Here and There to a Stagaire

                                                              By Freddy Ovett, ICA’s Stagaire

Freddy Ovett, ICA’s Aussie’s Stagaire, is racing with ICa since August 2019. Read about his experiences with ICA, from behind the scenes.

Season 2019, an interesting one thus far… As with all years and plans (on and off the bike), they never quite seem to go how you previously imagine them to pan out, usually for reasons that are simply out of your control. That most definitely sums up this season. After the usual Australian Summer proceedings that always whip by in a whirlwind of rush, I was back in the Girona Winter preparing for the upcoming Tour of Langkawi that was due to commence in under 3 weeks. As with most Continental teams, you’re forever at the whim of race organizers around the globe. Waiting for their always last-minute announcement regarding invited teams to their relevant race, wherever it may be. This is just how it goes, you’re not at the level yet to be given a nice program from the start to end of the year, in which you can plan your training perfectly around and arrive in perfect condition. You get what you’re given, whatever time of year it is, whatever shape you’re in and wherever in the world it will take place, because we’re all hungry athletes chomping at the bit to race as much as possible in order to be successful and make that next jump to the ‘official’ pro ranks. So, this was the case with Tour of Langkawi for us, roughly I knew I was racing there about a month before the start, so I canceled my week rest which I was in the middle of and got into prepping. Langkawi is definitely one of the better recognized and respected races within Asia with quite a rich history of big riders coming to the race and doing well, Miguel Angel Lopez, for example, one the race a few years back. So, I was quite intent on doing well. When you think of the Tour of Langkawi you mainly think of one thing: Heat. So much heat. Malaysia in March is searing with temperatures almost always in the high 30’s with the humidity making you feel like you’re forever swimming through a bath that your parents ran way too hot. I used sauna sessions and a few other protocols to try and get myself prepared, a little difficult whilst it was in Wintertime in Girona, but I think in that type of heat there’s almost nothing you can do to be comfortable in it, just a couple things to be a little less uncomfortable. In the end, it turned out not bad personally for me in Langkawi, 9th on GC and a lot of fun exploring a new country of Malaysia with my team-mates. The people were very welcoming and due to the past colonization with Britain, almost everyone spoke fluent English, which I can tell you makes a huge difference when traveling throughout Asia. Amazing food also, especially if you like spice. I definitely don’t recommend a curry for breakfast and then a dozen gels immediately after in the race though, does not end well, for anyone.

81ª Volta Portugal - Photo © João Fonseca Photographer
81ª Volta Portugal – Photo © João Fonseca Photographer

Upon returning home from Langkawi and with a decent but not quite satisfying result posted I was pretty motivated and excited about getting back into training and looking forward to the next races with the team. After a successful 2018 throughout Asia and Australia, with many big results, the general idea was that the team was in a very strong position to get in even further and bigger race starts. This was definitely the case with Langkawi, but after this, things took a turn for a worse with the team really struggling to receive invites to races I personally really thought we would get accepted into. This was difficult for me to accept as I had really planned on having a big 2019 season in terms of consistent results through the UCI Asian Tour that would put me in a strong position to be promoted into a professional team, what I really wanted above all. There’s simply nothing you can do in circumstances like apart from clipping in each day, motivated and hungry that when the opportunity does arise you will be able to seize it. I was proud of myself during this period and worked hard day in day out, hoping something was just around the corner. The team came over to Europe and got stuck into some good racing in Holland and Belgium, far from anything that really suits me but it suited everyone else really well so it was great to go out and see the boys doing so well and mixing it up with some big names and also get some enjoyable training in on flatter terrain.
The weeks continued to rattle by and along with the countless hard training miles ridden the stress of hard racing and the dream of turning pro was starting to become a burden. With matters completely out of my control that made things even more difficult to accept as you’re simply just waiting for some good news to pop up, even if it seems it never will. It was coincidently about roughly this time that my agent Robbie Hunter got in touch with me. I’ve been working together with Robbie for the last 2.5 years and he has ALWAYS had my back, no matter the result or whatever, he has the belief in me and pushes hard to get me opportunities. He came through again for me with a traineeship with Israel Cycling Academy for the last half of 2019, with concrete and big races I can work towards to help the team’s goals and ambitions to the best of my ability. I can’t begin to explain how big this news was for me; it potentially saved my career and gives me the racing chances and opportunities I so desperately need for this year. I can understand some people being confused by it all with my lack of racing after Langkawi but I think that really speaks volumes about the belief of Robbie and the team towards me and I will do all I can to repay that faith in the races I have with the team.

81ª Volta Portugal - Photo © João Fonseca Photographer
81ª Volta Portugal – Photo © João Fonseca Photographer

Within 4 days of the news from Robbie I was on a plane with the team bound for Porto, Portugal, where I would be racing the 11-day infamous stage-race the Volta Portugal. An incredible experience personally for me, and considering not racing for 4 months and the quick notice it went quite well and I was able to help the guys there in some good moments. With 11 stages worth of racing, as well as a rest day, it was a huge undertaking, especially with the level of racing being so high as this tour for the Portuguese is their world championships. As a stagiaire, your role is whatever you are told to do and simply do that as best you can. I had a lot of fun getting involved in some lead-outs and doing the so-called ‘odd-jobs’ to help support the team in my first race back from a long period of training. In the end, we had some great stages results from numerous members of the team and we left the race with a good and quite satisfied feeling.
After some recovery and down-time at home, I was bound for Italy for some 1-day classics racing with the team. Italy is a part of the world I have a deep fondness for. The racing, food, weather, roads, and people usually are all above pleasant so I was quite excited to get back there. With plenty of the big riders wanting to prepare for the World Championships, the level was very high so you clearly had to keep your wits about you at all times throughout the race to survive the testing parts. Coppa Agostini I survived with the group until 180 out of the 200km before the group I was in was pulled from the race, a typical occurrence in Italy when you are dropped from the front. Perhaps I paid for my efforts earlier on in the race to remain in good position for our team leaders but I could see the good legs were there on the climbs. The following day was Coppa Benocchi, a testing circuit with the many laps of the famous ‘Piccolo Stelvio’ climb. I enjoyed great legs this day and could remain in the front all day to help our sprinter Edwin Avilla try his chances in the finishing sprint which resulted in a very solid top 10 for himself, pleasing. Unfortunately, that night I suffered from some gastro-related illness and could not contribute to my last race of the Italian block – Giro de Toscana. It was clear that the hard season had taken its toll on many of the riders who were staying in Italy with meat at the same time. A lot of them were sick with different illnesses and despite doing your best to avoid it, it’s very hard to not get contaminated at some point during the days spent together. Upon returning home from Italy I’ve taken some good rest and let the illness pass in order to be completely fresh and ready for my next test with the team – Tour of Croatia. I’ve never been to this part of the world so I’m very excited to see what Croatia offers as a country and get back to some good and hard racing with good health. We will be looking to support our GC man Ben Hermans in this race as he will have a great chance of doing well there on the mountain stages, so I’ll be giving everything I can to help him on his way.

Until then… thanks for reading and as they say in Israel… YALLA!

81ª Volta Portugal - Photo © João Fonseca Photographer
81ª Volta Portugal – Photo © João Fonseca Photographer

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