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.

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