Warning – Long post today... and VERY slowly constructed due to my diminished mental and physical capacity that sees me currently operating at the same level as a democratically elected official.
Right – Lets get this out of the way early, Charly Gaul is a Motherf*cker… Not in a cool MILF hunter way, but in a complete bastard way. Why did he have to be the Angel on the MOUNTAIN? Wassup with that shit? Why not an angel of riding around a nice lake or a flat valley? Paying homage to the man has resulted in epic suffering here at Dirty Nomad Italian HQ and to prove that I am not just an ill-prepared small cat (well, I sort of am), I will have comments from Mr Clarso later on to back me up on today.
How was today? Well, if Whistler was the Shredpocalypse, then today was Suffergeddon in the most hideous fashion. Early exit polls indicate that if I had to vote, my nod would go towards the Shredpocalypse, yes, it was hard on my hands, but today my soul was shredded by Charly and left all over two mountains, in a manner not seen since that er, uncomfortable Prison shower scene in American History X, cringe… Yes, it was a tough day.
How tough? Well… there is a lot to write about over 142kms and 4000m of climbing, especially when you consider I haven’t ridden that far since a training ride in early April and haven’t climbed that much since… er… France Cannasia Cols Classico this time a year ago. Once again, cycling has proved that if you want to get in the ring with it, then you need to prepare for it like a shuttle mission. Coming from Singapore and picking Whistler and then epic Italian climbing races makes for challenging times.
You’ll need to excuse me for over using and abusing the word EPIC today, Strava even agreed with me upon reading my data today that it was EPIC. To set the scene, here is a little map of todays S&M session:
Right… I will spare you ALL the gory details, but probably easiest to break the EPIC suffering into a few chapters here:
1. Opening salvos
It was a classic well drilled clarso early start, brekkie at 6am… Where he asked “Seen the weather?”, I hadn’t, but looking out the front door I farted:
Rain… hmmmm… 142km’s with 2 HC climbs in the dry is one thing, but in the rain? Never fear, my $500 Rapha rain jacket was ready to spring to my aid! Time to get value and a shit load of style for my money. Off to the start and it occurred to me its been a long time since I lined up with a large field of randomly collected groups of riders. After being split off from Clarso and put in my holding pen, this is what awaited:
There were hundreds (if not thousands) of us all ready to go, so it was time to get my race face on:
Luckily for us the rain had stopped and it was warming up… Awesome, my $500 rain jacket was now weighing down my back pocket and making me look like a pack horse, great addition to a hot 142km ride. I was in the 3rd or 4th group off… Navigating the cobbles of the village centre before we got on the road leading out of town and the pace was up to 50kph or late 40’s… Usually its a case of trying to get to the front to stay safe and prepare to chase or start breaks. However, looking up the road, there was NO front… it was a giant snaking line of cyclists all going full gas.
Eventually I managed to latch on to a Diesel twin, which made me reminisce back to my time following his back wheel as he powered away. We weaved in and out of traffic and riders going backwards from earlier start groups… Like the 501 Original Diesel, this guy was a power beast who was trying his best to snap his cranks off. I stayed with him halfway up the ‘warm up climb’ (6.9km’s at 4.9% gaining a paltry 337m), at which point I realised that my Rapha cap was melting my brain in the EPIC heat. What a cock, I never ride in a cap and not sure why I started now? Rapha brain washing? Seems I am not that good at taking my helmet off and putting it back on again, hence I was dropped from my domestique.
2. Downhill terror
Cresting the opening climb we of course had the first DH… Let’s just get one thing straight everyone: Riding a DH bike in Whistler is NOT prep for riding your road bike down steep and brain destoryingly fast wet and then dry and then wet Italian road downhills.
I will admit it, I was shitting myself… Even when I did manage to get into the 60kph range, I had Italians passing me like cruise missiles heading through down town Baghdad back in the days of D Storm #1. My plight not helped when I saw two BROKEN guys lying in the recovery position on the side of the road, smashed to pieces in what would have been very high speed crashes. This gave me pause for thought. Thibaut Pinot, I apologise for calling you a pussy last week and telling you to HTFU.
