I had it all perfectly planned you know; I trained my arse off in December; did about 700 km a week (totalling 2,800 km). I felt good, as on most of my training rides I registered good average speed, including power and strength efforts.
The feeling I had on the bike was just great and I decided I would put in some good training rides during the Skilled Bay Series Criteriums. I'd Ride Melbourne-Sorrento; go deep during the Open National Championships to test the form and according to the plan I'd be in top shape for the Tour Down Under. That was, if things had kept rolling smoothly.
Your guess...they didn't.
I took the flight Inverell-Sydney-Melbourne on the 2nd of January. The day before, while cleaning my bike I discovered the frame was cracked (around the bottom bracket) and although it didn't look too serious, I knew I'd have to get another bike organized as soon as possible. The Fondriest frame had served me very well and I felt very comfortable on this bike so I bought it from the team at the end of the season. You can imagine my disappointment.
Anyway, I arrived in the hotel in Geelong on the Tuesday evening. I went for dinner with the other riders who had booked in during the course of the day. After a relaxing evening; I went to bed, blaming the long trip for the nauseous feeling in my gut. In the middle of the night, I woke up, sick as a dog, vomiting and suffering from a serious case of diarrhoea.
The next morning I felt like crap, completely "out of order" and I knew there was no way I was going to ride the first crit. I decided to rest and stayed in bed most of the day trying to survive on a diet of flat white rice and water.
Thursday brought little change in how I felt but at least I was off the porcelain bus and I started the crit in Torquay. I stopped with 10 laps to go with very painful stitches in my side.
The Apollo Bay Crit went better and I started to get my strength back. Having trained four hours in the morning and finishing the 1 hour crit, my spirits went up again.
Geelong on Saturday, I felt fully recovered. I trained 125 km in the morning, rode the 46 km crit and did another 35km afterwards, which gave me 200 km for the day.
Sunday. A new venue for the last criterium, held in front of the Melbourne Crown Casino. From The Crown Towers, a magnificent 5 star hotel, guests could enjoy the view of 80 riders racing the closing criterium of the Skilled Bay Series. Great atmosphere, great spectacle if you ask me and the big crowd of spectators would surely agree.
Four years ago, the Skilled Bay Series was kind of a pro-thing, with the seasoned pro's cruising and the youngsters riding their hearts out to keep up. The last couple of years though it has been different. The younger Australian talent is now regarding these criteriums as a highlight in their season and they mean business, making the pro's days quite uncomfortable now and again. The younger riders see this as an opportunity to attract the attention of professional teams and a race like the Skilled Melbourne-Sorrento and the Australian Open are a good measuring standard.
Monday morning and I still had the problem of the cracked frame. Being under the weather last week did not give me the opportunity to sort this out. I had already spoken to Fakta Team director Kim Andersen about shipping my new Viner bike to Victoria. Kim, concerned about the whole thing, explained how it was practically impossible to have it ready in time and I had assured him I'd find some solution for it.
So I trained for a couple of hours and went to see Paul and Robin at Evolution Cycles. I asked them if it would be possible to repair my bike for me. They explained it would be just as much work as building a new frame. They immediately offered to do so and began to measure my Fondriest. Still amazed by their enthusiasm I told them I would need it for the Nationals. "No worries mate; it'll be ready for you on Friday" they replied.
It was! I am now the proud owner of a great Pearl-White Evolution bike; custom built and very pleasing to the eye. I went for a ride when I picked it up and it felt like a perfect fitting glove, not one adjustment needed; those guys sure know what they're doing. The bike is great, I just wish I were… Today, Saturday, I am finding myself taking a second lot of Antibiotics to get over the bronchial infection, which made the Skilled Melbourne-Sorrento earlier this week, a race from hell for me.
Feeling completely exhausted and with a mega headache I was forced to quit as the peloton reached Arthur's Seat for the first time. It was virtually impossible for me to make it up there a second time and I got into the car, quite frustrated and pretty worried about my physical health. Two doctors visits later, a lot of panadol and still under other medication I have to give in…I won't ride the National Championships tomorrow. I'll be a spectator, disappointed, but sensible enough to know that I can't put the rest of the season in jeopardy just because I really wanted to shine in this one…
I talked to Brian Stephens this morning and we agreed that I would join the National Team in Adelaide tomorrow evening and do an easy training ride on Monday. This will give the Antibiotics the time to work.
ps. [apologies for the lateness of this update. Ed] Scott is recovering now, taking medication still and still having a pretty annoying cough but he is feeling better every day. He is not training at all because the doctor told him not to. The family is enjoying the beach in Coolangatta at the moment before going back to Belgium early next week. Scott will join the team on wednesday for the launch of the Tour of Denmark and the team presentation on the 29th.