As we drive and get closer to the lake we join a long line of cars with bikes. Arriving in Bardolino we headed towards one the lesser known parking areas in order to avoid another chaotic scene like yesterday's. A light rain starts. The weather doesn't look promising.
We ride to the ferry departure point and arrive early enough for one last espresso. It's 0750 now and the number of riders is growing rapidly. No one wants to miss the 0815 ferry!
Then the organizers have to deal with a major disaster. The ferry that was taking us across the lake has a broken motor! Two smaller, but faster, ferries have been pressed into service but will not arrive until 0900, 45 minutes late. I'm glad I was wearing a heavy jacket and overpants. The line of riders is very long (585 are doing the medio fondo) so there is no going to a coffee bar and hanging out. The people that came ready to ride are getting cold. It has stopped raining and one of the event staff says it's sunny on the other side of the lake. I look across the lake....not likely. I have time to take some photos of friends ) LAMACART CYCLING Team, Rosie and Luca of the TRAGUARDO VOLANTE Team, Pasquale riding as an independent).
At 0900 the first ferry arrives and being nearer to the front Paolo and I get on that one. Bikes are piled on top of one another (tip: don't bring your wallhanger to a granfondo event). Finally, we get underway.
I see a guy trying to find a safe spot for his bike and I take his photo. He calls out, "Do you write the blog?". Hey, it turns out to be Alessandro who had left a comment in my blog saying that he hoped to meet me. Small world!
A friend gives me good advice: go upstairs and find a warm spot, it will get cold once we are on the lake at full speed. During the trip I ate a Powerbar and a Special K bar.
I went upstairs, found a spot, and thought about how I would do the race. My strategy is simple: stay in a group, I'd rather suffer going fast than suffer going alone; don't be at the tail end of any group; be really careful in the tunnels; don't stop at any rest areas (I use two water bottles); eat an energy bar once an hour; keep something in reserve for the climb at the end; arrive safe and in one piece. Paolo and I just before disembarking.
The ferry arriving at Toscolano Maderno.
It's dreary with light rain. The winter riding jacket I have isn't for rain so I put that and my overpants into the backpack that the ferry will take back for pickup later. I did stuff an extra windbreaker so I put that on. We all disembark, I put my camera away in the backpack, and ride to the start line. And wait, for the first gran fondo rider to arrive, and then we wait for another 15 minutes before we can get underway. More time to think about how to ride on wet roads, tunnels, with 600 medio fondo riders who will also now be mixed with gran fondo riders.
Finally we start. The pace is a lot more manageable that the Granfondo Italia. I'm in a big group that is riding at a good pace for me, and other groups have formed in front and behind. Riders are passing me, I'm passing others, and it's busy. I like the stress of a race. The kms are flying. Everyone is holding their line. The dark tunnels have extra lights being run by generators for additional illumination. Still, it looks like fireflies in the tunnels with the blinking red and white lights. I haven't ridden in a week, due to my cold, and my legs feel fresh. Things are going well. Arriving in Riva di Garda my group splits on a small climb. I couldn't hold the pace so I fell into the second half of the group which is now 8 of us; 20 are now ahead. They are always in sight but we can't catch back on.
As we round the northern tip of the lake and head south along the east side the wind is against us. It slows us down. Soon, some Pinarello Team riders drag a group up to us and then we all begin working together and start to pick up riders being dropped from the group that was in front. Soon it's a group of about 50. All of a sudden the pace slows down a lot. With no one visible in front of us, or behind us, the group is content with it's pace and no one seems very interested in going to the front to pull into the wind. All the way down to Garda it was a nice, steady pace although I wish we would have gone faster. However, I was glad to have not to be killing myself before the nasty, short, climb that awaits us all.
In Garda it was a sharp left and immediately into the nasty climb to Maciaga. My legs were getting tired and are not interested in any out of the saddle climbing. One part of the climb was 17%. Some riders are walking, some are on the sides with cramps. I just took it easy and did the best I could to make it up which I did. Then it was a descent onto an interior road where for about 5 km everyone rode like a prologue TT....fast. It was here that my friend Pasquale caught up to me.
