Riding to Km zero

Riding to Km zero.

Thoughts, feelings, instincts. Italian champion Simone Velasco takes us behind the scenes of that special moment: the start of a race.

Published: June 7, 2024

Looking out of the tinted bus window, seeing the people around, the faint buzz of curiosity about the bicycles. The head is elsewhere or there at that moment, alert and active. Racing is not only about action but also reflection, a time when adrenalin and the brain can touch the deepest chords of ourselves.

To those who have repeatedly wondered what riders are thinking just before the start - just as the gun is about to go off - we have to say that it is almost impossible to have a precise answer.

Cycling, like many other things in life, places instinct alongside exact science, which is why there are figures and there are attacks. Everything goes hand in hand for the show to exist, for the magic to happen.

Balanced over madness.

Simone Velasco became Italian champion on a day in June.

The emotions of a finish and a start are completely different but they have one thing in common: in a short time you go through about a million moods and you have to be like tightrope walkers on a rope to stay in balance without falling.

'The approach to an important appointment is always a mix of eagerness, insecurities, plans towards what is then the final goal,' says Simone. 'In a relatively short time you go through very different situations and you have to be good at managing everything, keeping your balance in all circumstances, in the good times and the bad.'

The trickier side of sporting introspection is regulating the beats, understanding what the mind needs to give its all and then, only then, letting the legs do their thing.

Balance is everything, not just when you’re riding, because - as they say - a cyclist is a cyclist forever, whether under a bad moon or a good star.

Looking inside oneself.

The peace of mind before a race start or an important event is an iceberg that hides a deep tip of thoughts and evaluations; it happens for the big stage races, when the daily routine is completely overturned and time is pervaded by the stress of being in the race day in day out, without a moment of rest.

'For example,' he confirms, 'this year's Giro d'Italia was particularly intense. There wasn't even a quiet stage and, both in the peloton and outside, it's not easy to maintain some serenity. On top of that, the stages have been very demanding, especially those of the last few weeks. On these occasions it's not easy to manage the effort: you have to know yourself very well, listen to yourself, and be accurate about every feeling you experience. The body knows what you have to do, when you should not overdo it, and when you can push yourself.'

Kilometer after kilometer in which you continually test yourself but not only that: the most complicated but also the most challenging part is to keep getting to know yourself, while the most beautiful part, on the other hand, is to know that you are still in awe of the sport after years of professionalism.

'The start is always something special. A moment when you feel surrounded by the affection of the people, of the small towns that come alive for the race. You can't describe such a touching feeling.'

A day like any other.

Everyone has their rituals, their talismans, their habits. Some like to text until just before the start, others put their phone on airplane mode at least two hours beforehand, others still prefer not to think about anything, watch a movie, fix the racing number patiently on the back of their jerseys.

Simone says that he likes to feel a bit of pressure before a race, that little bit of adrenaline that makes you realise that you are going to give your all to get to the finish.

'As far as I'm concerned I try to approach important appointments like any other day. But there is one thing that makes me feel calm: knowing that I have worked hard beforehand. I like to give it my all, I don't want to have any regrets.'