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Spain, Portugal, Italy - Racing with Zappi-Planet X

Sebastian Baylis, a first year rider with Team Zappi, offers an insight into the life of an under-23 UCI racer… 


It’s difficult to know where to start. It’s been quite an eventful year and we’re barely into springtime. 

Truthfully it all began for me back in November. At the age of 22, my last year in the under-23 category was looming and I wanted to make an impact. However, after a few years racing in the UK it felt like my progress had stalled. 

So, one November morning riding before the sun had come up in Manchester I decided to take a gamble. 


I decided to take a gap year from university, picked up the phone and gave Flavio Zappi a call. For those who don’t know, Flavio runs an under-23 team that lives together, trains together and races together throughout the year. One of the best things about this team is they race real UCI races, all over Europe with support from Planet X and other sponsors.


No stone is left unturned with regards to lifestyle, diet or training. The programme has already seen a few alumni achieve their dreams with riders moving on to bigger teams such as Team Wiggins.


We moved out to Portugal on January 4th and we’ve worked solidly up until now. We’ve had a lot of mentoring so things have really started to progress for me and the team.


Our first race of the year was the Coppa Espagne Don Bonito. The team secured the Mountains jersey and third place in the Sprints competition. It was a good sign and conformation that the regime has been working. For myself, it was a massive confidence boost. To have ridden in the break through the crowds on the climb was a special feeling.


A week later we raced the second round of the same series, but this time in Murcia. The team had another solid day in the break, despite being marred by some bad luck. 


The following week was a double-header weekend in northern Portugal. The temperatures plummeted, which perhaps tipped things a bit more in our favour with a winter in the UK under our belts. The first race saw the team claim second place in the under-23 classification after a determined ride from the team’s youngest rider at the race. 


Despite some fatigue from the first race, we took on riders with fresh legs on Sunday and attacked the race hard. After a lap, two of us escaped the grip of the peloton and got into a large breakaway. Eventually I managed second place for the team through a solo effort off the front of the race. 


It was pretty special to be riding alone in the last 500 metres coming into the finish. It’s hard to take it all the atmosphere of the finish in, but I’m left with brief fragments of memory such as hearing a child shaking a rattle against the barriers.


We’re now turning attention to our next UCI races in Italy. The training is paying off, the equipment is great, but there is still a lot to do to.




23 March 2016

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