Dan Pearson, guest of the week at Cafe Roubaix
Just 21-years-old, Dan Pearson is in his first full season of racing in Italy with Zalf Euromobil Fior, the country’s best amateur team, which he joined after previously riding for Zappi. Coming from Cardiff, his presence in the roster of a foreign team can seem a bit odd, but for the 2011 British Junior champion could turn out to be one of the best decisions he took in his career so far, considering Italy is known as a launchpad for many young cyclists to the pro ranks.
A strong climber, Pearson got to taste some really tough one-day and stage races, that have helped him learn the trade of things and also make significant improvements. This season, the cyclist supported by the Dave Rayner Fund netted a couple of impressive results, such as the third place he got in the Giro delle Pesche Nettarine – where he was Zalf’s best cyclist – the fifth place in the Giro della Valle D’Aosta, arguably the toughest U23 stage race of this season, and the victory he netted in the 65th Coppa Ardigo-Pessina Cremonese, a 140-km long race.
Recently, I got to talk with Dan Pearson – who is gearing up for his next appointments – and ask him a couple of questions about his first years in the sport, his life and results since moving to Italy and the targets he has for the remaining of the season.
– Dan, how did you end up in cycling?
My dad started taking me out mountain biking at the local mountain bike centre, Afan Argoed, when I was 15. Then, one season later, I began my first year racing on the road. I was 16 and it was mostly a case of hanging on for as long as possible.
– In 2011, you became British junior champion. Did that result gave you the confidence you needed?
It probably helped a lot but I’d already decided before that I wanted to pursue cycling as a career.
– I know that you were hoping to join a British Continental team, but it didn’t happen. Why was that?
I applied for the GB U23 Academy too, I knew I wanted to race abroad, but wasn’t sure how to get there. My final season as a junior didn’t go very well, I had some nasty crashes and illness at the wrong times. I found Zappi through a friend, he offered a very promising program, living and racing in Portugal and Italy with races in France and Belgium too.
– Looking behind, how important was this step for your development?
I had a great, but hard two years with Zappi. I learned a lot, it was vital for my development, and there always a lot of support and encouragement.
– Then you moved to Italy and began riding for Zalf.
Italy was my favourite place to live, I enjoy the racing and most of my results were from Italian races. It was an easy decision when I got offered a place at Zalf.
– You changed countries, but also cultures. What differences did you notice between training/racing in the UK and training/racing in Italy?
Training is better with long steady climbs for specific efforts, the weather is warmer and dryer too. There are more races with climbs, the races go uphill faster and there is more strength in depth. Past 26-years-old, if you have not turned pro, Italians stop racing, so the average age is much lower too.
– Are you satisfied with how things went so far for you since joining Zalf?
Yes, it’s been a great year so far. I am heavier and stronger on the flat and better at entering the break. I got up there in the general classification of the Giro della Valle d’Aosta, it’s such a beautiful, yet brutal race. It’s the hardest race I have ridden and my favourite.
– What was the toughest experience or moment encountered while racing in Italy?
I crashed out of a race two days before the Giro della Valle d’Aosta started, my wrist took a big hit and I dislocated a finger. It was ok going uphill, but the rest of the time was pretty uncomfortable, especially descending and bad sections of road.
– What’s next for you this year?
Plenty of hard hilly races in Italy for sure. Racing doesn’t finish until mid October. Also, I’m waiting to hear if I’ll get picked for the Tour de l’Avenir and Tour of Britain or not.