Barbara de Nexe. I will miss the interesting spring flower, the miles of paths through the "Barrocal" and the wild life: the rabbits, chameleons, snakes, the hedgehog -even the mouse in the closet. I will miss walking and running with Cruella though the countryside. I am going to Alfanzina, the family home to live with my aunt and my grandmother.

There is no such thing as security. People climb to the notion in ridiculous fashion, when all they are in fact doing is passing the buck on to someone else. Six years living on the edge and a week in coma taught me that life is to be lived to the maximum and to do this one cannot be risk averse. It was with this in mind that on Friday I got up and set up a business. Of course it's designed so that I can be professional athlete and own it without a problem. Hopefully it'a a way I don't have to spend from now till December wondering how I am going to sustain myself. Hopefully it's a way to share the place I love, through activities I adore, while I can "build a life" through it.

And that's it. I will write up things relative to the Grandissima a bit latter.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Etapa 8. Seia-Torre 182.8km (4.5 vertical km)

This stage was worrying everything could be won or lost. I had quite an arduous task, which was to get over the climbs and help in the in between bits, then rest for the final climb. This went very well and everyone on my team performed their role perfectly. We won the stage and improved our lead in the GC. Job done, but we still have 330km till Lisbon!

Thanks Ricardo Mestre for being a good leader. 

Friday, 12 August 2011

Etapa 7. Sabugal-Guarda 35.3km +.6 k accent

Today we had a longish time trial.

I was in rest mode and that is what I did keeping my heart rate well bellow threshold the whole way. In fact, including the minute just before and a few minutes after my average heart rate for the exercise was 147BMP. Which is good! It leaves me fresh to help defend the yellow jersey my team mate Ricardo Mestre earned today.

Ricardo went a good deal faster than me of course, in fact he went a good deal faster than anyone. I never imagined he would dominate this TT in such a way.

Anyway, once tomorrow is over I will feel more relaxed, although things will be fairly tough all the way to Lisbon. My luck is that I am feeling quite good.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Etapa 6. Aveiro-Castelo Branco, 215.6km + 3.015 vertical km

Today I had a rough day. It was 42ºC and I drank and drank in order to fight the heat. This was fine for the first 3 hours, but I then got a very upset stomach. I had terrible pains and could not eat or drink. I went to get water at the car and inform the boss, to which he replies that I must go to the front soon and get to work reeling in the break. I wasn't happy with this, I was really uncomfortable. What was more sad about this was that I was well. But I and two team mates were able to cut the break aways advantage from 7:50 to 3:00 in about 30kms.

Then I was caught up behind a fall. An old team mate, Alejandro Marque broke his wrist. I was quite sad about that. Chasing back on was not an option as by the time I was free of the carnage the peloton was a good 500m away and in my sorry state I didn't feel like suffering!

The stage was won by Gavazzi of Lampre, which was good since Lampre haven't really shown themselves much till today.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Rest Day, Volta a Portugal

Today has been painfully boring. One does nothing on rest day, which is harder than it sounds.

I woke up earlyish, or should I say my room mate woke me. He must be the type that can't stand being alone or something, as I still had another 30mins to sleep. I found this extremelly annoying. I had a huge breakfast of eggs, bacon and sausages; not your athletes breakfast, but I go well on it and it's what I eat nearly every day at home. Given my job, it's better to be a bit fat (4% body fat vs. 3% of a GC contender).

I then went training. I went alone because I had already recieved my go slow orders for the Time Trial (TT) and it was the TT the rest of the team went to see. I just didn't fancy all the fafing about, given whatever I do in the TT will be wrong (too slow, too fast, etc, etc). Ironically our sprinter is set to go fast, for the purpose of time checks.

I went to an amazing place right up a mountain. It was called Linhares. I had these incredible stone streets, it was like cycling into the middle ages. I felt I was in ancient Lusitania. I hope to explore this area well one day.

Out side of this I have just been bored out of my mind. I've just looked at e-mails, the Facebook and did some stuff so that I can transfer my to a new server where I will rebuild it in the week after this race. I'm also trying to get to grips with excel, which is quite painful!

I stare at the phone occasionally and think of calling the one or two contacts I have on other teams. I really would like to continue cycling, but not here.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Etapa 5. Oliveira do Hospital-Viseu 150.3km, 1.97 k accent

Todays stage was much easier than any of the previous. Our rivals Barbot were knackered after the tit tat (mainly driven by them) of the previous stage. Today I felt good. It was hot (38ºC) but I like the heat. The only challenge is drinking about 1.5-2L of water per hours. If you can manage that you, you can perform well even in extremely hot conditions. I didn't have much to do, just occasionally get water and a brief stint pulling on the front. At the end I felt good, but I punctured about 10km from the end when the peloton was flying along at high speed. I got back on and thought job done, but then there was a series of splits in the bunch on the final decent and I got stuck there... At 90kph and trying to conserve as much energy I wasn't going to bridge that gap! I must have lost a minute or two today.

The race was a sprint finish. Our sprinter Samuel Caldeira came 8th. He was spared from our earlier work which was to mark Barbot which annoyed me, because usually who picks up the tab is I. The race was won by Andrea Guardini

Monday, 8 August 2011

Etapa 4. Lamego-Gouveia 182.4km + 3 vertical km

Todays Stage was particularly tough. The beginning was ferousiously fast. My job was to get into the groups and I did this very succesfully, but for some reason nothing stuck for the first 70kms. Eventually, after a lot of energy expended a break got away and I wasn't in it. Oh well. The rest of the stage I just tried to save as much energy as possible. I dropped of the bunch on the final climb with this intent.

My team mate Nelson Vitorino came an excellent 2nd. José Toribio won from the break.

Etapa 3. Viana do Castelo-Senhora da Graça 150km + 2.96 vertical km

Yesterday, we had a relatively easy stage. I was supposed to rest, but yet again I was put on the front working -on a day I was told I should rest. So that was typical. Nine guys on a team and I pick up most of the bill. The “leaders” did okay however on the final climb, while I rested, keeping my heart rate nice and low all the way up.

I can't wait to leave and pull my “British” money and my “British” talent away. Note, I am not in anyway “nationalistic” I was born to an “Irish” mother and a “British” father in Portugal. In Gattaca, the main character derides and works against “Genoism” -discrimination based on ones genes, and I say, 'if only!!'.

Portuguese cycling is ever more jingoistic, ever more poor. This is not for me I am afraid. I love racing my bike and I love Portugal, but being treated like a foreigner in the country I was born in is a bit much. Racing bellow my standard and being incessantly held back means I cannot work with these people: 5 years and not a single opportunity – merely the opportunity to work. And I am very good at my job.

