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