Slightly more than a year has passed since my first World Championship as starter: not a long time, but it feels like so much more.
I will tell you, honestly: I wish I could have been the rider I am today, last year in Richmond. I am not saying I would have beaten Sagan (I wonder if anyone could, on that day), but today I would speak of that route like one suited to my characteristics, like those on which I showed up at the highest level with consistency over the season. Last year I was confident that I could do it, but I had not demostrated it yet: it makes quite a difference, in the race and in a rider’s mind.
What about Qatar? Interesting question. First point, the route: there are rumors of a shortened distance due to the massive heat (not that they could not expect it, particularly after last year Tour of Abu Dhabi’s experience…), of a World Championships on 150 km, all of them in the loop. The World Championships are always a tense and difficult race, tough to manage regardless of the route and the distance, but I wouldn’t like to see the rainbow jersey assigned on a shortened effort.
As for the rest, the possibility of crosswinds must be taken into consideration, but that would only concern the part outside of the final circuit – the one that could be cut. We will know more about this when we arrive in Qatar.
I have reached the Italian National Team’s camp with a smile on my face. I am feeling very good. The blow to my elbow suffered in Great Britain is behind me, and legs are spinning just fine. I have won Coppa Bernocchi and Gran Piemonte with the Italian team, also celebrating my first two successes as Italian National Champion, and that gave me an enthusiasm and an easy attitude that I had arguably never had in my career.
Thinking back of Piemonte: I was feeling bad at the start, I had temperature and I was thinking of the opportunity of withdrawing at some point not to hamper the Worlds’ preparation. We raced the first two hours at full speed, 50 km/h average, and I was riding easy. Then the selection was made on the climb, and I made the top 30 riders’ cut. At that point, I realized that with such feedbacks from my body, I could not back down mentally: I wanted to win. I took a risk kicking out in the final 500 metres, and I won the last race before the World Championships: I could not get here in any better position.
What has changed from Richmond to Doha? In between those two Champs, there has been a very important season in terms of performance and results. I am feeling more mature and composed, because I managed to confirm I belong to the level I thought I could reach, but I had not demonstrated yet. That’s a progression is was feeling inside of me, and I had told that to my team and outside: I put pressure on myself, and I discovered that it just pushes me harder.
Before I get back to the training camp programme, two quick thoughts. The first is about Trek-Segafredo, that already held its first meeting for 2017 programming days after the Lombardia: next year, we will be missing two riders like Ryder Hesjedal and Frank Schleck, who called it a career right at Lombardia. I thank them both for our years together as teammates (only one with Ryder, sadly), and wish them all the very best for their next stages in life.
Finally, I want to sincerely thank the Province of Monza and Brianza, that on Monday awarded me of the Beato Talamoni Award as remarkable personality of the Brianza’s area. I could attend the ceremony personally, due to the training camp, but I feel honored and humbled of this very important award, and I hope I will manage to keep making proud the people from my area, both cycling fans and non. Hopefully, also in Doha.