The Italian Job
Forza literally means force, or power. But also, as one Italian dictionary puts it, “the ability to face the difficulties of life”. Used in this context, forza means something like “come on” or “you can do it!” Almost like saying “be strong” or “you've got the strength to do this.”
I needed plenty of ”Forza” this month, but more of that later.
Giro della Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia
The Road trip
Trip down from Sheffield to Metz was a long day, around 15 hours. The second day was from Metz to Northern Italy via Germany and Austria. We broke the journey up by stopping off for a ride in Austria to stretch the legs in the mountains. We pretty much told jimmy to find a mountain that we could ride up and he did just that. The ride was only an hour long but I think it may just be the best ride I have ever done with great views on the way up and empty roads to bomb down the descent.
It was great to finally test myself and race up some real mountains. It was particularly good to have the opportunity to race up Monte Zoncolan since this is something I can’t do on home roads where climbs are 10-15 mins at most.
Stage 1 - TTT
We had done one practice session as a team prior to the race and also recced the course the day before. During the race I set a new 20 minute power pb and we put in a respectable time but I think the time doesn't show the full story. Given that two of our guys were on borrowed bikes and we hadn't done much in the way of training for it as a unit, I think that to be only 50 seconds off the podium was a result that exceeded the result that equipment and prep would predict.
Jimmy unfortunately crashed very early on stage 2 and damaged his hands badly so had to abandon. The day was lumpy but still extremely fast and nervous. A break got away and the CTF boys were put to work to try to close the gap and defend their lead in the final half of the stage. I came in with the main group in 51st place. I stayed out the way of the sprint due to how chaotic the race had been throughout the day; I didn't think it'd be too smart to crash in the final km when fighting for 10th place. I was 1:50 off lead but only 55 secs off top ten going in to stage 3
Stage 3 - Queen Stage
Going in to the day I knew this would be the deciding stage and the gaps would be massive by the finish. I also knew I could be competitive given my numbers. My plan was simple - to ride as conservatively as possible in the group and save as much energy for the final climb.
You know when one thing goes wrong and then this starts a cascade of things to go wrong? Well, that was my day. And it all started to unravel early.
My rear wheel went down rather suddenly 5km in and forced me to chase back on for 15 minutes or so. I worked my way back in to the bunch with a sketchy moment involving me not noticing the convoy stopped up ahead whilst on the bumper of the team car. Dave saw that I hadn't noticed and braked as late as he could but I was still not looking so I hit the bumper, my back wheel came off the floor and Dave slung the car into the verge so that I could keep it upright. I got back in the bunch but could have done without the effort.
Then I had a crash at approximately 100km into the race, on a descent but got straight back on the bike with thankfully no damage to me or the bike except for bars were now a bit skewiff. Another chase to get back in the bunch.
Because of all the chasing I was out of position and I got caught behind a crash right before the second to last climb. I spent the whole climb chasing to get back on and made it back briefly just for more people to lose the wheel and after a full gas 12 minute effort, I no longer had the legs to go round them and popped. I found myself in no man's land on my own with the front group about 25 seconds up the road come the top of the climb. So obviously I went full bore on the descent to the foot of the Zoncolan. The issue now was it had recently rained on this road, I was on tyres I didn't really have faith in after my crash earlier and my bars weren't straight.
By the time I hit the Zoncolan, I was cooked. I struggled my way up for 48th on the day, with abysmal power and a result that I know was far from my best. This left me 44th on GC
Despite all the problems I made sure I was eating and drinking and my stomach was good so what I did on the day was all I could do given the situation but I know without such incidents I’d have been competitive and my GC position would have been much much better
Barring crashes and mechanicals stage 4 was flat and there was going to be little chance of improving on my GC but that didn't stop me trying to create breaks in the second half of the stage. I finished in the bunch and remained the same place on GC but I don't have any regrets about not trying to improve my position
Thanks to Dave, Dougie and Martin for all their help and support throughout the week, it was a really enjoyable trip.
Overall, I am happy with stages 1, 2 and 4 but it was stage 3 that let me down but that's the way racing goes sometimes.
This race has made me want more than ever to succeed in my goals. It was so great to be racing such a well organised race in such a nice place. The public really got behind the race and they had all sorts of organised events surrounding the race. There was a real community feel to each stage.
Nicks Big Race
Went in to this race with a plan to be on the offensive and that’s what I did.
Day 1 - Upton RR
I went all in from the start to get in the early break and see if we could make it to the end. A group of 10 of us got away and at one point had about 1min 30 on the bunch but they slowly pulled us back to within 10 seconds by the finish. I won the stage, launching my sprint as late as I could.
This was my first win of the year and after a number of set backs with my form where I would have to build back up, it was great to actually have some good form going in to the race and to see the final result.
Day 2 - TT then Road Race
I did a decent time on the road bike TT but unfortunately lost the leaders jersey. I was 9th in the TT and had about 30 seconds to make up in the final stage if I were to regain the lead.
On the final stage I attacked numerous times throughout the race to try and get away and get the overall win but each time the breaks were reeled in. In the final 2km I didn't have the legs to follow the winning solo attack due to all the attempts made earlier in the race but I still sprinted in for 5th. A successful weekend on the whole.
National U23 Series
With the final round of the National U23 Series being cancelled, I finish the series 3rd overall, just 1 point off 2nd.
End of Season
The final races for me are coming up with Monsal Hill Climb this weekend and then Beaumont trophy, the final National Road Series race before the calendar comes to a close. I'm looking forward to returning to Monsal after 3 years since my last attempt and I am carrying some good legs towards Beaumont so hopefully I can maintain those for just another week or so.
Till next blog