Alex Howes diary: Teenagers on motorcycles

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Greetings from down under.

After my annual New Year’s Eve/birthday party in Boulder, Colorado, I promptly jumped on an airplane aimed for the land down under. Perhaps it was a bit too prompt, after more than my fair share of libations ringing in the new year.

Stepping out of the airport I was immediately sunburned after two full months of long sleeves and winter weather. The whole country seems to be a vast reservoir of sunshine, one which breached its banks many eons ago and has since decided that a UV index of 11 is totally normal. A depleted ozone layer clearly doesn’t help.

Even while riding I could see my arms burning under the white glaze of the SPF 50 sunscreen I’d slathered on earlier that morning. How people live with this sun I’m not sure, but I’m sure glad they do because it’s just a treat to be down here.

Despite my sunburn woes, the Cannondale-Drapac team is all business down here. We packed our Canadian hero Mike “The Rook” Woods, also known as “the fittest man alive.” If you haven’t heard of him, don’t worry, he’s only been around for a blink of the eye at this point — hence, “The Rook.” But you’ll get to know him during Tour Down Under I’m sure, because he really is the fittest man alive.

Also on my list of Cannondale-Drapac team endorsements include Brendan “The Accountant” Canty and Tom “The Butcher” Slagter. If you follow Australian cycling you’ll remember Brendan from the nasty cobra strike of an attack he put down at Australian road nationals last week. Look for it again this coming week, but with a bit better timing. As for Tom, he’s a former TDU winner [2013] and always an ace up the sleeve.

As for the roadside koalas, they are wasted and most need a good washing. But true to form, they’re still painfully adorable.

We’re here for a race, and it should be an exceptionally interesting week. The courses are quite dynamic, with lots of explosive finishes that always make for an exciting race, with the sprinters trying to hang tough on the hills and scoop up time bonuses on the flats while the climbers try to create space any time the bitumen pitches up. And because it is the first race of the season we all get to see who did and did not do their homework in a very hot-or-not, great-or-shit sort of way, exponentially amplified under the baking Australian sun on the black hot roads of the land down under.

At Tour Down Under the racing is fast and hard and scary — like 160 teenage boys on motorcycles sort of scary. Every winter we all head home and do our absolute best to forget about bike racing. We buy Christmas presents for our grandmothers and coddle babies, and look at the stock market and do our best to be normal boring people that don’t risk their lives on a day-to-day basis.

And while we do all that normal boring safe stuff, we train our asses off. We pump iron and send our testosterone levels through the roof. (Call me a skinny twig man all you want and put your sunglasses on when I take off my shirt off at the beach, but a 125kg deadlift is still a 125kg dead lift.)

We throw down 30-hour weeks on the bike like they’re going out of style. When it snows we jump on trainers and smash out intervals until even the most stable trainers can’t keep us upright. Then, when the motor is primed and once we’ve totally forgotten what it’s like to race a bike, we fly around the world, shake off the jet lag and proceed to ping-pong our way through every sprint and down every hill while pedaling with some of the fastest legs of the season.

Like I said, teenagers on motorcycles. Wish us luck, and enjoy the show!

About the author

howes-peeingAlex Howes is a senior member of the Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team. Born and raised at the base of the Colorado Rockies, he has acquired a nearly insatiable thirst for adventure and all things wild. He’s completed every Grand Tour he’s started, including the Tour de France, three times. He took his first career win at the 2014 USA Pro Challenge, in Denver, Colorado, and finished as the top American at the 2015 world road championships in Richmond, Virginia. Follow his adventures on Twitter, Instagram, and Pro Cycling Stats.

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