Normally I wouldn't be blogging from Mallorca in February! But since I'm suspended by the almighty UCI for the "28" cancer fighting jerseys, I figured I might as well enjoy some time with the family in a warmer place. Plus we didn't really take much of a vacation in 2010 since we spent August moving from Spain to London. But the truth is that my "vacation" is more work than play. When you're responsible for 70 people, there's no such things as days off or a true vacation. My Blackberry is a blessing … and a curse! I’m sure many of you understand and feel the same way!
The season, just a month underway, has started off very well for Team RadioShack. I was directing at the Santos Tour Down Under in January and the team had its best Australian performance to date. Robbie McEwen looked strong with a couple 2nd and 3rd place stage finishes and even took the jersey for a day. Given that we don't have as strong a leadout train as other teams, I was very pleased with the team's support of Robbie. After that we had a team training camp in Mallorca which led up to the Challenge Mallorca. Klodi suggested we stay at this resort he likes. Turns out that it was heavily populated by Germans, so it felt more like a German city than a Spanish one! I guess that's one of the reasons he likes to go there - Feels at home, but with better weather and climbing! We got in some quality training, were able to evaluate fitness levels and also check-in with riders on goals and schedules. The Challenge Mallorca is a great race to start the season because it allows for ten riders to participate and each day you can put in different riders. So in just a few days, I had the opportunity to see almost every rider in a race. Unfortunately, I didn't see this from my usual position of behind the race. I became just like every fan - standing on the side of the road cheering the riders. If you think I'm joking, check out this video I filmed on the Puigmajor. This was the same day that Ben Hermans won the race - the first victory of the season for The Shack! And let me tell you, winning the first race always feels extra special. Takes a bit of the pressure off too! Luckily, we didn't have to wait much longer for victory #2. Robbie Hunter took the win a few days later in the Tour of Mumbai II. So two victories in the first few weeks of racing. I don't think any Sports Director would be unhappy with those results. But we're not going to sit up - the victories only fuel our motivation to keep winning.
As everyone knows by now, Lance has announced his retirement or as he calls it - Retirement 2.0. I remember when he first called me to tell me he was thinking about making a return to the professional peloton. My first thought was that he had one too many drinks at a party. When I realized that he was in fact serious, I got on a plane to Austin. I wanted to see him face to face. I was convinced. It's hard to believe 2.5 years have gone by since then. Many great memories were created and I know Lance's presence in the peloton and team will be deeply missed.
With his announcement, a lot of people have been asking - "what's next?" My immediate focus remains Team RadioShack. We have a talented and motivated group and the early success has me even more excited for what's to come this year. Cycling is my passion and as frustrated as I get sometimes with the sport (i.e. radio ban), I remember how I fell in love with the simple joy of riding my bike when I was a young boy in Izegem, Belgium. Beyond this year, I'm already working on plans for 2012. It's never too early and I've been laying the framework for something great … But you'll just have to wait and see …