Ten days ago the Barcelona edition of Respublica, our favorite unsupported fixed gear race in Europe, went down on a sunny Spanish morning, from Cunit to the top of Montjuic, in the centre of Barcelona.
Cinelli friend and Quaderni star Dany Pizzorno was there on his Vigorelli steel and, after securing a second place, managed to post a splendid race report on his Strava profile.
In Barcelona, when the traffic light flashes orange, bikes can pass, the cars do not necessarily stop. The fact that the light is orange and not green acts as an indication of a potentially dangerous situation.
Some say sport is a way to escape, others say it’s a way to come home dead tired and happy. But - and I don’t know exactly how to define it - maybe the flashing orange traffic light is the exact type of thrill that each of us, not satisfied with our daily lives, is looking for in those few hours of weekly sports that we practice… Either way, in some sports the line between fun and trouble is blurred and you have to know how to maintain a kind of equilibrium. Riding an alleycat in Barcelona is no exception.
I think a race like this one [Respublica Barcelona] is 30% physical preparation, 40% mental preparation and 30% bike set-up and strategy.
In terms of physical preparation this time I can count on very little, the various tools of Garmin and Strava oscillate, providing me with either a "sleep" training status (Connect) or a nice - 48% compared to last year (Strava).
In terms of mental preparation I’ve tried to do my best, trying to build that pre-race routine that makes me feel more serene but this time there is an extra factor that I have never experienced before: under pressure from my team I’ve been promoted as one of the favourites for the race and even asked to wear a bodysuit. This goes against my whole style of life, wherein I always try to keep a low profile and create low expectations because what I love is to arrive at a race almost unnoticed, without pretensions, then surprise everybody, first and foremost myself…
In terms of bike setup and race strategy, on the other hand, I have learned to become a total maniac, I am not a bike messenger that studies the route in order to understand where to cut across and save even a few hundred meters, but my bike is prepared down to the last detail; the type of wheels, the ratio, even the type of oil for the chain is not a random choice.
From strategic point of view my approach is similar to that I developed when racing sailboats: I rely first and foremost on close observation of the locals and top contenders and after having observed them in the first skirmishes of the race, I begin to be able to understand their handling skills, their performance characteristics and their body language, a bit like Magrini [famous Italian cycling commentator] who after just a few kilometers feels comfortable announcing who he believes will win the race.
At the top of the first climb the group has already been whittled to 3-4 riders. On its steepest ramps I lost 10-20 meters but was careful not to over-exert myself trying to close the gap, aware that I would be able to join back on the flats after reaching the summit.
I’m able to maintain a sense of control, I’m not at full gas and I am able to think lucidly, observing my rivals and how they are performing.
On the descent I begin to encounter the first real difficulties of the race. The Favelaframa team is at the front, attacking off the front and I don’t know whether to be more preoccupied about my egg-beater legs (max cadence 167rpm) or for the column of traffic that is about materialize at the entrance to the first urban area we are about to cross.
Vilanova and Can Pei are a total chaos, riders bounce from one side of the road to another like pinballs, swerving out of the way of cars and pedestrians. I follow them, riding with my eyes shut…
On the coast of Sitges things go a little better but on a downhill section I suddenly feel a stinging sensation in my right calf and for a moment I think that my race might be over… I try to concentrate my energies, to not get out of the saddle and above all to stop thinking about the pain as there are still 30km to go and I cannot afford to hesitate.
In this moment of the race what counts is how my adversaries are feeling:
_David is our point of reference, a monolith on his Nr.22 frame, never dangerous in his movement but generous riding at the front
_Marco is in incredible shape but he pays for his exuberance and, not having uploaded the route, he misses a corner while off the front
_Javier scares me, he seems like a spring ready to explode, when he opens the gas the group crumbles, but his actions are as violent as they are short
_Gerard looks a bit like Remco, often riding in a low, aerodynamic, position. When he’s at the front he hurts us all but he is riding defensively preparing, I imagine, a finisseurs final attack. In fact I am so convinced of this that I try to bait him into riding off the front, in the wind, to make him waste a little energy, but my games don’t stir him.
_Mr. Ohm seems to gain 50 meters on us at every corner or roundabout. He handles a bike like nobody I’ve seen before, even on a new bike setup just the day before…