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Four days out from the biggest race of my career thus far and the hype is starting to hit town. Italy has Giro fever. Everybody talks about, everybody wants to know about it and everybody wants to hear about it.
I have had two one-dayers in the last two weeks, a few long training rides and thanks to the rain an extended pre-Giro rest.
The training rides were nothing like I've ever done before. We were heading out for three to four hours in the hills, then coming home for a two or three hour motor pace session. It was great training. One day we headed out for three hours in the hills, then two hours behind the car. We then went full gas up this 8km berg, and then got told to turn right and climb the rest of the 16km to the snow peak tops, which none of us expected. That was harder than some races I've done.
The first race we did was Appeninno, a 1.2, down in Genova, the city wher the Giro starts Saturday with an 8km prologue. Genova is on the water but not the best looking city down that way, with factories everywhere. The center. however, is quite nice. We checked it out after our two hour roll on the bike the day before. Our coffee stops have generally been quiet, so we weren't used to all the atmosphere this place had to offer.
The race was up and down all day with the main climbs coming in the last 40km. We checked out the third-last climb the day before and it was brutal. The race started slowly but once we got the top of the first climb it was on. Marlon Perez took the first KOM for us. Russ was particularly gee'd this day, as the race went through the town where he lived two years ago. There were seven or eight sprints all day and the one into Russ's old town was the most money. It was single file leading up to this sprint and full gas through the town, Russ winning his sprint. I was feeling shabby from the start and had a really bad day. I was fighting it all the way till the crucial climb at the 160km mark. I found my group and rode to the finish, just happy to get the kilos in. No real results from the team this day, as the Colombians had just arrived back from Colombia two days previous.
The next race was not on the program but a few of us wanted a race a week out from the Giro, so we flew to Frankfurt, Germany for the Henniger Turm, 1.1 race. A World Cup race ten years ago, it's a favorite one with the riders. As always, there are big crowds in Germany and they know how to hold a race with all the flair. For us though, it was a bit of an epic to go all that way for a one-dayer. Getting to the airport hotel the night before for an early morning flight the following day, gave us a chance to catch up with Scotty Davis.
We left the dreadful weather in Italy for sunshine in Frankfurt. The night before the race, along with Russ and Scotty we caught up with Nick Gates. Gatesy as always was in good form having us in stitches. He also gave Russ and me an insight on how to get through the lap of Italy. "If you're struggling in the mountains, stay with the sprinters, they'll make the time cut".
We saw Sean Sullivan at the airport, and it was good to see Sulli has pulled up well after hitting a car a few months back in a race in South Africa. Robbie McEwen turned up late Friday night while we were chewing the fat in Gatesy's room, to make up the Aussie contingent.
The race was a bit of an anti-climax, after getting gee'd up from Gatesy the night before. He said "Willooooo, this is the best race you'll ever do, wait and see, there'll be one million people out there tomorrow." We woke up to rain, and the motivation dropped a notch. There were still a lot of spectators out, even in the pouring rain. I can only imagine what it would've been like in the dry.
After the 17km neutral the race went hard from the start. At the 35km mark, someone crashed on a corner and a few riders panicked, hitting the brakes and taking my front wheel out. I hit the deck and buckled my front wheel. After a wheel change I chased hard in the convoy, feeling my groin muscle that was hurting after the crash. I was cursing myself after the crash, worried I had done something. I decided to stop and jump in the bus. It was the first time for the year and hopefully the last. The air-con could never be too warm in the bus, on a day like today. I was checking out the terrain of the race and it would've been a great race in the dry. The team didn't do anything special, only having five riders here, and there were about 30-odd finishers.
The trip home was another long one arriving home after midnight. The typical German dinner, of a schnitzel and chips made it a bit easier to take.
Since then its just been ergo rides or none at all. This week was going to be very cruisey to begin with, but the rain has made it even more of a recovery week. Sleep has been a big part of this week, along with a bit of PlayStation time and brew shop kicking back. While on the subject of PlayStation, I better hurry up with this diary, cause Russ looks like he's getting a hell of a lot better at Colin McCrae and my title looks in danger...
Tomorrow we leave for Genova where we stay for the three nights before the Giro. Team presentations, blood controls, health checks, media stuff and relaxing will be involved. Our team for the Giro is last year's KOM jersey winner Freddy Gonzalas, climber Huber Marin, climber Huberlino Mesa, all-rounder Marlon Perez, the in form Italian Raphael Illiano, Italian Leonardo Scarzelli, new Swiss rider Philippe Schnyder, Aussie Russell Van Hout and yours truly. Four days out from the second biggest tour in the world, I'd be lying if said I'm not a tad nervous!