Cyclists are intimately familiar with the need for balance in their rigorous schedules, a concept that Silvia Persico of UAE Team ADQ has certainly not taken lightly. Persico, who has never shied away from expressing how the season’s demands had left her feeling exceptionally fatigued, has had a year full of leadership responsibilities across various disciplines, including cyclocross, road, and gravel.
Her commitment and drive have yielded victories and notable placements, but they have also culminated in a profound need for complete mental recovery as 2023 draws to a close. Entering a quieter winter phase, Persico finds herself having to make concessions to ensure she can compete with the sport’s elite, a requisite that has led her to forego certain activities.
Her off-season has been markedly more relaxed this year, despite a handful of official engagements. Persico shared that she had attended her team’s boot camp in Abu Dhabi, been present at the Tour’s unveiling in Paris, and enjoyed holidays in Spain and Malta before easing back into training with gym sessions, cycling, and running. The necessity of a month-long hiatus from cycling was something she felt was particularly crucial.
Endurance and Exhaustion
While traditionally embarking on only a brief rest before delving into cyclocross, Persico acknowledged that the intensity of the sport has significantly amplified in recent years, despite her consistent efforts to give her best.
She recalled the accumulated stress that had begun the previous December, which profoundly influenced her performance throughout the year. Despite feeling physically fit for the cyclocross world championship in January, where she finished fourth, she quickly realised she was battling fatigue. Persico admitted that her eagerness to recover swiftly for the UAE Tour, a race central to her team, might have been premature and eventually took its toll, notwithstanding her overall third-place finish.
Reflecting on the year, Persico confessed to having mixed feelings. Coming off a strong 2022, she clocked in impressive results, including a fourth-place finish at the Tour of Flanders and a victory at the Brabantse Pijl, but could not shake off a growing sense of tiredness. The exhaustion was particularly palpable during the Ardennes classics and led her to relinquish her leadership role at the Vuelta. The summer brought hopes of achieving more, and while she was pleased to have aided her teammate Erica Magnaldi at the Giro Donne, the narrow loss at the National Championships was a bitter pill to swallow. Nevertheless, she managed to regain some form by September, finishing fifth at both the Tour of Romandie and the European Championships, and ended the season with a spirited second place at the gravel world championships.
As Persico gears up for 2024, she has made the strategic decision to skip the cyclocross season to ensure optimal road performance. She is also working with a new coach and continuing her development with a mental coach, underscoring the multifaceted approach required for top-tier cycling excellence.