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31/03/2017, CANYON Rory Sutherland's Rider Diary, Entry 1

"Helping our team leaders is my first priority"

When it comes to experience, few can match that of Movistar Team's Rory Sutherland. What Rory hasn't seen in his many years as a pro isn't worth talking about. Exclusive for Canyon,  Rory takes us through his 2017 season, starting with time off the bike and what it's like getting back into the swing of things.

The off-season always passes by too quickly. One moment you are yearning for a rest and the next moment you find yourself dreaming of long days on the bike. This off-season was different from those of the past due to the opening of our new project, a restaurant in Girona called Federal Cafe. A huge amount of work went in to getting everything open and running and thankfully the last weeks of construction and organization took place during my break from the bike. Though I dedicated much of my off-season to the restaurant project, I also have two amazing children who I spend as much time with as possible. I love taking them to school and attending their football games—-all the things I cannot do during the season.

It is important to note I take about six weeks off the bike at the end of each season. Six weeks is not always feasible, but this year I was fortunate with the decisions made by my team in regards to my race program and I enjoyed the break. I feel too many people think we do not take time off and I often discourage younger riders for thinking more training is always the best solution. Without proper rest you cannot improve and without an off-season I would find it difficult to reset the brain after a very full season that included two grand tours and over 90 days of racing.

Training starts up slowly at the start of November, though it can differ from rider to rider depending on when one ends the racing season. I personally love training in November. The mornings start off cool and the sun slowly shows itself and I can ride just for the sake of riding. Training is not super specific during this time and it gives me a chance to explore new roads and focus on the simple joys of cycling. I would have thought at this point in my career my motivation would be waning, but I find the opposite to be true as the years pass. I am constantly grateful for the opportunity to be out on my bike, even when my training is especially demanding.

As we trickle through the days of November my training increases both on and off the bike. I have gym sessions three days a week and my daily kilometers continue to rise as the season approaches. Come January the training intensifies to prepare for the coming races, but the season is long, so it is important to gradually build intensity and your general condition. I speak with our team trainer, Mikel Zabala at least once a week to be sure we are not doing too much or too little. It is a balancing game and one must be cautious and aware of how each training session will affect your race condition.

The racing calendar is incredibly different for each rider and as I am a domestique, I must wait for my schedule. The “jefe” riders are the first to have a schedule for the race year and then the matching game begins. I meet with team manager Eusebio Unzue in late October and we discuss where I can be of most use throughout the year. Where do my abilities fit in? Where can I help our team leaders achieve victory? Our team has specific goals for each race and this is one of the many reasons I love being a part of this team. Eusebio has a great cycling mind and he fits all the pieces of the puzzle together and makes a plan for the year. In 2017 I will be heading to Paris Nice, Vuelta Pais Vasco, the Ardennes classics, the Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta de Espana. I only have one goal in the grand tours and it is quite simple: help Nairo and Alejandro achieve the best result possible.

Does that seem possible? Can a person base their personal goals on the performance of others? Yes, they can. Helping our team leaders is my first priority. This is what the team hired me to do and I am incredibly proud to do it. It does not mean I lack ambition by any means. I am incredibly goal-oriented and ambitious. I want my team to win and that is not possible without 100% dedication from all the riders. Our team leaders cannot win unless I do my job out there on the road and I base my training and racing on helping my team reach the top.

I had a chance to test my legs and winter training throughout the months of January and February. I began my year in Mallorca, where it was 10C and raining and we raced on the tiny and undulating island roads. A day later I found myself in Dubai, where it was 22C and sand whipped across the pancake flat and highway-like roads. It is special to visit exotic places and experience different cultures and see how the world of cycling is expanding. After Dubai I was back in Spain at the Vuelta Andalusia where Alejandro was able to come away with the win. I love racing with him as his motivation for this sport never falters. He boosts our team confidence and everyone is motivated to race when he is present.

Now it is time to prepare for the fist European World Tour race of 2017—Paris-Nice. I have done this race once or twice before and it is a difficult and often stress-filled week of racing. This race has it all: wind, cold, rain, snow and sun. Each stage brings different terrain and everyone from the sprinters to the climbers are keen to get that first world tour win and show off their early season form.        

Rory Sutherland