We leave early in the morning, before dawn. We leave the gorgeous sleeping villa behind us and I realize the big moment has arrived, but so has the rain! I never rode in such wet weather, except for a sudden shower while descending from Palanzo.
The rain cannot stop me in any way, I feel good, I ate pasta, rice and potatoes for the past 2 days and I am full of Carboflow. My breakfast is a bowl of porridge and my Wilier is perfect after traveling in its bag on the flight from Milan. Now it is all up to me.
We reach the starting grid after a 20 minute slow ride, a short enough length to warm up. But suffering is around the corner since a cold drizzle is falling upon us and we are all wearing rain-jackets. We are half-way through the long group of riders crowded up at the starting point: 4.400 people all packed together, so by the time we reach the starting line it is 15 minutes past the 7.00am official start time.
The rain is getting thicker and my face gets splashed with drops coming from the wheels in front of me. I lose my mates in no time: Gio has joined a group with a “let’s take is easy” philosophy, Simone sprinted off with a pace that is too much for me! In front of me 14 hours on my saddle.
This Granfondo feels so very different from the heated and dangers encountered at the start of the Diavolo in Versilia. Here the start is very mellow with a rhythm which is very leisurely that takes me to the first hill of the Col del Puig Major. I double check the scrap of paper I diligently prepared the night before in a rush of organization-frenzy, I jotted down that I have to climb a 4.600 vertical meters and I marked the “rest-food” points where I should stop.
The hill climbs up 30 Km but is quite easy compared to the steep mountains of Lake Como where my mates and I go for our training. The riders long snake is visible for miles ahead and miles behind and it is quite a great view to be surrounded by. The landscape is a bit moon-like: wet grey rocks are around me and the dense clouds below me hide the Valley we just climbed out of, amazing.
I start observing the different riders around me, very different characters indeed. Some will become familiar faces, others will disappear behind or rush ahead of me. The Spanish guy shouting at his group is quite loud and makes me lose concentration. The guy with a leg-prothesis seems very at ease and not tired the least. The crazy guy on a Brompton is made fun of by the others screaming a jealous “desrespecto!”, after all we are all suffering on our expensive carbon bikes and you are riding faster than us on a foldable bike! 🙂 “how dare you?”
At the first “pit-stop” I fill my bottles with some mysterious and sweet drink that the voluntary staff people offer to me. I avoid the mud that is surrounding the camp tents and I set off again to finish the first climb. I pass by some flat streets surrounded by two large artificial lakes.
Ready for the descent, I have zipped up all my three jackets: the Isadore shirt that is wonderfully soft and keeps my body at a perfect temperature, the sleeveless vest and the rain-jacket. I dive downhill with some extra care since the tarmac is wet. It is a long downhill stretch, very fast and easy to ride: my Vittoria grafene tires are doing an excellent job of keeping me and my Wilier stable.
I feel the speed and the great balance at the same time and it is an amazing feeling!
I find myself overtaking quite a few riders: are they taking it slow or am I speeding up too much?