Sam Bewley should be enjoying a quick rest day and then getting stuck into the third and final week of what has been a dynamic and unpredictable Giro d’Italia.  Instead he’s on the road north to full fitness after a late injury derailed that goal; now it’s all about refocussing and getting ready to return to racing again.

Injury aftermath, missing Giro, building back up

It’s been one month to the day since Sam Bewley last pinned a number on, at the last of the Ardennes classics, Liege-Bastogne-Liege.  His race programme should have gone from Belgium to Switzerland for the Tour de Romandie and then to the Giro d’Italia.  Sadly a course recon crash at Romandie derailed the script, and it has been a battle back to fitness rather than a battle around Italy that Sam has been undergoing.  

Although the choice of battle is not what he’d like, it is one that Wagon is winning.  “The shoulder is coming good,” Sam told RoadCycling.  “It’s 2 weeks since surgery now and things are going well. I was back on the road a week after the operation, there is still some time needed for it to be 100% but the main thing is I can train more or less normally which is the first goal when recovering from injury. The fitness…. well it’s not the same as it was before I crashed that’s for sure. But it’ll be back. It’s just important to be patient and focus on the process and some consistency at this point.”

The journey to the Giro was something that Sam and Mitchelton-SCOTT had been working on for several months, and with that target now out of the picture it has left Sam with the need to reassess his direction for this point in the year.  What makes things worse is less the injury and rather the abruptness that such great form could come to such a sharp halt; all that work, preparation, planning and fitness built up only to be wiped out by an out-of-race crash.

“It’s certainly pretty tough watching the Giro from the sidelines. It’s been my main focus since October last year, I worked super hard leading up to it and was possibly in some of my best ever condition. It’s certainly not my first injury, but this one was a tough one to deal with,” Sam explained. 

“We’ve obviously had to readjust May & June but there are some new goals to work towards. The plan is to start back at GP Lugano on June 9th followed by the Tour of Switzerland. The rest of the season will be planned after that, which is pretty normal to do most years anyway.”

Sam Bewley was absent from the start list at this year’s Napier nationals, but he’s keen to get stuck into the new format, photo Sirotti

Returning to familiar ground for Nationals

Cambridge will play host to the 2020 Vantage Elite Road National Championships, following the end of Napier’s tenure as host.  It represents a big transitional time for the Championships, from place to place, but also from one month to another.  Typically the championships fall around the first weekend of the new year, but not next year, with 14th-16th February set as the new dates for the championships.

The location is one that Sam is familiar with, having raced there plenty in his formative years.  He knows that with a course choice like Cambridge, race organisers could choose a variety of different options that could make for a very unpredictable championships.  “I grew up racing all around that area, Cambridge/Te Awamutu/Morrinsville, so yes, I know the area well. I haven’t heard or looked at what the course will be yet but it has the potential to be a very hard circuit or an easier circuit depending what route the organisers go down.  Either way, I’m excited to be back racing on the roads I grew up racing on and it’s just over the hill from Rotorua so I’m sure I can muster up a good little cheer squad!”

January never ceases to draw a quality field, but there are always a number of notable absentees.  This year in Napier, Sam numbered among the non-starters, with the timing of the championships clashing with where he was needing to be for his team.  “Nationals have always been in January, and it’s always been difficult to arrive at them with condition.  You can do it, but you need to sacrifice our only period of the year at home and also arriving at the nationals in January at top form can risk the first part of the European season.  That’s the main reason I chose not to compete this year in Napier,” Sam said.

Moving the championships to February was very much a collaborative effort involving organisers, coaches and riders, and for our road professionals the move has been heralded as a triumph.  “This is something we asked for, we got the world tour riders together and some of the domestic riders and approached CyclingNZ with the proposed change. They have been great in getting this across the line with the people they needed to” Sam said. 

“This is the best time of year for our nationals and will have a massive positive impact on the event itself and cycling in general in NZ.  It makes so much sense to have it February.  The professionals and the domestic riders will all have racing in their legs.  Whether it’s the Australian summer or the NZ Cycle Classic etc. This is going to bring every rider to the event in top condition and create a hell of a race.  

“The pros can then move straight from the nationals into the European or Middle Eastern races at the end of Feb. Hopefully with one of us wearing the silver fern. This is a very positive move and I thank Cycling NZ for the positivity around it. They have made a great decision and I’m excited to be able to line up again at the nationals with the condition and motivation to give it a real crack.”

The Vantage Elite & U23 National Road Championships will be held from 14th-16th February.  For more information about the championships click here.  Sam’s race schedule resumes with the Gran Premio Città di Lugano on 9th June followed by the Tour de Suisse from 15th-23rd June.

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