Wednesday, 18 July 2007

11th Gran Fondo Pinarello - Part 1

I'd had this event marked in the diary for some time, though I hadn't done any specific preparation for it. Certainly not any preparation for riding 200km. I knew I would be capable of covering the distance, but I just wasn't sure how long it would take. The profile showed about 7 climbs on the long course, the highest point being only about 1000m, and the ride didn't quite get into the Dolomites. This made me think it wouldn't be a difficult 200km.

However, I hadn't factored in the heat and the fact that anything that is not too hilly will mean fast - and extremely fast, in Italy.

As a general rule with these foreign sportive events I do the longest course - mainly because if I've made all the effort to travel there I might as well take on as much of the sights and sounds the place has to offer. Especially as I don't know when next I will go there.

Having had less than 4 hours' sleep was not the best preparation for the ride. The pre-race buzz kept me alert though.
It wasn't difficult for Stanley and myself to find the start from our b&b - we just followed the other cyclists. Once in the Centre of Treviso we got separated as we were setting off in different grids. While he was setting off from the 3rd grid, I was put in the first one with the rest of the women cyclists, plus elite riders and guests. It made me feel important.

Being so near the front meant we got the full blast from the compere. He was introducing a host of VIPS (including Giovanni Pinarello himself), and other famous folks that were taking part, thanking sponsors etc. He also did the "Hi, you alright, are you ready...etc" to the crowd. I didn't really listen as I'd managed to catch up with a friend of mine, Yvette, from the Pinarello team. I also bumped into a woman road racer from London - Tarne, from Planet X. We all just chatted about how our season had been. This gran fondo was going to be more of a pleasant amble around.

The countdown began and after 5,4,3,2,1 there was a big bang as streamers were set off and everyone clapped. Then the racing began.

Being at the front was a bit scary, as the riders surged forward at rocket like pace - streaming past on all sides. I did my best to keep into the right hand side. Some people still managed to undertake me though!

We took up the whole width of the road, riding 10 or 15 abreast. No problem, this is typical of an Italian mass participation bike event. While on two wheels you become king, as police outriders clear the way and the motorists show deference to the cyclists.
We sped through Treviso at breakneck speed. My computer was fixed on 25 miles per hour. There were groups passing by at much faster speeds. It was great being swept along by the large crowds, and I felt comfortable as people exercised very good riding discipline. The road was flat and very easy to speed through. My only worry was that I still had 180km to go, so wasn't sure I could maintain this pace all the way ! And just at that moment I felt the road rise up.
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