Today is Saturday, 24 hours before the start of the Tour of California and, after writing last week from our altitude training camp where snow was lying outside the window, we’ve spent the end of this week riding around in temperatures touching 40-degrees.
The second week of the camp went pretty well. It left me a bit tired, but nothing too ridiculous, and I feel it’s done me a lot of good. On the last day, we had a 200km ride from Big Bear to a town outside San Diego where the Tour of California is due to start though, I’m glad to say, we shortened what should have been a six-hour ride after three-and-a-half or four hours and got in the cars for the rest of the journey.
I’ve a feeling, looking at the profile of the Tour, that I might be grateful for that rest over the coming eight days because it looks pretty tough. There is a time trial one day, but the rest of the time most days seem to involve a lot of climbing and one day has a final climb up to 3,000 metres.
A lot of American roads seem to be those big, wide roads we know from the movies, which is great for safety but means you just don’t get any shelter; it’s just as hard in the wheels as it is on the front. So this is certainly not going to be a race just to try and cruise around.
The competition is pretty elite as well. With the likes of Cavendish and Sagan in there, I think you can forget about me for a sprint victory! So my personal aspiration has to be to maybe get in a few moves and, otherwise, lead out Owain Doull, our designated sprinter, for some of the sprint finishes.
As a team, I think that’s our general aim as well. Maybe a top ten here or there, a rider in a break and, of course, when we have Brad in our team, there is every chance he could pull out a result in the individual time trial. He plays himself down, Brad, but he’s been going well at altitude and I think any cycling fan knows that if you’re talking about a 20km time trial, he is still one of the very best in the world.
I must admit, it’s a lot of fun being out here for a race of this magnitude. We’re a relatively new team, of course, so it’s great for our profile to be in this sort of company and, for our American sponsors, SRAM, Zipp and Giro, it’s a big deal to have us out here in their home base.
Along with the Tour of Britain and Tour of Yorkshire, this is the biggest road race we do this year and, while every British cycling fan knows how tough and important our home races are, I guess there is a bit more glamour in the Tour of California. It may sound a bit more luxurious and glamorous to the man or woman in the street but I’m expecting the same level of suffering as we get in those other two races!
Being away from home for this length of time can be quite difficult although it’s a lot more difficult for your family and friends who are stuck at home while I’m off doing something I want to do. My fiancee Lauren is left at home with the dogs while I’m living the dream I had as a kid of being a pro bike rider.
I’ve got used to it and most of my friends at home understand it’s an unusual job with unusual time demands and your mates tend to work around that. It’s a little bit harder for family so it’s nice when you get a chance to see them on a race.
At the Tour of Yorkshire, my uncle and some of my little cousins were able to pop along to one of the stages and it was the kids’ first ever bike race so that was nice to see them there. And my grandad is in his late eighties and so when he occasionally gets to see one of my races, it’s a nice feeling for them to be able to come out and see me do my job. I’m not an emotional person, really, but it does make me proud for my family to see me doing the job I’ve always dreamed of doing.
Mind you, this week, when we hit stage five, and go over 8,600 feet on the way to Lake Tahoe, I don’t think I’ll be in any condition to talk to anyone!
The Tour website describes that stage as a “130-mile climb that gains in elevation from 50 feet to 6,650 feet at the finish” … Like I said, I think this is going to be a tough race …