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Team Zappi's Circuito Guadiana Race Report

On Sunday 22nd of February we woke up at 7 for our first race of the season, the Circuito Giandiana in Don Benito; the first round of the Coppa Espana. The team of 7 lining up were Bertie Newey, James Locker, Owen James, Jonny Knox, Callum Ferguson, Scott Auld and Alex Fanshawe. We all breakfasted together as a team on muesli, bread, jam, pasta, coffee, ham, cheese and yogurt. It was very tasty I thought but according to the others wasn't a patch on what the hotels in Italy produce for Athletes Breakfast, bring on Italy! We rolled out of the hotel to the start area were we got our race food for the back pockets and our pre-race double espresso. We signed on and then within minutes we were lining up for the start and then rolling off! After much anticipation and months of winter miles the season had finally begun!


The circuit was pan flat on wide open, well-paved roads apart from one climb in the middle of each lap averaging 16% on very narrow village lanes, made even tighter by the large quantity of supporters on the steep grades. The area we were in was very open and so cross-winds were guaranteed on the open sections of A-road that separated the climb and the town centre. Clearly this was going to be a race where positioning oneself in the top 30 riders was going to be imperative. The plan for the race was for Bertie and Owen to stay in the bunch and save themselves for a bunch sprint at the end, while everyone else was to try and jump in moves punching off the front.


The race rolled of and from the moment the peloton was out of town attacks were darting off the front. Callum, Locker and Scott did a great job following moves unfortunately no move stuck and so the bunch arrived at the foot of the climb for the first time together. Everyone arrived at the foot of the climb in a good position and so was able to force their way up the rising road despite the inevitable traffic problems caused by the road bottlenecking at its steepest point. It was at this point were the most inexperienced member of the team, Alex, had an issue with his gears when trying to change into the 25 and was forced to dismount. This meant that he missed the end of the main group going over the top and so had to embark on a solo chase through the convoy to get back on, made all the more difficult by the cross-winds. He eventually made it back to the group, snot sprayed across his face, as the peloton reached town. A true baptism of fire if ever there was one.


The second lap passed without incident in the most part with everyone taking stock and fuelling themselves for what lay ahead. There were continued traffic problems on the climb as the still compact bunch tried to force its way up. Johnny Knox, a fell runner back in his teens, was even seen tackling the top section berg in a style akin to Sven Nys, this moment of eccentricity gained him around 30 places such was the number of track standing rivals he ran past. As we headed into town for the second time a break had got away and did not contain a rider from the Contador development team and so it was left to them to line out the peloton in the cross-winds whilst trying to reel back the escapees. As would be expected of a team of their strength they managed this task and so the bunch was back together heading to the climb for the third time.


It was at this point in the race where tired legs began to show and so splits were forming over the top of the climb due to the concertina effect of riders at the front accelerating down the descent whilst others were still climbing. The bunch split into 4 main groups over the top of the climb and fortunately for Team Zappis only Alex didn't make it into one of the front two groups that eventually conjoined. Alex crested the climb about 100 yards off Jonny's back wheel but sadly for him this was enough to miss the second group. Despite his group chasing hard into town to rejoin they didn't manage it and so Alex was pulled off half way through the 4th lap.


The rest of the team all rode brilliantly to stay in the front two groups thus when these groups rejoined all remaining Zappis were in the bunch when the climb struck for the 4th and final time. Again as the depleted peloton ground its way up the tarmac two main splits were forced. Callum showed great strength to get into a front group of twenty that over the top got a gap on the remainder of the peloton. In this situation one could reasonably expected a group of that size to stay away and so Callum looked in a great position to contest the higher places. However, as Callum later lamented, the group didn't work cohesively together and so it was that the group was pulled back heading to the outskirts of town and the peloton geared up for a big bunch gallop to the line. The team all got together to start to form a lead-out train for Bertie with 5km to go sadly, often the case in these situations the Zappi train was broken up as Owen and Bertie found themselves on the other side of the road from the others after a gap had formed in their favour. So with 3km to go it was down to Owen to do a solo lead out and that he did amazingly! He towed Bertie to 500m to go, battling with the much larger Russian Lokosphynx train, before opening out a sprint himself at 500 then pulling off, his job done. Bertie sprinted and came across the line in 5th, however only half a bike length down from the winner, showing just how tight the final outcome was.


The team were delighted with the performance, as was Flavio. Bertie however when he saw how close the final outcome was left wondering what he could have done differently to convert the final outcome. Despite pondering what could have been it was a great result for the team's first race of the season. It capped an overall great weekend for Team Zappis as the day previous to the elite race Charlie Quaterman had won the Junior race with a spectacular show of strength. He came over the top of the climb for the second and final time and on the descent forced a selection that dragged 5 riders clear. Then with 5km to go he looked around and noted how much his rivals were blowing, it was then that he launched his solo attack. He time trialled home to record a solo win by 20 seconds.

26 March 2015

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