“Sleep as much as possible over the next four days”

I read it once. Then twice. Then one more time. Definitely not a mistake. I feel like I have hit the jackpot until my eyes move further down below the initial days at altitude and past the first acclimatisation phase. Oh… false alarm. Now I see things clearly – longer days, lots of climbing and plenty of time on the time trial bike. AKA Giro Prep: lots of pain and suffering coming right up. I feel nervous but at the same time excited about the huge challenge ahead over the next month. That’s the best way to be.

Fast-forward a few weeks and I’ve now spent the last three weeks at altitude preparing for the next big goal of the season: The Giro Rosa. The first week I spent staying on top of Bernina Pass (at 2300m) followed by two weeks in Livigno (at 1886m). Whilst Bernina Pass was more about easing (and sleeping) into the altitude, Livigno was a chance to get stuck into some solid work. During the two weeks in Livigno I rode 21-24hours a week, 1200kms on the bike with multiple efforts and climbed a total of 24476 altitude metres. All in for this goal and my preparation reflects that.

The Giro is BIG for women’s cycling. It’s the only grand tour that we have and this year will take us mostly across Northern Italy over 10 days of racing including a team’s time trial, an individual time trial and 8 road stages starting on July 5th.

Last year we won the Giro and this year we return with the 2018 winner Annemiek as our leader. My job is simple: to be there in the best shape possible to support this goal. Last week I spoke about having a great team around you and I am lucky to have a Gene-ius coach supporting me towards these goals (Gene Bates). We have been working together for 4.5 years now and he is someone who understands me as both an athlete and as a person. He knows when to push me and challenge me but also when it’s the right time to add in an extra easy day. I trust him 100% and appreciate his flexibility when I do things like add 1.5hrs to my ride because I’m too curious to see where that twisty road goes up the mountain (a rarity, I promise).

Another thing I’m often reminded about by those closest to me is “train hard, recover harder”. This is my favourite piece of advice I received from my teammate Judith Arndt in 2012. As my preparation for the Giro has ramped up, I have been training hard in 2-3 day blocks with easy days between. One thing I have really learnt over the last few years is just how valuable those easy days are to make the most of the harder days. You can undo all the hard work on the other days if you don’t give your body the time it needs to recover properly.

 I’ve been asked a lot about the differences between genders. As a woman I don’t believe there needs to be a different way of preparation compared to a male towards such a big goal. Of course, the distances may be different but the same principles apply. What are the demands of the course coming up? What are my strengths and weaknesses? What do I need to work on most for the goal ahead? How can I get the best out of myself race day? These are the best questions to ask yourself to help plan the work that needs to be done.

Speaking of course demands, the Giro is the one chance we get in the season to race up some of the bigger mountains which is exactly why Livigno has been the perfect place for me to prepare. Last year we raced up the Zoncolan and this year stage 5 of the Giro finishes at the top of the Gavia Pass. I’ve been able to ride the pass a couple of times during my altitude block and as I navigated my way up the road between the chunks of fallen snow I couldn’t help but smile to imagine how special it’s going to be to race up such an iconic climb. With these kinds of feelings I know my body and mind are ready for what’s to come.

In some ways a tour of Italy that involved coffee, pizza and wine-sampling seems more appealing but I know that will have to wait until my cycling career is over. Instead I will get to sample numerous shapes of pasta, versions of cooked chicken and hotel rooms. Just the way any Giro should be. I know I’ve put the hard work in and with just a few hard sessions to go before I start my taper period I’m starting to get those pre-race nerves for what we all hope will be a great Italian adventure ending with PINK champagne.

 

Always a team player, it is common to see Amanda sacrificing herself for her teammates.

The 2012 and 2016 Australian road race champion is known for her big heart and big engine. Amanda recorded her first European victory at the Giro del Trentino Alto Adige – Sudtirol in 2015 and has taken a big step up as a leader in the outfit following the retirement on Loes Gunnewijk.