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Gran Fondo Felice Gimondi

May 17, 2005

Gran Fondo Felice Gimondi. 15th May 2005.

The 7am start time meant that we had to be up at 5am which combined with the hours time difference from home made it very early. Registration was completed on the Saturday so all we had to do was have breakfast, which the hotel laid on early for us, and ride to the start.

My race number was 2130 which put my in a pen towards the back of the field. Unfortunately not all of the riders in our group were in the same pen so we were already split with 7 in our pen one in a pen at the front and two in the pen behind us. The atmosphere at the start was fantastic 4500 cyclists filling a road waiting for the off. Then the countdown started and we were off.

Or not. The front riders started moving but it took a few minutes for the movement to ripple back to us and even then we moved at a walking pace until we crossed the start line and things began to pick up. The early stages were hazardous due to the numbers even though the roads were closed so great care had to be exercised to not be taken out or lead into some street furniture.

Once out of the city the field thinned out to about 4 abreast and more organised groups started forming with speeds ranging from 20mph to 30mph depending on the group. At the first small climb to the Colli dei Pasta though the chaos returned, not helped by a car trying to descend the hill while 4500 cyclists climbed it. Then a dangerous decent where I saw my first and only accident. Large numbers of cyclists going down hill at speed is exciting, I was surprised others were not taken down.

After this the route started a gentle climb on a main road up a valley to the foot of the first major climb. The road was not strictly closed but it the Police were not letting any other vehicles through on the grounds that there was a cycle race going on. Here the pace picked up and I was able to get on a train doing about 25mph, which was as fast as I dared go at this early stage.

On turning left to start the first climb the chain disintegrated and the climb was busy enough to have to be careful not to be hit by faster climbers or hit slower ones. We had ridden this climb on Saturday as a warm up, though in the rain, and to check the bikes so I knew what to expect and felt pretty good. At the top I had to stop for a “comfort break” and then off down the hill this time in the dry. A good descent and at the bottom another fast moving train formed leading to the next climb which arrived much more quickly than I had expected.

Now I was on roads I had not ridden before but was feeling good up the climb which I knew to be bigger than the first but at the back of my mind was the thought of a further three. I clearly was not trying hard enough as I recall some spectacular views as I approached the top and then going over the top I tried to find a local rider who was only slightly less mad than me on the grounds that they may know the road. Again a great descent through a spectacular gorge.

Then at the split for the short ride I was amazed by the numbers going that way as we turned right and continued a shallow climb in a group to the third climb to the Forcella Di Bura. With hindsight this is where I should have dug deeper. The climb was not steep so was not a power climb and did not involve first gear and there was a short descent which broke up the climb. Going over the top I again found another rider who seemed to have the same level of madness as we streamed down the steeper twisty sections at the top and caught the tail of a group for the faster sections before the turn for the Gran Fondo.

Where had every one gone. Of the group of about eight I was in I was the only one to take the right for the Gran Fondo. Almost immediately I could feel why, this climb was steep. Bottom gear was in use and I wished I had another. Struggled up the only consolation being that the climb was shorter than I expected descended alone to the foot of the final climb.

This had it all. A seemingly endless wall of rock reaching into the sky with the road going up steeply so steeply that again I longed for a compact chain set or a dinner plate on the back. As short distance up the climb there was a drinking fountain that was getting good use from two riders, I still had half a bottle so did not stop, if I stopped I may never start again. So I plugged away in bottom gear as the road started to zig zag up the mountain. My speed had now dropped to 6mph and riders were passing me but as the gradient reduced I began to close some gaps and pass other riders but this was hell. My back was hurting my legs hurt and I was counting down the miles until I got to the top.

Finally reached the false summit where the gradient eased so much that it felt like it was down hill until I reached the real summit and started to descend the road surface was terrible and my back was really hurting now but the only was on was to keep going, and I was passing riders. Finally the gradient eased as a I passed a rider who caught my back wheel for a few miles, then he went to the front giving encouragement to me as he passed. I hung in there for about a mile but he was to slow so I passed expecting him to grab my wheel again. It seems he could not hold on and was dropped. Anyway thank you to him for going to the front when he could (and probably should) just have hung on behind.

10km to go. The Policeman is pointing to a left turn, but that goes back up it can’t do that. First gear for the short climb and then turn into a head wind on the main road into Bergamo rejoining the shorter two routes. Doing 24mph now being followed by some riders, don’t know how many I can’t look back due to my back hurting to much.

5km to go. The riders are still on my wheel and there is a red light ahead with a van stopping at it. The Policeman is going mental and manages to get the van to move over to leave a gap for us to stream through.

3km to go. Still on the front but I’m tiring and the speed is beginning to drop, just need to dig deeper.

2km to go. Three of the riders behind me make a break, I don’t know if there were any more I just manage to grab third wheel.

1km to go. The speed is back up as we wind up for the finish, if only I could remember the details of the run in.

500m to go. I’m still holding the wheel.

A sharp left which slow us and accelerate to the next corner, round that and I can see the Finish line.

100m It would be a shame to to give the sprint a go. One last effort and then throw the bike. Got all three of them, I won my small race to the line.

My final time was 06:15:25.40 which was way faster than my target of under 7 hours. 165.3Km and over 2500m vertical climb at over 26.4kmh (16.4mph) not to bad.

The ride was a fabulous experience and the organisation brilliant. While the roads were not closed the cyclists were given priority at every junction with the Police doing a great job. Would love to do it again.

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7 Comments
  1. <big><big><u>Congratulations</u>!!</big> So where are you now – back home?

  2. Congratulations Chris! 6+ hours on the bike sounds like a peculiar kind of torture to me. Could you walk the next day ?

  3. I’m back and I could walk the next day, unfortunatly I’ve picked up a cold otherwise I would have ridden to work today.
    Part of me is saying I should have tried harder as my legs are not totally shot now
    One of my cycling buddies, who is large, (not overweight just big) and therefore does not do well on hills, managed the whole ride but took just over 8 hours. I’m impressed with that level of determination.

  4. johnwoodall permalink

    Chris
    please can i have some advice?
    Five of us are trying to enter this year’s Gran Fondo.
    Did you enter directly or through a tour operator?
    Did you use the on line registration successfully?
    Did you have BCF racing licences or doctor’s certificates?
    Any other advice
    Thanks
    Jogb

  5. Good luck
    We entered directly, online and I was/am a member of the League of Veteran Racing Cyclists, though this was never checked on the day.
    Advice?
    Get a hotel in the Town so you can ride to the start, so book that early as the place is awash with
    cyclists.
    Then just train and train and train some more, long rides, longer than the Fondo you plan to do or that last hill will be slow and painful.

  6. john woodall permalink

    Chris
    at the moment the on line registration is italian only. Was there an english form last year?
    Will the italian on line registration form work for non italians?
    Thanks for your advice

  7. John,Last year the on line registration was in Italian only as well. I managed to work it out with a combination of babelfish and guess work. My Itliaan is non existant. So yes the Italian registration worked for non Italians.
    One more comment about the ride. Be prepared for rain. The day before we rode it really chucked it down and we got a good soaking. On the day we were lucky but had it been one day earlier a rain cape and waterproof overshoes would have been a real plus. While not very high it was cold at the tops of the climb we did the day before in the rain.

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