If there's light at the end of the tunnel, it's that Hernâni Broco who won on “Monte Farinha” was treated for years and years as a worthless “worker”. Even been excluded for many years from the Volta squad when he raced on Liberty Seguros. So there you have it, someone treated no better than a work horse is now having his pay back.

Parabéns Hernâni. 

Ricardo Mestre came second and my team  David Livramento put in a tremendous attack which could have succeeded, but it didn't unfortunately as he was caught 400m away from the finish.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Etapa 2. Oliveira de Azemeis-Trofa 184.4km + 3.75 vertical km

Today was rainy, cold and very dangerous. I had quite a lot of bad luck initially, including a near miss with a fall (I did a 180º spin, but kept it up; you'd have to see it to believe it) and a puncture, which was in fact just an under inflated tire; I was feeling paranoid after the spin.

So yeah a lot of high speed chasing and some climbing at 45kph pretty much right from the gun. When I got to the bunch I saw a break up the road with a climber team mate and jumped across. Things looked ideal for the break to stick, for the first 40km things did turn over nicely. But from then on, the others just sucked my wheel and I took every mountain pass and all the wind in my face for 60km. Eventually 125km Caja Rural took over. I was knackered and didn't force too much. I am wary of the tremendous length of the race and I knew that break wouldn't stick; I did my duty in forcing the teams behind to be worked over. But what I really wanted was David Livramento to win or place high on GC to provide an x-factor to the race: the guys got real talent.

And that was it! It was an easy race for those on the wheel. I worked my balls of. I finally bonked (after going slowly for a long time) on the final climb. But a 60km solo across those mountains in that rain was excellent.

Sérgio Ribeiro, who is in scintillating form won the race on a tough 6.6km mountain top finish. I came in 14:05 after. Over leaders did their job well also and all placed in the top 10. Things are looking good.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Etapa 1. Trofa-Oliveira de Azemeis 187.7km. Volta a Portugal.

Stage 1 was long and very fast. It was also dangerous with many riders in the peloton riding dangerously. I was prepared to smack a few I got so irritated with the incessant frights throughout the stage. Common courtesy was thrown out the window, no holes or danger were pointed out. The worse for this were the Spaniards and the Italians. The Italians from Lampre you could tell were not happy to be racing the Volta. The Spaniards (Andalucia) were just plain selfish, as if there were no other riders but them.

I raced quite well, I had no specific task to do, but did the normal duties like getting water, protect the leader when he'd let me. Still the race was quite hard. I finished somewhere in the bunch.

The race was won by Sérgio Ribeiro and didn't have much else of interest happen.

The full classification can be found here:

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Volta a Portugal Prologue

Prologues are not my thing: I am not explosive, nor especially technical, I lost a lot of time in the last two corners. I will also have my work cut out over the next two weeks, hence I was very careful tackling this 2.2km prologue.

Not to say it went badly; I was very happy with my performance. 3:26.00 I think which is 22s of the best time by Hugo Sabido, but I was still happy. I felt good and enjoyed it. It was one of those days that I simply enjoyed riding my bike. Sabido flew, watching the replay on telly I could see he's in fantastic form.

The team is okay, I see a few problems, but in general people are calm and looking after each other. The management isn't being too pushy or over powering. There are some tensions I can see building and I am sure things after the Volta will be interesting. Our new president is very good and has sorted out the clubs finances and deals with problems very well, he's a no bullshit doer, not a sayer. I hope he has the patience to continue.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Sport Science Connect

I'm studying sport science and while the course has a lot to be desired organization wise, I adore it's content. I originally studied and dropped out of Sports Technology, ironically due to not being able to hack the maths; ironic because I now fly through the more "mathsie" parts of Sports Science.

Studying Sports Science and being a proffessional athlete with experience at elite level in two distinct sports allows me to be particularly pragmatic in my analysis of sports and the science.

The Sport Scientist is the all important jack of all trades. The sport scientist is the person who knowing a lot about the diverse sciences in sport can take a bit of Biomechanics, mate it with Physiology and propose a way to ameliorate performance in the field.

Anyway, I made a site:

Sport Science Connect 

The idea is simple: Tie everything together, so that real world results can be achieved. A way of blending basic sciences and applying them in the real world so to speak.

I believe in this idea, and encourage anyone to contribute.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Why I must change teams -take 2- or: Being the exception.

Last night we had a dinner as a team. As usual the atmosphere was great on the cyclists table, although we drank far more moderately than usual.

I recognised the scene pretty well and knew that such an event only takes place because they can't pay or they have some demand to make of us.

Anyway, after an excellent grilled chicken and some chat of started the speeches which went something like this:

"Blah blah blah, no money, pay you "amanha", blah, blah, blah."

"doing us proud, fighting spirit, pay you "amanha"

"The first all Portuguese team, well no, nearly, except Tomás, but he's an okay worker."
I am actually the best worker as voted by my colleagues in the peloton. Plus I have never been given an opportunity to race for myself.

"bla, blah, blah, we need a Portuguese winner for the Volta a Portugal, so not Tomás, hahaha!"

One man, sorry about the situation actually came up and apologized, even gave me a hug -I think he was the only person in that room who realized the seriousness of the situation...

I beamed a broad smile throughout the proceedings. It wasn't an ironic smile, it was a victorious smile. Victorious because I've thought not a few moves ahead, I am several games ahead.

They say a captain should go down with the ship, however guess who are the first I have identified scurrying from the sinking ship? Yep, you've got it ;-).

Starring at the obvious I thought I would compile a list of facts on why a British cyclist is an important asset:

  • The United Kingdom is the 6th largest economy in the world. 1
  • Britain ranks 4st in the world for ease of doing business. 2
  • The UK has seen a 25% growth rate in 2010 for bicycle imports.3
  • Britain is a market of 62M million people.4
  • The UK cycle market is worth 2100000000 £.5
  • Britain has a projected growth of 2.3% in 2012. 6
  • 16% growth in British Cycling memberships 09-107


So where is Portugal in these statistics?

Plus I only remember of one company stating an aim to invest in Portugese cycling and guess what, it's British:

So there you have it, just a spinet of what I have to tollerate.

Why I must change teams:

I'm not happy with this team and I don't mean the cyclists -I know them well and consider each one a friend and a few close friends.

