ORICA-SCOTT's Sam Bewley rode La Flèche Wallone on Wednesday and is targeting the Tour de Romandie next week, before a block of high altitude training with Esteban Chaves in Colombia. Here's his latest Velon rider diary:
La Flèche Wallone
La Flèche Wallone is in a different part of Belgium to most of the Classics but I think Belgians are generally all the same: when there’s a bike race on they like to eat frites, drink beer and yell and scream. The crowds on the Mur de Huy were huge on Wednesday so it was pretty good racing up there.
We were working for Michael Albasini who’s always around the mark at Flèche Wallonne. He’s been on the podium or near it five or six times and he finished fifth yesterday. Although the first 100km is pretty flat and straightforward there was a lot of wind, and it was my job to keep him out of it for most of the day.
Fifth was a good result but Michael was a bit unlucky. With 400 or 500 metres to go there’s riders doing a turn for their leader on the first part of the Mur, then swinging off the front, so you get guys coming back through the bunch and it gets a little bit tricky on that steep climb with those tight corners.
He lost a couple of positions that way with not far to go, and had to make an extra effort that you can’t really afford on a climb like that. But he was still right up there like he is every year. He was amazing at Amstel Gold Race and I’m sure he’ll be right up there again in Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.
There’s been quite a bit of talk about potential tweaks to Classics courses and some people were up in arms about the Amstel Gold Race change with the final ascent of the Cauberg being taken out. But I think too much is made of course design. At any race it’s not so much the course but the way people want to race it. At a lot of the Classics this year the racing has started with 50 or 60km to go and that’s what makes it exciting.
At Flèche Wallonne finishing up the Mur de Huy is the trademark, it’s a pretty gnarly climb and the crowd’s always huge. People might be sick of seeing the same guy win but it’s not the only race Valverde wins – he’s a bit of a freak! He'd probably win it no matter what you did to that course. He wins from January to October every year and he’s an incredible rider.
I’m racing the Tour de Romandie next week which starts on Tuesday. We’ve got Simon Yates going as ORICA-SCOTT’s team leader - with the exception of a couple of time trials it’s just big mountain stages so it’s a good race for him. I’ll be focused on helping Simon and Roman Kreuziger for the overall and hopefully stage wins too and I’m just hoping we’ll be lucky with the weather. I’m not sure we will be, though. It was cold yesterday in Belgium yesterday, only about 5C, and it seems to be turning cold across Europe.
Heading for the hills
After the Tour de Romandie, which starts next week, I won’t be racing for five or six weeks. I’ve got time for a little bit of a breather, then I’m going to Colombia for some training at high altitude for three-and-a-half weeks to prepare for the second half of the season. By all accounts the training there is awesome but it’s also going to be cool to go somewhere new, experience South America, meet some different people and see a new culture.
Esteban Chaves will be there and me and Damien Howson will be staying in his home town close to Bogotá. We’ll ride Esteban’s local roads, eat some Colombian food (I’m not sure what yet – I’ll have to Google it before I go) and all at an altitude 2,700metres. In Europe you can go up to around 2,000 but with being closer to 3,000 there will be some rough nights of sleep and headaches for the first part, but it will all be worth it.
With the one-day races you sometimes lose that training momentum so it will be good to focus on a long training block. You can punish yourself in training without having to worry about recovering for a race. The second half of the year is more about doing Tours and climbing hills so I’ll focus on losing a little bit of weight. I can't wait for the next race, for the big training block in Colombia and the second half of the season.