Procycling - - PROLOGUE -

My last five races of 2018 were all in Italy. The first race was GP Emilia, which fin­ishes on top of San Luca, a steep 2k climb. You do the climb five times and there is a tech­ni­cal down­hill, made worse this year by rain. At the bot­tom of the de­scent you pretty much start the climb again. I felt okay, but had a punc­ture on the sec­ond de­scent and had a long wait for a wheel.

The next day we raced GP Beghelli. I en­joyed this, the weather was bet­ter, the roads less de­mand­ing so it was less stress­ful. Beghelli is a lot flat­ter than Emilia; the fi­nal cir­cuit has a 1.5k climb around five per cent which you do 10 times. I felt very good but in the end I waited too long and I should have made a move ear­lier.

On Mon­day we had a rest day and rode two hours around Varese in north­ern Italy, be­fore rac­ing Tre Valli Vare­sine. I al­ways think of a su­per classy Alessan­dro Bal­lan win­ning the Worlds in 2008 on this cir­cuit. When Bal­lan crossed the line,

I was in a group dropped a few k be­hind and we still heard the roar of the tifosi.

On Wednes­day we had an­other rest day, and rode for an hour and a half, with Gran Piemonte on Thurs­day. This year’s edi­tion was pretty much flat, un­like other edi­tions when it’s been up and down all day. It rained which made it harder than it looked on pa­per.

Fri­day was our fi­nal train­ing ride of 2018 with Il Lom­bar­dia on Satur­day. It’s the most beau­ti­ful one-day race of the year, and the rac­ing didn’t dis­ap­point ei­ther. My first Lom­bar­dia was in 2007 and I re­mem­ber Ghisallo was the hard­est climb, although in 2018 it’s now a light warm-up for Muro di Sor­mano. You start this sec­tion af­ter al­most an hour of full-gas rac­ing, and this year was no ex­cep­tion. Ghisallo is 8.5k long. with an av­er­age of 6.2 per cent, but the climb is harder than the pro­file sug­gests. It’s a 20-minute ef­fort.

Sor­mano ac­tu­ally starts 3k be­fore you hit the start of the wall proper. It re­ally comes down to legs, and I didn’t have them. Af­ter six hours of rac­ing and 6000kcal, we had pizza on the bus and then a three and a half hour trip home.

Il Lom­bar­dia was its usual mix of beauty and tough­ness, says Steve

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