I was left waiting unnecessarily in the sun for 30 minutes after a longer 1hr delay waiting at home. needless to say I mentioned my disgruntlement to the boss (politely) upon which he got kind of heavy; accelerating and smacking the dashboard. I am an extremely tolerant person and can take a lot of shit; too much in fact, as people take advantage. Now this type of mistake is tolerable once in a while. But incessantly? No.

My reaction was completely cold and I simply went all in. I said "You continue like this and I will stop working with you this instant". And yes, I would skip the volta, perhaps even terminate my career right now without very much thought. He cooled his tempers, but I know he's vindictive so I'm awaiting reprisal.

I think the story is a bit like the pigs in Animal Farm. Something starts out well intended and then people (pigs) get corrupted by power and projects decay. I'm Boxer in this whole story.

I have to switch teams. So any teams interested, contact me.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Grande Prémio Joachim Agostinho

I've had a rough week. We raced the Trofeu Joachim Agostinho which went really well. My team mate Ricardo Mestre won the first stage and the overall and I am glad to say we did an excellent job defending his position.

The race was hilly and windy making it a nightmare for cycling, but this is also the terrain on which my team goes best. It's a team built for climbing. Controlling the race was arduous enough, but there is also a weight of stress, a stress that doesn't pass until the race is over. I was terrified at the prospect of failing to protect our yellow jersey. But I managed to do a very good job.

After the race we had to go look at a few stages of the Portugal. This wasn't brilliantly organized and turned into an ordeal, none of us happy with the long journeys, the absence of celebration for our victory and most of all -the 2000 metres of climbing facing us on what was supposedly a rest day. The following day was a continuation of this nightmare and after many, many kilometres through the mountains of central Portugal we finally got on the road home at about 21:00. One of the stages was important to look at, however we would have been just as well seeing it from a car than a bike. Actually just saying "harder than you could possibly imagine" would have done the trick!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

British Championships

Adventure is a big part of cycling. You are thrown in the deep end time and again. The British Championships is one such adventure. For me doing it un-attached I have a lot to worry about when I go to this race: Transport, bike, timing etc. Things are never optimal and one can never fuss about. No electrolytes  Water will do. No carbon wheel: aluminium is just fine. It goes like that. It would be tough for the spoilt brats of cycling to just get on with it, they'd drop out, not turn up, etc. Luckily I was well educated at Tavira -no primadonna there.

I met many great people at the race and the support was heart felt and overwhelming. I am not a big fish, but have been only a domestique in my career so far. All I can say is thank you and I may honour people's support with good performance.

I missed the initial break by a bit as I was badly positioned at about mid pack. Sky did a text book move on the the only hill in the course which was beautiful to watch, but frustrating also. I set of up the field winding my way through the carnage on the hill and got to the group just behind... Alas just a bit short of the Sky "train". All credit has to go to Jez Hunt in that he was the one that stretched the bunch before the climb allowing his colleagues to get away and eventually win the race, sacrificing himself in the process.

Racing for scraps, I tried to get away, possibly even up to the group. Unusually for a domestique I seemed to be heavily marked. I myself had my eye on David Clarke of the Endura squad as I knew he was as strong as an ox, a good worker in the break and the know rider sure to try for it. This meant that time and again I got dragged back. Anyway bored of this I just sat in. watching people go up the road in drips and drabs and coming bad in similar fashion. I sprinted at the end to went to soon and got passed 50m before the line. I came 32nd in the results although I had though I came approximately 21st. I must not have been paying enough attention at a some point.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Volta ao Alentejo, British Championships this weekend!

I apologize for not writing in so long, or updating you on what happened at the volta ao Alentejo: Just that my gamble paid, I did not get more sick and I got an excellent block of "training" in. The other stories from the Volta are that there is something amiss with the team: We were the only Portuguese professional team not to win anything. In a couple of weeks I will post the whole story.

Tomorrow I am headed for Newcastle. The British Championships are on Sunday at 13:30. It's a huge stressfest for me, as these solo excursions don't come cheap. And everything needs to go according to plan, or else it's a train wreck, with one problem following another. So, - lets hope!- there are no Icelandic volcanoes erupting, that they do not break my bike on the plan and that the other 1M things that can go wrong, don't. My aim is to finish the race in the top 20, like last year. It seems lame, but it is an excellent result for one racing unsupported.

I am doing a weeks study at Uni right after the Championships and that's adding a little pressure! But it's necessary to develop the academic side of my person, as well as the sporting side. Because you can't race a bike for ever.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Volta ao Alentejo

So I'm not 100%, but I did a test run yesterday and feel apt to race. I climbed at a reasonable rate: 190m in 6:50m on my final "test". I am so far behind on training however, I really want to race and race well. I rested well from my flu, so now it's time to put the hammer down and improve.

Volta ao Alentejo starts tomorrow!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A hard month...

So after running my problems through my mind over and over and not finding a solution, it finally clicked in a conversation with my boss ~"I am expected do the work, I want to do the work correctly and well" I said; it just rolled of my tongue... And it was then that it clicked. I have been unhappy because I have been down on form. I was training heavily while I had some virus which manifested itself mainly as sinusitis.

In this period I blamed everything and everyone, I was thinking how I should give up cycling, how others don't help or listen: But never getting closure on the problem, never finding the solution. I have been performing well in other areas of life like academia and other little project I have, but I was still mulling things over and being negative.

The problem is, I love cycling, I love my weekends away "fighting in the arena". Sure my poor mood the past few weeks budded from money worries, but those worries were that I may not be able to do what I love for a living. Sure I frustrated that when we do race against the big teams, we do so well. Yet we spend half our time racing amateur races. But my mood is linked to my form.

Realizing this was a huge weight of my shoulders. I hope I recover well and race excellently, especially at the Volta a Portugal where I want to help bring my team to victory.

Friday, 3 June 2011

A very bad weekend...

Some times it happens, some times thing just don't go well. In my case I have a few low spots every year where I just feel crap. This year has been all the tougher!

We had a pair of races, the Memorial Bruno Neves, in honour of the cyclist that died during the Classica Amarante in 2008. The other was a wierd little stage race around and about a town called Oliveira de Azemeis.

The first race I felt a bit off, but got stuck in as best I could and attacked when necessary. About two hours into the race the heavens opened and it started hailing. I hate the cold and could feel my legs becoming less responsive. A team mate who was in the break fell and we had an obligation to attack. So we did.

Later the race rolled along compact under control by the Barbot team. Given the stormy weather and the oily roads there were many falls... Just my team had three. The last of these was me! I hit the deck hard. I fell on to my Gluteus which was full extended as my knee was was up as I was cornering. This really hurt. I've had my fair share of injury and this one, while just a bruise left me in a lot of pain, so much so I didn't continue in the race. Had I wanted to continue, however by bike was in two separate pieces, so it would not have been possible, since there was no spare.