Down to the valley and we had weird groups forming, doing 50kph on the flat, breaking up again and then reforming with new players. This was weird, there was no pattern or semblance of order like I am used to, not helped by slow early starters reeling backwards and fast late starters fevering forwards. In the end we settled with a good group as we rolled towards the first REAL test of the day… Suddenly our group went quiet… Much like when the death star laser cannons stopped when Luke was making his attack run… Was it imperial fighters incoming? No, something worse.
3. Bondone aldeno
Firstly, some stats on this HC climb – the first serious mountain of the day:
- 20.3km’s long
- Avg gradient of 6.6%
- Elevation gain of 1349m
- Fastest Strava time: 1.01
- My Strava time: 1.40
- Avg Heart rate – 158 BPM
I had fucked up my start and not taken a late pee break, and for those of you that have ever travelled with me (especially if I am sitting in the window seat) will appreciate, I need to piss a lot… So, I decided at this stage I wasn’t climbing 20km’s with my walnut bladder full, so time for a nature break. It also gave me the chance to bring you the Dirty Nomad readership some epic photos:
I set off at a steady pace and got into my work… it was 13.5kph where possible and just recalling how to ride these big climbs. Halfway up I forgot and had some fever as I had someone on my wheel and I felt awesome! I suspect it was gel induced, but I started to smash it, I was like Richie Porte without the Banjo playing skills and was passing people like they were zombies (most appeared to be), smashing through 3 or 4km’s like a BOSS. Then I got a warning alarm from the engineering department… And then I started to lose power… then we got a message outlining that engineering had calculated that based on current data, there was an extremely high chance of a core meltdown.
As such, I had to slow down… and down… and down… which was great for all the people repassing me and sniggering in Italian. I was in trouble… Already. Yikes. So, it was confirmed I have nothing in common with Richie Porte (Oakley Radarlocks aside) and my climbing form was as useful as being punched in the face by a wookie. Finally the summit and a refuelling stop (it was impossible to refill without stopping, honest):
4. Warp speed and the valley of doom
Donning the $500 Rain jacket (no rain, but it was nippy and I was drenched with sweat, plus I had to user the bludging fucker at some point), it was off on the BIG DH. It didn’t disappoint… I was starting to slowly get my road bike DH mojo back, its like hooking up with a retread, just takes a couple of goes to remember how it all works.
I thought I was doing well, until at 70KPH on a particularly warp speed section I was passed by a brace of 5 Italians like I was a road side spectator. I couldn’t believe I was being shredded at this speed… Holy fuck! Humbling.
I ended up getting to the bottom alone, which meant a lonely drag up a false flat into a head wind for 10km’s… Burning matches I didn’t have to burn… But I did get some good shots (I was so rooted by now it didn’t matter to stop to preserve history):
Seeing this epic scenery did make me miss the good Doktor’s ‘How shit works’ session that would have followed seeing this mountain view. It was about this time I also realised I am a convert to wanting DIsc Brakes on my road bike, sign me up for Dura Ace Discs NOW!
5. Ambush climb and Urban DH
By now I was doing the math on how far to the last climb and how much I had left in the tank… Sweet FA basically, I was suffering and was working out how I was going to make it up the last climb. I knew we had one more small climb to get up before then, but didn’t know where or what it was like.
Turns out, it was upon me and it was also horrid. Open, windy, grinding, changing pitch… it was 6km’s long @ 4.5%, just enough to fuck me up. Following this, when I was pretty much blown to pieces, the organisers chucked in a funky Urban DH, through the back streets of a little village with cobbles and tight turns… Handy when you’re smashed. I protested with another nature break and photo shoot:
6. The final countdown: Monte Bondone
And then, finally… it was here… the final climb. I had about 18km’s to cover and I suspected it was going to take my around 2 hours, which is a total head fuck when you already feel fried. Here are the stats for the data lovers:
- 16.2km’s long (it was actually 18km’s, but I will respect the Strava segment)
- Avg gradient of 7.4%
- Elevation gain of 1199m
- Fastest Strava time: 54 mins
- My Strava time: 1.40
- Avg Heart rate – 148 BPM (blown)
I was starting to fold like an origami turd… and worse than that, my stomach had hit its Gel limit and I could no longer trust a fart, so reminiscent of my time on La Plagne last year (one of my worst cycling moments ever in terms of suffering), I had to take a REAL nature break… Learning: Portaloo’s that have been sitting in 33 deg heat are not a good idea when you can barely turn the pedals.
