It's been a great week of training with my teammates in Spain and I've learned heaps - including the fact that I am a long way off keeping up with the best guys in the big races, let alone beating them.
I thought I was going okay after riding with Andy Schleck the other week in Adelaide but it turns out that he was basically riding with one working lung or something, and he still had me covered. Andy didn't even last the first stage in the Tour Mediterraneen this week before pulling out, saying he needed time to recover from breathing problems.
But get this - I texted Edvald Boasson Hagen to see what the real story was and he told me that Schleck wasn't sick at all in France. Apparently he just needs some more miles in his legs before he hits good form and the other guys in the peloton were teasing him about how he couldn't take a turn up the front. They ended calling him Frank all day and he pretty much chucked a massive hissy fit and quit the race. I love being 'in' with the top pros and getting all the gossip.
At least now I know what excuse I can try with my team director if it all gets too hard during the big tours. If it's good enough for Andy, surely it's good enough for a neo-pro like me?
Anyway, this past week has been pretty full on. When we haven't been training, we've been having team meetings, recovering and sleeping. The meetings been really interesting because we've been planning our strategy for the upcoming races. I asked the sporting director when the team would be practising their lead-outs for my sprint finishes and everyone was quiet for a moment, then burst out laughing. I didn't know what to think for a moment, but then I laughed too. It's great to know that they have so much confidence in me that they can just unleash me on race day.
In my spare time, I've been busy keeping up with all the racing in Qatar and Europe. They've mostly been sprint stages and I've learned so much already. Here are some of the main tips:
- Either Mark Cavendish is just faster than everyone else, or his rivals aren't as smart as me. I say it's the latter. There's no way I would have let him win that second stage in Corniche using exactly the same move as the year before.
- Winning the Tour de France and an Olympic gold medal allows you to get away with anything, up to and including using a hair straightener on your sideburns. Yes, Bradley Wiggins, we Italians know all your dirty little
- This isn't a racing tip, but it's important to know. It turns out being thrown into a barbed wire fence by a team car doesn't use up your lifetime allocation of bad luck. Just ask Johnny Hoogerland's newly fractured ribs and bruised liver. Just quietly, I think it's payback from the cycling gods for losing that match race against a horse. He shamed us all.
Better go, just got the call for second dinner. It's my seventh meal of the day and I'm still hungry. Who knew one person could eat half a kilo of tuna? I can't wait to see what they feed us in the third week of a Grand Tour. Greipel said something about half a cow in Adelaide and I thought he was joking. Maybe not.