Coppa Agostoni 2003
The Coppa Agostoni is a very challenging race, with more than 2000 meter climb and the Lissolo stretch (with sections at a 15% gradient) that has to be repeated 5 times in the often tortuous 20 km circuit. It was made even more demanding by excessively high temperatures this year.
The riders themselves made it more difficult by imposing an intense rhythm from the beginning, with the best of them emerging from the first Lissolo climb after only 75 km, 120 km from the finish line.
The advanced ‘scouting party’ of the 10-12 strongest riders turned the contest into an endurance event where the “tank” proved to be as important as the “engine”. Competitors who started the race with full reserves of glycogen, who had trained to burn fats (and thus to conserve sugars), and who were able to nourish themselves effectively during the race, carried the day.
Francesco Casagrande, an exceptional climber and endurance rider, reached the finish line alone after a long breakaway.
Danilo DiLuca stayed with Casagrande up until about 40 km from the finish, when, without warning, his “light went out”. Completely lacking energy, it only took a few minutes for him to be forced to abandon the race altogether.
An “energy crisis”, when it hits, rarely permits recovery, even if a rider slows down and takes nourishment, as DiLuca tried to do.
This happens because when carbohydrate reserves (hepatic and muscular glycogen) run out, not even fats (in abundance in sub-cutaneous tissue) can be utilized effectively. As the biochemists say, “fatty acids burn in the fire of sugars”.
This is why it is essential to ensure a diet rich in carbohydrates in the 24-48 hours prior to a race, and during the race itself, so as to put off running out of glycogen reserves as long as possible.
It is also important to engage in training, especially middle rhythm regimes, to get the muscles used to burning a fat-carbohydrate mix where the early fat consumption will help preserve the sugars for the end of the effort period or race.