The next day was a little stage race snaking round a very built up county. I was feeling terrible and should not have started. Not least because the bike that was prepared for me this day was completely ill-fitting. A blocked eustachian tube left me feeling dizzy and with nausea. Needless to say, I didn't complete this race either.

With that awful experience past, I have been training harder than ever. I've received my calendar for the next few months and it is excellent. I am really motivated now to do my absolute best.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Classicas do Sotavento

The weekend was a tough one. Our aim, rather unusually was to make the races as hard as possible. But the fact that these were the first races with hot weather made them hard all by themselves. Our kamikaze attacks just made it even harder.

The first race was a circuit race in Tavira, which I took very easy. The course was extremely dangerous. The "calçada" or cobbles were lifted in places after a big storm a couple of days before, so I just went round and round, then when the time came to reel in the break away I did just that. I split the bunch into pieces and that was that. It was good not to break equipment, or break myself! We actually finished second, so that wasn't too bad.

The second race is a Classic called "Restaurante Alpendre". This did not go well for me. I did my job, but the race was a mess. It was stopped mid way round due to the break away going the wrong way. When I finished my role in this race I eased of the gas. At this point the peloton was full of cramp, although I was ok. No one was prepared for the 30ºC weather we got. I had belly ache due to having to ingest huge quantities of fluids. After this something strange happened, I usually guide myself well in a race and know  where I am in relation to the rest of the race. There are many tricks for this and simply using a watch and some visual cues you can figure out all you need to know. I eased of at 3:00hrs into the race and expected there to be about 30k's to the finish. Expect I never saw the landmark I was looking for, nor the 20k's to go sign till much, much later. And I wasn't going slowly, but at a fast cruise. So, baffled by this and rather annoyed I gave up, figuring that I got lost on the badly marked course. This race was won by Enrique Salgueiro, an amateur who was going very well.

The next day I felt much better. for some reason I like racing on consecutive days and feel much better a couple of days into a race. Again my job was straight forward: Make the race as hard as possible. And that is what I did. I attacked and controlled and attacked a bit more. I got in one excellent move with a great young rider from the amateur Liberty Seguros team but unbelievably we got stopped at a level crossing! Next I got in another move with a lot of the Loulé team, and then I got in another move with a team mate and two amateur which killed the team chasing. I really had to grit my teeth to stay in the bunch and felt like I was going to vomit. But I go through most of the hills and made all the selections bar the last one... This last one I attacked, a team mate dropping back said I should stop. It is arguable whether I should have, but I did. At this point there was a series of attacks and I could only hang on to the second group. This race was also won by Salgueiro.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

"Classicas do Sotavento" this weekend.

I had a weekend off last weekend, the team was racing a series of circuit races just north of Lisbon. They are an excellent series of races, but just not my cup of tea, hence I had my first race out. Unfortunately nothing was won, but in the second race in Alenquer Samuel Caldeira came third. Barbot-Epafel won the first two, 1st with Raul Alarcon, then Sergio Ribeiro. The final race was won by Bruno Lima of Onda Boavista. It seems Barbot were absolutely stelar.

This weekend I'm racing though and I hope to spoil their party. The races are a circuit race in Tavira, which is exceptionally dangerous, then a Portuguese cup race in Vila Nova de Cacela, and finally just a short classic race in Tavira on Sunday. More info here

These weeks I have been training hard and have been quite stressed, so I'm just going to use this weekend to unwind and hopefully put in a good performance, hopefully on Saturday,

Find the detailed information on this weekend's races here. The second two are a bit in the middle of no where, but are tough and have some interesting climbs, although for Classica do Alpendre I recommend catching the final sprint in Cacela velha. Incidentally Restaurante o Alpendre is excellent. The circuit on Friday is mental... it's very dangerous, but kind of amusing. I will not race it if it's rainy; that would defiantly lead to some sort of injury. They have special spectator zones with big screens, but the main square near the finish will be the best place to catch, right near all the cafés too.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Baby Hedgehog

I found this little guy on the road outside my house, I duly picked him up and put him a safe distance from the road. I can safely vouch that there is nothing cuter than a baby hedgehog:

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

On events yesterday and what goes on in the head of a cyclist.

I have had my share of bad luck and crashes.

I too nearly followed a fate like that of Wouter Weylandt, but I have no recollection of it. I just remember the first two corners of the race up the first hill of the day, then blank... The next recollection I have is waking up in funchal hospital with a doctor asking me irritating questions and saying "Tens um Glasgow de 13, está tudo bom" -you have a Glasgow of 13, everything is good. I'm still not really sure what a Glasgow is, but apparently 13 is good. I was even catheterized, received five blood transfusions and evacuated by helicopter... But again all I remember is that black void so deep as to completely dispel any fanciful notions I may have had of a heaven or hell.

Two weeks later I was on my bike. I was so weak because I lost 8kg in hospital. I was completely clueless, perhaps I shouldn't have been riding? I knew nothing of nothing and felt, what I believed it must feel like when a baby leaves the dark for the light. I remember that everything from that October seemed brilliant and beautiful -everything! Everything was full of magical beauty; from the gentle tingling warmth of the sunlight, the ravines on the island and the winding roads, the warm atlantic lapping the coast bellow. I even felt beauty in the pain. The worst that life can throw at you, is better than the endless nothingness of the void.

I've chosen not to recall that month too much because of cowardice. It's very hard to stare your fears and complexes straight in the eye. The whole thing just scares the shit out of me, even six years later.

It's an experience I hold precious and has given me another perspective on life. Ironically it is a perspective I had began to loose in the past two years: Wouter Weylandt brought it back.

Sieze the moment and enjoy everything that life throws at you. Do your best with every minute you have and be thankful for this time. Do not get caught up in petty conundrums and upset about bullshit. Survive and be strong. Enjoy every minute of the journey and the chalenges you face.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Giro, Stage 3- Wouter Weylandt.

I didn't watch today's stage and have nothing to say about it apart from the shock that it was to read about Wouter Weylandts death.

I am aware of the real risks this gladiatorial sport possesses. But I always get shocked by such events. I hope that his girl friend and their baby that is on the way are cared for. I also hope that the cause of the accident is established so to try and avoid a repeat.

Friday, 6 May 2011

VO2max test - results in and Classica Amarate this Sunday, Equipier do mês.

