Saturday, January 9, 2010
Svelte Cycles: Heritage Part 5
Make no mistake Team Farm Frites was a powerhouse squad, ranked 2nd in the world when I signed for them in May of 2000. My heart however was in Italy. In the fall of 2000 one thing led to another and I found myself signing for one of the most iconic teams of its time; Team Saeco.
At this point I had really put myself in the spotlight and was receiving copious amounts of press.
I'll spare you the endless amount of race action pics as so many live HERE. What I will share with you now are some nice articles outlining my progression and ambitions as well as a few choice behind the scenes pics.
That first year on Team Saeco was a dream come true. The team was at its pinnacle in both spirit and stature. Just look at this loaded roster.
My favourite event that year was ironically in America at the USPRO Championships in Philladelphia. I was coming onto some very good form and some two weeks later i finished 6th Overall at the Uniqua Tour of Austria. The countless hours of training and sacrifices were paying significant dividends. That summer, I felt I could do no wrong on a bicycle.
Just to show you that Lance Armstrong is not the only pro who trains in inclimate weather, here are some snaps of me and my amico Nicola Gavazzi leaving for a 180k jaunt at our own little Pre-USPRO training camp in New Hampshire. Note: "Epic" is not training 180km in the rain. "Epic" is training 180km in the rain then waking up the next morning and doing it again, then again, then again....
Back in Italy, Nicola and I were two peas in a pod. We both had a very strong work ethic and a big capacity for workloads. Our training rides were really something special. Interesting little fact: Nicolas father won Milano - San Remo, stages in the Giro and countless other semi-classics. Mattia, Nicolas younger brother is now enjoying a very succsesful career in his own right.
After enjoying my best ever season as a cyclist my motivation going into the "off" season was high, very high, too high. I continued to train at full capacity and was racing cyclocross on the weekends.
What I should have been doing was relaxing, gaining about 10-15 pounds and going for walks. My inability to just "kick it" for a few months set me up for a disasterous 2001 season. I weighed 135-140 pounds and had no power... this is no way to start a full year of racing in the Pro Tour.
I struggled with not only my form but also with the new structure at Team Saeco. Long gone were the fun training camps in Tuscany, also missing were Mario and Paulo Savodelli as well as my then mentor Laurent Dufaux. At this point the spirit had gone out of it and I lost sight of why I was doing what I was doing... these were hard times.
In the sport of cycling you are only as good as your last race and my performances in 2002 did not warrant me a spot on the 2003 Team Saeco squadrone. It was back to the states for me as I signed on with Team Navigators. That winter into 2003 was long, hard and unhealthy. The passion was gone and I had lost my way.
After an un-inspiring 2002, it was time to take a step away for the world of Pro Cycling and purse my studies in Industrial Design. This break did me well and in the winter of 2004 I had created a plan on how I would come back to Pro Cycling, this time on my own terms.