There might be snow on the ground where you are, but cycling's WorldTour season has finally begun. I can tell by the sunburn, the new Cannondale in my garage, and the bandages on my arms and legs.
All eyes have been focused south of the equator, with the road season opening last week with the Tour de San Luis in Argentina and the Tour Down Under in, um, I forget.
I raced in San Luis, an event that's typically full of top European riders looking to start their season with a good result, only to get humbled by South Americans who are accustomed to the 100-plus degree heat. This year was no different, as the Colombians and Argentinians swept the podium and won four out of six stages.
The typical format of a stage is this: a small breakaway forms containing riders the WorldTour teams deem unthreatening; big teams control the pace to keep the breakaway within a few minutes; teams then chase down the breakaway near the end, with the sprinters battling it out for the stage win.
This year, the breakaways often proved too strong, or the WorldTour teams gave up after prematurely reaching their suffering quota, which is low in January.
We could tell by his hairy legs that world champion Peter Sagan wasn't motivated for field sprints in San Luis, which left most of the pace-setting to the Movistar team of overall favorite Nairo Quintana.
Nairo rode well, finishing third, but his brother and teammate, Dayer, was the revelation of the race, grabbing the overall win and striking fear into the heart of Chris Froome, who might now have double trouble to deal with from the Colombian brothers at this year's Tour de France.
The Tour Down Under was more predictable. With a higher-caliber field and WorldTour points up for grabs, top teams were more willing to suffer (and they all shaved their legs) .
Caleb Ewan proved the fastest in the bunch sprints, while Richie Porte, Jay McCarthy, and overall winner Simon Gerrans took the remaining stages. The surprise result there came from my Cannondale teammate Mike Woods, who showed he can ride with the best of them, finishing fifth overall in his WorldTour debut.
Pro cycling has been marred by an unusual number of crashes this month. Frequent pileups in San Luis left much of the field (including yours truly) covered in gauze, and a car drove head-on into the group at Giant-Alpecin's training camp, leaving a handful of riders seriously injured.
As the dust settles, the road peloton heads for the Mideast for the Tours of Qatar and Oman, where the heat will be about the same, the climbs will be traded for crosswinds, and the big Belgians will have their battle for dominance.
Heat isn't a problem in cyclocross, where the season is coming to a climax. Stephen Hyde threatened to unseat Jeremy Powers' dominance in the U.S., besting him in a couple events leading up to the national championships, but Powers used his experience to put together a strong, nearly-flawless ride for a third straight national title.
Powers has his eyes on a Top-10 finish at the world championships at the end of January, where 21-year-old Mathieu van der Poel will be the man-child to watch after dominating the last few World Cup events.
As for me, the recent snow didn't keep me from getting back to Los Angeles, where I'll rest and heal before moving to Spain for the rest of the season. Adios for now.