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!