Petr Vakoc: When left is right – Riding Down Under
I'm writing from the Tour Down Under in Australia, where I'm starting my 2016 season. I arrived in Oz a couple of weeks ago after a very long flight, which surprisingly didn't leave me too jetlagged.
This is my first time here, and before heading to the race down in Adelaide, I took a short detour to Brisbane. I'm glad that I did, because it was nice to explore some new roads and see the New Year's fireworks on the beautiful beaches. I also had some time to think about my last few seasons and contemplate what I want to achieve in 2016. The past years have been really great. When I reflect on it, one of the best moments was probably finishing 2nd in the U23 European Road Championships, which were held in my home country. All of my family and friends were there, and my result in that race helped me to land a professional contract, and then go on to win the national road race title, which was probably the highlight of my 2015 season. Wearing the national jersey gives me a lot of confidence, and being easily recognisable in the peloton has been really important for my family and friends, who can now easily spot me in the peloton.
I also had plans to move to Spain for the entirety of winter, but because I was going to be in Australia for the beginning of the year, I decided to spent just a few days there in December, and eventually get a place in Girona in February and March. Living in Spain, and also having team training camps there is really great – it not only has the advantage of escaping the cold winter in the Czech Republic, but it's also a popular residence for a lot of riders, including some of my teammates like Dan Martin and David De La Cruz. It's always good to go out training with guys like this. Initially, I have to admit, I was afraid of the language barrier, as I don't speak Spanish yet. Fortunately, a lot of people speak English over there, which helps a lot. Besides, I've also enrolled in a language course, which is really helpful.
A lot of people have been asking what are my goals for this season. Well, I'd like to get off to a good start and perform well at the Tour Down Under, which starts in a couple of days. I'm also really looking forward to the Ardennes Classics, especially De Brabantse Pijl, where I'd really like to get a good result. And of course I'll do everything it takes to get a spot in this year's Olympics. I'm also keen to focus on my time trialling. I've already been in the wind tunnel last November and will continue to concentrate on improving my skills against the clock this season.
But more immediately, with the Tour Down Under just about to start, I'm thinking it would be fantastic to win a stage or to finish in the top ten of the GC. We came here with a strong, well-prepared team this year, so I think that we have a good chance of putting in some nice performances. I guess it's not only the race route, but also the weather that will be challenging. The temperatures down here can get quite high! It was almost 40° the other day, but fortunately I don't have too many problems dealing with the heat, so I should be okay come race time. We've done a lot of training rides around Adelaide, and the strange thing is that over here, the cars drive on the left side of the road. I initially forgot about this, and a couple of times I had to make sure I avoided the cars out on the road! But now, after almost three weeks in the country, riding on the left hand side feels almost natural. With all the training we've been doing over here, I'm definitely ready for the Tour Down Under and I am looking forward to putting in a good performance with the team.
Photo credit: Tim De Waele