By Rhys Gillett GP Mercatale. 160km. 303 riders. One of the biggest races on the Italian calendar. Also one of the most important, especially for squadra Fracor since it is in our home town. Not something you go into under-done. When I sat down with Francesco on Monday (the day before the race) and he asked me how I was feeling about racing having had a head cold for 5 days. I was nowhere near 100%. It should have been very easy to say this but for some reason pride took over and I even managed to convince myself that I was better than I really was. Stupid mistake. Fast forward 24 hours, our little town has been transformed. It looks like it could be holding the finish of a stage of the Giro. The front of the team house looks the same as our tent usually does at races: bikes lined up, constant flow of people walking past. We have our pre race meeting in the comfort of our living room and roll down to the start. The flag is waved by one of the local children and all 300+ of us roll out of town. Before we even get to the town sign I’m in the gutter in 5th wheel at 60km/h! Within 10 seconds I can tell that I am NOT alright to be racing. The only way I can describe the feeling is to imagine the hardest ergo session you’ve done… now imagine the same ergo session but you have to breathe through a straw. Getting dropped from a bunch of 300 riders takes a long time. 30km in fact. I’m not easily embarrassed, but creeping into town less than an hour into the race and pulling out in the hometown team’s kit I was wishing that I could become invisible. That will stick with me for as long as I am racing. Next time I’m asked if I’m up to racing, remembering my first GP Mercatale will be enough to keep me 100% honest with myself. Hopefully I can return and have another crack since it is a beautiful race on an awesome course.