The VO2max test:

Firstly, as a "bonker"* I have to lay out my excuses. I've been under huge stress these past few weeks, I've been frustrated that I and my team are here scratching a living on the edge of professional cycling, when we merit a whole lot more. Anyway, I did enough to get some values for training.

The test went well. I didn't see how much power I produced but noted the my threshold must somewhere around 172. I did 445w last time this time I think I did 470w, that said I didn't see the results yet. This isn't a standard test and last two to three times as long as a normal VO2max test... Lets call it a "Ve" test as it's designed to find ventilatory threshold and power.

Classica Amarante:

Pic 1. Amarante

Amarante is a beautiful town on a tributary of the river Douro in the north of Portugal. But they like their races dangerous! The finishing straight is a narrow cobbled street, that is normally closed to traffic. It has  like step about 1k from the line that requires bunny hopping at 60kph +.

But the route is interesting. There are a lot of hills and the race has a fantastic feel to it. Hard but not killer hard, just fun for racing.

Pic 2. Enjoying the job at the Classica Amarante 2010

Last year André Cardoso came second. So this year I am hopping we can go one better!

I'm "Equipier do Mês" again. I've extended my lead to 6 points. It's an honour to lead this classification. I  think that it should spread into the broader cycling world. It acknowledges the work of the domestiques, work that is more valuable to a team that a 10th place finish**.

I found a dead Mongoose on the road. I was saddened by his death, they have cute little hands, nearly human like. I hate cars.

Pic. 3. The Mongoose


*"Empeno" meaning buckle or bonk is used as a term for a cyclist who, despite their best efforts is mediocre. Such a cyclist is always looking out for themselves so will sprint for 12th, or attack the gruppeto. Such a cyclist buys all the crap, no matter how implausible the gains may be, things like: balance bracelets, silly diets, ever lighter components. The bonker hopes in vain that these will make up for weak genetics. Join my "Grupo dos Empenos" on Facebook. The only way not to be a "Bonker" is to cross the finish line in first (win) in your respective category.

**Next week I'll talk about the UCI rankings and why they are destructive to cycling. I will propose a better system.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Two years on: Cycling and the Credit Crunch 2011

Over two years ago I wrote a piece and the impact of the liquidity crisis on cycle. Here is the follow up.

It's not the credit crunch that's killing the sport.

I said, two years ago, that the "credit crunch" would be good for cycling, my reasoning being that it is a very cheap and effective form of marketing. This seems only to have applied to the top tier. The top tier is very much a closed doors situation; there are at least another 800-1000 riders in the world that merit decent pay and professional conditions.

If we observe recent events surrounding Geox/TMC and the "Pegasus" Australian cycling project, we can see that merit and pure competition has no place in the top tier. Soon after the Pegasus project flopped came GreenEdge. A project with all the cunhas*...

If there is money, let there be more teams. Of course only 20 or so teams can take part in the snore fest that is the Tour de France, but if there is a lack of big events, make more big event instead of ridiculing project like the Tour of America. The sport as a whole would grow. Look at motor sport FAI control WRC, F1, Touring Cars, etc...  All valuable franchises.

I adressed the "World Tour" above. Now my little team: We do battle with the best and we earn the equivalent of a house cleaner or gardener. Is it fair? No, it's a bitch. As I said two years ago "Cycling mirrors society" what we are seing is the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It has got nearly imposible to cycle professionally here.

We need people who love cycling but are not cyclist or athletes to help run the sport.

*Cunhas is a Portuguese word meaning "in-laws" and is used as an expression when someone gains position through someone they know.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

VO2 max test on Monday

On Monday we have a VO2max test. I've done loads of tests over the years and the improvements are small. The tests we do are not proper VO2max tests. It is not VO2max that we are looking to find, they last about twice as long as a standard test as the increments in power increase are much smaller than the standard test. I did a couple of "standard" VO2max tests in 2006 and scored 530w and 91.8 ml/min/kg.

VO2max is kind of a useless measurement: A bit like the cilinder capacity in a combustion engine; what really matters is the power of the engine, not it's size, hence we look for the power of the "aerobic"engine.

Races are usually won in supra-maximal efforts (4-5km climbs, sprints, short TT's) generally efforts that fall into this range are efforts up to 12 minutes. This accounts for most cycling races.

I am not sure of the exact physiology, but quick people (people with oxidative type II fibres) have amazing stamina and speed combined. This because they "recover" energy from lactic acid in the cori cycle in the muscles and liver.

You are what you are. A test is merely a method of determining training intensities.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Cycle Algarve is currently a series of one week cycling tours through the Algarve. In the future I have some grand plans to put in other types of activities, but for the time being and until I get the funds to develop a team for this project, it will remain as it is.

I had this idea in 2007 but, dropped it as I turned pro, but I resurrected it.

I will do training camps in the off-season for those interested, just message me.

I am interested to hear from anyone who would like to get involved with the idea and advise is always welcome!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Vuelta a Rioja last weekend

Vuelta a Rioja had everyone a bit apprehensive. The weather was threatening to rain. The previous year we went over a huge mountain and everyone was a little worried about the long descent in the rain and cold. However, this year we didn't actually go over any big mountains and it didn't rain. No one complained, but wow, what a boring race! It was km after km of straight, flat road, some wind and completely baren landscape.

Because we didn't put anyone in the break, the boss put two team mates controlling the race. When they got to about 1min of the break away I jumped across, more to save them a few km in the wind than anything else. Things then became quite active at the back of the race and my escapade only lasted 16k or so. Again they started attacking and another group got away, again the boss put us to work...  Of course after all this we weren't in the best shape to take on the hills at the end of the race and duly we were unable to put a single rider in the front group!

And not even a bottle of Rioja for our effort.

Epm of Colombia were going strong this day and raced really well, making the winning move on the final hill of the day, unfortunately a savvy Erviti of Movistar tagged along with them and won the race! Incidentally neither team worried particularly about putting someone in the break, or bothered to control the race...

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

G.P. Llodio 2011 Summary

G. P. Llodio is always hard. And this year was no exception. My job was to get in the break and try and win something. I played my part well initially by getting in a huge group that split of the front. I was the only rider there from my team and this wasn't a good situation for the team. Luckily however Euskatel's junior team, Orbea, felt it necessary to annul this huge group and put in a terrific chase with eventually did after 20km. That breakaway wasn't hanging around either.

After that initial effort in the breakaway I wasn't feeling good so just sat in the bunch. On the first climb of the day I also felt short of breath. Last year I had attacked a couple of times here, but this year I was just a little bit short of form. About 10km after the hill there was a huge crash in the bunch, I was really close to getting through unscathed doing a "stoppie" but also fell. I was okay and set of again in pursuit of the bunch, but in the crash my rear break became jammed shut. My boss can be a bit hard on us and here is an example; he thought I was looking for a lift up to the bunch and insisted that I get under my own steam before helping out. So I did, but the effort more or less destroyed my weekend.

