European Cycling – An Italian Experience (Part 2)

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Finish line

19th Bianchi Felice Gimondi Gran Fondo – 10 May 2015

Unlike the mass participation rides we’re used to in Australia, a gran fondo is actually a race, which some people take more seriously than others (more of that later). For a full definition & description of gran fondo racing click here.  This type of ride originated in Italy so what better place to try the gran fondo out?

There was the usual wait at the start line, with riders divided into groups according to their registration number.  In the best Australian traditions our contingent all rode together despite some of us being entitled to start further forward – egalitarianism at its best. It was exciting to see familiar faces in the crowds as most of the Bianchi crew started in our group although it was interesting to note how few women were competing.  The general consensus in Australia seems to be that there aren’t enough women riding but in comparison with Europe we seem to be doing pretty well.

Start line

Roll out was a little slow as you’d expect with so many people (3800 registered) but once we got into the main thoroughfare it was on for young and old. This was definitely a race, very male dominated and very full on. As is usual in a mass participation ride there were lots of slower riders on the hills but so many faster riders it was difficult to get past the slower ones.  Again, in a marked difference to Australia, it was amazing how many people were there only to do the short route (90km).  They, in turn seemed pretty amazed that they were doing the ride at all and totally amazed that we had travelled all the way from Australia to do the ride and were doing the middle or long distances.

Fortunately we had already done a recce of many of the climbs so we knew what we were in for as compared to so many of the people that we met along the way. The feed stops were well patronised and had great snacks – slabs of chocolate were particularly welcome as was the Italian soft drink as we got further into the ride. As the turn off for the short distance loomed, numbers started to thin out – another interesting as in our Adelaide ride groups it’s more usual for everyone to ride the longest distances not the shorter ones, but then we don’t have too many mountains on our rides!

Gran Fondo Collage

Highlights – gorgeous scenery, just wished we had time for photographs to prove it but think of the stuff we only see in fairy tales – mountain villages, snow-capped peaks and you’ve pretty much got it; fantastic climbs that were hard but not so hard they were unenjoyable; lovely friendly people.

Low lights – some scary descents, very tight corners which took a lot of attention to navigate, and the unfortunate accident involving a pedestrian and a cyclist which stopped Gillian from doing the long ride

Overall, it was a fantastic experience, which I would happily repeat, hopefully next year!

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