Velo Veneto - Ciclismo Italiano !

Stories from the Velo Veneto bike racing camp in Castelcucco, Italy

Location: San Francisco, California, United States

I'm a 50 year old kid who loves to race bikes. I operate a bike racing camp in Northern Italy. When not in Italy I have the good fortune of living in one of the best places to ride, the Northern California Wine Country.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lot's of Zone 4/5 !!!

Well, week one for UDACE racing is in the books. FYI, UDACE stands for "Unione Degli Amatori Ciclismo Europeo"....or as Lupo likes to call it..."hibachi" racing...maybe because you'll be fried after the weekend !

We have eight riders here at Velo Veneto right now and five of us did two races last weekend. (two others just arrived the day before, and the third is just training with us).

Here in the Veneto region we have Treviso, Vicenza, Belluno, Padova, Venezia and Verona provinces to choose races from (there are 5,000 licensed racers in the Veneto region!)....all are within an our drive of our base in Castelcucco.

On Saturday we chose the race in Monticello Conte Otto, near Vicenza (home of Campagnolo) about 45k from Castelcucco. For Mike, Ali and Larry, this was their first UDACE race experience. The course was a 4.5k circuit with a couple of tight corners where a wider road turned into a narrower one. I had warned everyone that for the most part, corners in Europe (unless it's the final corner) are not taken at high speed like American criteriums. For that reason, if you're not at the front of the group the accordian effect is huge. In fact that is a race tactic that is used. The riders at the front will coast coming into the turn, going from speeds between 25-30+ mph down to sometimes 20mph or less. If you're farther back than the first 10-15 riders, you're hard on the brakes then really having to jump on it coming out of the corner because the leaders have attacked out of the turn and the field will really stretch out with gaps starting to form. This is where many of the breakaways get started.

To those not used to this, it seems a bit strange and a waste of energy. Well yes, it is if you're sitting in the pack versus, being aggressive at the front, attacking, covering attackts, etc. The Italians don't like to sit in !!! If you want to do that, they'll try to make it hard for you.

Of course every race is different. On some courses where the roads are very wide and the pack is large, sitting in is much easier. But are you "racing" just sitting in?

If the course has narrow roads and lots of tighter turns....look out, the field will explode....much like what you see on the videos of races in Belgium....the strongest truly will survive and dominate. That's why you MUST ride at the front ! It's very hard work, but the only way to get in the breaks.

OK, too much rambling....back to Monticello. The weather was warm, about 86 degrees with moderate humidity. Ali was first up with the "Super Gentlemen" (age 56-70) and "Donne" group (the huge majority of the time the women race with the SuperGentlemen). Unfortunately, she was the only women (there was a big Championship in Milano this weekend, so our fields were a bit smaller than usual). Check out Ali's blog for her own report, but she was stoked at the finish, talking tactics and giving her fiance Mike some pre-race advice on what to expect.

The next race was the Veterani (40-47) and Gentlemen (48-55). This was a pretty big field, probably about 80 riders. I had "promised" Larry that I'd watch out for him in the group (being his first race), but I wasn't true to my word.... something about pinning a number on me and I get all competitive it seems. Hence I was covering attacks from the start and was getting fried after only a few of the 13 laps we did. Lupo took over looking for the right move mid race, but had to go back into the pack for a rest and that's when "the move" that worked was off the front...about 15 guys. Mike was watching and waiting, ready to fire his silver bullet and made an all out attack with about 6 laps to go....but it's hard to get away solo when the pack is cruising along at 45k/hr. Next Lupo (aka Paul Wolfe) got away with another guy with 4 laps remaining and hung out there at about 15-20 seconds. In the final lap I went to the front and just set tempo, fast enough that the tired riders left in the main field wouldn't attack, but slow enough that we didn't pull Lupo's break back. He held on for a 6th place finish among the "Gentlemen". After the finish I looked down at a heart rate monitor that said 170 average HR (174 threshhold), 188 max for the day, 59k in 1:22, 43.1k ave. speed.

On Sunday, we raced in Ponte della Priula. This time the Gentlemen raced without the Veterans and some of the bigger guns were back from Milano. This day the course was more wide open with only one technical turn, but it was grovelling in the gutter was the order of the day. Again we (Lupo, Larry and I) missed the winning break. At times like that I like to just get some hard training setting a hard tempo at the front, or chasing down as many attacks from the pack as possible....all in an effort to get stronger. Throw tactics and saving energy out the window. These races can be so intense that you can't really train hard enough during the week, so this is your chance to bring your fitness up. Nothing results wise to report for us....the same with Mike in the Veterani....missed break, so he also did a bunch of work at the front, trying to form a chase break, setting tempo etc.

The star of the day was Ali. There were some of the stronger Super Gentlemen back from Milano and they busted up the field into three groups. Ali said it was a really hard race and the guys were actually being gentlemen, watching out for her, helping her to stay in there as she was working so hard. She was rewarded with the winners flowers, a podium girl kiss and the requisite bag of groceries !
Big training this week coming up. Trip to the Dolomites on Tues, then the Monte Grappa on Wed. Stay tuned!


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