Rory Sutherland Journal: The secret Giro d’Italia survival plan

NAPLES, Italy (VN) — Deja vu all over again? For me, it means my second Giro. Seems normal for a professional rider — right? Well, not for me, considering my first and last Giro was back in 2005. That’s 56 years in dog years, or, simply a long time.

Hopefully, things will go a little differently this time round. In 2005, things weren’t bad, but I was a neo-pro: a 21-year-old lad thrown deep into the circus of a grand tour. I would imagine, and hopefully expect, that I have gotten somewhat smarter and somewhat better, but chances of that are also debatable. (I guess we’ll see.)

So, what’s it like to hit a grand tour? Well, the first two days before a grand tour are a mess. Just because we aren’t racing doesn’t mean we have endless hours to sit around. Training sessions, new bikes, interviews, team time trial training, team presentation, sponsor presentations, all while trying to concentrate on the task at hand — racing a bike.

Luckily, we have some pretty spectacular support in terms of team staff. To be honest, it blows me away how many staff members and vehicles we have here in Italy. This reminds me how big the Giro d’Italia is to the sporting world.

Here is a quick run down of the Saxo-Tinkoff support:
9 Riders (from 7 different countries)
2 Sport directors
4 Mechanics
4 Massage therapists
1 Body therapist (think chiro/osteo)
2 Chefs
1 Equipment manager
1 Media relations person
1 Sponsor representative
1 Team doctor
1 Team trainer
1 Bus driver
And 1 Team owner …

Add that to all the sponsors dropping in and out, and add two trucks, one bus, five cars, and a team van … you can see and probably understand the size of the organization.

And all this for one team!

So how do you actually physically and mentally prepare yourself for nearly four weeks on the road? The physical side is fairly elementary, and while you believe you have brought yourself to one of the holy grails of cycling in top form, the question mark remains until that first mountaintop finish. Hopefully you get that gratifying feeling during a stage of, “oh, I actually feel really, really good today.” Sometimes that comes, and sometimes you feel like you are chasing a peloton around Italy for three weeks.

Preparing mentally is another thing. Let’s be honest here. Is the idea of 1,875 miles of racing, 20 different hotels, 1,800-odd miles of transfers, crashes, punctures, and stuffing your face full of pasta daunting? Damn right it is. Anyone who isn’t slightly apprehensive about that is probably lying to you. But I have a secret plan to manage it (or at least I think I do … maybe … hopefully).

The Rory Sutherland Giro Plan:
1. Only read the race guide one page at a time, no skipping forward! A glance, yes, but not dwelling or worrying about what’s next.
2. Buy an Italian SIM card for my phone to have access to email, Twitter, Facebook for the entirety of the race.
3. Set expectations according to the real world as opposed to some crazy dream I had as a kid. I’m not saying not to dream or to try, but to at least attempt to do it in a realistic (plus 20-percent dream) kind of way.
4. Adapt. Simple as it sounds, maybe not so easy to do. Be ready for change!
5. And lastly, enjoy it. Why the hell not? I mean, how many people get to do this as a job, how many people get a three-week guided, fed, and massaged tour of Italy with their wallet squarely tucked deep in their suitcase?

So, this is the first edition of the Giro according to Rory Sutherland 2013. Yes, eight years removed from the maiden voyage on the road of Italy eight years ago.

I’ll be checking in a handful of times over the next few weeks, so you can track my mental and physical states during this three-week odyssey.

Hold onto your handlebars! Feel free to jump on board the social media train to see a little bit of the insider’s guide to the trials and tribulations of the Giro d’Italia 2013.

Follow me and watch the battles on the roads of Italy the next three weeks here at VeloNews, on the Saxo-Tinkoff website, and on Twitter.

Rory Sutherland is a ninth-year professional with Saxo-Tinkoff. A multiple-time National Racing Calendar champion in the U.S., Sutherland got the call-up to Europe in the off-season on the strength of his stage win on Flagstaff Mountain in the USA Pro Challenge. A dedicated father and husband, Sutherland is a talented all-rounder on the bike and a key component of Saxo’s 2013 Giro d’Italia squad.

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Sutherland Journal: Life returns to ‘normal’ after the Giro

Rory-Sutherland2-659x440GIRONA, Spain (VN) — The 2013 Giro d’Italia is finally done. Those three weeks seemed more like six, with enough snow and rain to last me for a few years. Looking back, it really was not all that bad and complaining about things that simply cannot be controlled (the weather) does not really get you anywhere. All in all, it was a fantastic race and experience. Some fun stats for you:

• First time using a 39-tooth chain ring, coupled with a 32-tooth cassette (yes, it was needed)
• First time using compact cranks
• First time finishing a climb in a blizzard with 50 feet of visibility
• One canceled stage and two changed stage routes (no complaints from me on this one)
• 87 hours and 37 minutes of racing (2:44 behind the winner, ouch)
• More rice eaten than I can honestly handle (I won’t be eating that for a long while)
• Zero flat tires (amazing feat)
• One small crash (no real damage)
• 22 different hotels

Those who find themselves in the bottom half of the general classification at the Giro are no longer battling their adversaries. You are instead battling yourself, and your mind changes from “attacking mode” to “survival mode.” The gap widens day by day, fatigue occupies every part of your body and mind, and you suddenly find yourself concerned with not making the time cut. The last few stages were quite a change from the first week, both mentally and physically.

