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.