Return to Paris Part 3

Photo: Some welcome heat 823m above sea level at the appropriately named Riofreddo (freddo means cold. It was)

“When will I see you again?
When will we share precious moments?
Will I have to wait forever?
Will I have to suffer?”

This 1973 song was on my mind. It was very appropriate as it was soon to be Three Degrees ambient temperature. Me, Jana and Lorenzo teamed up for the third time to help each other qualify for Paris Brest Paris. With the 200km and 300km already in the bag, this was The 4 RANDO 400. We started at 18:30 Saturday evening and had until 21:30 Sunday to finish.

“Will I have to suffer?” Yes I did. This audax was dominated by the climb in the first 90k over Monte Fumaiolo, 1,100m above sea level. If you are a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that Jana and Lorenzo are stronger climbers than me. This time I tried to keep as close to them as possible. I arrived at the the first control at Riofreddo close behind but my thighs were burning with lactic acid. I’d pushed too hard. We set off again for the final 9km of climbing but I lost them in the darkness. The pain in my thighs was getting worse. The best thing to do was get over the top and descend as quickly as possible to get back to the relative warmth of the valley.

“When will I see you again? At the summit they were nowhere to be seen. It was so cold I reckoned they decided not to wait for me as they had done many times before. Absolutely the right decision. Only afterwards did I discover just how close I was to them when they started the descent, but they had no idea how long they might have to wait for me.

That’s my icon at the top of the screen. I was ‘just around the corner’ from Lorenzo and Jana

The descent was unpleasant. I was alone in the pitch black, the wind chill taking the temperature below zero and not needing to pedal made my thighs hurt even more. Apart from that it was great fun!

Down in the valley I cruised along alone until a group of three caught me. I decided to jump on the back of them to help me get to the next control 30km away where I reckoned Jana and Lorenzo would be waiting for me. No one spoke but they were great company. We rode in single file, taking turns on the front. When you ride behind another rider you use about 30% less energy to do the same speed because the rider in front punches a hole in the air. With four riders I spent 75% of the time using less energy. Perfect. By the time I got to the control my thighs were feeling much better. 182km done, J&L were waiting for me.

For the second loop of just under 200km Lorenzo and I kept out cycling tights on. Jana changed into shorts. They make them tough in Czechia.

The flat roads around Ravenna meant we made good speed but got a little boring after a while. We wished for a little climbing for a change in scenery. With 50km to go we got our wish. Or did we? We’d seen that the two remaining climbs were 220m and 350m above sea level. What we didn’t realise was just how steep they were. 21 hairpin bends on the second climb gives you a clue. Both climbs were a bit of a slog but we got up there. At the summit of the second climb we formed a group of 10 riders for the descent and flat roads to the finish.

We already knew it was Lorenzo’s first 400km but over pasta we discovered it was also, Bebbe, Mauro and Umberto’s first 400. Many congratulations to them all. Hopefully, we’ll see each other in Paris in August.

Only one rider was wearing shorts

Our time was 19 hours 7 minutes, nearly 8 hours inside the limit. The price we paid was no sleep. I got up at 06:30 on Saturday morning to feed the dogs. I tried to sleep during the afternoon but just couldn’t. I got home at about 16:30 on Sunday and went straight to bed. That’s 34 hours with no sleep, with 382km of cycling. I wonder how old I’ll be before I stop doing this madness?

A big thank you to Graziano Foschi and his team from San Zaccaria Bike for organising the audax and especially Massimiliano for the ristoro at Riofreddo and GIN&PRO for theirs at Faenza.

My thanks to Jana and Lorenzo for their company. They are going to do The 4 Rando 600 together in May to complete their PBP qualification. I’m going to do mine in Sardinia at the end of April. At least they won’t have to wait for me. I wish them “In bocca al lupo”, which translates as “In the mouth of the wolf” but means good luck.

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