I managed to get up early and get something little to drink and eat before cycling down to Cesenatico in the early morning before 6:00 for the start at the famous Nove Colli gran fondo race (46th edition). It was a nice day. I was a little worried about getting into the correct starting grid in time, but I soon found it easily from the way I came, but found myself at the front of the long line of people who had been standing there for long already. I just jumped into the front group and there was space enough. Took two photos here before we eventually started rolling maybe half an hour or so after I arrived.
Gabriele started in the front group as he managed to get invited after being a long-time friend of the organisers (or at least after having taken part a lot of times already). I think I passed him by toward the later part of the course, but we missed each other. After having waited to get going for long one is always eager to get up to speed and the speed was quite good out of Cesenatico where we almost consistently went around 50 km/h on the flat roads over to the first mountain climb up Bertinoro and Polenta, where it, as expected, would slow down considerably and it was of course also getting crowded. Up to there I do not think any (or very few) in my huge start group had passed me by and now we were stuck up until the top of Bertinoro (not a long climb).
From Bertinoro I soon took it rather easy and went in my own speed most of the way. The roads soon deteriorated quite considerably, which was a problem for me mostly on the descents where I sometimes went as slow as 15 km/h down while crazy Italians went down in like 70 km/h, so no wonder I lost time and placements, but I did not care much as my main aim was to save my bike and myself from problems. Still I did try to gain some places on the climbs, but there are many good riders in this event so I felt like I was sort of average here.
It actually got quite tough for me at one or two of the climbs in the middle where I had to slow down a little also on the climbs. It was getting quite warm and there are 9 mountains and many of the climbs are quite long even if the mountains are not so high here (Monte Pugliano at 791m). I stopped at most of the feeding stations and did not have to drink much between these stations (just had my single 0.75 litre bottle as usual). It was a nice stop up at Perticara I remember, but otherwise of differing quality. There were many places with repair support and they were very busy as wheel went bad in a speed no wheel builders could possible be more happy about – one would almost have thought the wheel industry sponsored this event with these terrible downhill sections (as I remember the roads where consistently worse on the descents cleverly … ). But the bad roads clearly made an advantage for the Italian riders who (almost) never mind bad roads. It should be said that all really fast riders had to go fast everywhere or they would not get a good time for sure.
Toward the later part of the long race, 205 km and 3840m to climb, I followed a gang cycling very fast from Ponte Uso and up to the last steep climb to Gorolo, where they stopped, but I continued. Then they catched up with me and again I joined them, but had to really fight to not loose them on the way back to Cesenatico where they drove at like at least 40 km/h all the time. If they had been riding like that all the time, they should have finished like 3 hours earlier, so not sure if they missed the start or something, but I thought I had a chance to get a decent time by hanging on them and luckily that made me go under 10 hours and finished at 9:49:56, which is nothing much to brag about. Still I was more tired at the finish than ever before in a gran fondo race as I had to fight so hard at the end to hang on, but was happy to get back up to speed.
After sitting down to relax inside Gabriele soon came by also and has not been much slower than me, and would have been faster than me if he did not take a long break along the course. He has ridden the race under 8 hours some years ago, which is what I might have aspired to as well some years ago and if the roads would have been in better shape, but Gabriele is best on bad roads downhill, so this race really suits him (only not on this day). I can only complain on bad training beforehand trying to get back into shape after breaking my leg the year before, getting older and being afraid of bad roads. Still I am somewhat disappointed (only 900 after me out of 4262 completing the long course), but can live with it as I at least got under 10 hours and I was not really trying to go fast apart from the start and finish, oh well.
We talked and had some beers and said goodbye and we would meet again in the Summer at the l’Etape du Tour race in Morzine, France. Then I cycled around a little in Cesenatico before getting on my way back to Pisignano. Had something local to eat from a small fast food station in Pisignano and it was very good. Think I had a beer also at a pub, but maybe it was on the previous evening. Washing of clothes was likely not all that enjoyable, but I was able to sleep a little longer this night.