after spending one week in markdorf, germany, our home base during the annual eurobike tradeshow, five of us drove down through the lake district of switzerland and into northern italy for the colnago gran fondo cycling event.
because riding a bike for 100-miles isn't the brightest idea after spending six days in a row off the bike, the other guys (kb, walker, vestal and hersh) decided to ride the medio fondo - which consisted of 75-miles including two mountain passes. i'm not too bright and committed myself to the longer route - with one extra massive 15-mile mountain ascent.
colnago hooked us up with everything we needed: properly sized - and very high end - carbon bikes, water bottles and even a colnago logo'd pump to carry with us.
with over 4,000 crazy italians - and many foreigners - lined up in the start corral, the line was nearly a half-mile long and wrapped around an entire parking lot of a rectangular shaped expo hall.
the first 40k were flat and the peloton raced full throttle as if they were not aware three mountain passes loomed ahead. i took the bait though and took more than my fair share of pulls on the front of the pack and hit the slopes of the first climb in the front.
this first climb, mezzano scotti, was the shortest of the three on the day and resembled the steepness of the climbs seen in the Belgian Classic races on tv. by that, i mean, if a rider chose to unclip from their pedals, it set off a domino effect of all other riders unclipping.
it became obvious i rode the early flat miles too hard, and took too many pulls for my current state-of-fitness, and i quickly bonked within the first quarter-mile. i was forced to lay off the gas and went into survival mode over the five or six miles of that climb.
after loading up with goodies at a buffet-like aid station, i stupidly committed to the "LUNGA" route at the junction where the medio and gran fondo races split. within a few hundred meters, i was staring at the bottom of the day's big climb, santa barbara, which took over an hour to climb. pitches were insanely steep, others leveled off, and there were even a few downhill reprieves, but overall it went UP! at one point, near the top of the climb, i was forced to get off my bike and stretch out two severely cramped up legs, that more closely resembled two blocks of wood.
the final climb, described by one of my colleagues as "false flat", was nothing of the sort and i crawled up it at a snails pace, and with only the thought of getting back to the food tent at the expo for the italian buffet that awaited. the final climb, passo del cerro, was the nail in the coffin and it was obvious i had left my climbing legs back in california (or back in colorado). i was bonked, cramped, and left to figure out how to get my body back to the finish.
i found a nice group of twenty riders to ride in the final 40k of flat roads back to the finish, and was content to sit in the group so as not to bonk again.
as luck would have it, upon crossing the finish line completely spent, i wiped out on a thick black hose that was stretched out across the road. no scratches on the bike and only minor wounds to my ego.
the flight the next day back to the states was rough and having worn my compression socks nearly each day of the eurobike show, i opted to buy a set of travel socks at the milan airport which helped relieve some of the soreness and blood pooling.
a final shout out to my colleague nate forbes who organized beautiful Colnagos for us to ride! if you ever find yourself in europe in the summertime or fall, look for a gran fondo race near you. we met a few cycling fans who were spending their summer traveling throughout europe and racing gran fondos in different cities and countries every weekend. i can't say i can argue with their thought process -- these rides allow you to see a part of the countryside usually reserved for picture books.