Photo: As I used my Italian club membership to register I became an Italian for the day.
In a previous post, Gentlemanly Conduct I wondered why I was classified as Gentleman 2 on my Italian cycling licence. Buried in the small print of the Gran Fondo Squali was the answer. It’s an age thing. Gentleman 2 is for riders in the 55 – 59 age range. A year from now I will move up to the next category 60 – 64 and I’ll be known as a Super Gentleman A. After that it’s Super Gentleman B (65-75) where it stops. If I’m lucky I’ll still be cycling after I’m 75 so I’ll be beyond classification – an Hors Catégorie (HC) rider.
Yesterday was a gentle ride to Cattolica and back to collect our race packs (Pacco Gara) for today’s Gran Fondo Squali. The offical photographer was passing when we collected our ruck sacks so we made the event’s Instagram feed by turning our backs on her.
Our race packs contained our bike and jersey numbers, pasta party ticket, instructions etc. and, because it’s Italy, a packet of pasta and a packet of piadini.
Today’s ride wasn’t gentle at all. Not for me at least. As usual in mass starts (3,000 riders) the initial enthusiasm drives the speed up. After a little over an hour we were 30km in and I was done in. For my audax training I aim for a speed about 5km/h slower than that.
The course split into ‘Corto’ (Medio Fondo) and ‘Lungo’ (Gran Fondo). As the only audaxer in the club I was teased that the Lungo wasn’t very lungo for me. Some riders took the Corto option. I didn’t.
I began to rue that decision as I started to struggle to keep up. I’m still not 100% after my recent illness. Last Thursday we were both struggling for energy and spent the day doing as little as possible. That and the opening pace was having it’s impact.
I started the first climbs alone and remained that way. The good news is that I’d climbed them before so knew what to expect. I can’t tell you how good it felt to see the ‘Riposo 300m’ sign. As I approached the feeding station I thought I could see a few of my club’s uniforms. Surely not, I must be hallucinating. I wasn’t, I had managed to catch them. Except I hadn’t. As I approached I realised they were leaving.
During audaxes I’ve developed a technique for speeding up the stops at controls. I mentally prepare a list of all the things I need to do, create a mnemonic, then get through the list as quickly as possible. This time it was WHOFG. Water, Hydration tablet, Orange juice, Food and Gilet. I rushed throught the list and re-mounted. Not a single Pansèr jersey in sight. I knew there was a big descent next so took the corners at maximum speed and pedalled hard in between. I caught a couple of riders, but neither were my clubmates. Then I saw Alceo in the distance. This gave me the incentive to close the gap which I did just as the descent finished at about the 65km mark. Alceo pulled me along a km or so to rejoin the group. Thank you Alceo.
For the rest of the ride I managed to stay with the group (ish). Staying with them was worth the effort. I fell behind in the climbs but only by a matter of metres. Despite the rain for the last 30km we crossed the line together, completing the 134km ride in just under 6 hours, one hour ahead of the broom wagon.
I can’t tell you what a welcome sight this was:
After the the pasta party it was back home to be a Brit again – to watch the last day of the Premiership. Sadly for my Liverpudlian wife it didn’t work out for her. Not a great day for either of us. There is always next weekend/season.
2019 YEAR TO DATE
Distance: 4,239 km
Average distance per ride: 128 km
Elevation gain: 37,137m (4.19 Everests)