Oscar Onley’s approach to his debut Grand Tour couldn’t have gone much better. His first-ever stint of altitude training in July had led to 10th place overall at the Tour de Pologne, and he set off for the Vuelta a España with justifiable optimism.
The Vuelta itself couldn’t have started much better either, Onley’s Team dsm-firmenich squad emerged victorious from the gloom and polemics of the opening night team time trial in Barcelona, putting Lorenzo Milesi in the red jersey.
Less than 24 hours later, however, Onley’s Vuelta was already over. Months of work were struck off in an instant when the Scot’s wheels slipped from under him on a corner. While the Vuelta peloton sped back into Barcelona, Onley was brought to hospital for assessment of his broken collarbone.
“To be honest, it was probably harder mentally than physically,” Onley told Cyclingnews at the Tour of Guangxi. “To crash out of a Grand Tour, especially your first one, is mentally quite difficult, particularly after all the work I’d put in over the summer. I’d focused on this a lot of the year, so it was quite hard.”
Onley’s frustration probably wasn’t helped by the way the Vuelta unfolded. The 21-year-old had intended to hunt a stage victory in Spain rather than ride for the general classification, and almost every time he switched on the television, he found himself watching a missed opportunity.
“I know it’s easy to say now that I could have done something, but I was quite confident that I could do something across the three weeks. I could from my numbers that I was going well,” Onley said. “I was going there for stage opportunities, and it turned out that there were a lot of chances with all the breakaways.”
Onley missed the chance to learn through experience about the rigours of Grand Tour racing, but he seems to have absorbed other lessons from this business already. Rather than dwell on his truncated Vuelta, he set about focusing on the road ahead. The Tour of Guangxi had always been pencilled into his 2023 schedule, and now that Chinese expedition gave a sense of purpose to his convalescence.
Within four weeks, Onley was already pinning on a number at the CRO Tour, and he lined out at Il Lombardia last weekend before boarding the plane to China. “The form’s kind of been building slowly since Croatia, so I’m quite excited for this week,” said Onley, who ran through his scales with an acceleration on the final climb of Saturday’s circuit…