The last time I wrote in my CyclingTips diary I was at an altitude training camp in Livigno, Italy with the Jayco-AIS WorldTour Academy guys. We were there for a couple weeks to train and sleep at altitude and I had a good time. I came out of the camp feeling great and went from there to the Commonwealth Games via a four-day race in the Czech Republic.
Even though it rained all day it was a great experience getting to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games. Not much really happened for the first eight laps or so. Peter Kennaugh was off the front solo but we weren’t too worried about him because it was a really tough course in tough conditions. When you’re on your own for 160km or more chances are you’re going to blow up at some point.
We had Rohan Dennis riding tempo on the front of the peloton for us and when he crashed out of the race Michael Hepburn came up and took his place. He was probably on the front by himself for 65km or so!
The conditions were terrible and the field kept getting whittled down until there was about 15 of us left. With about three or four laps to go the final break went and Mark Renshaw got into that. I was sitting back in the break thinking “this is perfect”. He should have been able to beat almost anyone in the final sprint.
A few kilometres later Renshaw punctured in the break so we ended up having no-one there. Simon Clarke would have been there but he’d been getting a bike change when the break went.
My job for the day was to sit in the bunch and do nothing so if it came to a bunch sprint I’d be fresh. But when that break went I was the only Australian left with a chance so I had to go, to try and bridge across. I went on the first steep climb on the circuit and was joined by a couple of guys. I attacked again on the next steep ramp and got away solo.
I went full gas to try and bridge across to the leaders but I only got within 25 seconds before I blew up. By that point there were less than ten riders left in the peloton and I eventually found myself at the back. It’s not often that you finish 12th in a bike race but you’re the last one to cross the line!
Just last weekend I got the chance to ride my first race for Orica-GreenEdge in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic. That was a great experience, but a very hard day. The race was nearly 200km long — quite a bit longer than our U23 races — and towards the end I just didn’t have the legs. I’m not really used to that sort of distance and intensity.
I got myself in the race-winning move though … until Philippe Gilbert decided to attack with about 15 or 20km to go. There was probably 10 of us in the move at that point and Gilbert decided he was going to try and split it up. I was on his wheel when he attacked on a little power climb. By the time we got to the top I was completely buggered and I just couldn’t hold on any more.
I’m not too worried about it though. It was only my first race for a WorldTour team and I was expecting the intensity to be that next level up. It’s kinda like coming up from juniors to U23s — the races are 40-50km longer and it’s just a case of adapting to it over time. There’s not much you can do in training to condition yourself for making the step up; it’s just a case of doing more race days and getting used to that higher intensity and the longer races.
While I’ve signed a contract with Orica-GreenEdge, I haven’t officially “turned pro” with them just yet. At the moment I’m riding as a stagiaire, doing RideLondon and then a one-day Italian race just before the World Championships in Spain. My official contract starts with Orica-GreenEdge in October after the Worlds after which I’ll go to the Tour of Beijing with the team.
The timing is good — if my contract with GreenEdge had started before the Worlds I wouldn’t be eligible to race the U23 road race. That was something I was keen to do when I was working out my contract with GreenEdge. Speaking of the Worlds, I went out to Spain a little while back to check out the course and it’s actually really hard. I was kind of assuming it wouldn’t be as hard as last year in Italy, but it turns out it is!
It would be amazing to win the U23 world championships and I’ll certainly do my best to get into good climbing form ahead of it. But if I had to call it now I’d say it’s probably just a little too hard for me. My teammate Rob Power, on the other hand, is a great chance. Looking beyond the Australians, there’s the Danish rider that’s also signed with Orica-GreenEdge for next year, Magnus Cort — he’s going to be a real chance. He’s a good climber as well as a good sprinter.
But before we get to the World Championships we’ve got the biggest stage race on the U23 calendar to tackle: the Tour de l’Avenir. It’s only about a week or so away and I’m feeling really good for it. There’s a really tough course this year with the last three days all featuring mountain-top finishes.
There’s only really one properly flat day and two sort-of in-between days that could go either way. That means I’ve only really got one good opportunity for a stage win, and maybe a couple more if I’m climbing well.
As well as contending for stage wins we go in with two great options in the GC: Rob Power and Jack Haig. Rob’s won the past two races he’s done so he’s in great form, and we all know what Jack is capable of. It’s going to be pretty exciting.
Until next time, thanks for reading!