Coppi e Bartali

Stage 4 & 5 - Coppi e Bartali

And we are done with an exciting five days of racing in Italy! The outcome couldn’t have been any better with a GC podium sweep from some of the team’s young guns, and this race was another big step in their progression.

I came into this race unhealthy and frustrated to be missing Volta Catalunya, but now that I’m coming out the other side, I have a greater appreciation for being a part of this team. I’m better another honed in with my teammates and being a part of any win feels great. This one really stands out because it featured such a young up and coming group; I was happy to lay it on the line for them.

Looking back the past two days, our seven-man squad took the race head on and asserted ourselves as the team to beat.


Stage 4

Yesterday’s “sprint” stage was dictated by a breakaway and some teams chasing them severely miscalculated the chase. We were happy to sit back and save a bit of energy for the final stage but we were still all hands-on-deck where we needed to be in the crucial moments of the race.

Observing the teams who lost out on the sprint was perplexing as they clearly had the horsepower but mismanaged their resources bringing the gap down amazingly fast from 8 minutes to 2 minutes but then let it creep back up. They underestimated the final kick from the break and the role GC team position fighting would have in inadvertently distrusting the chase in the final lap.

Stage 5

Today’s final stage was sure to be a doozy with the classic Italian roads--busted pavement and hardly a straight kilometer. I was pleased to finally feel great from the start and put in some big efforts over the first climb to keep things under control and key rivals in check.

 From there, our freight train of Sam and Cam went to work. When a few counterattacks happened from guys sitting around a minute back in GC, it didn’t even remotely phase or deter them. Those guys dropped us off into awesome position with two climbs to go, and this is where the meat of my work took place. We paced some dangerous surges from Movistar up the climb and battled them to stay in the front group over the top.

After analyzing this effort post-stage, I would see this was my best five minutes power of the year and another good indication that my health and form are on the return.

The early break was almost back, but we were happy to leave them out there at a minute and so. Other teams came to drive the pace into the final climb. Rob and I used our last big digs to deliver the guys into the final climb in first position. Our three leaders set a super hard pace that deterred anyone from getting away. Damo sprinted to a solid third on the stage, and they locked up 1,2,3 on GC.    

This race maybe didn’t have the depth of some of the World Tour races, but it was great to control a race from start to finish and give Lucas, Damo and Nick a chance to shine. For me, it’s a bit of an adjustment. In the past, a race like this would have meant an opportunity for a result, but I found myself inspired and excited to execute a role for the guys and was really pleased with how we all came together and delivered in key moments.

Now it’s back to Girona, for a quick reset and then a build towards an anticipated Giro start.

Stage 2 & 3 - Coppi e Bartali

For the past few days, it’s been impressed and excied to work for some of my youngest teammates: Rob Stannard, Lucas Hamilton, Nick Schults, and Damian Howsen.  These guys were all world class (and even world champion) U23's and are clearly making huge strides as they step up into the pro ranks.  Over the past two days, we’ve been defending the lead and doing our best to control an aggressive peloton on some equally crazy roads and terrain.  

Stage 2

For Stage 2, it makes for tough work but we were happy to ride at the front.  The road conditions were dismal and the terrain relentless. When you add in the unknown of cars sneaking their way onto the course and some corners being less than clear as to which direction to go, it was a real bonus to be up front and have a clear line.  

Stage 2 was an awesome team work day where everyone contributed in a very obvious way, which isn't always the case and nice when it happens.  My role was to take over from Sam and Cam for the final two climbs through the up/down finishing circuits.  With the help of Nick, I got the boys about halfway up the final climb when the attacks started coming.  Whether its early, mid or late in the race, it’s a good feeling to take over at the front of the bunch and whip up the pace for teammates who are riding strong and eager to deliver.  Lucas claimed a close second on the stage and moved into the overall lead. 


Stage 3

Friday was another up down, twisty circuit that we tackled seven times. Fortunately, most of these roads had been resurfaced in the past 20 years and I think the close circuit made things a little safer in terms of the race marking and controlling road furniture. 

The ballistic first lap finally gave way to a solid breakaway that we were content with getting up the road.  We kept them in check but were ok if they stayed away for the stage win because it would neutralize the available time bonuses.  Sam and Cam put on a tempo clinic through the halfway point before a few other teams began ramping up the pace. At times they would shred it full gas, only to lose most of their teammates and then sit up.  This sliced the gap to the break, and it looked like it would be back together for the final lap. 

I fought hard to stay in contact with the reduced group over the top and provide support for our leaders. The group began to swell on the downhill back to the finish and the fast run-in was chaotic and uncontrolled.  We were happy to get our top three guys safely in on same time and now look to tomorrow which should be a sprint day but seeing how most of these teams ride and how little they are willing to commit for any one leader, its anyone’s guess how it will shake out.  

On good news--my guts seem to be improving little by little. It’s challenging to get stomach recovery in when we are tossing down the quantities of food needed to fuel for these races, but I’m encouraged that I'm at least going in the right direction and hoping to keep improving.  

Photo: Bettini 

Stage 1a/1b - Coppi e Bartali

Winning day!  

It was a long one and I can't remember the last time I did two races in one day?!  We are back in Italy, but it feels so different from Tirreno. 

Physically, I am feeling much healthier than a week ago when I was literally hugging the toilet all night, but I can feel my body is still rebounding from that and paying the price from a week that was a wash in terms of training. Right now, it is more about getting back to baseline. 

Everything started in the morning with a 100-kilometer road stage.  This is a much smaller race, and we saw it immediately with super aggressive teams and slightly confused race organizers about where we were going in the neutral. We made it through the morning stage without incident and headed into the afternoon with big objectives. 

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From the winning squad in Tirreno, there was only me and Damo, but as with most good TTT teams, the depth shows through the entire roster and today we had an awesome balance of youth and experience.  

Pre-TTT prep was a challenge with the course never really being closed for any inspection, another example of a smaller operation race. We knew the focus would be about riding off one another and getting good info from the car.  It was a very technical first five kilometers with a little more speed in the second half but still some roundabouts that make things technical at those speeds. 

We started fast, kept going fast, and I think finished faster!  I came off the group with around 2 km to go.  I know TTT's need to be an egoless affair, but my ego still takes a bit of a beating seeing the guys ride up the road.  Fortunately, it was enough to come out on top and it was all smiles on the podium.  My young teammate Rob Stannard is in the lead after his fifth place in the morning stage.  This dude is 20 years young!  Watch out world!  

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I’m looking forward to supporting the guys and we'll take each one day-by-day as the racing will no doubt prove unpredictable and crazy at times as these Italian teams fighting like their national pride is on the line and the more international teams are looking to flex their muscle in a unique opportunity with a slightly less deep field.