Rites of Spring: Team Novo Nordisk’s Milano-San Remo with Fabio Calabria

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The great Italian Monuments of Milano-San Remo & Il Lombardia book-end the race season; the falling, autumnal leaves of Lombardy are only just coming into bud as La Classicissima rolls out from Milano in late March. Originally a vehicle to sell newspapers, as the pizzazz, rivalries and skulduggery of the race barrelled through provincial towns celebrating the festa of San Giuseppe, the race serves to sell more than just newsprint these days as it winds its way along the beautiful Ligurian coast on its 300km journey from city to sea. The inaugural race was organised by the Unione Sportiva Sanremese and ran as a two-day, amateur affair before Milanese journalist Tullo Morgagni took it under his wing and convinced the then director of Gazzetta Dello Sport to run it as a punishing one-day professional event. And so it is that Ciclissmo! finds itself passing time with Fabio Calabria, a young Australian of Italian heritage and racing for Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all-diabetes professional team, under the ramparts and towers of Milano’s imposing Castello Sforzesco on the morning of the 2017 edition of La Primavera…

All Photos: @Tim De Waele

Cycling: 108th Milan-Sanremo 2017

Fabio Calabria – “I grew up watching the Tour de France on the television with my parents at home in Canberra, Australia. The first memory I have of watching the Tour was probably 6 or 7. When I was growing up, my family only watched the Tour. It was the only real bike race that was on TV in Australia back then. My dad rode for fun but I definitely don’t think you can call us a cycling family.

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I only actually knew about the three Grand Tours. I liked all of them so much because I loved watching guys ride up mountains that seemed impossible to ride up. I think that, while I have Italian heritage, my love for cycling came out of Italy. More than anything, it came out of my dad’s bad knees and not being able to run!

Cycling: 108th Milan-Sanremo 2017

I came to Italy for the first time when I was 18 and raced in the amateurs straight out of school. I know the Rogers (Michael, Pete and Dean) quite well and Michael Rogers helped me get over and helped me get on a team. That was my first step into Europe. I was a punk kid who raced bikes. I lived in a team house here in Italy and didn’t have two cents to rub together. I think I had one set of pants and tee shirt and flew around the world racing bikes.

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I first met Phil Southerland (Team Novo Nordisk, then Team Type 1, Principal) halfway through 2007, my second year in Italy. Phil is a very positive and inspirational guy. Anytime you talk to him, it ends well and you find yourself inspired and motivated. That was a lot of the reason why I joined the team because it was a nice place to be and a good group of people.

SPTDW80087Cycling: 108th Milan-Sanremo 2017

Today? It is going to be hard and long. We have some great weather and we will at least get to enjoy it as much as you can when you race 300 kilometers. I’m not nervous; at this point, there isn’t much you can do. You are stuck with the legs you have. I try not to think about the bigger things during a race. I think it is easy to get overwhelmed with the outside details so I’m trying to just focus on racing my bike and doing what I can do. I think to get through it is about 99% mental. To get through it well, it is probably 50/50 physical and mental.

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There is this one part along the coast, I don’t know specifically where, but I’m looking forward to reaching that part. I know that area vaguely and it is such a beautiful part of the world. I’m looking forward to seeing it but I know that is still a very, very long way from the finish… As for whether Tirreno was good preparation for this – I’ll tell you after the race!”

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The race rolls out and, over the course of just over seven hours, delivers the trademark spectacular scenery and a truly classic edition of the race: A tifosi delighting devil-may-care attack on the Poggio from Peter Sagan that drew two of the most exciting talents of the peloton in Kwiatowski and Alaphilipe out into a move that powered away from the napping hopefuls behind to set up an explosive three-way sprint finale on the Via Roma that could only be split by a cigarette paper’s width in favour of the Pole… Team Novo Nordisk, too, had cause for celebration: Italian Neo-Pro Umberto Poli, the youngest rider in the race at just 20 years-old, made the break of the day and enjoyed an afternoon animating the roadside crowds up over the Turchino Pass and along the coast before time was called on the fugitives and the race entered it’s end-game on the iconic Capi

Cycling: 108th Milan-Sanremo 2017

 So, Fabio, How was it?

