Ride Report from Dave Thompson:
The ride turned out to be more difficult than I expected. It wasn’t the length, it was a combination of the routing changes and the heat. Some complained about the rough roads, but I’m sure that they didn’t change much. What did happen is that the more onerous climbs and the heat slowed us down, pushing our best laid plans aside …
We queued up early to get out early. Given the planned way of releasing the cyclists, we could have been leaving close to midnight but instead were rolling at 8:30 p.m. Our little group was comprised of me, Jerry, Hamid and Victor from Colombia. As usual, Hamid clung to the back of one of the groups and left us behind. I needed to stop for a second as my light connection had come loose. That happened a couple of more times until I hit a Control and was able to use my pliers to fix it for the rest of the ride.
We planned to get to Vallombrosa the first day. While the distance seems long — 562 km — the first 400 km being flat and windless (night start and night time riding), makes short work of that first 400. I’d used 2010 as my baseline and that year I’d made Dicomano, just over 529, by 5:30 p.m., having started around 9pm the previous night.
We did get away before 9pm and I fully expected to be a little slower, but the heat got to Jerry during the day and the climbing to Dicomano was much more difficult. As a result, we didn’t get to Dicomano until after midnight; crashed for an hour at that Control (spending two hours there) and then did the 34 km to Vallombrosa. That climb from Dicomano to Vallombrosa was also more difficult than 2010, further pushing us back.
We didn’t get to Vallombrosa until daylight and we then got another hour’s sleep at our hotel. Hamid was with us at that point; he snoozed in the lobby. With everything pushed forward by at least 6 hours, that set the pattern for the ride. Instead of having dinner in each town with an early start the next day, we were getting in late and having breakfast at the hotel.
Following that pattern, we checked into our hotels in Bolsena around 4am, San Gimignano after 4am, Deiva Marina at 9am. Instead of finishing Monday evening around 120 hours, we finished Tuesday noon at 135, against the 140 hour time limit.
We pushed our luck in several places. We got to the Deiva Marina Control right before closing, 8am. Jerry was wiped. He could hardly walk, let alone ride. The combination of heat the day before and climbing doing him in. With the heat, he couldn’t eat much, further slowing him down. He couldn’t even ride 5 km downhill to the hotel let alone continuing on without sleep. I let him sleep at the Control for a bit and then we rode to the hotel. I made a strategic decision that he needed more sleep and we left there 3.5 hours after the Control closed. As a result, we missed the next Control close by about 1/2 hour, which is OK in RM rides as long as you make it up later, and were basically back on track by the next Control. We did leave that next Control 1.5 hours after it closed, giving Jerry some time to catch a snooze on the grass.
Shab and Hamid were at the hotel. Hamid was about to head out. Shab helped us, making sandwiches and later carrying our bikes and us back uphill to the Control (that’s legal, it’s a Control).
At one point during that hot afternoon Jerry was ready to throw in the towel, close to heat exhaustion. I talked him into continuing — “Jerry, eat some more grapes, pour that water over your head vs drinking, let’s go a bit further”. I knew that once it cooled down, he’d be OK, and he was. Having had to leave him behind at PBP the year prior due to an Achilles problem, I didn’t want to leave him again. I’m very easy on my water and at one point we were riding side-by-side and I was pouring some of my water on his head.
However, those delays almost did me in. I’m very susceptible to the cold and I’d left my heavy jacket and other cold gear with Shab, at Deiva Marina thinking that we wouldn’t have to ride the night through. Besides, I hadn’t had to use it to this point anyway. That was a mistake. By the time we got to Castelania, close to midnight, I knew that I was going to be in trouble. There wasn’t going to be anything open until 6am and we still had a hundred or so km to go.
We stopped a couple of times and I broke out my silvery exposure blanket and we slept on the grass. It was the only way that I could retain enough heat. A couple of hours before dawn, I knew that I could make it through and we continued, welcoming the dawn and quickly shedding our clothing as it heated up again. We lost at least 4 hours at that point, perhaps 6. We should have easily made it by dawn.
I was disappointed in the ride on several levels. First, my recollection was that it was easier than PBP. I believe that the 2010 routing was easier than PBP. On that basis, I had talked Jerry into doing the ride. The routing changes made it more difficult and the heat compounded the difficulty. That messed up my well laid plans for night stops.
On the other hand, both Jerry and Hamid finished. Hamid finished around 2am the night before and was there to welcome us at the finish along with Shab and Sandy. He had a great ride. It was a tough ride for Jerry; I’m sure that he was cursing me at times; but at the end he was happy that he’d checked that box. If anything, it was memorable! When we left Controls late I knew that we ran the risk of a DNF. That didn’t worry me so much — I’d already checked the Miglia-done box in 2010.
Those routing changes bypassed some of the scenery that I was expecting but perhaps we were simply hitting some of that scenery at a different time of day. The ride-supplied food was cut back, not as good, but again, perhaps it was the dinners at the overnight destinations that I was missing. The ride support wasn’t as good — in 2010 the ride support motorcycles were everywhere, not so this time. My perception is that the organizers cut costs significantly, but that might be just my perception, as I was in a different place in that spread out peloton.
As it was, there were only 10 people who finished the ride after us out of 310 or so finishers. Of course that’s not counting the DNFs, about 80. Another 90 had signed up for the ride and were DNS. That’s a lot of money left on the table!
While I was doing the ride, tired and with rough roads, I told myself that I wouldn’t do this one again. Of course that’s now changed … I’ll be back!
Italy is offering three other rides in the next three years – one from Rome south to the Amalfi coast; one that takes in the islands and one hitting all the highest peaks in the Alps… I don’t know about that last one but the other two are intriguing!
One more note — I took a chance and rode with Grand Bois 38s on this ride, rather than my usual Continental 4-season 28’s — I loved them! They really helped on the roads.