One of our favourite parts of the University Sports Scholarship Scheme is hearing from previous scholars and seeing how they continue to excel in their chosen sport. We heard from Scholar alumni James Mapley about his recent win in Italy.
The Crono Squadre Della Versilia is a closed-road, cycling time trial held on the seafront in Forte de Marmi in Pisa, Italy. The event encompasses both an amateur and professional race with each race being held on the same course. In our amateur category which still contained some semi-professional Italian riders, there were 56 teams of eight persons. The eight persons were set off together as a team with 1-minute intervals between each team with the simple objective of completing the 19 mile course as quickly as possible. Our team was formed as a memorial tribute team to a gentleman by the name of Brian Phillips who sadly passed away competing in the same event some years ago. The family felt the best way to remember Brian was to enter a competitive team to race in the event. Our team comprised some selected riders from the South UK time-trialling scene, two of whom were riding with Brian on the day he passed away, and one Italian friend of Brian who was an ex-professional. We had all ridden against one-another individually but never together as a team.
For the race, we had a rider order by which we would take turns into the wind, with each remaining rider in the team sitting behind the person in front, sheltering from the wind. These ‘turns’ would typically last between 20-40 seconds. The best way to describe this type of riding is interval training. Every time a rider is exposed on the front, they put out a near-on maximal effort just to keep the pace. When they can do no more, they peel back and return to the bunch, allowing a brief opportunity to recover before it’s their turn again. When averaging over 30mph for nearly 40 minutes, it becomes rather tiring and pacing is crucial.
From the start we kept organised as a team, being sure to keep together and not go off too hard. We had our most experienced riders start at numbers 1 and 2 in the order to keep us disciplined from a pacing perspective and we quickly established a rhythm exceeding 33 mph for the first 4.5 miles. At the first turn, we had lost one of our riders as the pace was intense. A couple of miles after that, we lost another rider – again due to the high pace. That left 6 people to ride the last 13 miles with 9 miles of that into a cross-headwind. We continued to work well together with the stronger riders taking slightly longer turns to give our teammates a longer recovery. Inspired on by the crowds, Brian’s family cheering us on and the camera bikes making it as close to a professional race as possible, we maintained an average speed close to 30mph up to final turn. For the final 4 miles, we were hanging on but took comfort in the fact that we had overtaken two teams ahead of us, meaning we were two minutes up on their times. Following some final ’empty-the-tank-turns’ we crossed the line 2nd overall with a time of 37m 35s having averaged 30.3mph and were only beaten by a semi-professional outfit with a team-bus!
We were delighted with the result and felt like we had done Brian and his family proud. It was particularly poignant as Brian’s family had flown out to watch and support us. We came away delighted with the result and hungry to return again next year with a plan to win the race overall.
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