It finished the way as it started, with a bunch of kids going at speed… as if had fresh legs and not almost 1000 miles on them… actually we finished with a sprint, why not?
Despite of almost 5 days cycling, poorly sleeping, the heat, the poor roads in several stages, here we were, still going strong, actually, even stronger.
However, it was much harder than I thought. Much more climbs than I realised, not to mention the roads infested with potholes and Hadean afternoons.
Put it simply for those who did PBP19, this was a “ride in the park” compared to Miglia Italia.
Here’s my poor recollection for the stages given that I stupidly didn’t take notes and I ended up heavily sleep deprived. I had a plan to sleep up to 6 hours per night and finish it before 5 days (120 h). I also have even more ambitious plan to finish it in 4 days if I could reach control 6 (592 km) by Wed early hours, something I managed from Paris to Brest by the way.
S1 Parabiago to Castellania (112 km): started at Mon 17:00, fast till final climb, joining grupettos, met a German couple, Adriana (originally from Colombia, so no wonder she finished much earlier than most of us) and Raimund, they were on holidays! I was eating McD sarnies I’d bought before the start and stopped at Lidl for Coca-Cola (my then main source of caffeine). It was dark at the end so I didn’t see much of Coppi, there by 21:30.
S2 Castellania to Casella Ligure (53 km / 165 km): resumed by 21:55, still Mon, it was a short stage, with a descend and then a long smooth climb. Arrived by 0:15 am Tue, covering 53 km in 2h20 min. Nothing much to do in the control, yet I spent almost a half hour there.
S3 Casella Ligure to Deiva Marina (92 km / 257 km): resumed by 0:40 am Tue and finished a tad before 5 am Tue. Still climbing and a long descent with a tough climb in the end. We passed by the sea but since it was dark I didn’t notice anything. Slept at the control for one hour, against my plans, but body was asking for.
S4 Deiva Marina to Gorfigliano (105 km / 362 km): back on the road by 6:50 am Tue and only finished by 16:35, nearly 12 hours between controls! It was brutal, the worst stage. Several stops. In one at Levanto I met Damian, from Romania and Nick, a Kiwi living in the UK. Later I had a long stop in a bar where I met Taras from Ukraine (I’d found him later in the ride with starting symptoms of Shemer’s neck, but I believe he finished it anyway), he had done it before. I started to have issues with my Wahoo Roam and wasted time recovering the ride. The combination of heat, potholes and 4 demanding climbs (2365 m) over 105 km proved a killer for several riders I heard later. I was in a really bad mood by the end, feeling sick and powerless. I don’t remember much about the control, I was in survival mode, just muddling that I need to find a better way to handle the coming afternoons.
S5 Gorfigliano to Pontedera (117 km / 479 km): left by 17:45 Tue, feeling sick, stopped for dinner at Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, around 19:00. Had lasagna and plenty of drinks. Resumed riding still feeling sick but I knew I need to eat and drink and then an hour later I started to feel much better. Climbed fine Passo Colognora and then a nice descent passing by the Pinocchio town where I met Günther, a strong rider from Austria and we worked together close to the control when I had, again, another issue with Wahoo. More time wasted. Arrived at Pontedera control before midnight, had a cold shower, good food and slept ok for 3h30 but I was waked up knackered by chatting Italians. I even waxed my bike chain.
S6 Pontedera to Castelnuovo Berardenga (112 km / 591 km): started by 6:50 am Wed. I met Daniele, from Italy, and we climbed Castagno together, since a company helps to pass the time faster. We stopped in a pasticceria in San Gimignano and I saw Nick again. It was a long and hot day, hilly after the big climb, over 112 km. Met Annette, from North Carolina, in a climb, she noticed a noise in my bike but since I partially deaf I couldn’t figure out what it was the issue. Arrived by 13:20. Should have left by 14:30 but wasted extra 45 min because of Wahoo. Started to record per stage. Left by 15:15. It was a bag drop stage for those who asked the service; I was all by my own.
S7 Castelnuovo Berardenga to San Quirico d’Orcia (60 km / 651 km): ended by 18:15, short, 60 km, but very hilly. Beautiful landscapes, with tourists, met Francesca and Antonio another couple cycling quite well. BTW Francesca had SRAM AXS and I asked how long the battery could last for, she said: “2000 km”. But I heard it was just 400 km, and she replied, well, “then your friend is changing gears too much”. I’m considering a SRAM wireless for a n+1 bike. Shimano Di2 does last 2000 km with me.