“It was long but I have to say good overall – there is definitely something special about a race that long. You saw how passionate the fans were for the whole 300-kilometers. You can feel that passion and energy throughout the day. You don’t get that at any other race. It was incredible and there were places that I needed it.

Cycling: 108th Milan-Sanremo 2017

Highlights? Finishing! And having Umbe in the break. He was the youngest rider in the race and rode on the front all day. I think that was pretty special for him and for us as a team. And the hardest moments? Hmm… There was a point coming along the coast where it got really fast and a crosswind hit us. I would say that was probably the hardest part. But the most memorable moment was the flares on the climb. They were pretty wild. The fans were crazy on the Cipressa and Poggio. That really stood out!”

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Traversa D’Italia: Racing Between the Seas with Team Novo Nordisk’s Andrea Peron

Ciclissimo! has spent the last week racing from sea to sea across Italia at the 2017 Tirreno-Adriatico with Andrea Peron as Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all diabetes pro-cycling team, make their debut at this prestigious and stunning Italian WorldTour stage race. It’s been a fast, hilly and hard fought week but, finally, the end is in sight – by his own admission, being that the Race of the Two Seas is book-ended by tests against the clock, not one of Andrea’s favourite sights as the mechanics roll the time-trial bikes out of the truck. But, it’s ‘only’ a 10km chrono along a pan-flat seaside promenade. Surely there’ll be time for a post-race gelato whilst dipping the toes in the soothing waters of the Adriatic as we sign off from our journey across the Bel Paese? Afterall, Milan-San Remo is not upon us until the weekend…

Stage 7: ITT – San Benedetto Del Tronto, 10.05 km

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Photo: @TDW Sport

“After a week like this, I obviously feel tired, yet it felt like a real achievement. I think racing here will have a positive impact on my form and strength for the coming season.

 I feel that finishing a one-week World Tour stage race like Tirreno definitely allowed us to take a step up. This is a hard race, and for a young team like ours, it helps bring us up to the next level. 
 
Looking ahead to the next few days, I’m going to be totally focused on recovery so that I can be ready for Milano-San Remo…
A piu tarde!
Andrea”
Cycling: 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 / Stage 7
Photo: @TDW Sport

Traversa D’Italia: Racing Between the Seas with Team Novo Nordisk’s Andrea Peron

Cycling: 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 / Stage 6
Photo: @TDW Sport

Ciclissimo! has spent the last week racing from sea to sea across Italia at the 2017 Tirreno-Adriatico with Andrea Peron as Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all diabetes pro-cycling team, make their debut at this prestigious and stunning Italian WorldTour stage race. It’s been a race thin on chances for the Sprinters – such as Andrea – present so they’ll be loathe to let a small group stay away on stage 6 whose rolling terrain just begs for a breakaway. A view that didn’t seem to be shared by Tren-Italia as the peloton were halted at a rail-crossing for some 5 minutes as the escapees, including Team Novo Nordisk’s Joonas Hanttala, sped away with barely concealed mirth. The race director eventually put an end to their ad-hoc advantage and called them to a halt also to re-establish the time gap to a something more akin to what is was before the 12.30 from Rimini intervened. Tomorrow’s stage 7 finale is an individual time-trial so today’s collina-strewn route with its 3.5km flat run to the line really does ring the last-orders bell for the fast-men and canny escape-artists alike…

Cycling: 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 / Stage 6
Photo: @TDW Sport

Stage 6: Ascoli Piceno – Civitanova Marche, 168 km

“Today was the final bunch sprint for this year’s Tirreno. It was more or less fast all day because the breakaway was pretty big and everyone was motivated for the finish. The finish was a bit dangerous and a little surprising for a race of this caliber. Fortunately, the group that arrived wasn’t too big, so all ended up okay.
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Photo: TeamNovoNordisk/ Phil Sutherland
 