The race transformed at some point while I was chasing past all the cars. When I reached the bunch there were a lot riders from Barbot/Efapel and Euskatel/Euskadi and only one other from my team. The thing to do in this situation is to drive it on the front, sparing your climbers and forcing the others (already at a disadvantage) to chase. But my team mates didn't do this.

The bunch then came together and was controlled by Barbot for about 40km until we entered the finishing circuit. Meanwhile I and Nelson Vitorino were considering quitting, I because my cleat was dislodged and causing me a lot of pain and he, because he was bonking after a day in the break away. But I wanted to finish the race. So I chased back up into the middle of the bunch and stayed there.

A large group then slowly formed just ahead on a relatively easy section of the course. I didn't jump across because I had 4 team mates there, but in hind sight I probably should have. Unfortunately I was being stupid and defeatist because of my little mishap earlier in the day. On the last climb of the day Santi Perez jumps out, gains an advantage and holds on down the 5km descent to the line to win by 4s.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Rider Strike at the Vuelta a Uruguay

Hah! I was due to ride this race, luckily we didn't do it in the end!

Now the situation as I understand it was that 96 riders were disqualified due to a protest. The protest was due to the fact that there were thunderstorms yesterday and since the morning stage was canceled (stage 6a, a time trial) that the afternoon stage in the same weather conditions should also be canceled.

I've never been involved in a rider protest. People pay 60 000€-100 000€ for your average international race (per stage). It's worth trying to ride through. If you can't, just stop. The last time I found myself in this situation I was suffering from vagal hypothermia somewhere in the mountains of the Algarve. We were at stage 3, the race was 230km long and passed several mountains. It was raining heavily and the average temperature was 4ºC, add in some thunder, and a strong wind.

Fans often think riders should harden the fuck up. They probably think it's like toughing out a 100km training ride in the rain, when it's nothing of the sort. The truth is, cycling is such a sport that you either can, or you can't deal with a situation. And 99% of people can not even imagine keeping up, yet alone dealing with adverse conditions like hail or a thunderstorm.

Riders should make the effort to race, whatever the conditions. Give up if they must.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

G.P. Llodio and Vuelta a Rioja this weekend!

This weekend we are racing two big 1.1 races in northern Spain.

I've done Llodio a couple of times before and really, it's either wet and very cold, or warm and spring like. Given that it's raining a lot here, I imagine it will be the later. I don't go well in the cold, I get hypothermia in a flash due to something called "vagal" something or other. So needless to say, I feel somewhat apprehensive.

The weather forecast for the next day (Sunday 24th) is a bit better. It says scattered showers. It better be  because this race goes over some huge mountain at the beginning and has an equally colossal decent which left my shoulders aching and finger sore last time, as it takes ages to get to the bottom. If it's raining, it will be seriously unpleasant.

I've had a tough time with the polen and Claritin doesn't seem to work, so this rain sort of feels like a mixed blessing: The air is breathable again and my sinuses are rested, but it's really hard to train well when the road is turned into a river every 20mins, but at least it's warm (17ºC).

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Taça de Portugal -Volta a Albergaria

This weekend we had the first round of the Portuguese cup the "Taça de Portugal".

The race was interesting, the course was not particularly challenging, but it was sinuous and dangerous. Early in the race I was not feeling good due to the long journey the day before and the bad nights sleep; the hotel we stayed at was grim, it's a place where women from the road side attend their clients. The team manager was furious with the situation; he had a sponsor visiting the race. Ironically when I raced this race before we stayed in a convent!

I made a few lame attempts to get in the break at the beginning of the race. I had a 50kph off-road excursion at a section where the road cut in. I din't crash but I lost my nerve. I resigned myself to doing a shit race and started preparing my excuses.

When we got near the hills the race continued to be animated: On the first big descent a guy took a plunge of a bridge into a ravine. I was sure he must have died. We stopped the race. As the Portuguese say ~"He was lucky in his bad luck" because he fell feet first into a raspberry bush 4 meters down. And didn't take the longer plunge, just a meter to the left, onto the rocks further bellow.

After this the race began to get animated and I started to feel okay. We were to sit quietly in the bunch until the final 20 k or so, when we were to try to blow the race appart. We raced a tactically perfect race here. On the first hill André Cardoso did an excellent job of marking Santi Perez. Then after his group got reeled in by the Barbot squad I had my go:
  • I managed to open up a good gap and had a good companion in Amaro Antunes. 
  • We got to the final climb with an advantage.
  • Two of my team mates bridged across.
  • On pulled through a bit to hard and shattered Amaro, then me, then himself.
  • The attack would have worked if it had been 5min further on and if my team mates had bridged the gap earlier.
At the end Sergio Ribeiro, who is in grand form won and we came in 5th through Daniel Mestre. I have to hand it to our rivals Barbot, they were stronger than us.

For all those keen on human performance:

The penultimate climb was passed at 1872 VAM in 4:10 min (this was where Cardoso, Perez and a few others got away). The period of about 10min at 180 bpm+ was my attack at the end. Then I just hung on to the coat tails of the peloton till the finish, putting in one other (lame) attack at about 5km to go.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Volta às Terras de Santa Maria (Team Time Trial)

Day One, Stage One:
141km RR

This stage was awful. Some people here felt inconvenienced by the cyclists. I do not like racing when it isn’t appreciated. At the Volta Algarve, in appalling weather we were greeted with heartwarming support. Support is extremely motivating! 

Then there was the hotel. I’ve stayed in this hotel over a period of 6 years and was never treated badly, but now, it seemed snobby. The restaurant was also terrible. The restaurant is a place that is always full, with a car park gleaming with new Porche Panemera’s and BMW X6. The irony was that here too we were well treated in the past. This time they presented us a days old almond cake, while saying they had nothing better… except we checked it out, they had at least twenty other deserts.

In terms of the race, the course was interesting we had 60 k’s that were flat, followed by some interesting climbs. Oh and the roads were shit, full of holes, rocks etc. We had to control the last 40k’s of the race and we did this well. At 20 k’s from the end I punctured in one of the many potholes. I never got back to the front and lost a bit of time. 

Samuel Caldeira did well to get to the end in the bunch, but had an epic crash:

It wasn’t a good stage and our rivals Barbot took another win. Filipe Cardoso won it.

