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. In his latest post, he relates his experience with the UCI Continental Tirol-KTM development team at the Giro della Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia, where they faced severe weather, illnesses, and injuries, making the race a tough ordeal.
Well, that was a novel few days. The Giro della Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia is the closest race I’ll have to “home” this year, taking place in the neighboring region of Friuli, to the east of where I’m living in Italy at the moment.
After spending a few days near the team service course in Innsbruck, we headed east with five riders and four staff. The first signs of something brewing were already present though, with the slight sniffles and sneezes starting to emerge with one or two riders. Fatigue from the Tour de L’Avenir and cold, wet weather in Innsbruck clearly made for the perfect illness breeding ground.
The weather cleared up before the start of the first stage, but illness did not
That same wet weather that had been in Innsbruck followed us into Italy, with the roads around the hotel in Ligagno Sabbiadoro covered in standing water. The weather cleared up before the start of the first stage, but illness did not. One of our riders didn’t even take to the start, not being able to eat and feeling pretty rubbish. Before the flag even dropped, we were a man down.
The first day was flatter than a pancake, the most elevation probably came from bunny hopping over a roundabout. After an hour or so, a quick discussion with the rest of the team found that we all felt pretty weird (on my part, I’d felt like I’d had a bit of a head cold for a day or two before, but nothing more). That of course triggered the very 2023 problem of thinking COVID could have been the most likely explanation – our hearts sank a little (spoiler alert, tests confirmed it wasn’t). The pan flat nature of the stage and total lack of wind did mean that not feeling great didn’t have much of an effect, but we were all a little bit annoyed to say the least.
Luckily he didn’t have the same experience as six or seven others riders in the peloton, who I’m told ‘pulled a Tom Dumoulin‘
We all managed to survive the night and lined up the next day for what was set to be pretty manic on paper. The stage was hilly, with small roads and lots of corners – imagine Belgium, but it’s hot and the food is decent afterwards. The race blew up straight from the off, with only around half the field left after half an hour, me and one other being the only ones from Tirol. It later emerged that another suffered from stomach problems, causing his lack of legs. Luckily he didn’t have the same experience as six or seven others riders in the peloton, who, I’m told, ‘pulled a Tom Dumoulin‘, if you know what I mean. Suspicions arose that evening as the dots were joined about the food in the hotel that all the teams stayed in.
We didn’t just have ‘internal’ problems that day though, with one of my teammates hitting a full bottle at 65kph and breaking his jaw. Yes, we asked him why he didn’t use his hands. Yes, we told him he was already ugly enough. Yes, we told him at least it shut him up for a bit. All mixed in with sympathy though; we’re not total monsters.
There were now two of us left, the positives being that the camper was now spacious, and we had two members of staff for each of us
Things didn’t get much better overnight, with another of our riders, and likely the best chance for the mountainous next day, succumbing to the mystery illness and not taking the start the next day. There were now two of us left, the positives being that the camper was now spacious, and we had two members of staff for each of us.
The next day involved a flat opening half, followed by a second half that included the Passo Pura. While it doesn’t carry the fame of various other Italians climbs, the statistics certainly put in a good case for it to be considered a proper test. 8km at 9% saw the race in pieces as it snaked up through the trees and dropped down the narrow, technical descent on the other side, before a final, more forgiving climb to the finish. We later found out that the final 25km apparently had some stunning scenery, not that anyone racing really clocked that at the time.
The final day was largely pretty standard until the final 20km, that saw a fast, open descent, followed by a gentle 5km climb, before dropping down into Trieste on another super quick, and slightly hairy descent. Despite the absolute chaos that ensues when you give 150 twenty-something year-olds free reign on a 90kph descent into a major city with cars and pavement jumping out from nowhere, the final was great fun. I was feeling good heading into the bottom of the final climb and moved up on the climb itself. My excitement did get the better of me slightly though, as I made a move over the top with the tactical nous of a four year old. The nature of the descent and timing of the attack meant it was never going to get anywhere.
It was certainly a novel experience, being on a team that took more of a battering from the hotel chicken than the course itself
We managed to get to Trieste with the two of us remaining, even if it did look touch and go at points with various stomach problems. It was certainly a novel experience, being on a team that took more of a battering from the hotel chicken than the course itself. My sixth in the youth GC and two stage top 25s was a very average outcome in terms of the best result for the race as a team, but given the circumstances, I think any notable results were unlikely.
It’s now well into the final part of the season for me now, with Ruota d’Oro and Il Piccolo Lombardia 1.2Us being my final races before heading back to the UK.
Featured image: Alex FotoArte
Find out more
Follow Mattie on Twitter.
Follow Mattie on Instagram.