Calvin Watson’s Strade Bianche
Many of you around Australia will have seen Calvin Watson come up through the ranks of domestic racing over the past few years. From the VIS, to the AIS, and now he’s earned his way to the top level of the sport and is racing his first season with the Trek Factory team and off to a fantastic start. Over the weekend he came in 30th position in Strade Bianche and lived to tell about it. Here are his thoughts and reflections of one of the most unique and exciting one day races on the calendar.
As we drove towards to start line, the morning of Strade Bianche the nerves begin to kick in. The atmosphere on the team bus was like nothing I’d felt before, excitement, stress, pressure and emotion all in one.
Fabian and the boys where all pretty calm, as this had become the norm for them, but for me it was the first time I would ride on the famous “white roads” of Tuscany, and if the previous days recon was anything to go by then I knew we were in for a hell of a day!
The closest thing I can compare this race to for you back home is perhaps imagine the Two Bays loop for 211km on dusty unsealed white roads with everyone lined out fighting for position. But of course this was in Tuscany, not Mt Eliza!
The plan for the day was quite simple – nothing over the top, just a clear plan that everyone agreed to. My role was to start at the front and follow any dangerous moves that were going clear. If a group of 8-10 riders went clear; myself, Jens or Eugenio Alafaci had to be present. This was to take pressure of Fabian and the rest of our guys and it would mean we wouldn’t have to contribute to the chase.
As it turned out after 10km I found myself lying in a gutter after hitting the deck heavily at 50kmh. With shear adrenaline I jumped straight back up and begin the chase to the peloton. I was in pain, and had lost some skin, but nothing was going to stop me from fighting all the way to the finish.
In the meantime a break had gone clear with 4 riders from the smaller Italian teams which was as given a 10 minute advantage within only a few kilometres as the main bunch stopped for a nature break.
These “white roads” are seriously brutal and dangerously slippery! This meant position was the key ingredient to having a successful race. The whole Trek team stayed together and moved around the peloton as a unit. With Fabian we had respect in the bunch and we could move around the bunch fairly calmly and easily.
My job now became one that had an important outcome for Fabian and the team: I was to lead them out onto the gravel sections in a position that would keep us all towards the front and out of trouble.
We entered the longest section of gravel. 11km might not sound like much, but it felt like 30km. This would be where the race split to pieces and the favourites would begin to attack.
At the critical moment when Sagan was beginning to attack, Fabian punctured. He then received a wheel from one of our guys and began to chase. I tried to do what I could for Fabian in order to get him back towards the leaders on the uphill gravel, but he was going so incredibly fast that he blew past me with no chance of joining him. Before I could look up he was back with the leading group. An unbelievably strong effort by Fab to rejoin the front group, which unfortunately sapped a lot of energy for his last 10km.
In the end Fabian went onto finish in 6th position, a little way behind the two guys in front, Sagan and the Polish rider Kwiatkowski. It wasn’t the result we had set out to achieve but one that the team was satisfied with considering the circumstances (including Fabian). However, our bad luck throughout the day saw Riccardo Zoidl break his collarbone and Markel Irizar crash heavily.
All in all we were happy to have the day behind us and I found it personally satisfying to finish in the second group in a respectable 28th position. Hopefully in the future I will have another opportunity to ride in support of Fabian and ride the Famous “white roads” of Tuscany.
My next races will be Catalonia, Romandie, California and Dauphine.
Till next time,
Strade Bianche Photo Gallery