As a Pro-Conti team, I feel good about my first Tirreno. It is such a big race, and I can definitely notice the faster pace and longer stages. I see racing here as one more step forward. 
Cycling: 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 / Stage 6
Photo: @TDW Sport
Cycling: 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 / Stage 6
Photo: @TDW Sport
 
Tomorrow is the final stage, a time trial. For this week, I was eying today, but I ended up missing it. Tomorrow is full gas for 10 kilometers and to be honest—time trials aren’t my best thing.
 
Looking ahead, next is Milano-San Remo on Saturday, and I feel this race is the best preparation for San Remo and also for all the races to come. Again, racing at Tirreno is another major step up and forward for me and for this team.
Cycling: 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 / Stage 6
Photo: @TDW Sport
 
As for where we are staying, I laugh when I try to explain this hotel. People imagine pro cyclists at hotels. Everyone has dreams about what professional cycling looks like and I can tell you that this maybe isn’t the hotel of your dreams…
Buona Notte!
Andrea”
Cycling: 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 / Stage 6
Photo: @TDW Sport

Traversa D’Italia: Racing Between the Seas with Team Novo Nordisk’s Andrea Peron

Ciclissimo! is pleased to be racing from the sea to the land beyond at the 2017 Tirreno-Adriatico with Andrea Peron as Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all diabetes pro-cycling team, make their debut at this prestigious and stunning Italian WorldTour stage race. Follow the 28 year old sprinter from Veneto as he traverses between the two seas of Italia which give the race its name.

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Photo: @TDW Sport

Stage 5: Rieti – Fermo, 209 km

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Photo: @TDW Sport

A look at today’s roadbook presents a typically beautiful stage: A long, gradual 43km climb from Rieti at 400m above sea level to tiny Torrita at 1000m followed by some 60-odd-km of descent towards the coast with a circuit based finale featuring numerous ascents of various 20%-plus short, sharp walls, or muri. The terrain and scenery offer up fantastic racing and spectacle yet one cannot help but remember the devastating earthquakes that have struck this part of the world so recently and the peloton collectively paid their respects during the days racing.

Cycling: 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 / Stage 5
Photo: @TDW Sport

“We crossed Italy today and the most memorable part of the day was passing through the areas that were recently affected by some pretty major earthquakes. During the stage, you could see that there was nothing left and these towns were completely destroyed. Even when we are going that fast, we all paid attention to the towns and knew that they had almost completely disappeared. You can’t ignore something like that.

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Photo: @TDW Sport

After that, we crossed the rest of Italy and arrived in Fermo.  This part of Italy doesn’t have that many big towns and Fermo actually counts as a pretty big town. It is an old mountain town with a historic center at the top of the mountain. It’s best known for its pancetta pasta dish.

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Photo: @il_ciclope

We are staying near Fermo, yet I don’t know this area very well. What I do know is that we will be back here in San Benedetto Del Tronto on the final day for the time trial…

 

A domani, amici
Andrea”

 

Traversa D’Italia: Racing Between the Seas with Team Novo Nordisk’s Andrea Peron

Ciclissimo! is pleased to be racing from the sea to the land beyond at the 2017 Tirreno-Adriatico with Andrea Peron as Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all diabetes pro-cycling team, make their debut at this prestigious and stunning Italian WorldTour stage race. Follow the 28 year old sprinter from Veneto as he traverses between the two seas of Italia which give the race its name.

