We had to go up early this day, but I counted on that the others in the house would wake me up and I was not interested in being up very early. When I came down for breakfast my friend Ola had just finished his breakfast last of all others there. We were both starting in the last group this year and I had noted that it would start pratically in front of our house, so I should not have a problem getting there in time. I started in the first group the first time I did the Maratona in 2003 and that was not a very encouraging experience as it seemed I would be passed by by every other bicyclist on the planet no matter what I did. It wasn’t before the last pass that I could pass by a few riders that time. (I got cramps on the Giau pass, but finished as number 838 on 6h30mins.)
This time I was very releaxed about the whole thing and was just hoping to have a nice cycling day. The weather was fine, but it was chilly outside in the morning. I counted, correctly, on that it would soon get warm and stay that way, so no leg or arm warmers – only my thin wind jacket for some time. (Well, I did not have any leg or arm warmers with me anyway.) The first photo is from the descent on Passo Campolongo (1875m) the second time we went over that pass and the second photo is from the second time we climbed it. The third photo is from the Passo Sella (2244m) ascent (so I have the three first photos in the exact wrong order here). You may also notice that I had managed to place the number on my chest instead of my back (very stupid!, but no big problem).
I went out when it was only a few minutes to the starting shot. Still it took a long time before we could get going. Just where they count the start time we could get on the bicycles and pedal. I thought it might not matter much to be starting very far back as I had no problem on the La Marmotte in 2004 to get up to full speed almost from start. It was just a little more difficult on the l’Etape du Tour in 2005 (where there were a lot of zig-zagging in high speed before it got easier). But I was obviously behind much more people here (some 8500 starters and I was perhaps at place 8000 or so). It was not until after Passo Sella that I could go fully in my own speed this time. I lost some time up to Passo Campolongo (1875m) for sure, but then was perhaps not as exhausted either and on the Passo Pordoi (2239m), coming next, I managed after a while to follow two very good Spanish guys in making their way up and I found them again on the Passo Sella (2244m) climb and followed them there too. They had a slightly higher speed than what I would have had on my own, so it was perfect (I think I even went away from them at the top of the Sella pass, but probably they caught up with me later). There were also a guy named Leitner (I think) who went very quick despite having a normal flat bar on his bicycle (a bit odd) and I noticed in the results lists that he finished with a little better time than me in the end.
I felt in good shape most of the time and was really enjoying the race. I stopped the first time on the Passo Gardena (2121m) climb, but made only very short stops. I stopped one more time before the hardest climb up the Passo Giau (2236m). I was worried about getting cramps in my legs again on this climb as it is easy to do when it becomes very steep and one has been going very hard before and maybe been drinking too little. I was feeling some symptoms, but tried to drink regularly and not go absolute full speed up. Unfortunately I was running out of water and had to go even slower and when looking on the detailed results later, I noticed that it was only on this climb that I had lost any places in the ranking. At one place, near the top, water was pouring out of the hillside and I actually turned around to fill my water-bottle here as I realised it would probably be faster than refilling at the top station and I would get water quicker, which was essential.
I stopped at the top also to take the three photos here (just brought my camera for those Giau photos!). I had a fruit or something and went down the other side. It felt good now. The descent on the east side of Giau can be a bit tricky in high speed, but it went fine. At Pocòl (1530m) the last climb starts up to Passo (di) Falzàrego/Fouzargo (2105m) and Passo di Valparòla/Ju de Valparola (2196m). It is not steep apart from the very last part to the Valparola pass height. I started out at high speed and then came an almost flat section, where I turned up the speed above 30 km/h or so, making people wonder if they forgot to pedal – well not really and a few followed me.
I was really feeling fine here. I wondered why there was still so many ahead of me that went so very much slower than me – how on earth had they managed to get here already in the speed they were going in? Suddenly I noticed I was being overtaken by someone who did not have a problem at going in my now rather high speed (even after the flattish section). As this was the last climb of the day, I was not like letting someone go away from me this late in the race and thus I just stayed in his tempo and after a while we chatted while passing by all others. It was a Swiss guy in a Burkina Faso cycling shirt. Rather odd I thought, but he explained that he trained their national cycling team and some other African countries’ cycle teams. I had no idea that they even had cycle teams down in Africa before (I would have guessed there were teams in South Africa and maybe something in Marocco and/or Egypt, but elsewhere?).
The Swiss guy decided to stop for something to drink at the Falzarego pass. I would not need anything more to drink after the Valparola pass, so I just continued. I had an Enervite Liquid on the way up this last pass, but that was all I had with me as extra energy. I do not need much such stuff, I think (and there is food and water at various places along the route). I always only have pure water in my bottles, I just get thirsty by sport drinks’.
I went full speed down the Valparola pass as I thought I knew it somewhat well now and I was really testing myself here, which caused me to use security margins a few times. But I was lucky yet again. Still some people managed to go faster down than me, of course (very irritating ;-).) Well, no one managed to overtake me up to Corvara anyway, but quite some went really fast this time too. I finished at just under 6.15, which I learned later is the time one should get under in order to get a better start group in the following Maratona for two years – so maybe I have to do it again and see if I can get under 6 hours … . I was number 613 and my goal was to get a better placement than last time (838) and a better time (6.30), so I was fully satisfied. There were very many people just around this finishing time (6.15) and if I had been 15 minutes faster I would have gained like 250 places in the ranking. (I had 11 km/h on the 900 height metres Giau climb and over 17 km/h on the Campolongo climb.)
It was quite hot, but they offer you something to drink directly at the finish and then I had my tickets for meals with me and went directly to the indoor sports arena where I got pasta, a sausage, beer, water and dessert! I met the Swiss guy there among the myriads of people and he was very surprised that he did not manage to catch up with me, which he had tried to do after only a very short stop. I was not so surprised though, as I had been going very fast indeed. I also met up with an Italian born man who lives in my hometown of Gothenburg in the pasta queue. – A bit fun as he lives on making pasta all day long. (I had suggested beforehand that he should give a pasty party for us the day before the race when I lunched at his place.)
I waited and searched for my friend for some time, but did not find him and went back to La Villa to get a shower and a little rest. We met up later and had dinner in the evening at the now usual place yet again (there are indeed some other good restuarants, I can tell you, but I guess we lacked imagination or something)!