I was happy to see him. Then he attacked me (what fun!) and we ended up attacking each other all the way to the finish line! It was good because it inspired me and despite getting signs of starting to cramp it kept me going. One final, easy, climb and then a fast descent into Bardolino and a sprint into the finish line. Finished!
I'm told that the course was actually longer than 90km, closer to 100km. My finish time was 3 hr. 25 minutes which I'm happy with. Where else can you can you have so much fun?
This was the first my first race using the Chesini INNOVATION and I was very pleased with the fact that it naturally follws where you want to go; one less thing to worry about in a race.
My friend Marisa, which I've written about previously, won the women's medio fondo in 2:39 (the photo is from her previous team). Wow. That explains why she has competed in the women's Giro d' Italia doesn't it?
I turned in my timing chip at the finish and picked up my ZERO WIND membrane vest ("The Windproof Innovation, an innovative non-microporous elastic membrane of the closed-structure type which offersa complete shield against atmospheric agents and carries outside body moisture through a system of electrical loads at the molecular level") that will be a useful reminder of the event.
We didn't stick around for the traditional post race pasta party but hear it was good. The organizers did a great job on event day. Complimenti! On a sunny day this would be a fabulous event. Congratulations to all the winners.
How Verona's L'Arena newspaper reported the event:
Il tempo instabile e il freddo penetrante non sono riusciti a fermare ciclisti ed appassionati, che ieri mattina hanno invaso le vie di Bardolino, per la prima edizione della granfondo «Garda Lake Tour». A ritardare la partenza di un quarto d’ora e creare qualche momento di disagio fra gli organizzatori, ci ha pensato invece la motonave Tonale, che, a causa di un guasto ai motori, non si è presentata al molo per caricare quei 585 atleti con relative biciclette e traghettarli a Toscolano Maderno da dove era previsto lo start per il percorso di 94 chilometri. Dopo il panico iniziale, la soluzione è stata però puntualmente trovata e il servizio è stato effettuato con due battelli più piccoli. «A parte questo inconveniente», ha spiegato Sergio Bombieri, uno degli organizzatori, «il resto della gara si è poi svolto anche meglio di ogni previsione. Qualche caduta c’è stata, come sempre accade in manifestazioni che fanno registrare numeri così elevati, e si tratta di cadute imputabili più a disattenzione dei ciclisti che a problemi di viabilità». I 1200 partecipanti al percorso di 156 chilometri, sono stati accompagnati a velocità controllata fino a Desenzano. Per tutta la costa bresciana il gruppo è rimasto compatto e fra i ciclisti di testa ogni tanto qualcuno tentava l’allungo, forse più per provare le gambe che per intentare una vera e propria fuga. Le scaramucce sono iniziate dopo il passaggio da Riva. Con le raffiche di vento contrario a creare qualche difficoltà, un gruppetto di sette uomini si è staccato a Torri ed ha anticipato gli altri fino a Garda. Ma a fare la differenza è stata la salita che da Garda porta a Costermano. Proprio su quell’ascesa il vincitore, Adriano Lorenzi ha sferrato l’attacco che gli ha permesso di presentarsi da solo sul lungolago. Una vittoria per sé e per tutto il suo team, la Avesani Bike, che in entrambi i percorsi, ha piazzato alcuni suoi uomini sui podi dei due percorsi. Nella gara dei 156 Km.:
1) Adriano Lorenzi (Avesani bike) con un tempo di 3:52:28
2) Morrison Michael (Team Scapin)
3) Stefano Curtatello (Vc Garda)
1) Martina Arsiè (Dteam Essegi2) 4:15:04
2) Cristina Boldrini (Asd Placet Bi)
3) Martina Dogana (Asd B-sport)
1) Paolo Barosi (Avesani bike) 2:32:21
2) Paolo Strillato (Avesani bike)
3) Marco Zanoni (Asd Saint Luis Zen)
1) Marisa Coato (Green team) 2:39:00
2) Maria Cazzola (team Gauss RDZ)