After this, I managed to actually get some semblance of rhythm going, sure it was very painful with every pedal stroke, but I seemed to have come through my hour long bad patch and could actually hold a consistent pace, albeit a slow one.
It was hot… it was steep, there were people dying all over the mountain, but like a wounded terminator I ground on relentlessly, unlike a terminator however I did feel pain, a lot of it. I jammed in a final caffeine gel to my tortured tummy and faced the last 5km’s.
Then I got mad… I wanted it to be over. I had been suffering for hours and I was over it… I just wanted to get it done and be lying down. So, with rage as my friend I increased the pace and started to make some real inroads. Its impossible to call me an Angel, but as I started to pass more and more groups, I had to wonder if finally Charly was helping me out and giving me his blessing to smash the last 5kms. I wanted to hurt myself, I embraced the extra pain and speed that came with it. The KM’s ticked by as painfully slowly as my legs felt with each turn of the cranks and the road did not level off at all.
Finally the finish line was in sight… Out of the saddle with screaming legs I kicked for the line… Not for time or position, I hadn’t been racing today at all really… I was kicking for closure and for relief from the torture. I hadn’t suffered like this for a long time. I finished in the village and felt ill… empty. I wanted to vomit, I was coughing, getting cold and had the shakes. I wanted to eat and not eat all at the same time. I was finished. But no, I wasn’t… I had a 20km ride back to the hotel! Thankfully about 17 of that being downhill.
I have no idea what ‘Gran Fondo’ translates into, but I would offer up the translation of ‘Fuck yourself right up’ as a starter. Backing me up on today, I will cross to Mr Clarsen for his account of his day wrestling Charly:
“Mainly I am gutted my colleague beat me today and I have to face him on return to the office… It was fucking hard… Beautiful course, but too hard and would have been an idea to ride some hills beforehand!”
Contextually, Clarso WAS racing today to attempt to qualify for the amateur world champs and as such, finished an hour ahead of me, 5.30 vs 6.30, evidence that when he says he cracks, he really doesn’t, whereas I do an impersonation of a girl guide biscuit that has been stood on by a horse. Right, you have been patient, so to some awards!
- The organisers – Sure, rego was a circus, but we got amazing support on course today (where you really want it) and the race was extremely well organised with traffic control and the refreshment stations, an excellent set up
- Italian kit – Fark these guys know how to pick and make their cycling kit look amazing… Its style central here and the Nighthawk should be here! They can also ride the fuck out of a road bike, stating the obvious
- My Bike and compact gearing – My bike was awesome today, even if I was not… And thank god for compact gearing, I would have been a DNF today without it
- Italy – Riding through amazing little villages, incredible scenery, weather perfect, insanely good roads and people standing on the side of the road cheering us on, what an amazing place.
- Being unprepared – Today was like walking into a bar fight naked with a pink ‘hug me’ pillow, not ideal… My preparation was like tickling and cuddling a guinea pig when I was going to be fighting an elephant. I am fast becoming a jack of all trades in the cycling world and master of none and today I paid for it
- People who don’t take turns – Sure, I did some hiding today, but I also closed a lot of gaps on the flat, there were a lot of wheelsuckers out there today
- My stomach – Still allergic to gels, will someone please invent a gel that doesn’t decimate stomachs? You’ll make a lot of money. The death farting has commenced and Clarso is now regretting the call to have a twin share room.
Right… that is the Charly Gaul Gran Fondo ticked off, won’t need to do that one again. But, if you feel the need to have a REALLY hard day while you’re in the area, here is the Strava file link:
Apologies for the world’s longest post, a lot to jam in today. Here is a toast to surviving and a sense of achievement at finishing (best thing to say when you log a shit time in a race):