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Gran Fondo Eddy Merckx

June 17, 2011

Finally the day of the race came. Yes it turned out this was a race, like the London Marathon there were a load of people up the front who were going to finish hours before us and some were going home with cash prizes. I won’t bore you with what happened to them as, to be honest, I don’t know due to being a long way behind them.

We had seven riders entered in the race and had studied the profile long and hard. Mostly pondering if this counted as having two hills or three and how many “Box Hills” is each climb. The working assumption was “Box Hill” is a 100m climb making the total climb for the day about 33 “Box Hills” depending on who was doing the maths. The other point of interest was just how long the section half way up the final climb was that was 16% or 1 in 7 in your old money.

Arriving early we were grouped in our starting pen and listened to the Crazy Italian woman on the PA get more and more excited about something interspersed with names: “Blah blah blah Mario Cippolinni!”, “Blah Blah Blah Eddy Merckx”.

When the start came a cannon fired and a shower of confetti like paper was spread across the road. Within minutes we were doing 28mph down the road being swept along in a sea of carbon fibre. With so many riders on the road the slightest uphill caused traffic jams and there was at least one crash.

At the bottom of the first climb (we agreed it was three climbs) I was still with two of the other riders in the group and that continued for quite a while before we shed one and then nearing the top I decided to let the other go or I would blow.
The decent from here was fast on wide roads (while the roads were not officially closed the Police simply were not letting any non cyclists on them) and at the bottom I was astonished to discover my average speed was just under 19mph. After 4 “Box Hills” things were looking ok.

The second climb started of with some really nasty narrow steep sections and a bonus comedy down hill followed by sharp left and then very steep up hill that saw lots of riders coming to a halt as they were in the wrong gear. Then it turned into your usual long haul to the top before a “technical” decent on slightly wet roads.

I was by now feeling o.k getting down the hill without any incident. Not the fastest but not the slowest either and more importantly not the person being scraped of the road by and Ambulance.

At the bottom of the hill I was in a small group and shortly after that the “Medio Fondo” turned off back to the start. I was ready for some of the other rider to turn off but again was shocked when they all did. There was a small group 100yards up the road that I tried to get to but they were too fast.

So I had a long ride up a valley on my own.

Then there was a van behind me. I could hear it but the road was wide so it would soon pass. Miles passed. It was still there. I pulled onto the shoulder of the road. It did not pass. It hooted and shouted at the soldiers who were on the junctions stopping the traffic for me.

It did not pass.

Finally I took a look behind to see what it was.

I was being tailed by the Sag Waggon.

Now people will tell you that sport is largely in your head. At that point my head took the most monumental dive. I had a 1400m climb to come (that would be 14 Box Hills) my average speed was still up at 16mph but the Broom Waggon was sitting there on my wheel going putt putt putt waiting to sweep me up.

How can I possibly climb a 14 Box Hill faster than a van?

I pushed on and caught another rider. He spoke no English, I spoke no Italian. I slowed slightly as I passed and waved him to get on my wheel. I would like this to have been an act of selflessness but it was not. If he could stay with me for a bit then maybe he could get to the front and we could share the work. Then we could drop the broom waggon.

It worked. After a couple of minutes he went to the front and a minute after that I went to front and so we rode the 5 miles to the foot of the 14 Box Hills together.

At the foot of those 14 Box Hills was a food stop where there were other riders (the broom waggon can’t sweep us all can it?) I stopped for water and bananas. The broom waggon stopped and the driver asked if my Italian Friend and I wanted to continue or at least that is what I think he was saying. I did not wait after that. I needed to get some time on that broom waggon up those 14 Box Hills.

On this hill I came to love my 29 tooth rear sprocket. I spend a long time in it crawling very slowly up those 14 Box Hills. The Sun was out and the hill was up. After about 7 Box Hills there was a sign that said 16%. I actually began to feel happier as I knew I was half way up. I Box hill at 16% and then 6 more or so at 9 – 10% and then down hill all the way to the finish.

There were a few other riders going up at about the same speed sometimes one would pull ahead only to get reeled in sometimes it was even me.

One who had pulled ahead stopped by the side of the road. I tried to encourage him to continue but he shook his head. The Broom waggon would have it’s victim.

At the summit the clouds had come down and once over the top the rain started falling. So this technical decent was to be done in the rain. The Dane I was with did not like descending in the raining fact there were quite a lot of riders who did not like that descent in the rain, which was a shame as I wanted a riding buddy for the final 6 miles on the flat, but at least no Ambulances.
At the bottom it was good to be waved onto the final valley road by the Soldier and able to get some good speed up but a wheel to follow would be good. At the 5km flag someone caught me but it seems the effort used to do so was too much and he could not hold my wheel when I went to the front. With 1km to go I could see a rider in front and with nothing to loose I chased but did not quite catch him on the line.

Bib Number: 332 – GERHARD CHRIS
Year of Birth: 1965 – Nationality:
Final Time: 6:53:26.76

Overall Position: 433°


Split Time Km/h Delta Km/h RealTime
Inizio Cronoscalata del Cannibale 1:33:20.92 26,02 1:33:20.00 26,02 1:31:53.35
Breonio – Fine Cronoscalata del Cannibale 2:12:30.32 24,40 0:39:10.00 21,26 2:11:02.75
Rifugio Graziani – alt. 1656m 6:04:33.58 20,35 3:52:03.00 18,15 6:03:06.01
Arrivo – Rivalta 6:53:26.76 22,34 0:48:53.76 37,18 6:51:59.19

It turned out six of us finished the Gran Fondo. With Molesey riders taking the bottom two places in the Gran Fondo! Only 516 people completed the Gran Fondo, 1151 completed the Medio Fondo.


From → Cycling

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