Sunday, August 20, 2006 7:40 AM

Back in fifth gear after an enjoyable break.

It has now been two months since I last added a diary entry! During this time I have had a mid-season break with some of my Melbourne school friends, completed a heavy training block and resumed racing again. With all these things happening it feels like I only just updated my site yesterday.

After the Baby Giro (my last diary entry) I returned home and the follonwing day we headed to Salzburg, Austria. The reason for this trip was to go and view the course for the World Road Championships in late September. The course is a 22km circuit with two climbs which we will complete 8 times. The first climb is roughly 2km long, but is a very gradual incline. The 2nd is quite short, only about 400m but is about 10-12%. Considering the characteristics of these climbs I think they are both “strong man” climbs. Meaning that they will be ridden in a very aggressive way that will require more of a sprinting strength for the climbs and not an aerobic strength which would be required with a controlled pace that slowly increases towards the top. It will be an interesting course to race on I think because it will defiantly be a sprinters course, but the hills will still be taxing so there is the possibility for the opportunist type rider to take advantage.

Once we had returned for Salzburg we had two more one day races before our mid-season break. The races were Arezzo and Brescia. GP Citta di Arezzo was a reasonably flat race which had an 8km climb with 20km to go. Unfortunately I punctured about half way through the race and after a very slow wheel change from the neutral spares I found my self having to chase the peleton for over 20km before finally rejoining the field. After that effort my legs were finished for the day and I just cruised to the finish. Matt Lloyd and Jonny Clarke were able to take advantage of the late climb, both scoring top 10 placing’s.
The final race for the first half of the season was called Trofeo Citta di Brescia. It was a night race on a 5km circuit with a 1km climb and the hairiest, cobbled, switchback descent I have ever race on… It was a very aggressive race right from the start and by the finish there was only a group of about 25-30 riders left for the sprint. I decided to have a crack at the finish myself and found myself in 2nd place with 100m to go, but ended up 5th with Matt Goss (who was 2nd) and two other riders passing me with a late run to the line. I was still happy with the result considering I’m no sprinter compared to Matt. It was also a pleasing result for the coach with 2 riders from our team in the top 5.

Photo: Matt Goss 2nd (middle) and Me 5th (left).

The Brescia night race finished on the Tuesday and I had a couple of days to kill before my school mates were due to come and stay on the weekend. So James (one of me team mates) and I decided to travel back to the town where we were living last year to catch up with our old friends. And have another famous Bellavista pizza, which used to be our local pizzeria. They were all very happy to see us and it was a very enjoyable couple of days.

Before I knew it the weekend had arrived and Michael, Mark & Ben were at the local Castronno train station waiting to be picked up. Once I had showed them my apartment and they had dropped off their luggage we headed into our local main town of Varese to have some lunch, catch up on news (considering I hadn’t see or spoken to either of them since I left Oz in March), and finally decide what we were going to do for the next week and a half.
The first couple of days were spent sightseeing around the area where I live including the three main lakes (Como, Maggiore and Lugano) and various other places, some of which I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit myself.

Photo: My favorite swim spot we visited on lake Maggorie.

Once we had covered the majority of my local area we decided to go on a road trip. Michael had been recommended an alpine hostel in the Swiss Alps near the mountain peak called Jungfraujoch (known as the top of Europe). So we made a few calls to book some accommodation and the next morning at 6am we were in the car on our way to the town of Gimmelwald deep in the Swiss Alps. The drive was only about 3hrs not including the many stops we made to check out the breath taking views and absorb the amazing scenery.
This trip was so spectacular, words can not justify. So I have added a photo album to my gallery with numerous photos to tell the story. Looking back on it, these few days would have to be up there with the most enjoyable of my life so far.

Please click here to view my mid-season break photo album.

On the whole this week and a half was most enjoyable not only to catch up with old school mates but to clear my mind from the heavy cycling schedule I had endured over the previous couple of months.

Once I had dropped the three boys at the airport it was back into full training mode for me. With a clear mind I set out, spending the next to weeks on a mini training camp mainly training by myself because most of my team mates had either returned home for their break or headed elsewhere to catch up with family and friends. During this time I had my 20th birthday on the 18th July, where most of the day was spent out on another long training ride. The day finished nicely though, with a small BBQ to celebrate my coaches and my birthday’s.

My first race back was a race only about 20km from where we live called Gran Primo Inda. This was a good test to see how I had benefited from my heady training load. It was 42 degrees on the day of the race. That combined with my lack of form due to the hard training resulted in a very long and arduous day. Despite that I was able to stay with the front of the main group and help out the team coming into the finish.
Since Gran Primo Inda I have a few other one day races which I used mainly for training.

The big races started back this week with two one day races. One on Wednesday called GP Capodarco and the other on Thursday called Gara Milionaria. These two races really made me feel like the hard training block I did after my break in July had paid off.

GP Capodarco is a very famous amateur race in Italy which is held in the town of Capodarco on the east coast of Italy past Ancona. It began with 4 10km laps of a flat circuit on the beach before climbing up to the town of Capodarco where we began 7 laps of a 16km circuit going over the 3km climb up to the town every lap. By the last lap I found myself in the main peleton with a group of 5 riders about 1min up the road. After assessing the situation with my two other team mates left in the race (Jonny Clarke and Matt Lloyd), we decided that due to Matt’s great climbing abilities and his good form of late, Jonny and I would ride on the front of the peleton to chase back the break before the final ascent up to the finish. We managed to do this and also place Matt in a good position in the bunch leading into the climb where he placed 5th across the line.

The 2nd of the two races was called Gara Milionaria. It was also in the same region but was a different styled race. I was 3 laps of a 52km circuit which had multiple climbs each lap and was going to prove to be a very hard race. This race was quite unusual with big groups of 30 and 40 riders escaping the peleton. By the last lap many of the 200 riders had pulled out which left a group of about 50 riders including myself and Matt Lloyd from out team. When we hit the decisive climb on the last lap there was selection of 9 riders that were first to the top which included both myself and Matt. In the following kilometres a few of the riders from the now shattered peleton were able to rejoin our group. With half a lap to go Matt managed to break away with 5 other riders who would go onto race for line honours where he would come in 2nd behind a Frenchman. I found myself at the bottom of the final climb to the finish, in the next group behind Matt with 4 other riders. We proceeded to attack each other the whole way up the final climb all coming across the finish line one by one where I managed 9th place.
I was pretty happy with my result and with the Tour of Britain only just around the corner hope to be able to score some more results.

For up & coming races and lastest race results please go to the recently updated Calendar page.

Keep an eye out for my next diary entry after the Tour of Britain.

Until then hope all is well.