After a race, we all get on the bus, shower, eat, and while we are heading to the next hotel we do a team debrief. Each rider says how they felt about the day and evaluates how well he did his job. It’s a selfregulating exercise in that no one is going to claim they put in a good day of work if they just sat at the back all day. And if they did sit in, having to own up to it means they'll likely redress it tomorrow.
The aim is to let everyone explain themselves, to hold each rider accountable for their job, and to look back before moving forward in an effort to keep improving. I’m now back in training again for next season and my time on the bike is often a chance to think. I can find myself fantasising race scenarios for the coming season, a mental enactment of my objectives. What motivates me? Maybe winning a Giro mountain stage or following the best GC guys deep in the third week.
While looking forward can be motivating, it’s also useful to look back. My own debrief, of sorts. Amazingly, I’ve just finished my fourth season as a pro, despite it feeling like I kicked off as a freshman just yesterday. I’d say it was my best season so far, both in terms of performance and my own enjoyment. I felt my first two years at Sky were a wash. I was a young neo-pro lost in the biggest team in the world, plagued by injury, with a lack of results, and at times a lack of morale. I thought at Cannondale I'd be able to start over, and since then I’ve made steady progress. My first year I won my first pro race and held on to win the GC at the Tour of Utah, and I finished my first Grand Tour. This year I rode strongly in the Giro and was consistently racing for mountain stages. I was also able to hang with some of the top GC riders in support of team-mate Rigoberto Urán.
I learned a lot about the limits of how much training and racing I can handle, too. I'd added Tour de Suisse after my Giro push, plus some fun events like the Leadville 100. I don’t have any regrets but my season exit at the Vuelta was lacklustre. It was a lesson.
These experiences are the foundation of next year’s goals. I’d love to target the GC at stage races, particularly the Grand Tours. Vying for a top 10 in the Giro would be a dream. I think it’s attainable. I'll keep fantasising about those scenarios in training this winter. Hopefully I can turn them into next year’s satisfied post-season personal debrief.
Amazingly, I’ve just inished my fourth season as a pro, despite it feeling like I kicked off as a freshman just yesterday