And what happens after the Giro? Perhaps a huge post-race party for all? While we were all happy to make it to the end, I am sure some teams celebrated more than others. After four weeks on the road most people just want to get home and I am one of those people. I finished the last stage, headed straight to the team bus, had a quick shower, grabbed my suitcase, and made a beeline for the nearest airport. A few us of managed a small airport celebration that included McDonalds, ice cream and beer.

It feels great to be back home in Girona with my family. My wife has to get used to me being in the house again and eating all of the food (I have never been so consistently hungry in all my life). My kids have to adjust to having Daddy at home. I am back to changing diapers, reading good night books, and tucking my kids into bed. I am also back to training and had to literally wipe the dust from my home training bike, as it had not been ridden for the better part of six weeks.

Returning home can be a huge adjustment. There are no numbers to pin on each morning. Nobody is cheering for me when I am out on my bike. I have to make my own coffee and meals. I also have to clean up after myself, as my apartment is not a hotel room (my wife kindly reminds me of this). No daily massages, which is a real bummer. I have to carry my wallet around town and use money again. The “real world” does not revolve around a three-week race in Italy, so I am slowly catching up on things that have been happening around the globe.

I now get to enjoy nearly two weeks at home here in Girona before heading up to the Netherlands for a five-day race. That ought to kick-start my legs and I hope the fitness I have gained in the past few weeks will help me with a good result.

I hope you have all enjoyed the Giro perspective from the middle of the pack!


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Rory Sutherland launching season in Tour de Mediterraneen

Team Saxo-Tinkoff’s Rory Sutherland is another new member of the team and he’s launching the 2013 season in the French stage race, Tour de Mediteraneen starting February 6th. Here’s a chance to get to know the Australian rider a bit better:

Where are you from?
“I was born and raised in Canberra, Australia in the south eastern part of the country. Quite often we would do the 50 minutes drive away from the city and into the real outdoors where we would explore the nature. I grew up in a good healthy environment and my parents often took us camping and hiking.”

When did you start riding?
“I started riding when I was 14. In the early nineties, the government set up a plan to create focus on Olympic sports in order to achieve better results in the long run in terms of Olympic medals. So they initiated a campaign with school tests to find out which sports you would be good at based on measuring the lengths of your arms, legs and body weight. They put all your information in a computer and they could tell you which sport you should be good at. My two sports were cycling and rowing. I’m tall, my arms are long and my endurance is relatively good. None of my family had ever been in to cycling so this is how I got in to the sport which is probably different from many other athletes.”

Which result are you mostly proud of?
“Actually, I’m most proud of the US Pro Challenge stage win this August in my new home town of Boulder, Colorado where I went solo on the final climb. A climb that I usually train on and I won the stage with family and friends and 27-30.000 other people watching the race on the final 5 kilometers. I won in front of good riders like Jens Voigt, Levi Leipheimer and Vincenzo Nibali and the victory came after a rather tough year with no other big results so it was liberating and quite emotional. I had goose bumps the whole day.”

Why choose Saxo Bank-Tinkoff?
“I have been on a continental team throughout the last six seasons and I’ve been looking for a new World Tour team the whole year. None of the other opportunities were really a good fit for me, my future or for my family. I want my family to feel comfortable. I have a wife and a three-year old son and if they’re not happy, I’m not happy. But when I first spoke with Bjarne and a few other riders who have been on the team like Jason McCartney, it seemed like the right team to choose. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t think I’ve reached my full potential and I need someone like Bjarne and the sports directors on this team to help me take another step up in my development. The whole idea of teamwork including everyone on the team is very appealing to me. Bjarne has already given me a lot of confidence by asking me to join him because he’s definitely doing that for a reason.”

What are your dreams and hopes for 2013?
“Like most riders, I would like to ride Tour de France with Alberto but the first year on the team, I think I have to listen and learn and see how I develop as I rider and then focus on creating big results later on.”

Do you have any special rituals before a race?
“No, none at all. To do a race is serious business but I try not to take things so seriously. That’s the way I get most out of my potential. That doesn’t mean I’m going out not taking my job seriously but my motivation is to enjoy racing. That’s quite essential to have a good team and creating results. Sure, it’s a job but we can have fun while we’re doing it and then the results will come.”

What’s your specialty on the bike?
“I think I’m a bit of an allrounder really. I can time trial pretty well, I’ve won mountain top finishes, I’ve won breakaway finishes and I’ve won sprints from 40-50 guys so I can do a bunch of different things but I might not be exceptional in just one thing. Being versatile is important on a team like this who is shooting for the grand tours.”

Where do you live now?
“We have a house in Boulder, Colorado which we consider as our home and when we’re in Europe, we live in Girona, Spain. During the day, my wife takes care of our son and we’re expecting another baby in March.”

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