You may have read our recent interview with Senor Flavio Zappi here on VeloVeritas? This season the Zappi Racing Team will have strong Scottish representation with Messrs. Hamish Strachan and Matthias Barnett quitting Bonnie but chilly Scotland and the brooding, icy waters of the North Sea for La Bella Italia and the more benign waters of the Adriatico.
We caught up with Hamish the day of the squadra’s first race, the 148 kilometre Trofeo Fubine La Porta Del Monferrato which went to 23 year-old Simone Piccolo of Viris Vigevano from Alessio Martinelli of the omnipresent and mighty Colpack Ballan squadra.
Hamish wasn’t racing but there to watch the 200 man field contest nine laps of a challenging circuit in Piedmont and ponder that he’ll soon be one of those corridori.
After the race the 19 year-old from Bathgate who’s taking ‘time out’ from his father’s haulage business took time to speak to VeloVeritas.
I read that you were a ‘Xbox Boy’ before you saddled up?
“Yeah, I was getting too lazy and my dad encouraged me to get some exercise; when I was 14 or 15 I took up the bike and started to ride sportives.”
Tell us about the Three Pistes Sportive.
“I was only 14 at the time, it was brutal; 103 miles taking in three Scottish ski centres, Glenshee, Lecht and Cairngorm – it goes over five of the six highest roads in the UK, including four long climbs with 20% gradients so 9,000 feet of climbing.
“At the finish the organiser told me I was the youngest rider ever to complete it.”
What’s your connection with MV Commercial?
“They’re a commercial vehicle company in Airdrie. Tom O’Rourke, MV Commercial’s CEO spoke to my dad and asked if he could help me with equipment, entries and expenses – he likes to help young sportspeople and has been a huge help to me, I can’t thank him enough.”
As a young UK rider headed for the continent did you apply for assistance from the Dave Rayner Fund?
“I did but there was a mix up with emails and they didn’t receive my CV so I missed the cut off.”
What sort of results did you get in the UK?
“Nothing brilliant, top three as a junior and then top five/top 10 but as a rider who weighs just over 50 kilos I’m not really suited to UK racing.
“That’s one of the reasons I thought Italy would play much better to my strengths – there are no flat races here!”
How did ‘lockdown’ go for you?
“It actually went well, I did a lot of eRacing on Zwift and was pretty successful, winning a few races.
“I actually just missed out on getting a place on a team – but it’s much different from racing on the road, for example you can’t freewheel downhill, you have to keep pushing on those pedals.”
Why go down the Zappi road?
“I saw the Zappi race team posts on FaceBook and I noted what he was doing; taking young guys from the UK where perhaps the racing didn’t suit them to somewhere it did and then developing them.
“I saw the progress that my countryman, Calum Johnston has made, looked into the u23 race scene in Italy and got in touch with the team, putting forward my CV – which was accepted.”
What was getting to Italy like in these ‘Strange Days’ of Covid?
“I had to quarantine for 14 days, I went straight from the airport to the team apartment but even before that I had two flights cancelled and then there were the testing protocols to get through… it was pretty arduous.”
And how are things in Italy?
“Right now it’s a ‘red zone’ here with everything shut although you can still get takeaway food from restaurants and you’re able to go out on the bike and train.
“It’s stricter here in Italy than it is back home in Scotland.”
Have you got your new Holdsworth yet?
“Yes, and all my clothing as well.
“The bike is good, it’s a great climbing bike and the disc brakes come into their own here with all the technical descents, and the dogs, they’re everywhere, just wandering into the road in front of you, so you do need good brakes!”
How’s ‘life with Zappi’ shaping up for you?
“The apartment here in Cesenatico is great, overlooking the marina.
“The morning schedule is pretty tight; I wake up at 07:00, read for maybe an hour and then we all go for a 20/25 minute walk before doing our breathing exercises down at the jetty.
“After that it’s back to the apartment for breakfast, then training.”
Tell us about that training.
“We’ve been doing a lot of base, early season miles, spending good, solid hours on the bike.
“Then there’s the ‘chain gang’ workouts which are a bit of a weakness of mine; that hammering on the flat, and we have race simulations too…
“I think Flavio enjoys hurting us!”
When’s your first race?
“That will be within the next month but it depends on the percorso – there’s no point in me riding a criterium, I’ll be riding races which suit my build.
“I don’t want to be ‘flying’ too early, I want form for the summer, for the important races.
“The thing is that it’s not like home, you don’t have to worry about a shortage of events, there are plenty of races here.”