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Maratona. Close, but no cigar.

Maratona. Close, but no cigar.

Our clothing designer, former USPS Pro and once #1 U23 in the World, Jamie Burrow, reports on his defence of the Maratona dles Dolomites title, last weekend... See more photos on our Facebook page here.

Well, thats it. 7 weeks of suffering, sacrifices and stress. And finally its all over. Its Tuesday morning, following the Maratona dles Dolomites. After a 4.10 am wake up on Sunday, the hard event and the long, 8 hour drive home yesterday, finally its all sinking in, a bit of a come down, and back to normality. 

Its certainly been an “Interesting” 7 weeks. I knew from the word go, it was pretty much going to be mission impossible. But the Maratona is the Maratona, its “my race”, we have a history together, a love hate relationship. She has given me many fantastic moments, with my 2 wins in 2009 and 2012, and many stressful moments, with the difficulty of the event, the effort and preparation put in. All for one day, for 4 and a half hours of my life. 

This time round, everything has been very different. In the past i have always competed as a full time bike rider, thinking about this event as far back as Christmas. Carefully planning the seasons schedule of races and training, all based around this one day. The gradual progression of form through March and April, then stepping it up, into May, hitting top form and race weight in June. Training, eating and sleeping.. Training eating and sleeping....

This year i had my eyes open to the real world of a proper, day job, and one i really enjoy. Working within the cycling industry, designing soft goods and road frames for Planet X. Traveling all over, visiting manufacturers. The perfect job for someone who has dedicated their entire life to the bicycle. The problem is, working full time, and trying to compete to win at this level, are two phrases that do not fit together in the same sentence. However, as probably my last ever participation, (well at least trying to win), and wanting to finally hang up the racing bike for good, i was determined to give it my very best shot.

Seven weeks ago, i had just returned from a trip to China, couldn’t even make it round the Ray Eden memorial, social ride, and found myself drinking beer at lunch time in Hooters, with no form what so ever, and 4.5 kg’s over race weight. I was close to throwing the towel in that weekend. But a few events, and comments, made me want to give it that final push. The one thing i have learnt over the years, is how to deal with dedication, sacrifice. And concentrate my energy towards a goal. And this time round i was going to need all of that experience. I had based myself at my mums house in the remote hills of Tuscany, the perfect location for training and isolated from the outside World, for my Rocky 4 style approach to the Maratona. Up every morning at 5.45. Out on the bike for 6.30, and back working by 10.30. 

Apart from the below average weather for this time of year, the training actually went well. Every week i was noticeably fitter, and the weight started to come off. (This was actually the hardest part. No alcohol or treats for 7 weeks, but i did hit my target 58kg’s). Unfortunately, at the end of it all, i really needed one more week to finish things off nicely, but we left home last Thursday, knowing that i had done everything possible, in the short time frame i had.

We arrived in Corvara, to snow and temperatures around zero. This didn’t really help moral much, but it would be the same for everyone. I only managed one very cold, road ride due to the conditions, and instead opted for the turbo trainer on our apartment  balcony as my last couple of tapering rides. Like all bike riders, i was worrying about the opposition as much as my form, or lack of. I had calculated all the usual suspects, but bumping into an old acquaintance, a certain Joseba Beloki (3 times Tour de France podium finisher), over dinner, was a big surprise. And an extra thought at the back of my mind.

Race day came, and fortunately the forecast was dry and sunny, although the temperature at 2000 meters at 6.30 am was still below freezing. This made the start very hard, as we climbed 12 km from the gun. It was the usual fast start, and we were soon no less than 25 guys in the front group. This soon whittled down to 9, after the passo Pordoi, with a constant natural selection, and guys falling off the pace. We hit the Major climb of the day, Passo Giau, and the attacks started straight away. I decided not to react, but steadily claw my way back across, as i was lacking in top end change of pace. This happened a few times until there were 3 of us left. The constant accelerations started to take their toll, and i began to fade, I had to adopt a survival tactic, ride at my own pace, and stay out of the red. Unfortunately my podium hopes also fell short when i was caught by a fast finishing Roberto Napolitano, on the last climb, just as i was suffering a bad patch. By the top of the last climb, i was just grateful the worst was over, and happy to just get to the finish.

During the last few, lonely kilometers to the finish, i couldn’t help but think back to a year ago, when i was out alone in front, with all the t.v cameras, helicopter overhead, and the cheer of the roadside crowds, all directed towards me. But as a friend of mine said after the finish, “you cant catch a fish, every day”. So i hope eventual winner, Michel Snel, from Holland savoured those special moments, as you never forget that feeling, or the moment....

 I suppose i have to be happy with my 4th place finish, considering where i was only 7 weeks ago. But being so agonisingly close, after all that work, did leave me thinking what might have been, with just one more weeks training.

 In the Women’s marathon event, my VVF - PLANET X team mate, Ilaria Lombardo brought home a fine 3rd place, to add to her 4 wins in the medium course event. She was also a  little disappointed with her performance. But unlike myself, promised to come back next year for revenge, and take the top step on that prestigious podium.

For me however.. I’ll admit it was a very stressful period, and i’m glad its over. But there was a small amount of enjoyment in the challenge of taking on the impossible. Now i need some rest, and above all a beer and a big fat hamburger.


2 July 2013

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