UPHILL BATTLE: Morgan Pilley during the gruelling Sellaronda Hero World Series race in Italy, where he finished 25th.
UPHILL BATTLE: Morgan Pilley during the gruelling Sellaronda Hero World Series race in Italy, where he finished 25th.

Pilley mixes it with the best in Italian endurance race

MOUNTAIN BIKING: With stunning panorama views of the Dolomites UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site the Sellaronda is an amazing and unique sight.

The beautiful scenery of the Italian mountains were probably the last thing on Morgan Pilley's mind as he tackled the 86km Sellaronda Hero, one of the toughest mountain biking races in the world.

Covering 4500m of altitude differences through the mountain ranges around the Sella and the Sassolungo mountain, Pilley finished in 25th place and said the race was a season and career highlight.

"It's close to the World Champs so you have all the top riders there and in top form,” he said.

"Preparing for it I did a lot of race simulation and specific training in relation to the course profile: long, steep climbs for hours on end. There was some tough points during the race, especially the high points on course where the air is thin and you struggle to breath but you have to have confidence in yourself and the training you have done. It's hard to know positions on course but I had a good idea I was up there, and after finishing in the top 25, it was extremely satisfying.”

Racing in Italy this season Pilley has claimed a number of top tens in national races, including a 10th at the Casentino and an 8th at the Martani Superbike Marathon.

"They were both around 60kms with around 1600 to 1800m of elevation,” he said.

"I probably should of been racing for a podium at both of them but I had a couple of stupid little crashes which put me back a bit and cost me some time. But physically, I had been in good shape.

"I had been training well and my focus had been good. It helps a lot when I can control my race calendar and prepare accordingly with no outside pressures. You can't just go full gas all season, you have give yourself time to hit peak form and also rest.”

Away from the saddle, Pilley has recently started his own cycling team, MJO Legal Race Team, sponsored by Grafton law firm MJO Legal. Comprised by himself and former Yamba rider Aaron Watts, Pilley said 2017 has been a full on year starting the team from scratch.

"It's difficult sorting race schedules and budgets to speaking with potential sponsors who would commit then pull out, but for for a first season, we went well and also learnt a lot,” he said.

"Now I have the structure in place to build on it, expand where possible and hopefully bring on more sponsors for this.

"It was great having Aaron on board, bringing him over to Europe to race, and again, to have the team truly represent the Clarence Valley. It was a big leap for him to go from racing in Australia to diving head-first into European racing, especially Italy, , but he handled himself really well, raced professionally and gave 100% .

"MJO Legal have been a fantastic supporter of mine for a few years now and then last year when I explained to them my plan to create a team, they jumped on board. They not only provide support but also believe in me and what I do and are passionate about the local area as well. And after years of racing for European teams, it's great to not only race for an Australian team, but also one with a title sponsor from my home town.

"I've started a development squad this year, which is just starting to come to fruition now, so I'd like to build on that with the aim to develop juniors riders from the area, and eventually, give them a chance to ride in Europe.”

Pilley said hoping to finish the season off in Italy, before returning to Grafton to take on the 24hr Ride for Youth event.

"Overall, I'm happy with the season with what I achieved and am already starting to prepare and organise plans for next season to build on it,” he said.

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