Francesca Selva

We spoke to Francesca Selva when she collected her new road bike.

Francesca Selva is an Italian cyclist riding for Torelli, a UCI Continental Women’s Team. Francesca has raced on the road and cyclo-cross, but her true love is the track. Here she has scored some nice results, culminating in an invitation last year to ride the UCI Track Champions League. We got a chance to talk to her on a trip to collect her new Handsling A1R0evo road bike.

The track is where you'll normally find Francesca Selva
The track is where you’ll normally find Francesca Selva

Francesca is a native of Venice in northern Italy, but like many professional athletes, spends most of her time travelling to events. She has become a modern day gypsy, carrying the tools of her trade – the bicycle – from place to place. Just listening to her arrange logistics as we travel to Handsling’s HQ in Hampshire makes my head spin!

For this trip, I collected Francesca from Brighton, in west Sussex. She had got to know Brighton through the ERASMUS student exchange programme. While running through Brighton’s Preston Park, Francesca heard the sounds of bike racing. Intrigued, she followed the sounds and came across Preston Park Velodrome; the oldest track in the UK. She got to know the riders and organisers and this year was back, staying at the home of one of them.

Life as a ‘pro’ cyclist

This is an example of how riders on smaller teams have to be always thinking, making contacts and forging friendships. Without these connections, it would be impossible for them to follow their racing dreams. Not having the budget of a World Tour team, Francesca has to plan her own travel, lodging and meals. While Francesca admits that sometimes it would be nice to simply rely on the team to organise the logistics, she actually enjoys it. She has even managed to arrange cheaper flights when riding with the Italian national team.

Francesca rides on Miche wheels

Francesca Selva rides for Torelli, one of the smaller Continental teams, but still well respected. While Torelli get invited to many of the biggest UCI road races, they don’t have the budget of the World Tour teams. Instead they support them in other ways, such as the team house in Belgium. This leaves their riders free to choose which bikes they ride.

Sometimes there’s too much advice!

On the road for ’24

On the track Francesca rides a Handsling TR3evo, on which she uses a set of Mythos TX-1.1 bars. We wrote about her trip to Mythos to have them fitted, read it here. This year she is going to add more road racing to her calendar; good for training and to garner more exposure. Track racing gets much less TV time compared to road racing and a professional athlete must make sure that sponsors and selectors can see them. Handsling were sponsoring her with their aero road frame and she was going to build it up at their HQ.

Setting up her Dash saddle

It may seem strange for a rider to want to be involved with the build of their bike. However it makes sense, Francesca often has to build and re-build her own bike. Knowing her bike intimately is essential, a mistake could have serious consequences. So it was good to see the guys at Handsling helping and advising her during the build. Those little hints and tips could help make a frantic last-minute re-build go much easier.

Francesca Selva rides a Dash saddle
Francesca rides a Dash saddle

Handsling Bikes

The Handsling workshop is tucked away in a beautiful part of Hampshire. With loads of pretty little lanes to test their bikes on and a quaint old tea-room right next door, it makes for a great area for testing bikes.

The A1R0evo (aero-evo) is Handsling’s own design, made from T800 Toray carbon. The frame is UCI approved, so Francesca can safely race it knowing that it has passed their safety standards. When I first saw the frame, the first thing that I liked was the colour. Call me shallow, but a bike has to look good. Handsling have recently installed their own spray-booth, allowing them to offer their customers thirty different colours. Thirty!

It’s a wrap!

Francesca had chosen a lovely light blue, I would call it baby blue. For me it had a 1950’s feel to it, very retro and gorgeous to look at. That spray-booth was obviously a good decision! Going on the the frame were Shimano’s 12-speed Ultegra Di2 groupset and a pair of Miche Kleos wheels. Small diversion here, Francesca told us Miche is pronounced Mi-kay; who knew? These were shod with 28mm Rene Herse Chinook Pass tyres. The A1R0evo comes with Handsling’s own seat-post and one-piece bar and stem.

Handsling’s A1R0evo wears its UCI badge with pride

Oh that saddle!

The saddle however, was Francesca’s own and was totally new to me! This was a minimalist carbon-fibre confection from Dash Cycles. It looked super-light and super-uncomfortable, but Francesca said she really liked them. While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, comfort is experienced a little further south!

Once all the parts were assembled, the build began. First Francesca’s measurements were checked; to the millimetre. I’ve never seen so much care taken with getting everything just so, or so many spirit-levels! Handsling’s Sam, was on hand to help and offer advice and tips during the process, but Francesca was very hands-on, as she will have to re-build the bike in a few days.

Francesca Selva checking the set up is just so
Francesca checking the set up is just so

After a brief stop for lunch, which was another chance to see how our cycling-gypsy has to be prepared. While we stepped out for lunch, Francesca had packed her lunch; see, always prepared! This is the kind of thinking that will help her beyond her sporting career. Thinking ahead and preparing for any eventuality is something we should all practise. I didn’t and had to make do with a sausage sandwich!

It’s a wrap

Back after the break and the finishing touches were going on. It’s always fun to watch someone wrapping their bars. Which method will they use? How obsessive will they be? Francesca sailed though with confidence, this is a young lady that knows what she’s doing.

Francesca Selva and her new A1R0evo, ready to hit the road!
Francesca and her new A1R0evo, ready to hit the road!

Once the bike was finished, it then has to be passed to Handsling’s QC. Here everything is double checked and serial numbers logged, before the bike is disassembled and packed in a box ready for a flight to Denmark, then on to Belgium. While many of us have experienced travelling with a bike box, how many would fancy taking two bikes boxes on a trip through two airports, with inter-connecting train journeys? Not me for sure. The ever resourceful Francesca Selva though had planned for this and came ready with her own box-skate. See, she’s always thinking!

Now that she has her bike, Francesca will be heading to her team’s base in Belgium. We’ll keep an eye on how she gets on with reports on our sister site, BritishCycleSport.

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