Photo: The Republic of San Marino in the distance from the first climb
My first audax since the 1001Miglia in August when I wrote about the dilemma of leaving a group that contained the ARI National Captain, Pino Leone. This time Pino left the group, but in very different circumstances.
The Randonnée Nove Valli 200km (Nine Valleys Audax) took place a week after the Nove Colli Granfondo (Nine Hills Sportive). It may be called the Nine Valleys but you have to climb the same Nine Hills over the same distance as the sportive to get to the valleys, that’s the joke. The sportive attracts thousands of riders. For the audax I was one of fifteen. Having done both I much prefer the audax version.
Whichever one you do the climbing is no joke. Nearly 4,000m. I had this screenshot on my phone with a note of the height above sea level (s.l.m. in Italian) of the nine peaks, just so I could prepare mentally for each climb.
Our grupetto comprised of Claudio, Gabriele, Pino and me. I soon learnt that they were all stronger climbers than me, but not by enough to be embarrassing. I seemed to descend a little quicker so I started a routine of overtaking them on the descent to get a head start on the climb knowing full well they would all over take me as we pointed upwards.
The scenery was stunning, though when my bike was pointing up I did spend quite a lot of time looking down. This was to take the strain off my neck muscles. Since the 1001Miglia they start to get sore after about 50km. I’m concerned I might be getting Shermer’s Neck, but hoping it’s just a hangover from 1,603km in the saddle over 5 days.
A couple of times Pino experienced a problem with his rear derailleur. He had to stop to sort it out.
It didn’t seem serious until it was. We’d just climbed Monte Tiffi, the smallest of the nine climbs, when just ahead of me I could see Pino struggling to stay upright and the smell of burning rubber hit my nostrils. I’m guessing a derailleur spring failed jamming the rear wheel, ripping off the Di2 changer and destroying four spokes. Pino’s audax was over.
We discussed how lucky he was it hadn’t failed on the previous descent when we were doing 50 kph. Pino had no choice but to leave the group, although I guess we left him. The only control of the audax was at the summit of the next climb, Barbotta. We agreed to head off whilst Pino called the organisers to see if they could rescue him. The Controller confirmed the good news that Pino would be rescued. Bravo to the organisers.
The rest of the ride was incident free but hard work. The penultimate climb Pieve di Rivoschio was particularly tough. After over 3,000 metres of climbing the sight of a road sign with 18% written on it had “FFS” ringing around my head.
Local lad Gabriele decided to head home about 12km from the finish so only Claudio and I made it to the end with about 2 hours to spare. Ups and downs for us all but a real downer for Pino.