Finally, the race happened yesterday. I had some thoughts that I was taking all this a little too seriously, but it worked out fine at the race. Lots of people, around 3,800, which is a crazy amount of people starting a race. Many are not "racing", just enjoying a competitive tour. Many were really "racing" and the sprinting at the start really surprised me. The weather was a little cool in the morning, and waiting around 45 minutes for the start got kind of cold, but once the race started, we all warmed up. It was slow and in control until we were out of the Cascine, but going through the city, people really started riding very fast. A slightly different route through the city this year, with less cobbles, made for a much faster start. By the time we were at the timing pad for the real start, I was thinking, I cannot hold this pace too long. I stayed with one of the leading groups to above Fiesole, but when they sprinted on the long and gentle climb from Fiesole to Vetta alle croce, I decided not to push my hardest to stay with them. I settled in with a less strong group, but enjoyed the help of the group as we had a 15 to 20 mph headwind most of the way to Firenzuola.
Excellent descent with a group down to Borgo San Lorenzo, very fast, then a good push to the Autodromo. I was back with Luca Durazzi here, as he said the pace was just too fast for a long race. We stayed together most of the way around the Autodromo, but just after, I stopped to remove my shell before our first big climb of the day to Giogo. I felt pretty good up Giogo, passing more people than passed me, but really a very strong group of riders all day long. I stopped at Giogo for water, and stopped at all the ristoros for quick food and water when available. Did not want to be running on empty. Great descent to Firenzuola, and finally the headwind turned to side or tail wind. The climb to Futa is the hardest part of the course, and it certainly was yesterday. I did feel pretty good, though, and I think the stopping for food and water, as quickly as I could stuff food into my mouth and put a couple of bananas into my pockets, was a good strategy.
We descended from Futa directly down Via Bolognese, then did the loop around Lago Bilancino. Always good to be in a group here, in particular on the South side of the lake when the winds were in the face again. It is always interesting to do this in a group race, as truly nobody will take the lead from the people in front. Eventually some changes go on, but it is a fun dynamic to be involved in. We were catching the slower people doing the shorter douse by now, and it was a little harder to get food really fast at the last opportunity. I had a good tailwind toward Vaglia, and a group caught me a couple of kilometers before Vaglia and I enjoyed staying with them to the start of the real climb to Pratolino. I knew a couple of people in the group, which was nice. The climb to Pratolino is the last real hard climb of the day, and it includes a good, hard stretch above Pratolino to Croce alle Vetta.
Time to crank it down hill, and we really did. We had caught many people doing the shorter course, so there was quite a bit of passing at high speed down the hill. I stayed careful, but still managed to pass the slower riders. The final piece of the race is the "wall" of Via Salviati. It was part of the world championship course, and I think that is why they include it. It is not long, but to finish 140 plus kilometers with 40 vertical meters of climbing at 20% is a little rough. I was fine, but probably passed 50 people walking their bikes up the hill. I rode down to the Cascine and enjoyed the pasta party with teammates. Back home for a late nap, food, then sleep. I was the last of our group of 4 who did the long course, but felt good about my effort and time. The course was a little longer than last year and my time was a minute slower, so I am happy with everything. Luca L was around 20 minutes faster, Luca D around 10 minutes faster, and Leif around 5 minutes faster, although we did not have the real results at that time. My final stats for the race were 140.4 kilometers in 5:05 with 2850 meters of climbing. Happy, but glad it is done. Next up competition wise is the Sette Muri, or seven walls event in a couple of weeks, then Nove Colli. Ciao.
Waiting for the start with the two Lucas from our team. Both
very strong climbers, and along with Leif and I the 4 of the 23
from the team to do the long course. They both finished ahead
of me, no surprise there, Luca L at around 4:48 and Luca D at
around 4:52. Great job everyone.
Quite a scene when around 3800 cyclists line up to start the
Granfondo Firenze. The groups were separated by number, so
it was quite organized. Still, the start was super fast!