Day Two, Stage One: 
16.8km TTT

We had an early start and a light breakfast before the team time trial. Now people had gone on and on about the hilly, somewhat technical course was. But as it happens the course was straight forward, despite the three round abouts and three hills. The road was wide which proved interesting. As the time trial was out and back, do you cut the corners and how much? There is a lot to gain in cutting corner. Check out a 400m world record and see the "discount" the people in the outer lane are given vs the inside lane.

As it happens, we didn't cut the corners at all.

The team time trial happened to be our first victory of the 2011 season! I was really happy with this, it was a relief after so many second places. It also proved our worth as a team. Not only did we finish in the fastest time (19:00.00) we also finished with all eight riders. We didn't ride perfectly, but we rode extremely well.

Our problem comes in translating work ethic and determination into victories in road races. I wont yet fault our leader, but rather the tactics we use.

We limiting ourselves to riding for one rider. Such a tactic works:
  • When others employ the same tactic.
  • When you have the strongest rider in the field.
  • When you have a pinch of luck to add.
The thing is, this grossly underestimate the opposition and has a huge physical cost. You can ask a rider to do one or two tasks in a race, but not more. 

Day Two, Stage Three:
65km circuit

We had the lead and five cyclists in the top five going into the last stage of this race. But our method to defend this lead was to control the race utterly. And that is what we did.

This race was 10 laps of a 6.5km circuit. The circuit had a hard cobbled climb, a very rough decent, followed by a rough road full of dangerous holes and then more cobbles. The finish line was atop the cobbled climb.

Well, I having lost time on the first stage due to a puncture was put to work, together with Diogo Nunes and Luis Silva to control the first 7.5 laps of the race. Even so I hung on to the second group, just missing the split for the first. The last 2.5 last were in the hands of my team mates. 

They managed the situation so that André Cardoso could keep the yellow jersey that (we) earned in the team time trail.

André won his first pro race and we won the first race of the season. All in all a good weekend.

This weekend the adventures continue with the first round of the Portuguese cup in Albergaria.

Ciao and till next week!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Costa Azul wrap up-

Costa Azul ended with another victory for the Barbot/Efapel team while we settled for second again. The winner was Filipe Cardoso. They worked hard and raced intelligently, letting my team assume control of the race (unnecessarily).

I felt good on the final stage and worked well I felt good on the climb during the stage and was spared a little more than usual, so I had a much easier ride than usual.

Racing for bonus seconds frustrated me, but there you have it! Hopefully we can develop more inventive and flexible tactics in the future.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

G.P. Costa Azul -Stage Two

This stage was no fun. It was flat, boring and slow. It had nothing to it but I spent the entire stage aprehensive something would happen, given the wind was blowing strong enough to alow a strong team to try form an echlon and split the bunch. But that didn't happen.

Personally I did the work of 3 men -again- and I am getting sick of it. Okay I am a rolleur, an equipier, a domestique, but this is too much. It eliminates me tactically and lets others have a free -or very cheap- ride. Also, our bet, when he fails to deliver 4x it's time to change and give another person a chance. Wispering into the bosses ear though... can skew logic.

I want to attack this race tomorow. Will I have a chance? I have been blocked and held back frequently before.

The race was won by a Katusha rider who recieved a 1min penalty yesterday. Otherwise he'd be leading the race also.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Grande Prémio Costa Azul

Today we raced the first stage of the G.P. Costa Azul. We won the race last year through intermediate of  Samuel Caldeira.

The race was motly flat, with a hill at the end. The hill wasn't a big problem, but the approach was hectic and extremelly dangerous. A massive fight broke out in the bunch, with the usually calm Cabreira of Onda absolutly furious at a rider from Katusha who shouldered his Onda team mate of the road! I escaped the danger, but it was mad, something I have rarelly seen.

I knew the Russians were kamikazi and just avoided them. I don't care if I have to invest a greater effort to stay safe. In fact, that's why I lost time. On the descent into Setubal (the finish) I was in the lead group after bringing my sprinter up to it, but the 80kph descent, the many curves coated with dust from the nearby quarry and finally watching a basque of the Orbea squad.

At the end there was another fight, again the Katusha quad was involved, but this time their opponents were the Spaniards of the Murcia squad. Needless to say the commisars broke it up and gave them time penalties.

On a personal note I felt well, I did a huge amount of good work and everything would have been perfect had it not been for Samuel Caldeira, our sprinter falling 500m from a line... due to a Katusha.

I don't mind the Katusha's I should add! The race was won by an Orbea rider, Jon Aberasturi who benefited from the faster men getting caught up it the crash.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Team Time Trial (TTT)

We have been training the TTT. Initially I was not to do this as I wasn't going to the race that had such a time trial, but now I've been included and I am loving it!

The TTT is a very technical event, grace is more important that brute strength. You have to know how your team mates handle themselves, how to ride in windy conditions where you might use a double pace line, or how to pull through really fast to get speed up on a decent.

Perhaps the most unnerving aspect of the whole this is having to ride inches from the guy in front without having your brakes at hand. But this is just a question of practice and trusting the other guy not to do something stupid.

Communication is also key to success in this event. If one team member gets too enthused he must be told to keep cool. Also if people leave gaps open up they must be told not too. A weaker member might miss a few turns and rest at the back of the group, but needs to let the others know.

Speeds are amazingly high in these events 55kph + being a good average on flatish terrain.

A little bit on Team Time Trials

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Race Radios

Race Radios are being phased out. These are little two way radios racing cyclists use to speak with each other and the team boss in the car behind. They've been used since the early nineties when the American Motorola team used a system provided by their sponsor, which I believe were actually early GSM handsets and not radios per se.

When racing with a radio, you are generally warned slightly ahead of time of exceptionally dangerous circumstances. Except cyclists do this for themselves. We just avoid a danger without thinking about it. However if your focus is draw to the danger, you can become "fixated" on an obstacle you would have simply cycled past before.

Race Radios kill tactics. There is nothing brilliant about putting a strong team drilling it at the front, just so the team leader can jump of the wheel with 3k's to go. For apologists of this school of racing I suggest an equally intellectually challenging sport: Unfortunately that is what race radios lead to. Another thing that becomes evident with he lack of radios is the cohesiveness of a team. Most teams find the situation of not being led from the car unbearable, because each is out for themselves.