S8 San Quirico d’Orcia to Bolsena (113 km / 764 km): there was a route option for the braves or crazies to take Eroica with some >18% downhills in gravel but, “luckily” we were not allowed to do it after 18:00, phew! (not that I had the faintest wish of doing it :-). Kept on the normal route and had a beautiful sunset. Started 19:00, arrived 1:30 am Thu. A long ride with two long climbs and hilly in between, but ok during the night. Couldn’t see much of Radicofani in the dark. Thanks to climb and quietness I found the issue with my gear noise: when on the biggest gear, the derailleur was very slightly touching one spoke. I didn’t bother with that but some other riders did notice the issue in the other climbs. Dinner at La Botte restaurant, a secret control. One of the highlights of the whole ride was passing by the amazing Pitigliano. Still enchanted with the view I took a wrong turn downhill and had to climb 1km back. Finally at Bolsena, had a pork sarnie, hot shower and slept for two hours in a very warm hall, which caused to wake up earlier eventually due to the uncomfortable heat.
S9 Bolsena to Tavernelle San Eusebio (139 km / 903 km): almost 140 km, the longest stage, which proved one of the hardest as well. Almost halfway of MI, I started at 5am Thu. Thought I could finished it by noon since I could do the climbs while fresh in the morning, instead, took me 10 h. Watched sunrise around Orvieto and during the second climb I met Mari and Monica ladies from Bergamo that had bike and kits almost identical (I noticed that in other opportunities). I was fine till the second long descent where I met Tor in a Café when he was about to leave. I almost could reach him later in the hilly parts but then I started to feel something in my right knee. Stopped in a restaurant (Vecchio Mulino) for two hours near the lake Trasimeno. I had a great gnocchi and dosed for 30 min. Thanks they forgot my “secondo piatto”. I started to soak my whole kit to help me bear the heat. Quite hard to finish the stage. I had ice cream (a constant thing on the ride) and dragged myself to the end, by 15:00 Thu.
S10 Tavernelle San Eusebio to Matassino Reggello (81 km / 984 km): started almost immediately and ended by 19:40 Thu, some good climbs with beautiful views of the towns behind. While hot in the beginning I started to feel dehydrated so stopped in a pharmacy at Palazzo del Pero, for lip balm (that I forgot at the hotel), energy gels and sunscreen (by now all my tablets were gone and my sunscreen wouldn’t last much longer). In a bar across from the pharmacy I had some food and the greatest ice cream I ever had, pistachio and mousse of pistachio. I managed to finish this stage in daylight thanks to shades along the road. Passed Arezzo but didn’t notice much. I was still concerned with my dried mouth.
S11 Matassino Reggello to Scarperia (78 km / 1153 km): another stage with a long climb where we reached the highest summit of the whole ride, above 1000 m, but during the nights I was faring much much better. Started at 20:50 and finished by Fri 2am with sharp climbs near the end after a long flat section. Slept at Scarperia for two hours, no showers, waked up due to the cold night. By now the roads were looking better and I was not much concerned anymore in the downhills through the night. Waxed my bike chains again.
S12 Scarperia to Lugo (93 km / 1246 km): last stage with a climb. Started at Fri 6:45 am, in one hour we reached the summit in Firenzuola and finished the stage before noon. Climbed very well in company of Alan P and then a 50 km downhill in a wonderful road with amazing landscapes following river Santerno, passing by Imola. Tor later reminded me that it was there where Ayrton Senna had died. It was the best stage. From now on, only flat stages, more than 500 km without hills!
S13 Lugo to Massa Finalese (68 km / 1313 km): started by 12:55, ended by 16:50, all flat, all fast. However my Wahoo again gave trouble even though there was no reason. Wasted time and 6 km lost. Just after the Wahoo issue I just watched a chatting lady driver almost hit me when joining the main road I was. I was left wondering how much in common do Italian drivers have with Brazilian ones. Join a grupetto but it was hard to find the control. Met Tor there again but he was about to leave. Spent some time with Alan P as we were almost at the same pace, but not always together.
S14 Massa Finalese to Pieve di Coriano (87 km / 1400 km): though flat and relatively short I took 3h15 to finished at 22.4 km/h, cycling alone with some headwind and heat. Left by 17:35, finished by 20:50. Pieve di Coriano was likely the best control and I just took a 15 min power nap when I should have slept longer. I eventually realised my original plan was wrong because the following control had nothing.
