Back from the Tour of California and after a week of relative rest - and a week of waiting for British Airways to find my lost bike - I have finally found time to update my blog.
Actually, I’ve been getting out most days since we flew back from San Francisco last week and did longish rides last Friday and Saturday but it has really been a case of recovering from the eight days in California, and what an eight days they were!
For me, the Tour went pretty well. My aim was to try and get in one of the breaks and also to help our sprinter Owain Doull in the sprints and things went okay.
I guess the highlight for me was stage 3, in Santa Barbara, which ended with a long, six-mile climb of Gibraltar Road and was designated the Queen Stage. I had felt pretty good over the first couple of days and knew that with a mountain top finish, I had no chance of getting a result so, having failed to get in a break on stage 2, I decided to give it a go on the next day.
For a horrible moment, it looked as if it might be a solo break! I had a couple of minutes out on my own when the rest of the bunch sat up and I thought, ‘Oh no, this could be awkward!’
But, fortunately, four riders came across, then a couple more and the seven of us formed a break which, I believe, was seen back home when Eurosport’s live coverage kicked in late at night in the UK.
Unfortunately, the Colombian Julian Arredondo was among them and, with him being a GC threat, the peloton was never going to let us get too far away and that meant that nobody in the break really wanted to work. Rather than trying to get as much time as we possibly could and taking an eight-minute lead or something into the final climb, the break were all thinking about the win which, of course, meant that none of us were going to win.
Sure enough, my plan had been to get to the foot of the climb with a decent lead then sit up and coast home comfortably but we splintered and I was caught a few kilometres before the last climb. So, for me, it was a case of waiting for the grupetto - the bunch of riders who get up big climbs at their own pace - and cruise home. As soon as I saw Brad Wiggins and Peter Sagan, I thought ‘that’s the group for me!’ and came in with them.
But overall, it was a tough eight days, every day seemed to have 3,000 metres or more of climbing. We had a 20km individual time trial and there was more climbing in that than there was in a 170-odd km stage a day later!
It was hard day after hard day though the worst, for me, was probably stage 5, to Lake Tahoe which had well over 4,000 metres of climbing in 210km. It was six-plus hours and we seemed to be riding at 380 or 400 watts for most of that. When you consider I’m meant to be a team pursuiter, I’m more used to a race lasting less than four minutes so I was a bit out of my comfort zone.
But, all joking aside, it was a great experience. It was my first visit to California and, while it wasn’t exactly like the Hollywood image I had in my head, the scenery was stunning, especially in northern California. I’ve often ridden races overseas and thought, I’d like to visit here on holiday - and I would definitely want to go to California as a tourist. But I think this was the first race I’ve done abroad where I thought I could live here quite happily.
I also discovered root beer. My partner Lauren reckons it tastes like mouthwash but I love it. It’s a bit like marmite - I reckon people love it or hate it and it’s an acquired taste but I couldn’t get enough of it and my American mates tell me I’ve got to try a root beer float which is what I’ll do when I get back there.
I also tried and In-N-Out Burger - a famous west coast burger chain - which I recommend and one day we were allowed to have a big American-style breakfast, complete with pancakes and eggs, in a traditional diner. It probably wasn’t exactly what our nutritionist would have recommended but I reckon we’d earned it.
We flew home the day after the race - though my bike bag didn’t make it and is still missing somewhere - and I reckon we all came out of the Tour in pretty decent shape.
Since then, it’s been a case of a few steady rides, building a couple of Ikea kitchen units and playing on my new PlayStation 4 - not a very glamorous life but, after battling with jet lag for a couple of days, it was just what I needed.
But now it’s back to the serious stuff in the coming days. I had a talk with one of our sponsors Rapha in Manchester last night. I really enjoy doing these sort of things and hopefully I can offer a few fans and other keen cyclists some tips on the sport.
After that, we’re back on the track later in the week, as well as riding the Nocturne in London at the weekend. It's a time of year, just before a big event, when our schedule can change at really short notice but that's just part of the job of being a professional cyclist.
Then, of course, not too far in the future, we have the selection of the team for the Rio Olympics which is obviously something that we’ve all been aiming for.
I’ll keep you posted.