‘Sorry, I fell asleep, I need my afternoon nap after one of Flavio’s training sessions – a 90 minute chain gang then six laps of a circuit with a steep ‘kicker’ in it.’ That was Hamish Strachan [Zappi Racing Team & Scotland] explaining to us why he’d missed our call – good to hear that the young man is back in the groove after a difficult start to his year, he explained:
“It happened not long after we last spoke back in March.
“We’d ridden out to see a pro race, the Coppi e Bartali and on the way back were going down a hill, nothing too technical, when I lost my front wheel and went down.
“It wasn’t fast but it was blunt; I went down hard.
“I knew something wasn’t right because I was in a lot of pain but rode the 30 K back to our apartment.
“I tried to ride through it over the next few days but was in too much pain to push more than 100 watts.
“Eventually Flavio said; ‘right, we’re taking you to hospital, boy!’
“It transpired I had two fractures of my pelvis, so I decided to return home to recuperate.”
Tell us about the recovery process.
“For six weeks I did nothing; that was hard on the head, all that hard work wasted.
“In May I started back on the turbo, just doing an hour at 200 watts for an hour or two, which I found hard – now I could sit there for six hours!
“It was a slow process and when I started doing zone three stuff it felt as painful as tackling a hard climb in a race.
“Over the last three or four weeks I’ve done some threshold stuff and hours on the bike at zone two – I haven’t done any high end work yet.”
How was travel out to Italy this time, I remember you saying that it was an ordeal the first time you went over, earlier in the year?
“It was much easier this time – I didn’t feel like a criminal!
“I just had to fill in a ‘passenger location’ form and agree to stay clear of contact with other people for five days.”
Are you still based in Cesenatico?
“No, we’ve moved to Borello which is in the province of Chieti in the Abruzzo.
“It’s inland and I prefer it to Cesenatico, it’s better for training; we’re literally two minutes from the climb where the late Marco Pantani used to test his fitness and 15 minutes from a 20 minute climb.”
What’s the Covid situation there?
“It’s pretty much back to normal, you have to wear a mask in some indoor situations but if you forget then no one gets too upset.”
How’s the racing going?
“I’m 75% of the way there but missing that last bit of nastiness that you need to be competitive.
“I’ve ridden three or four races with last one on Sunday, a UCI race the GP di Poggiani, Riccardo Ciuccarelli, who won a stage in the Baby Giro won it from the English guy, Lewis Askey who rides for Groupama FDJ Continental.
“I got involved with the Russian train and they weren’t happy with me, you have to get used to the bumping and barging!
“It was four laps of a fast circuit then it went into a climb, you had to be in the first 30 there or the race was over.
“I tried to get through but there were guys going backwards on the hairpins, then after the main climb there was a ‘kicker’, and that was that.”
So that old adage that, ‘there are no flat races in Italy,’ still applies?
“Pretty much, but the race this Sunday is meant to be flat – but in general, if you’re over 75 kilos then best not bother.”
Are Colpack and Zalf still the teams to beat?
“Yeah, they’re always there, the Qhubeka Assos Continental squad is strong – and so is the Russian National Squad (there are a lot of Russian riders here in Italy, Gazprom race here too)… the standard is high.”
How does your training look now that you’re racing?
“We have two hard days in the week, today’s session was tough and we’ll have an endurance day too, we usually race on a Sunday so Saturday is easy and Monday recovery.
“A big factor here, if you’re from Northern Europe, is the heat, it’s hard to acclimatise with the temperature at 36/37/38 degrees.”
How’s that orange and kingfisher Holdsworth treating you?
“I like it, yes – it’s a nice wee machine, it climbs nicely and isn’t too twitchy at the front end, I’d say it’s a good all-rounder.
“I like the disc brakes on it but when I was back in Scotland I borrowed a machine from Davie Lines of CabTech Castelli Wheelbase, a Giant with rim brakes and I’ve kinda been converted back to them!
“My reservation with discs is the time it takes to change a wheel, you see even the pro mechanics taking a bit of time with those thru axles.”
How do you spend your down time?
“We’re not far from town by bus, it’s nice to have a stroll round the shops, I read a bit, enjoy a coffee in one of the cafés and a gelato now and again.”
Is racing in la Bella Italia as you thought it would be?
“It’s very different from the UK, I didn’t realise just how brutal it was going to be; in a UK race you can move around the peloton relatively easily, not here, they just don’t stop.
“You’ll be two hours in and wishing a break would go so it would settle down but sometimes the break just doesn’t go because it’s so fast and furious.”
Your objectives for this 2021 season?
“I want to be realistic, a top 30 in a race would be a good result for me, I had a very late start with my injury but I do feel that I’m getting stronger, race by race.
“It’s frustrating though, all that base work I did last winter was pointless…”
We left Hamish with the philosopher Nietzsche’s famous maxim; ‘that which does not kill us makes us stronger,’ and to paraphrase Nike, he’s ‘just doing it.’ VeloVeritas wishes him ‘in bocca al Lupo’ for the rest of the season.