S15 Pieve di Coriano to Colorno (79 km / 1479 km): started at 22:10 and finished by Sat 1:40 am, the ride started slow and lonely but became fast once I joined two strong Italians. At Colorno I realised my mistake of not updating my plan with the latest details from the organisers. I was using info from previous MI, which had 16 stages, and now we had 17 stages and the stage I planned for stop, refuelling and sleep was actually a self control and, at that time of the night, there was nothing opened. I panic a little. Fortunately water was not the problem but I was really hungry (I had gels, but it’s not food!) and worse, really needing sleep. I couldn’t fancy sleeping rough like the guys I saw there so I left for the next control by 2am.
S16 Colorno to Fombio (121 km / 1601 km): I thought I could make in less than 4h, got donned for the night and used for the very first time my new jacket but with just 10km I was almost falling asleep in my bike. Stopped at a petrol station and found a Greek rider ready to sleep and so I did the same. Fortunately I was always using my inflatable mattress and giving the chilled night I used the space blanket for the first time and it was great. Awake two hours later thanks to the speaking pump machines when someone stopped to refuel his car. Eventually, by Sat 5:30 I found a café opened at Busseto, ate and drunk a macchiato. Well, for someone who detest coffee it was like spinach for Popeye, I felt great and soon met Gunther again and we went full speed For 40 km. When I tried to work in front, as soon as our speed would drop a bit Gunther would take over. He was looking for the a secret control but I had to remind him twice that that control would be in 60 km after Fombio, not before! By 7:36am we were at Fombio and I could eat, had a cold shower and sleep for an hour. Tor arrived there and left earlier, Alan P was near too.
S17 Fombio to Parabiago: final stage, started at 10:30 am and it was already hot. I met Johan from Belgium and we worked well together till secret control halfway the stage, 60 km later. He was willing to keep going but I took my time to eat well (another lasagna) and had a pretty good ice cream. Soaked in water I went for the final 60 km and soon I joined a group with Ivan, from Italy, Sacha (Germany) and Anastasious (Greece). It was a nice ride despite the searing sun, we could talk a bit and learn a few things about the place where we were cycling thanks to Ivan’s local knowledge. It was beautiful to cycle along the canal Naviglio Grande until Ivan had a puncture with 20 km to go. I’ve started to overheat as soon as we stopped and feeling shame for myself I decided to keep going. At the end I joined another train pulled by Dylan (from the UK) and all finished in a bunch sprint. Miglia Italia was completed in 118h55.
A superb video summary from Tor Hovland
Now the big question, would I do it again? Right now, likely not. Because of the heat? No, we can manage that. Because of the climbs? No, we can also manage that? But, yes, because of the roads… However, what if with a 32 or 35 mm tyres…
In total I had a bit more than 12 hours of sleep, far from my conservative plan but managed to finish before 120 hours. As for my ambitious plan… never mind it. This was not a ride for the usual PBP audience. All the riders I met were experienced and had done either PBP or MI before, if not both and several times. If during PBP I was ahead of the wave, here I was the “wave” but fortunately the controls, if not at PBP standards, were ok. I wouldn’t mind paying more for some extra luxury though :-), some riders resorted to hotels.
I’ve started the ride already with a wry neck but, as happened to my knees and body in general, I was feeling really great by the end.
Things that didn’t work: I have this nice magnetic USB cable with bits for every device (iPhone, Wahoo, powerbank and wireless headphone). It was only to move the magnetic contact from one device to another, powering from my dynamo. When this work it’s fantastic and though I had all new with spare bits, it didn’t do well. Fortunately I had the usual USB cables as spares.
And it was nice to meet several people that I may have forgotten their names or to mention here but I remember Sergio from Spain, who did MGM (and once asked, yes, it’s hot like in Italy but with much better roads) and Tommaso, Italian, that I met at the end while having a meal. Worth to mention that Alan P coming cycling all the way from the UK, something I’d definitely do next time (did I say next time?).
I did complain with the organisers of course, because at the end of the ride, after more than 1600 km, I wouldn’t walk 200 m to have a shower, enough is enough!
Jokes aside, a huge thanks to the organisers and volunteers! It was really great and I’m already missing it.
- Kit used:
- PBP jersey but base layer and arm coolers not all the time (OK)
- Assos Equipe and Centos bibs with plenty of chamois cream, I changed every 600 ish km, washing them (OK)
- New Endura lightweight rainproof jacket (only one night)
- New mitts, all the time (OK)
- Road shoes with light socks (OK)
- Leg coolers, but I couldn’t bear it (not OK, only in chilly nights and mornings)
- Toes covers (only one night, OK)
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