Often ignored in cycling coverage is the first hour of a race. It's usually in the first hour that a race is "designed" if you will to take a particular out come. This is where the big teams in a race will try and out fox each other, trying to get the other to expend more energy in protecting it's position. For example this can be done by incessant attacking, or a strict marking. With radios a team will just assume control and let a break go or retrieve it depending on who is in it and how much time they have -as seen from a list in the team car. Without radios riders will generally save energy and and use their own position to manipulate circumstances. They will mark one another or mark a break. An intelligent team will know to always be in a dominant position in a break. This team will be covered against most eventualities. and have more cards to play. The drag racers on the other hand have only one card.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

A tough weekend.

I woke late on Friday after a good long sleep in preparation for the stressful weekend ahead. I rained all day and I didn't train. But when I hoped for rain -during a late night track race on an open air track, the weather eased of and of I was sent for a 20k race round the track under floodlights. Because it was dangerous, the track being moist and uneven, I resented doing this at first. But then the adrenaline kicked in and I really enjoyed it. We came away from the race pumping -this would be the best "warm up" party ever before a night out! Alas being the middle of the season such things are out of the question.

The next day after a late night and a lack of dinner we were up at 07:00 for short 86k stage. I felt good to start, but unfortunately for me these feeling were fleeting and I really had to knuckle down to do a half decent job for our sprinter, Samuel Caldeira.

Later that day we had a short hill climb, 3k's long and again I didn't quite deliver. I have a long list of excuses for this, but I imagine that my having the flu last week is the main one. I came in 34th, far bellow my expectations. Sergio Sousa was the winner of the stage in 5:15 m and was 11 seconds faster than my team mate Ricardo Mestre who finished second.

Today we controlled the race for Caldeira, who lay second in GC at 9 seconds as he could potentially win the race if he collected a lot of bonifications by winning the stage and two metas volantes. But we made some errors and it didn't happened. We won the Metas Volantes classification and came in second through intermediate of Caldeira.

I hope to get back tot he form I had before the Volta ao Algarve again rapidly. I though I was well, but I wasn't. But I am motivated to improve.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Volta a Albufeira this Week End

Today me and six team mates, boss and mechanic went to check out the hill climb time trial that might decide this little tour.

"Nasty, Brutish and Short" sums up the TT well. It 3k's, rises 120m and will take about 4:30 m.

I counted 6 riders that went faster than me in the Volta ao Algarve TT, so I'm aiming for a top 10.

I'm probably not "explosive" enough to be brilliant at such an effort, but no sore hand and a proper warm up might see me compensate for this short fall.

The rest of the route winds dangerously round every single lane and country road in the tiny municipality of Albufeira. I would imagine that if no significant gap opens up in the time trial it will boil down to a race for bonifications between the sprinter types. Details of the routes can be found here:

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Equipier do Ano -Domestique of the Year

I was awarded top place in the Equipier do Ano Prize for the month of February. This is a prize promoted by the Union of Portuguese Professional Cyclists for the best team worker. Each professional cyclist in has a vote, at the end of the month these votes are added up and then the total for the year is given in November.

I am proud to be leading this classification, because too long do people look at the podium and not how those cyclists came to get there. Cycling is a magnificent team sport, and in all my races so far I have helped put someone on the podium.

As it stands the top three in this classification are:

Tomás Metcalfe (Tavira/Prio), 9 votes
César Fonte (Barbot/Epafel), 6 votes
David Livramento (Tavira/Prio), 4 votes

Monday, 7 March 2011

2011 so far: Prova de Abertura and Volta ao Algarve

2011 has been a tough year so far. But the weather has been beautiful and I am surrounded by ambitious, inspirational people. On failing to secure a big title sponsor me and my team mates settled for much reduced wages and our recent success is the product of the passion we have for riding our bikes.

Prova de Abertura:

We won the team classification in the Prova de Abertura and I won the Metas Volantes. It was an odd race, I easily got away at the beginning with a good group and we set about building a 23m advance quickly, as the bunch behind ground to a halt with no team looking to take up the chance. Ironically, it was my team to take up the chase. And I was ordered to mark Cesar Fonte of Barbot. This effectively put me out of the over all. I was domed and so was Cesar as he was not to get away. Needless to say, this decision by the team boss irritated me terribly and rage flashed across my face. I bit the bitter pill and did what I was told and abdicated from this escape (after winning the intermediate sprints classification).

The the break was swept up as de rigueur in Portuguese cycling. No break ever rolls along like in France. On arriving back at the peloton I set to work along with my exhausted team mates, caught the remaining stragglers of the break and alone, prepared the approach to the final climb of the day: A tough 1 km ramp at 10%. Despite this work I passed the climb in the front group, Watching my team mates play one of the two final moves of the day -attack on the mountain to arrive isolated. This tactic was stale and did not work and I knew even a very punchy rider would get caught as the run in was quite long and exposed.

Our second move was our sprinter who passed the mountain thanks to great work by David Livramento. Unfortunately the finish was wet, cobbled and dangerous. Our sprinter came down 1 km from the line in a sprint finish he would have certainly contested.

A couple of days later the team boss admitted his error of judgement. It would have been sensible to have me attack, gain a lead, disorganise the little group and force another team to take up the chase, while our climbers were better protected in the bunch. In the event I got caught our climbers could launch a more stinging attack, defend our sprinter. In the event I wasn't, I would win. I was the third trump card in their hand and they didn't recognize it.

Volta ao Algarve

I will admit, I was nervous before the Volta ao Algarve. But as they say, they (pro tour riders) have two legs, just like me. Alberto Contador is no super man. The differences between he and I are small. But he and others are faster!

What little Prio/Tavira did with 350 000 € was grab the bull by the horns and control that "World Tour" peloton. We won the mountains classification through intermediate of Ricardo Mestre in what was a text book display of team work. The first stage we attacked the bunch with the idea of winning an intermediate classification. We did this and came away with the mountains classification. The second stage we controlled the race all the way to the top of the first mountain to defend our classification. The third we reeled in a powerful break away over extremely hard terrain, accumulating 3300 m of accent over 200 km. And by the fourth, exhausted, we had secured the classification. I am so proud of what we achieved in this race.

The race finished with a TT (Time Trial) and I had my first proper go at a TT at that level. Unfortunately for me, I did not get a warm up! Bike issues and damned bureaucracy stepped in to interfere with my warm up as my bike was taken away to get verified and measured according to a new regulating put in place two weeks before. It was something to do with new electronic systems and the way reach is measured. I was also injured, even now my sprained thumb aches a bit, this meant my already poor, ignorate technique was made even worse. So there are my excuses! I came in 2:18 m behind Tony Martin the winner of the TT and overall.

I will improve my Time Trial. I wont be a Fabian Cancelara or Michael Rogers, but I will be good.