Tuesday, October 28, 2014


ROMA - OSTIA Andato e Ritorno or ROAR was held this past Sunday. Larry thought "perche no?" and signed up.....for what was billed as a passagiata. Turns out the "race" required a license and Larry let his lapse years ago. Why this was needed vs l'Eroica or the GF Campagnolo we recently participated in remains a mystery.

The "race" or gara in Italian, was a true out-and-back with closed roads and police escort while the citizen event was just out with a return on the train. With only 33 kms out it seemed barely worth it, but Larry decided to show up and see what developed.

First, he had to find where the start was so off he went on Friday afternoon on the MTB along the Tiber's cycling/running/etc. trail. This ended in just a few kilometers and forced one up to the surface level on a bike trail through some apartment blocks before dumping out onto a major boulevard. This went along for awhile with double-parked cars, buses and trash bins to dodge before turning into a high-speed autostrada-like road to EUR where the start was to be on Sunday.

That road was a little "hair-ball" but with the MTB Larry could hop the curb if needed and while Friday afternoon was probably NOT the best time to check this out, Sunday morning should be much, much quieter?

So Sunday morning yours truly was off after a neighborhood bar stop for cappuccino and a donut. The busy road was quieter around 8 AM on a Sunday, so getting there was far less "hair-ball" and while the start took a bit of riding around to locate, I was there in plenty of time to pay the registration fee and get my "schwag" which consisted of a neon orange scrunchy bag containing an equally neon orange fleece hat/neck gaiter, a tramezzino (those triangular sandwiches you see in bars made from sliced white bread with the crusts cut off) a bottle of water and a banana.

I threw the cords of the bag around my shoulders and wandered over to the starting line. The photo shows the first wave of the gara lining up. I'd entertained the idea of jumping into the race so I could enjoy closed roads both out and back vs having to throw my bike in a stack of others on some train, but these guys looked pretty fit - I'd probably get dropped in no time.

But then the second wave of "racers" lined up. There were some fat guys, some others with just sneakers and flat pedals (though they had modern road bikes and all the rest of the kit) and even a few MTB's with road tires. I saw the participants of the citizen event start to fill the next wave - all kinds of clunky bikes and riders who looked like this might have been their first (or second) bike ride of the season. After being surrounded by MTB's in the GF Campagnolo, I really didn't want to be in this group.

As the second wave of the race went off I jumped in. There were others without numbers visible but I was probably the only one with the tell-tale neon orange scrunchy bag...but it was on my back so by the time the course control folks could yell at me I was already past them. I figured all I had to do was stay ahead of the car with the big "FINE GARA CICLISTICA" sign on top.

I caught onto a small group as the hammer-heads vanished into the distance. This group looked to be controlled by a big guy on a Moser bicycle. I quickly dubbed him "The Sheriff" as they used to call Francesco Moser back-in-the-day. After things settled down a bit I heard The Sheriff tell his friends (many of whom were riding with flat pedals and sneakers and having a trouble holding a straight line, unlike the Sheriff himself) that they had some parasites in their group. I knew he was referring to me, so I asked in my horrible Italian, if his was a private group while remarking that he was sort of the Sheriff, like Moser.  He laughed, then replied that I was welcome and asked my name and where I was from. Turned out they were happy to have an American in their group along with Rodrigo, a guy from the Phillippines. He had a bright red brand-S bike with fancy carbon aero wheels, though this bike made awful noises in most of its gears and he too had trouble holding a straight line.

I've always believed if you are allowed in someone else' group, you make darn sure YOU hold a straight line and take a pull when it's your turn, so on we went down the straight, fairly flat, two-lanes on each side with steel guardrails surrounding us, road. This road seemed to be normally the way Romans blasted off to the beach on a Sunday morning, but today it was closed to everyone except us. I would NEVER ride on this road at any other time (though I'm told some do)as it would be like riding on the freeway back in the USA, but it was fun to zoom along with only a few other riders to be concerned with.

Soon enough the sea came into view and we turned right to cruise along the coast before turning back, making sort of a T before swinging back onto the wide, guardrailed road back to EUR. The Sheriff's group broke up a bit on the slight inclines, even the Sheriff himself dropped off the back for awhile, but I waited for him. Heck, he and his group had pretty much towed me the whole way, despite having to know I was not really in the race. How could I just leave The Sheriff now? The group came back together once The Sheriff caught up.

My plan was to avoid crossing the finish line, but I ended up shunted into the group with no way to avoid it. Just like that we were thrust back into normal auto traffic, which by this time had picked up quite a bit.  After thanking The Sheriff and his deputies for their hospitality and handing him a business card, I was able to find my way back to the start to eat my tramezzino before setting off for "home". 

75 kms in total was just right, and left me with an excellent appetite for a full on Italian Sunday PRANZO in the afternoon followed by a nap!

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