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Stage 4: Montalto Di Castro – Terminillo, 171 km

Today, the Tirreno-Adriatico finally turns left and begins its charge across the spine of Italia in order to keep its appointment with Adriatic for the finale on Tuesday. Finishing atop Monte Terminillo, it’s the Queen Stage and, thankfully, it’s not a case of “Off with her head!” this year as it was in 2016, which saw the mountain top finish at the ski resort curtailed due to lots of snow. Firstly, however, comes a dash across the vast plain of the Rieti province – once  a huge lake until the Romans drained it all a couple of thousand years ago and created the fertile basin that the area is now – after more snaking up the typical, densely wooded foothills we have grown accustomed to in the previous days. Ciclissimo! will never grow tired of such terrain: The terracotta tiles and green shutters of the precariously pitched hamlets, the smell of woodsmoke through the trees and the buzz of the ubiquitous 3-wheeled Ape around every other corner.

Cycling: 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 / Stage 4
Photo: @TDW Sport

But it is the rarefied atmosphere of the towering, icing sugar snow-capped Abruzzi Apennine mountain range, sat impassively under the rich, azure skies, that will shape this stage and is at the forefront of Andrea & the squad’s minds despite being sat in the piazza under pleasingly warm sun at the start…

Cycling: 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 / Stage 4
Photo: @TDW Sport

“It will be sunny today but we still have to go up to 2,000 meters.March in Italy at 2,000 meters can get really cold: It’ll be colder than previous days. When we prepped this morning, we didn’t go all the way to winter gear, but we put on some vests. The top of the climb is supposed to be around 0 degrees C, so we all have already arranged with soigneurs to have jackets ready for us when we arrive at the summit…”

 The race kicks off at pretty much kilometro zero as a plucky group of the usual suspects, including Team Novo Nordisk’s French neo-pro Romain Gioux, dart out and go about forcing a gap. Turns out that Romain’s longest rides ever were stages 2 & 3 of this years race! Time to crack open a Montepulciano in Chez Ciclissimo! and drink in the beauty of today’s tappa!

Cycling: 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 / Stage 4
Photo: @TDW Sport
“We knew that the general classification would be decided today, possibly tomorrow. It was a day for the climbers and like some of the other days, there was a lot of wind.
 
In the beginning, most of the climber’s teams did the work. BMC and FDJ worked early and then at the final climb, any team that had a climber started working. Typical of any mountain stage, all the riders that weren’t interested in the climb quickly formed a grupetto. It was pretty big, and we simply rode together to the finish.
 
On the climb, we did it fairly easy, so we definitely needed the clothes to stay warm. When you don’t go full gas and it’s zero degrees-C, you need something to keep you warm. Luckily, the bus was only 500 meters after the finish, so we were quickly on the bus, showering and getting warm.
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Photo: @TeamNovoNordisk/ Phil Sutherland
 
On a long day like today, we start to eat bars pretty early. In the feed zone, we all made sure to grab bags. This is now the third day of around 6-hour racing, so you have to eat a lot throughout the race to make sure your body has what it needs to recover. This means more than 4,000 calories a day. When I walked onto the bus, I showered and then had some rice and protein.
 
Tomorrow will be the hardest stage of the race. Today was hard and a long climb, but tomorrow has a wall at 20 percent. It probably will end up being the defining day for the GC
A Domani!
Andrea”

Traversa D’Italia: Racing Between the Seas with Team Novo Nordisk’s Andrea Peron

Ciclissimo! is pleased to be racing from the sea to the land beyond at the 2017 Tirreno-Adriatico with Andrea Peron as Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all diabetes pro-cycling team, make their debut at this prestigious and stunning Italian WorldTour stage race. Follow the 28 year old sprinter from Veneto as he traverses between the two seas of Italia which give the race its name.

Cycling: 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 / Stage 3
Photo: @TDW Sport

Stage 3: Monterotondo Marritimo – Montalto Di Castro, 204 km

Fine wines, cuisine and beautiful women: Tirreno-Adriatico’s Stage 3 has it all! The Race of the Two Seas continues to thread its way south via the Tuscan idyll of Maremma before nipping over the border into Lazio for a short, sharp uphill finish into the hometown of Alice Sabatini, Miss Italy 2015. It’s yet more typical Tuscan fayre as the race picks up where it left off yesterday to tackle another 200km+ punchy stage through the rolling paese and borghi of Italia’s western coast from which some of the finest DOCG wines originate.

