You know when you are doing an event and you see some poor soul at the side of the road with broken bike and think to yourself “there but for the grace…”. Well my luck finally ran out and I was that poor soul 🙁
It had all been going so well up to that point. All the travelling was fine, Jamie’s chauffeuring over mountains to get us to the hotel was great (for me anyway). The hotel turned out to be a 2 bed apartment with a bathroom each, living room and kitchen – sorted. And it was 2km downhill to the start and 2km downhill to the hotel after the finish, bonus!
Only snag was the rather damp weather. Saturday morning was fine though and a wee warm up loop was agreed. A little 32 miles over 2 of the Maratona’s climbs, in reverse, and about 5,000 feet of climbing. A steady pace, practice for tomorrow. It was bloomin freezing on the descents though, rethink clothing strategy for the Maratona. Back home we agreed if we kept that same pace we would be will inside the 7 hour target for tomorrow.
Then on to registration, all very well organised. Great goodie bag of Castelli top, gilet and lots of nice bits and pieces. A wander around the Expo with Jamie’s pennies burning a hole in his pocket! He was so disappointed to find that none of the exhibitors were actually selling anything, it was all just for show! We went for lunch, and bumped into the other Dundee crew – Eddie Flynn, Eric Schlordt, Darren and Steve Cassels – what are the chances! Apparently, the hills have gotten longer and steeper since they were last here 😉
Dinner and an early night as up at 4:30am for breakfast!
Joined the mass of cyclists down to the start, cool, but importantly, dry. Jamie and me were in different start pens, so I was getting a 20 minute head start. Usual hanging about getting cold, but slight frisson of excitement as helicopters buzzed around. The race is live on Italian TV! Soon enough with a mighty canon blast bang on 6:30am we were off.
I was fortunate in that not too many head of me, having heard of traffic jams on the first climb, so could keep to my steady pace. Top of the Campolongo (5.8Km @ 6.1%) bang on schedule and the first descent. What did catch me out was even though I knew there was not any flat roads, as soon as you hit the bottom of the descent the next climb starts immediately! Up the Pordoi, a longer slightly steeper second climb (9.2Km @ 6.9%). The weather was spot on for a Scotsman, cool and dry and no wind – perfect. Over the top of the Pordoi and slightly ahead of schedule. Next up the Selva (5.5Km @ 7.9%), with the most amazing views of the Dolomites, feels like they are almost coming over the top of you, spectacular. The descent was fast and not technical, a real blast. Soon enough bounced at the bottom and on to Gardena. A climb in 3 stages (5.8Km @ 4.3%) – a steepish 2K, a flat 2K and a last 2K to the top – all still going well and was 5 minutes up on my plan. The descent back to Corvarra was where disaster struck.
Descending fine until “bang!”, a steady grab of the brakes and stop safely, out of the race line. The first puncture I’ve ever had at a euro event and my first in 7 years of many events! Changed and back on the road. Descend for 200 metres and then “bang!”. The second puncture I’ve ever had in a euro event! Oh, that’s my last tube now used and still 55 miles and 3 climbs to go! Descending now very very slowly as the air wasn’t staying in the 3rd tube of the day! I came to the conclusion that my race was over 🙁 I eventually got back to Corvarra where the finish line is and crawled over as the majority split off to do the longer routes. I couldn’t force a smile for the finish line photo and getting a finishers medal seemed a tad fraudulent. I had completed the official Sellaronda 55Km route!
It was only 9:30am, a long wait for Jamie. So back to the hotel, pack bike, changed and walk back to the finish area to see the riders arrive. A certain Sir Bradley cycled past me as I walked back to town and I met the GCN boys (Dan Lloyd and Mat Stevens) too. Time passed quick as all the riders crossed the line to cheers, smiles and hugs from friends and family. Even got to see Mr Maratona himself, Michil Costa, resplendent in tweed plus fours greeting the riders.
Then as the time was approaching the 7-hour target who should appear but Jamie, a bit weary, but he’d done it! A very respectable 6:54, which included his 10-minute lunch stop at the top of the Giau.
It was very busy now, but even though the pasta party looked chaotic, service was quick and excellent and a post ride beer was enjoyed. All that was left was to review the day and start the recovery rehydration process with a few beers.
Although massively disappointed to not finish the race I was here for, it was an amazing weekend. The area is a cyclists’ paradise. The event was very well organised and I thoroughly recommend it. I have unfinished business, I will be back.
PS the winning time was an amazing 4:37!!!