Today was a day where you feeling extra fortunate to race as a professional cyclist. The reason being that I had the honor of participating in an historic new event if that makes an sense (the race has has a 7 year hiatus) being the Roma maxima! As the name would suggest it did start in Rome and as the second name would suggest maxima! It started and in finished in front of the colosseum! I had never been to Rome before so like so often I was treated to an historic tour whilst racing my bike. Once out of the city the course did not get any less spectacular as we basically did a tour of romes most famous castles and towns with which they are located. The race was for me was simply a lung and leg opener following my arrival in Europe. I had not done any solid work for 6 weeks due to ensuring that my body healed after the down under crash so today's I simply wanted to do what I could for the team and enjoy this historic occasion.
After the finish I ran into chris reason from channel 7 in Australia and he informed me that the spectacular castle we past at the mid point of the race I was admitting from a luxurious position at the front of the field about 5 riders back was indeed where good old pope Benedict is enjoying his first days of retirement. A this point in the race we were going pretty solid up a 10km climb with the work being done by the Astana team. I felt very good with this consistently hard pace and had no dramas staying up front, as usual when it stays consistently hard for long enough I tend to find a good rhythm. On this occasion it was perfect as it meant I could admire the surroundings not only on the way up the climb but also on the fast twist decent that followed it. I feel sorry for those up the back as I am sure the sling shot effect in and out of the corners made it far from enjoyable for them but I certainly was going to be subject to the same punishment later in the day on the sharp punchy climbs so was enjoying my time in the sun and the scenery.
Sure enough the usual Italian style happened and once down the decent astana decided to stop driving the pace and the crap fight and kamikaze for position began again as every body pushed for the front. We did wind it up on the penultimate climb which split things up nicely but like before once over the top nobody wanted to push on and it was argy Bargy again for the base of thfighting climb. Being my first race back after my big crash in tour down under is was a little tentative and sure enough got shunted way to far back and with it my enjoyment of time up front had come an end. Once I was certain our team captain was in a good position for the climb I just ensured I stayed safe and set about climbing through the field as best I could on the final climb. Once on the climb the pace went up and I casually cruised on past the riders getting dropped measuring my effort as I was not interested in pushing myself to deep as I had not done any intensity for 6 weeks. The was served as a kick starting the system for the hard work ahead of me over the next 2 weeks. Alas by the top of the climb I had negotiated m way around about 100dudes and I was at the tail of the front group which ultimately went to the line, 30 odd I guess so was happy that without to much effort I could comfortably be at this level. The decent was another issue and after a couple of hairy corners where riders went off the rd i lost some precious ground and few more technical corners later the group was out of sight and I never saw the front again. As if you ever need reminding that starting at the front is crucial I was again falling fouls to this error. It is often the case for me in the early season races of the season as It jus takes me a few races to get comfortable with banging handle bars again. I usually enjoy the luxury of working for the team where I can comfortably sit on the front but when I don't have this luxurious role I find it a little tricky early in the season in the bunch. Good thing is as the years go on I tend to find my bunch craft quicker and quicker so I am certain that b the time Catalyuna comes around I will be ready to fight!
The front group never caught the last rider of the breakaway and the Frenchman Brielle kadre won the race of the gladiators solo, I guess it is only fitting that a rider arrive solo in the battle for line honors in the shadows of the colosium. Our leader for the day damiano caruso could manage 13th so was respectable and I certainly feel a little disappointed I could not be up there to help him in the finale but today for whatever reason I was not up to the task.
Next stop is the Volta Catalyuna in Spain which following the run of disasters in tour down under will mark m first major race for the season. It starts in 2 weeks and after feeling so comfortable today following no hard intensive training for such a long time and the recover period from my crash I am really excited about working super smart and hard over the next 2weeks to be read for that challenge.
So the trip to rome was far from a successful one as far as results go but was a great day as far of being part of such a spectacular event. Also having my first race in Europe with the team was great, it's always a massive honor to race any day with this team and simply pulling on the bright green jersey seems to give you a few extra watts of power. I quick check of the power meter confirmed this and gave me alot of optimism going forward. On the final climb I was able to do a good solid consistent effort as I had started so far back. For the 12minute climb I averaged 460watts while my heart rate only reach 180bpm which was due to me not pushing to hard but at the same time pushing hard enough! Also doing it on the final climb after 4hrs is more relevant to me as I could do this with some fatigue in my legs so again was a pleasant surprise. My max power at some point in the race hit 1260 watts which is one of the highest I have ever recorded so I know that I have down the work. Now I just need to sharpen up over the next couple of weeks and get myself not only physically race ready but also mentally ready. As with most things in life the cycling battle happens as much with the mind as it does with the legs.