What do you do when one of the biggest cycling events in Italy comes almost to your doorstep? Well, if you're like us, you get out there! This was the Gran Fondo Campagnolo Roma, the 3rd edition. We signed up online but Larry failed to notice the bit about which distance we wanted (75 or 120 km) or the part about having to produce a doctor's note proving we were unlikely to die on the route. Ooops.
We went down on Saturday to the expo near the baths of Caracalla to pick up our numbers, etc. We brought some copies of our health insurance documents, hoping that would placate the folks at the registration so we could get our numbers. Heather explained it all and after they photocopied the pages we completed the forms and were sent to the next counter.
Here we got our "pacco gara" which included a nice GF Campagnolo Roma jersey, a bottle of wine from Vini Fantini and other promotional stuff. Next we were sent to get what they call in Italy, our "cheeps" or transponders to keep track of our progress. We turned these down as who cares how fast we go? At this point the young lady said we should have instead signed up for the "pedalata" instead. Huh?
We hobnobbed with our friend Joshua at the Campagnolo stand for a bit before riding back up the hill to the Academy.
The start was at 7:30 Sunday morning. We rode down to the Imperial Forum and got in the mob at the start, as you can see here. We chose to ride in CycleItalia kits but noticed 99% of the folks around us were clad in the official jersey, but theirs were white, while the ones they gave us were gray/black. We should have been farther up with the 120 km group it seemed. But we wanted only about half that distance, the tour of the Castelli Romani rather than the full-blown GRAN Fondo which covered a lot of the course used for the Roma Maxima pro event in the spring.
Oh well, off we went.....at a snail's pace past the Circus Maximus over the cobbled surface, almost entirely surrounded by folks on.....mountain bikes. Huh? Turns out the "pedalata" folks tend to be those slogging along on MTB's, though some of them moved along swiftly. For some reason these folks have no clue about slower cyclists keeping right to allow faster riders to pass, but we slalomed our way through until things thinned out on some prettier roads as you can see above. We were both glad we'd chosen our own kits as with everyone else in the same jersey it would have been tough to find each other after being separated, either on a climb or descent as one of us would be blocked by some of the less-skilled riders.
The first real hill thinned things out further and we began to enjoy the scenery, though we left so early there was no time for breakfast. We gazed longingly at a few bars serving cappuccini and cornetti, but we were so close to the back of the whole thing we were reluctant to stop and perhaps ending up on a no-longer-closed course or worse, be sucked back into the swarms of mountain bikes. Larry did stop for a quick photo here at the Albano lake, near where the pope hangs out when it's too hot down in the Vatican.
Lucky for us, it wasn't too much further to a RISTORO, as you can see above. We'd closed up to a few clad in the gray/black jerseys (we never saw any suggestion that one HAD to wear the official jersey, but the rest of the riders certainly got the hint!) so felt OK stopping here for panini and bananas. The atmosphere here was pretty much the same as a century ride back in the USA, though of course the surroundings were far different.
Unlike the GRAN FONDO's back in the USA there were no Ferraris pacing the riders. Instead the local Fiat 500 club sent a few of the cute old cars to entertain us. Larry just loves these things and has mad-mechanic dreams of seeing one with a Ducati Monster engine jammed into the back. Someday?
Also unlike a Gran Fondo or century ride in the USA, the post ride snacks were PORCHETTA sandwiches! We'd crossed the finish line hand-in-hand and saw the line for these tasty panini right away. It wasn't too much later the first riders on the 120 km route raced across the finish line. Our ride turned out to be a bit longer than 60 kms. These fast guys whipped around their route around 40 kph on average, not far off from pro speeds though the few real pros there (Davide Malacarne of Europcar for example) didn't contest for the "win" if you can call it that. The organizer hinted that for the future they might ditch the timing and finishing details entirely to be more in tune with a fun, festive event to celebrate two wheels. That would be fine by us!
At the end they handed out these cool medals. A nice keepsake.
Mille Grazie, especially to our friends at CAMPAGNOLO who were the main sponsors of the event.