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To be honest, I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. I tend to live by my parents' advice: don't postpone until tomorrow what you can do today. It's just in my nature to get straight on top of the things that need to be done.
The rehabilitation process was something I tackled in that way, but at the same time, it demanded a lot of patience from me. Practising patience, a virtue that I was forced to acquire I must say, has brought me more peace of mind.
I don't jump the gun anymore like I used to. When something or someone rubs me the wrong way, I wait to see if things won't sort themselves out, without me having a go at it. (That doesn't always work but it has saved me some precious energy at times).
But, I admit I have been thinking of a few things I would like to accomplish next year. So, I guess you could call them New Year's resolutions. I'm not going to elaborate on them now though, (got you there didn't I!); I will keep that for a January update.
X-mas is near and this means the preparation for the 2002 season is at full speed. Training has been going well. Although I have only just started again since the first of December, I feel really comfortable on the bike.
Maybe it is because I meticulously stuck to my daily stretching routine. The stretching is something I can't just put aside when I put the bike away for the few weeks off, since the accident, my body won't allow it.
I have filled my spare time with chasing a white ball around the golf course; riding my Harley and kayaking (read swimming) with my mad mate Mick in my hometown Inverell. The swimming bit was a logical consequence of the kayaking; 'cause I kept rolling the kayak. I had no experience whatsoever and to make the whole thing even crazier, we were going down the flooding river, while the storms kept pouring down the rain. Sabine and Mel - Mick's wife - weren't at ease the whole time we were out, not until we got back home, freaking them out with our wild stories.
Utter madness, uhhh, well I guess so, guess I better not mention this to my team director. Even my mum was shaking her head and laughed: "You still love those thrills as intensely at 35 as what you did at the age of 15!"
But hey, us "boys from the bush" had to make our own fun those days. And you know what they say: you can take the boy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the boy!
After I got all that out off the system for another 12 months, it was time to settle down to do the stuff I get paid to do. Best thing about that is that I still love doing that too; it's still great fun. Next year, I'll be returning to Europe for my 16th season, season number 13 as a pro (I heard you thinking out loud there: isn't it time to call it quits?).
I can tell you, I'm starting to get attached to those lovely comparisons (like the journo who compared me to a old, lean, wiry cattle dog); and besides that, it's getting easier for me with every season that passes, so I'm still as enthusiastic as I was in my first year.
Believe me, it really has gotten easier, because the experience, the knowledge and confidence I have gathered over the past years, gives me the ability to time my form precisely to the right moment. The right moment for me is the start of the European season and more specifically, the Spring Classics.
I always do about the same hours and kilometres, but different variations according to what needs to be worked on. This year, I am actually staying away from the gym completely. I didn't do any weight training last year, and I have decided to do all my strength and power training on the bike again: big gears and long hills. It worked well for me this year; and I'll be sticking to that for the next season.
At the end of the season, I was informed that Shayne Bannan (Australian Head Coach AIS) had put together a training, testing and informational screening camp. It was going to be held at the AIS complex in Canberra over four days at the beginning of December.
Of course I wanted to fly down to Canberra for it; it would a totally new experience for me. The camp was extremely well organised and the days I spent there were very busy but rewarding. The whole AIS complex is simply brilliantly set out. The riders attending the camp were those in the pre-selection for the Commonwealth Games (Manchester, UK, August 2002) and the World Championships 2002 (Zolder, Belgium).
They had visits with Victor and Sue, the physio's and plenty of other examinations scheduled. Blood tests, urine tests (for the UCI control) were taken. David and his team of physiologists even had me undergoing a bone scan (fitting into a further study on the bone density in cyclists, a follow-up of a study completed in Germany this year).
Also, there was a session of bike positioning, with the biomechanic Brian McClain. Brian was very pleased with my current position on the bike. He said there was nothing he could improve, so I thank my personal Belgian biomechanic Ted Wood for that.
There was National Team clothing and race clothing to be fitted (in case we are selected for the National Team) and a heap of Athlete Agreement forms and other papers to be filled out for Paul Brosnan. Paul needs to know at all times where we can be contacted or found, so he can inform us on any selection, etc. Oh yes, almost forgot, we did fit in a couple of training rides as well.
Until early January, I am re-located at the Gold Coast, on the borderline between Queensland and NSW, on Point Danger to be precise. It's a great spot! I fall asleep listening to the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach and in the morning I wake to the same, it's an awesome feeling.
In the mornings, I catch up with the boys for the daily training ride. Most of the guys, like Robbie McEwen, Jans Koerts, Jason Phillips, Nick Gates and co are cranking up some serious kilometres; doing 1000km weeks. Robbie is looking for a flamin' start to the season; with the Bay Series first on the agenda.
I won't be starting competition until the 13th of January, when the National Titles will be ridden. The 15th till the 20th you can see me in an AIS Team Shirt (mixed team), in the Tour Down Under. Until now, the maximum per day I had on the training grid is three and a half hours, but I'll start building up those kms from next week onwards.
I'm happy I don't have to do these initial long training rides in Europe. The freezing temperatures are ok, but I hate the rain; it chills me to the bone. And personally, I'm not a home-trainer fanatic.
Not like my German team mate Roberto Lochowski; he told me he did 6 hours once: in the garage, without headphones or any other device to distract him a bit. Now, can you imagine that: six freaking hours, with the buzzing of the home-trainer, nothing to look at? I think his background; the old training habits from the times of "grey racing shirts and long white socks" have left their mark...
I stand in awe for anyone who surpasses my personal limit on the home-trainer; which is 1 hour. Even though I do hate the rain with a passion, before I'll contemplate doing more than one hour on it, I prefer to put on the plastic jacket and go out anyway.
Roberto's good friend Thomas Liese still holds the record - as far as my knowledge reaches - having done 8 hours! I have to add that he had a video-simulator to break up the boring routine, so I give Roberto the credit. I was wondering if anyone knows of anybody who has done an even longer session on the home-trainer? I think that might call for a "Home-trainer Award"!
Please send me the details in case you personally did it or know of someone who did. After checking their level of mental health, I might just reward them with some team gear. (Entries close at the end of February!)
Results so far: Part I, Part II and Part III
My son SaŽn also loves every minute of our stay here; he's lazing on the beach, building sand castles, and since I have taught him how to use the body board, it's hard to get him out off the surf. He loves the thought of having this holiday here in the sun while his little classmates in Belgium are forced to stay inside because of the weather. He has been sending them cards and e-mails and puts it on thick.
SaŽn attended Kindergarten in Inverell, at the Ross Hill School and the souvenir he has retained from that, a scrapbook with all his work and plenty of photos, is something that he really cherishes. I hope he holds on to that ability of finding happiness in simple, little things; hold it in his heart, throughout the rest of his life; that's my wish for Christmas.
To all the Cyclingnews readers and my supporters in particular I send warm greetings for the year 2002; let's hope it's a good one, bringing peace and love!