Back in September we took a trip to the Lombardy region of Italy for the Brianza MTB Marathon race. Marathon mountain bike races, often referred to as cross-country marathon, are a very demanding form of mountain bike racing covering at least 40 kilometres usually in mountainous terrain.
We hooked up with our friends from team Trek Selle-San Marco who were using the race as a warm up for the MTB marathon world championships. Brianza is a prestigious event with around 1,500 participants, with a tough course with 2,000 metres of elevation over a lot of short climbs.
There were four Trek riders in the race, including super strong female rider Jessica Pellizzaro who has been having some great races this season. After the race we caught up with the guys to see how they got on.
I prepared myself the best I could for the race at Brianza. I wanted to fight for the victory even though it didn’t go as I wanted. It was probably one of the toughest races I ever went through, I’m talking from a psychological point of view and there were three fundamental points during the 67km of the course.
The first is when Aleksei Medvedev (MTB Marathon European Champion) decided to attack and I was on his wheel. As soon as he jumped on his pedals to break away I just felt on a lower level, and I nearly lost my concentration. I remember turning my head to see if there were any of the guys were looking good,but there was no sign of that at all. After that moment we hit the descent, the bit I’m pretty good at, and where the middle of the race starts. I was constantly head down for around one hour up and down chasing the leader because I felt I was still in the running for a podium spot.
Ultimately we hit the 25km to go which were characterised by really short climbs and descents connected by long flat segments. I lost contact from up a group of five up front and I ended up alone, which feels frustrating because it’s hard to understand if you're doing great, okay or bad as there is noone around as a point of reference and the concentration again faded. Thinking back on it now make me laugh about it, but at the time I felt lonely for some reason. The last kilometres were endless for this mix of reasons, but I managed to wrap it up in 6th place which I guess isn’t too bad overall.
I turned up at this race with high expectations, even though I knew the standard of the riders was really competitive. The pace was fast and furious from the start, I kept it up for as much as I could but it really felt I was riding way over my limit. I believed if I could keep the ride going for the first three quarters of the race I would then be able to get over the last quarter a bit smoother.
After two hours race I was in 7th position and I was glad for the fact that the hardest bit was over, but all of a sudden my body showed me “the bill to pay in advance”. When I was still doing the last bit of the race unfortunately I started struggling and psychologically the race seemed to be never ending.
I was happy to finish the race more or less alive!
We arrived to the race area in advance on Friday in order to test the course in two sections; one on Friday and the second part on Saturday and prepare for the race with more confidence.
The race started at a fast pace and I kept myself between the best spots in the front and once again the form felt really good. Actions started really soon when Medvedev attacked and I managed to get over the first descent in the top five. I had to keep on chasing Medvedev pretty hard anyway and the only guy who kept my pace was Leonardo Páez Leon who I managed to break away from at some point but then due to a technical mistake he joined me again so we played out the sprint finish for the 2nd and 3rd spots, which I won with a lot of adrenaline.
It was only two weeks to go to the World Championship race (around my hometown area) and I felt very ready and fit for it, but sadly two days later I crashed and the dream disappeared. It’s a shame because Aleksei and Leonardo did well, and I could have definitely been up there with them.