Photo: “cold, tired and hungry” (Backwater, Status Quo). It was 5°, I’d got up at 04:30 and no breakfast before starting off.

LabroRando 300km 06:00 start, Sunday 2nd April 2023, Livorno.

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. 

It’s a powerful thing. Do you go with the majority or stick to your own view? A tricky one.

The first decision for everyone was what to wear? The forecast for the valleys was warm and sunshine, but climbing 800m above sea level, the weather can be so different. About a third of the riders were in shorts, the rest of us were in tights and jackets. One rider looked at her friends in shorts and decided take her tights off and leave them behind. On the basis I can always take them off I kept with my decision to wear them. I was to appreciate that decision later in the day.

Within the first kilometre Groupthink re-appeared. “We’re going the wrong way” riders starting shouting. I was following the arrows on my computer, we seemed to be on track. “We’re doing the second loop”. Riders started to turn round and head back towards the start. In my mind was my experience from my first night ride in 2018. In a group of twelve, eleven called “turn left”, I called “turn right”. It turned out my sole voice was correct and they got lost whilst I continued alone along the right route. This time I wasn’t convinced but I did go with the flow. Cancelling the route and re-loading it onto my computer revealed the group were indeed right. We were on our way to a global landmark.

I can confirm it’s a tower, it leans and it’s in Pisa. Obligatory photos of course.

I can recommend seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa at 07:30 on a Sunday morning in April. We had the whole place to ourselves.

The first control at 58km sorted out my hunger and tiredness with a double espresso and pastry.

There was no Groupthink to worry about once we started climbing. As is usual I was left behind and climbed alone. It’s always good to look back, take in the view and see what you’ve achieved rather than dwell on what’s to come.

The good news about riding alone is that no one saw my embarrassing fall on the descent. Taking the hairpins slowly was wise considering the damp roads. A shame I didn’t spot the leaves that took my front wheel away and I ended up in the concrete drain running down the side of the road. The embarrassment was more painful than the fall. As I re-attached both wheels (they’d come lose, not fallen off) Donato and Vincenzo stopped to check I was ok. Thank you guys. My knee and hip were a little sore and the front wheel a little distorted but otherwise ok to carry on.

The three of us climbed the next summit together, picking up Pino Leone along the way. That’s one of the things I love about audaxing. In the first 100km I’d ridden in a large group, alone and in a small group. Smaller groups usually means more photos as in larger, faster groups no one wants to be left behind.

After an excellent lunch provided by the organisers (109km) I kept reminding myself how cold it was at the start and how much I appreciated being so well wrapped up. It was now 21° at the foot of a 13km, 800m high climb. I was getting hotter and hotter. I wondered whether to stop and remove a layer when the temperature started to drop. Then the cracks of thunder. The climb was tough enough as it was without rain. Our luck didn’t hold out. If there is such a thing as ‘big rain’, that was it. Large dollops of water. I was so pleased to have so many layers keeping me as warm as possible. As the temperature dropped the soundtrack on my helmet changed to “Ping, ping ping ” as the rain turned into hailstones. The crash barriers joined the symphony with “ting, ting, ting”. Stopping for shelter wasn’t an option as we’d have frozen so we just had to keep grinding it out. From 21° and sunshine at the bottom of the climb it was now 5° and wet. My choice of tights and winter jacket worked well. Before the summit (154km) the hail stopped and we could see how far up we’d come and the dark clouds moving away to drop their cargo on someone else.

Pino and I descended and rode just the two of us back to the start to complete the first circuit (197km). Refuelled by pizza slices a group of us started the second loop. To my delight we tackled the last remaining climb at a slow place. It must have been slow as I could keep up (ish). I never lost sight of them through the bends and they didn’t need to wait at the summit. That done it was a relatively flat 60km to the finish, but it still had to be ridden.

I am indebted to the guys from GUMASIO, Firenze for dragging me along for the last 30km. Thanks to them we finished in less than 15 hours where a three course Tuscan ristoro was waiting for us.

A big thank you to Marco Golfarini and his team from Team Lambronica Bike for organising the event, and especially for the food. Buonissimo.


Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s