Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The last couple of races..

Just thought I better write a quick bit about the last couple of races I've done, even if nothing particularly spectacular has happened in them!

Both races were located in towns just outside Milan, and both races were flat and fast! 27th March was the 59th Coppa Caduti Buscatesi in Buscate. Although being a flat and short-ish race by Italian standards it was still fairly tough, mainly because of the speed of it! We finished the 140km race, which was laps around a large circuit, in just under 3 hours.... The average speed was about 28/29mph!

Early on in the race, I mostly just sat in the bunch happy to cruise along, I knew with the high speeds it would be tough to get away on this circuit, and with some of the bigger teams riding they would be trying to bring it down to a sprint. Coming into the last hour of the race we moved together towards the front of a bunch as a team to help to get our sprinter into a good position for the finish. Me and a couple of other guys joined in with the bigger teams; Casati and Delio Gallina, riding on the front, felt good when you look behind to see the whole bunch in a line!

Wearing race number 1 at Buscate.

Unfortunately just before the last lap, around 10k to go, our sprinter crashed, leaving us on the front for no reason and having used up our legs. The other teams really started to smash it on the last lap, got to have been at around 30mph easy, I tried to stay up the front the best I could, making up time on the numerous corners and roundabouts. People were staring to crack from the front and I crossed the line probably in top 25-30, bit of a shame we lost our sprinter, but nevermind!

Team getting ready before Trofeo Larghi.

The Sunday just gone saw me and the team race at Pregnana Milanese for the Trofeo Larghi. This course was even flatter than the one last week, my computer said there was only a 10 metre change in height over the whole circuit! There was a bit of a wind blowing, but that was pretty good as the weather here has really started to heat up, was around 25 degrees! For me, being used to England, this was pretty warm so no armwarmers needed. However some of these Italians weren't thinking the same way, spotted a few racing in armwarmers and gilets, ehhhh?!

The race started off quick like the week before so once I got going a bit, after 20minutes or so, I got myself to the front to start going in the attacks. Nothing was really sticking, but we were getting a couple of riders into each little move. Eventually a move of around 20 riders did stick, but as it came as a counter to another small move I was in, I missed it! I find this type of racing hard anyway, to choose the right breaks to go with, and when I don't really recognise who the strongest riders are, it's pretty difficult to work out which attack is going to work. The peleton did know though, and soon the pace was dropping as the large group kept gaining more and more time.

Early on at Pregnana

We had one rider in the group that went away, so it wasn't a complete disaster, but it's not great when you're just riding, in the bunch with the real race up the road. We still finished the race with an average speed of 28mph so good for the legs! At least the sun was out, so I had a nice chance to get cracking with my tanning for 2011.

After mostly flat races for the season start here, the hillier and more interesting ones are starting to come up in the next weeks. Along with the warm weather,I'm sure they're gonna be pretty tough, but I look forward to them and hopefully some results!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Differences Between Italy and Home....... Team Set-up

One of the biggest differences between here and England, is how professional the teams are... Even the smallest teams here will, at least, all have; the same bikes, equipment and clothing, a team van and a team car, as well as a few people supporting the riders. In the UK only the biggest teams have this stuff, those with a Continental licence or just below, here there's loads of teams with it! Goes to show how much more money is put into cycling here...

When I first raced here with Bergamasca in 2009, I remember turning up at a race, seeing all the team vehicles and thinking how pro they must be... How good are these people?! You only see this in Premier Calender races in the UK! Then you realise that you've just been driven to the race in a team campervan... But it's one of the most visible differences at the start of the races.

With UC Bergamasca before a race near Milan, 2009.

Pretty much all the teams here have a "service course" a dedicated place where all the stuff for the team is kept. In the biggest teams, like Bergamasca, they'll have a good size warehouse with room for all the equipment, and a few vans. Here at Fagnano Nuova, we have a big storage room in the main sponsor's factory/warehouse, it's full of stuff from the stools to sit on before the race to team bikes from the past couple of years. Last year with Team Zappi's, we were able to use some space in a cellar beneath Zappi's cafe however this wasn't ideal, and our stuff had to share space with cups and old fridges...

