WorldTeam Filippo Conca: “I have already learnt a lot during my first year as a pro.”
The 22-year-old Filippo Conca turned pro with Lotto Soudal at the beginning of this year. In his first race – the Tour de la Provence – the Italian immediately made a dream professional debut as he took home the KOM jersey. During his first season, the Italian already had a taste of WorldTour races such as Strade Bianche, Tour of the Basque Country and most recently, the Bretagne Classic. A chat with the rider from Lombardy about his first months racing at the pro ranks.
How is your first year as a pro going? Is It what you had expected?
“My first race with Lotto Soudal was a big success. I immediately won the mountain jersey at the Tour de la Provence. I didn’t expect it, but I felt really good and I was able to join the early breakaway. That way, I gathered enough points to win the classification. However, my first months as a pro were not all rosy. The step from the U23 category to the WorldTour is quite big and I also immediately took part in some races of WorldTour level. The big difference between the two categories is first of all, the speed but in U23 races, there is often more chaos and sometimes, there are less tactics involved. At WorldTour level, racing is kind of more organised.”
(Read on below the image.)
What was your best moment so far this season? And the least fun…?
“My best moment so far this season was riding Strade Bianche, without a doubt. It was my first WorldTour race as a pro and, for the time being, it is the only Italian race I’ve done. Another great moment was at the Tour de Pologne, where teammate Tomasz MarczyÅski – who will hang up his wheels at the end of the season – was celebrated. The least fun moment was at the Tour de Suisse. Following an altitude training camp in Livigno, I started the race in good shape but unfortunately a bad crash spoiled the party. I got an inflammation of the arm, which affected me for quite some time.”
What is it like, to be racing at Lotto Soudal, with a mix of both young and experienced riders?
“It is great that the many young guns in the team can learn from champions like Philippe Gilbert, John Degenkolb, Tim Wellens and Thomas De Gendt. It just feels fantastic that we can use their experience and expertise. During my first months as a pro, I have already learned a lot in terms of race insight, tactical decisions and positioning.”
(Read on below the image.)
In addition to being a pro cyclist, you are also studying. How do you combine the two?
“I study economics and management and have just finished my second year. There is still one year left, but combining cycling and studying is quite doable for me. Fortunately, being an athlete, I get some privileges. I can spread my studies over the whole year and I have for example six exam periods compared to two for the ‘normal’ students. And the fact that I have quite some prior knowledge makes it a bit easier.”
What does the remainder of the season bring for you and what are your goals for next year?
“At the moment, I am preparing for the Italian autumn races such as Giro dell’ Emilia, GP Piemonte, Il Lombardia… As I live near Lake Como, these races are really on home roads for me. So I know the course really well and I’m hoping to ride the full Italian programme. I’m looking forward to helping my teammates as much as I can.”
“The goal is to win a race next year. I realise that, with my current form, I have to take on a serving role. Next year, I hope to again get the freedom to attack and set some solid performances. I need to be in a breakaway to obtain nice results. I also dream of riding the Giro d’Italia because proportionally, there are more opportunities for breakaway riders.”
Images: Photo News.