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@TDW Sport

Maremma was used as the location for some of the scenes in the wonderful 1999 film The Talented Mr Ripley, the narrative taking us on a journey from the western coast of Italia up to Venice in the north-easterly region of Veneto – an intriguing reversal of Andrea’s viaggio to the final scene of stage 3!

“In the race bible, today looked like a much easier day than it turned out to be. There was a lot of up and down and nearly nonstop winds. 
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@TDW Sport
The day began with a few kilometers of climbing and then a descent for about 30 kilometers. It wasn’t too steep and stayed pretty controlled. Yet this is a World Tour race, which means the pace remains high all day. Combine the profile and the winds and this all made for a hard day.
Cycling: 52th Tirreno - Adriatico 2017 / Stage 3
@TDW Sport
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@TDW Sport
We couldn’t really see the difference when we transferred over from Toscana into Lazio but Toscana is a little hillier than Lazio. The landscape is different and you could begin to see that in the final 20 kilometers of today’s stage.  While I don’t know the food well in Lazio, I do appreciate the Toscana meat or the steak fiorentina. It’s a steak that is big-big and barely cooked
Buona Sera a Tutti!
Andrea”
Cycling: 52th Tirreno - Adriatico 2017 / Stage 3
@TDW Sport

Traversa D’Italia: Racing Between the Seas with Team Novo Nordisk’s Andrea Peron

Ciclissimo! is pleased to be racing from the sea to the land beyond at the 2017 Tirreno-Adriatico with Andrea Peron as Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all diabetes pro-cycling team, make their debut at this prestigious and stunning Italian WorldTour stage race. Follow the 28 year old sprinter from Veneto as he traverses between the two seas of Italia which give the race its name.

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Photo: @TDW Sport

Stage 2: Camaiore – Pomarance, 228 km

Whilst promenading along the seafront may be over for now, the Race of the Two Seas still has a waft of brine in its nostrils as it heads south through classic Italian bike-racing country. The peloton face a pan flat start to today’s stage – at 228km the longest of the race – with only the Leaning Tower of Pisa for vertiginous distraction before they hit rolling, verdant, medieval-walled town topped hills of picture postcard Tuscany, at the halfway point.

Cycling: 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 / Stage 2
Photo: @TDW Sport

The combative profile is perfectly fitting; the breathtaking beauty of the countryside shrouds a combative and bloody, feudal history, none more so than as it passes through Volterra, the seat of the Pazzi Conspiracy of 1478.The Pazzi family, Florentine nobles, took exception to the legendary Medici family’s grip on power and attempted to assassinate its leaders. It all went wrong and the Pazzi were duly hung and left to rot from the Medici’s Palazzo della Signoria in the heart of Firenze. Volterra is also home to the Volturi, a coven of rich, regal, powerful ancient vampires in the ‘Twilight’ series. I guess losing precious sleep to the knock on the door of the UCI’s own ‘vampires’ is not the riders’ only worry today…

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Photo: @TDW Sport
“I raced under-23 for one year in this region. What can you say – Tuscany: Cycling is a religion here. There is nothing else or more to it; it’s a religion. I used to train here a lot, so I know the roads well.
Today was a long day, but it didn’t feel that long because the first part was quite fast and then the last part was up and down. I didn’t have time to think about the length. It was a good stage; my focus was to save the legs for coming days and that went well. I hope tomorrow will be a good day for the team and me.
 
Our plan today was for someone to make the break and the plan from the start was to be at the front and aggressive. Charles was in the break for 200 kilometers, so a good day for him. BMC maintained control for basically the whole day; I think they were aiming for both the GC and also possibly to go for a stage win
A Dopo!
Andrea”
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Photo: @TeamNovoNordisk/Chris Baldwin