First-year under-23 Mattie Dodd is one of our journal contributors in 2023. Riding for the UCI Continental Tirol-KTM development team, he is supported by the Rayner Foundation. He was thrown in at the deep in recently, a late call up for the 2.1 Tour of Austria. Here’s how he found it…
The past 10 days have been pretty manic, to put it mildly. It all started with a phone call from my sports director, Grega Gazvoda, on a Thursday evening. The short version of it was that one of my teammates had managed to crash in training and give himself a concussion the day before. That meant they urgently needed a replacement for the 2.1 ranked Tour of Austria. That set in motion a crazy 36 hours of finding flights, packing and travelling that finished with me sitting in Zurich airport waiting to be picked up by the team on Saturday morning. By Sunday morning, I was lining up for the first stage next to the likes of George Bennett and Pavel Sivakov, to name but a few. The inner fan in me was about to explode with excitement.
I was straight in at the deep end, racing against the big boys, and I had to learn fast or I’d be in trouble
A “week of firsts” is probably the best way to describe it. It was the first time I’d got bottles from a team car – there is frankly no need to in 3 hour junior races and I haven’t done that many races this year, even fewer where it was possible to go back for bottles. It was the first time I’d stopped for the toilet in a race – again, see point about 3 hour races. It was the first time I’d raced down alpine descents or at what could be considered “altitude”, up and down the fearsome Grossglockner (beautiful scenery, creates less beautiful inner thoughts). It was the first time I’d used a radio in a road race – they aren’t allowed in .2 ranked races. That’s just a few of the firsts that the week brought. It meant it was a massive learning experience for me. I was straight in at the deep end, racing against the big boys, and I had to learn fast or I’d be in trouble.
The first stage largely involved me just staring, starstruck, at the guys I was sharing the road with. I’d be riding along and suddenly Luke Rowe or Lukas Postlberger would appear next to me, ten year-old Mattie was almost spontaneously combusting with excitement (you can only imagine his reaction when Rowe himself went back to the Ineos car to get a bottle specifically for me while in the grupetto on the final stage).
The second and third stages were two days that I’d like to put behind me quickly. I found myself really struggling in the heat and experienced what can only be described as a “heat bonk” – I’m relatively pale with ginger hair and have lived in England my entire life, I’m not exactly your traditional image of someone who thrives in 30 degree heat. The final two days saw me manage the heat much better with ice and a generous amount of spraying water from bidons over my back. That meant I had much more normal legs on those days.
Pascal Ackermann decided doing the climb three times was too much, so was seen with a beer in hand, standing by the road the second time we went up
No rest for the wicked though. We went straight from the final day’s summit finish up the Sonntagberg (picture the, albeit shorter, demon lovechild of the Tumble and Great Dun Fell in the heart of rural Austria. Pascal Ackermann decided doing the climb three times was too much, so was seen with a beer in hand, standing by the road the second time we went up) to our hotel in Wieselburg, in Niederösterreich.
We’d be there for three days for the fourth round of the Austrian National Series, or Radliga, to give it its proper name. We had a relaxed day on Friday, that included the customary rest day assault on the local café. Saturday brought with it a town centre crit around Weiselburg itself. Not forming part of the final series standings, it mainly provided an opportunity to rake in the cash, with 1000 euros for the win. That we did just that, with a teammate getting up the road and ensuring that we all got a 10% cut.
The next day was the main event of the weekend in the form of a punchy 161km road race in the surrounding countryside. I was one of the three of us from Tirol who made the front split of around 20 with about 40km remaining. We couldn’t bring a major result home, with the podium swept up by three riders from a very strong break that formed early on.
One can’t help but draw comparisons to the current UK domestic scene when there were eight Conti teams represented, nine different nationalities and a live stream, albeit patchy, for the national series of a country with the same population as London
It was nice to have my first experience of the “Bundesliga” – one can’t help but draw comparisons to the current UK domestic scene when there were eight Conti teams represented, nine different nationalities and a live stream, albeit patchy, for the national series of a country with the same population as London. It bears remarkable similarity to the situation in the UK six or seven years ago. However, that’s just an observation through a lens of youthful inexperience, nothing more.
I’ve now moved into my flat in the Italian mountains and am settling into the area, complete with testing of all local gelato and coffee spots.
Featured image: Emma Wilcock/The British Continental
Find out more
Follow Mattie on Twitter.
Follow Mattie on Instagram.