At a race here, every rider will be wearing their team issue casual clothing.... Our clothing consists of a bright blue tracksuit that looks pretty old school, and a bomber jacket over the top. I reckon if a team showed up in the UK wearing it, they'd get looked at pretty funny! But here it seems normal so it's not so bad to wear it..

I'll post some more stuff up about the difference between Italy and England in the next few days.... Probs not just about cycling, but also about how strange this place is......


Thursday, March 31, 2011

This year

As I have started this blog a bit late, I'll just quickly say what's happened so far!

Started my winter training in November, mostly walking, running and a little bit of cycling. Did less running and walking in December and a bit more cycling, still not much though. In January I went with my friends from the Forme cycling team to Calpe in Spain for a couple of weeks to get in some solid training in the sun! I went back home for one week before getting on a one-way plane to Milan...

Even though I was planning on moving away for the longest I have ever been, I didn't really think about what I was getting myself into. As a result I didn't prepare myself too well, and ended up packing my bags the night before I left, which wasn't ideal...

Once in Italy, I quickly became aware that living on my own in a foreign country, when you don't know anyone and can't speak the language, is actually not much fun... At the time the weather was really bad, there was no racing and I had also crashed badly on a dodgy descent, so things weren't going well. I wanted to go home pretty badly!

Thankfully, I managed to move out of my original place and into the house of the team's, main sponsor and DS, the Giani family based in Ispra. This along with the weather improving and racing just round the corner helped a lot! The first races came as a big shock to this system, a combination of not so great legs and the Italian way of racing. So far I have been slowly improving as the season is getting underway, so hopefully I can start to look at getting some results in the next month of racing.

Before I got here...

Think it's best for me to give a quick intro to my cycling experiences before I got her....

After spending a few years of good times with my friends riding mountain bikes, building jumps and just generally messing about, I decided to buy my first road bike in 2006. My decision was helped by my dad who raced as a junior and has been into cycling all his life. The following year I rode a fair bit, but just for fun and without racing. I completed the 2007 Etape de Tour, however by the end of the year I was looking for a new challenges...

In 2008 I took part in a few local road races and time trials, and also rode the Etape again. At one of these time trials, some Italian guy took a liking to my old Pinarello, it turned out to be the local ex-pro, Flavio Zappi. I got chatting with him, and he told me to go with him to race a few times later in the season.

Some Kermesse in Belgium, 2009.

For the following year myself, Flavio, and another local rider, Dexter Gardias, joined forces and with the help of a few small sponsors raced nearly every week of the season. Although we didn't achieve any important results, we had a lot of fun, learnt a lot and also travelled to race in Belgium and Morocco. At the end of the year I also got to spend a couple of weeks with one of the top amateur teams in Italy, UC Bergamasca. I learnt a lot here about the lifestyle needed to be a good cyclist, 3 riders from the team that year turned professional.

Training in Italy, Cesare Benedetti on the left, me on the right. 2009.

For my second full season, 2010, I raced for the newly formed Team Zappi's. We had help from a few sponsors, and a good bunch of guys, we definitely had a good time during the year and also achieved some results. For me the highlights were winning the National Uni Road Race, 5th in the National TT U23, and a few other top 10s.

Motorpacing with Will Fox, left, and Dex Gardias, right, and me in the middle. 2010.

Team Zappi's was unable to continue for the 2011 season, so I had to look for other options. Thankfully, with the help of Flavio Zappi, I was able to gain a place in small but friendly amateur team based near Varese in Italy, SC Fagnano Nuova.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I have decided to start writing a blog to give me something productive to do during all the time I spend on the sofa with my feet up! I hope to share my experiences of racing, as well as living here in Italy....

As I normally do, I'll probs start this properly tomorrow or the day after, I'll give some background on myself, and how I ended up here!