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Saturday, June 22, 2013

World Cup #3 Val di Sole, Italy.

The Val di Sole World Cup was the 4th and final event of my six week racing trip to Europe and the 3rd round of this years World Cup series. The Italian course has a reputation for being tough. With a large amount of climbing, the majority of which is very steep. It is quite relentless with brutal climbs followed by short fast descents that don’t give you a lot of time to recover. It is generally very hot as well with the temperature taking its toll on many riders. I have always tended to ride well in hot conditions and was excited to race after what had been a great couple of weeks training in the Valley of the Sun. I could tell I was in good form and felt confident about the prospect of a good result.

I was fortunate enough to be starting from the 2nd row this time in 16th position. I have been having good starts lately anyway but the further up you are the easier it is to get away cleanly without running into trouble. Although as it turned out I was actually a little sluggish off the line from the gun and got a bit swamped by other riders coming from behind. This meant I was a bit boxed in around the start loop and couldn’t really open up and get going. Once onto the first climb though I immediately began to move up making it into the top 10 halfway through the first lap. Having never been in this position before I was pretty excited. My climbing in particular was really strong and I felt good.

After the first lap I was more or less with the same riders the whole race hovering between 6th and 9th swapping around a lot as we fought to get ahead and put time into each other. Generally I found it better to set my own pace as much as possible and felt much better doing this rather than having my speed dictated to me by others. It was super hot. Easily over 35 degrees and I was mindful of the fact that it was going to be easy to blow up in these conditions especially on such a hard course. So I tried to be smart about when I really put in the effort focusing on staying calm and smooth. I was up as high as 6th several times during the race and at one stage was close to catching 4th and 5th who were dangling tantalisingly close in front. On the second to last lap I put in a big effort to break away and make my bid to finish as high as I could. It was a really good lap putting a good 15sec or so advantage into the riders I had been with and making up a lot of time on 5th place. However my efforts caught up with me and I crumbled over the last lap. Starting to really suffer up the first climb having to dig really deep to hold off the chasing riders. Fell to pieces a bit from there making several mistakes and crashing in an awkward off camber dip dropping from 6th back to 9th in a short space of time which was pretty gutting. I chased hard but the damage had been done and I wasn’t really in very good shape by then anyway with the fast pace taking its toll and in the end it was a relief to make it to the finish. Ending up in 9th position which I was pretty satisfied with.

 It’s a really good feeling to finally make it up into the Top 10 at a European World Cup. I’ve been racing overseas for a few seasons now and have always fallen slightly short of getting the sort of results I desire. So I feel like I have broken through a bit with this race. My motivation and confidence have certainly had a massive boost and I have a lot more belief in my ability to step up and get the results I am after now. Currently I’m back home in NZ having a short break and planning my build up to the World Championships. Not 100% sure on the details just yet but at this stage it is looking like a short trip to North America to get in the World Cup at Mount Saint Anne, Canada and flying from there to South Africa for Worlds after that.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

An Italian Update

View off the deck of our apartment.
Since leaving the Czech Republic we have been based in Val di Sole, Italy staying in an apartment in the small town of Male. The valley has so far lived up to its sunny reputation with amazing weather most days and regularly getting up close to 30 degrees. Perfect for training and with numerous road climbs in the surrounding Mountains and stunning views it is tempting to ride all day. Living in the “Yellow House” has been great with all the comforts of home, which even includes a dishwashing machine. With the World Cup track within easy riding distance it has worked out really well. It hasn’t been hard to find a good Pizza restaurant either and we are almost on best mate terms with the owner of the local Cafe where we have been known to sample the occasional Apple Strudel or Gelato with our coffees.

The "Yellow House"

I had a solid two week training block after the Czech World Cup, which went really well and I felt like good progress was made with the form coming along nicely. Got back into the racing last weekend with the final round of the Internazionali D’Italia Series just up the road in Vermiglio.

I have done this race a couple of times before so had a fair idea on what to expect although the course had been altered slightly since I was last here in 2011. We basically started off on the flat with a gravel road bash before hitting a super steep climb. Probably the toughest I’ve had to race up. This was followed by the only real single trail section, a rough rocky descent plunging almost straight down the hill.  The rest of the track contained a lot of mown paddock sections with natural jumps and flowing corners. Another two steep climbs were also thrown in to sting the legs making it a pretty tough overall course.
The race went pretty well. I went into it hoping to make a top 15 finish and so pick up a few UCI points but wasn’t quite able to make it. Ended up finishing in 16th which was a little disappointing. More positively my deficit to the winner wasn’t too bad and compared to the other U23s I did pretty well coming in 3rd. My start was again good, as it has been lately which definitely makes the rest of the race a lot easier. It’s a bit of a relief to be able to do this consistently after struggling in this area for so long. I didn’t go amazingly well but it was a solid ride with no mistakes and I even managed to avoid crashing this time. I was mindful of not overdoing this race with the World Cup coming in six days. But think I worked it quite well and this hit out should set me up nicely for this weekend.
 The next few days will be all about tuning the speed with some short sharp training and plenty of recovery. Course is another climbing fest so will be an exciting race where anything could happen on the day depending on how the legs are going.