First of all; I hope you all enjoyed the Christmas period and I wish all cyclingnews readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Some of my friends and family in Sydney have been troubled but not hurt by the raging bushfires, I thank God for keeping them safe. Hundreds of fire fighters have sacrificed their Christmas holidays with their family to go and protect houses and civilians. Many of them are volunteers and I think they're real heroes, thanks to all of them!
The first of January 2002, this date also marks the initiation of a new currency for the whole of Europe: the Euro. A few of my friends in Belgium weren't really looking forward to the change over, but I think it's great: no more time-consuming currency exchanges in airports or local banks when we race in Spain, Italy, France, etc. To be able to travel through most of Europe (except Sweden, Denmark and the UK) with one currency in your wallet is going to be pretty convenient for us cyclists.
There is a lot on my agenda for this season and the preparation for it has been satisfactory. I have covered 2500km in December, roughly the same for this period as last year. An approximate estimation says that those give me a total of 31,000 km for 2001; not too shabby I think.
All my training thus far has mainly consisted of time on the bike; nothing special, just bowling along; with some strength endurance efforts in the hills and some on the flat. In the next week I'll try to fit in a bit of motorpacing, before I leave for the Tour Down Under, so I've got some leg speed after doing the S-E-Efforts.
Most days I have had the company of the other pro's residing here at the Gold Coast. As they are all heading for the Skilled Bay Series Criteriums, my cousin Tony and promising youngster Craig Mackie (Cycling 2000) will more than likely be the ones joining me as I finish off the rest of my preparation.
Training here in the Tweed Heads area is great; you can go north and choose a flat course or go up into the hills. It suits me fine and the chocolate coated frozen banana's we get when we stop at Chillingham fruit shop are bloody awesome. While munching away, sitting outside in the sun, with our bike parked up, we're often smirking: "Wonder what the other guys are doing in Europe?"
I chose not to go to Melbourne for the Skilled Bay Series Crits as for me personally, it would mean starting the season that bit too early. My peak form has to be there for the months of March and April, for the Belgian Classics, because this is when the team needs me and what I am best at.
I really enjoy riding the criteriums here in Australia but as I'm the type of rider who really just starts feeling good after riding 150km, these shorter races are more or less playground time. They are excellent for training though and great to put up a good show for the public. So, I'm kinda sorry I won't be there, but one needs to sort out one's priorities.
So, I am kicking off my season on January 13 with the National Championships in Ballarat, Vic. After that, I fly to Adelaide, where the AIS Squad can count on me to put in a 100 percent for the team at the Tour Down Under (January 15-20).
I'm looking forward to racing Australia's biggest Tour again; it's always good fun with most of the European Pro's looking for some early season form. At times, when the hammer goes down, we're still finding ourselves on the point of the saddle, screwing on the gas.
We celebrated my wife's birthday one day early, on New Year's Eve, as I had plans of riding the Nerang Criterium. I knew New Year's Day was going to be busy for me, so it was best to organize things that way.
Now, most women wouldn't be happy "turning 32" a day sooner than necessary, but luckily I have a very supporting wife and she didn't protest at all (hmm) when I proposed it. We shared a great evening with Tony and Nicola, discussing the year gone by and the one ahead over an exquisite diner and a couple of bottles of wine.
The morning sun promised another hot and sticky day ahead and as I rode out towards Nerang, I could feel the sun burning my skin through my shirt. By the time I got there, a 40km ride, I had "loosened-up-the-legs" pretty well, there was no further need for warming up, it was that freaking hot, I was cooking just standing around.
The one-hour and three laps crit was fast enough in this heat. It started at 12.30 pm and after 15 minutes you could already see a few of the riders suffering severely. The racecourse is a closed criterium circuit, with a super smooth surface and banked corners. 20 Minutes into the race, I went out alone, but was quickly joined by Jason Phillips, Robbie McEwen and Ben Litchfield.
After 40 minutes the four of us had lapped the field. Then a few more attacks followed. Jason Phillips went with a group of 5 riders and with the strong help of a good mate; he was able to lap the field again; thus ensuring himself of the win. I started an early sprint, across the top of a small hill. I got myself a small gap back to McEwen, but with the headwind in the finishing straight I died in the closing metres and had to settle for fourth place.
Good to see Jason starting his year this way; especially as he was flying out the same afternoon with Nick Gates and Robbie McEwen to start the Bay Series crit's on January 2.
I was happy with the race, happy with the form.
While I'm still racing in Australia, the team's first trip will be to Qatar (January 21-25), where 8 riders are going to race a new 2.3 race, consisting of 5 fairly flat stages and with a lot of prize money up for grabs! There will be a lot of big teams and very good riders at the start so it will be an interesting race to follow. (Riders: Marcus Ljungqvist, Kurt Asle Arvesen, Magnus Bäckstedt, Allan Johansen, Allan Bo Andresen, Michael Skelde, Manu L'hoir, Roberto Lochowski)
Immediately after the race that part of the team will rush back to Denmark, I will join them there, for the team presentation on Saturday evening January 26.
Then up early Sunday morning for the team photo's before the second half of the team flies out to Malaysia for the Tour of Langkawi. (Riders for that one: Morten Sonne, Lennie Kristensen, Bjørnar Vestøl, Rene Jørgensen, Jørgen Bo Petersen, Allan Bo Andresen , Lars Bak.)
That afternoon of January 27, I will return home to Belgium, to prepare further for the start of the European Season. On February 1 we will be heading for the South of France, where we will start in GP de l'Ouverture, in Marseilles, on Tuesday, February 5.
From February 6-10 we will participate in the Etoile de Bessèges. (Riders: Marcus Ljungqvist, Kurt Asle Arvesen, Magnus Bäckstedt, Allan Johansen, Manu L'hoir, Michael Skelde, Roberto Lochowski and myself). The stay will be extended with training camp and other races.
So, as you can see, we're going to be flat out from the word go. I will keep you updated and informed, as usual. Expect more news by end of January!
They are unexpected, funny or simply hilarious (and some brilliant but too rude to put up), but the remarks on the Home-trainer Award have been a great subject for discussion, with dozens of mails sent to my mailbox.
Jeff Jones from cyclingnews is only posting the ones that are to be regarded as "participants", but know that I'm reading every one of your remarks. They are very much appreciated. I've decided to close the "informal competition" at the end of this month. There will be simply too many on to keep it going any longer.
Entries so far: Part I, Part II and Part III. To enter, please email your home trainer record to Scott Sunderland.
Well people, enjoy the first weeks of competition, we're off for another year of pain and glory, victory and defeat; hope you love every minute of it!