After months of training time had come. With 16 riders we set of to Milan for the Gran Fondo Milano Sanremo.
The riders are Karsten Lauvenberg, Ruud Snijders, Eugene de Ruiter, Patrick Zaat, Jos Ploum, Dennis Ernst, Maurice Cappa, Lei van Bun, Roel van Vliet, Roger Berendse, Roy Ploum, Pascal Frusch, Hub Gerats, Peter Mommertz, Maurice Houben and Moi, Patrick Gante.
After we had picked up the transporter bus on Thursday and packed our bikes and bags, the alarm clock went off on Friday morning 5: 00h. After a quick shower and breakfast it was of to Hoensbroek to pick up Dennis and the the transporter, that we had christened "the bus".
After we had picked up the other team members that were going by car, we set of for Milan. After the necessary stops we arrived in the afternoon in Milan. After the bikes were unloaded and were safely stored in the hotel, we went of to the city to do some carbo-loading. This while sipping a coke or beer à 16 € each.
Saturday: "Day off"
A nerv wrecking day. I did not get a single minute rest. Lots of dragging the bicycles and bags between the two hotels, getting the startnumbers and picking up the drivers of the car and Bus. Lots of issues getting the one of the drivers for the bus to register as 2nd driver. It took us till 21:00 to get things sorted and starting dinner. After dinner straight back to the hotel, pack bags and finally at 00: 00h we got into bed. Not the best preparation for a gran Fondo.
Sunday: Race Day
4:30 the alarm sounds. Washing up and int the bike gear. The "breakfast box" of the hotel was not woth of the name breakfast. Luckily I had brought some pre-baked pancakes. With full stomach to the hotel where the other riders stayed. Off to the start. The firts wave of the 768 participants started at 7:00, we were allowed to leave at 7:10. Immediately you notice that it is not a normal tour ride. Everyone is looking for his place in the pack of about 300 men. With at least 35,5km/h average and speeds that were often well above 40 and sometimes 50km/h we were passing through the Po plain to Ovada. The first resting place was on 128km from the start. Who needed a sanitary stop had a reall problem. Only Lei and Jos found their way with great difficulty back into the peloton. Maurice and Peter were stuck behind due to their stop. So I just rode 100km with a very painful blatter because I really wanted to stay in the peloton. I've never been so happy with a resting place!
As agreed, we waited at the rest place for the ones left behind. Jos still had to make the necessary repairs to his cassette and then as a group we went off to the 2nd challenge, the Passo del Turchino. We had to ride the Passo entirely in the rain, because it started raining shortly after the rest. After a climb of 26km from Ovada we reached the redeeming tunnel, which lead us to the descent towards Genoa. Since it was a very wet descent it was not easy with full carbon rims.
After the descent it turned out that we were only 7 of the 16 men, of which no one really wants to wait on the rest. Jos, Patrick Z., Dennis, Ruud, Lei, Roel and I raced onwards in direction of the next resting place, 90km further on. Soon we were only 6. and when Patrick Z. is going to make a sanitary stop at the foot of a climb, we remain with only 5 man. Ruud, Dennis, Roel, Lei and I ride in the direction of Sanremo. Spotorno, the next resting place, is where the bottles and stomachs are quickly refilled. With the 5 of us we ride hard toward the three Capi. With good turns by us 5, Dennis suddenly shouts that I should take it easy so the Italians can also take a turn in front. It turns out, that we have a group of about 30-40 Italians in our wheels who do not want to take over. After the necessary discussions, they take over the lead. But quickly average speed drops to 29km/h, so the "Jongen" train," as we were known in the group, takes up the the work in front but again and rumbles back towards the three Capi. After we had lost Ruud due to a chain drop, we arrive at the first of the three Capi, the Capo Mele. The Mele is the steepest of the three Capi with an average of 8.1%.
After the first few meters of the climb suddenly I get cramps in my legs. I let the four fellow riders go and drink and eat some gells. I noticed very quickly that the cramps are going away. At the top I already got back with my fellow travelers. Next one is the Capo Cervo, which we climb at a good pace. Not soon afterwards the final of the three Capi awaits, the Capo Berta. On top of the Capo Berta is the final resting place. The moment we want to continue, Ruud comes back into our group. We wait so he can replenish everything and the "Jongen" train, this time without Lei, is hurtling back to the final where all TCK men have been waiting for. La Cipressa and Poggio. Towards the Cipressa tension is rising. Will someone take off or will the real race start at the Poggio. I start my climb of the Cipressa and feel that the legs are still "good", at least if you can speak of good legs after 270km.
I notice that no one takes over the lead and look behind. My fellow riders are left behind ... doubts strikes. Am I riding to hard up the cipressa and will I loose on the Poggio? Nevertheless, I persevere and reach as first the top of the Cipressa. Immediately in the descent, I noticed that my brakes are no longer great. The wet descent of the Turchino and the Capis have taken their toll. Yet I go on. At the end of the descent I open the front brake as it was stuck. Suddenly I hear Roel behind me. He recouped his losses in the climb with a super descent. We race to the Poggio. Along the ride towards the Poggio Roel lets me know that he can not take over and he's empty. I tell him that he should just stay behind me.
And then it was there, the familiar cut to the right and we start the climb of the Poggio. The last climb of the day. Soon I notice that Roel stays behind in the climb. Still, I try to drive as fast as possible. Dennis and Ruud are somewhere behind me and I do not know how far. Time to look back I do not have. On top of the Poggio, the wind blows hard. It feels like I'm goinge backwards. Continue I think, drive! On the road 500m is written, soon it says 200 meters I think yes I am at the top, throw on the big ring and continue, only to find out that there still awaits a climb and again there is 500 meters and 200 meters down the road. Just a little more...Yeah, I've reached the top, on to the infamous descent of the Poggio. The descent feels good, but aluminum rims would have been better. At the very end of the descent suddenly Roel comes flying by... Full speed ahaed he drives to Sanremo. mmhhh apparently he is not as empty as he said. Full gas after in the chase. I'm getting closer, the traffic in Sanremo does not really help. At the start of the finish street I put in the sprint, full gas on the big ring I sprint past Roel... With 9:44:52 I'm first across the finish line, Roel 3 wheel lengths 9:44:54. What a day, what a finish. Eventually i became 261st of 768 participants.
One by one the others riders trickle in. After we said goodbye to the drivers who return to Milan by train, we leave towards the hotel. In the evening a quick bite to eat and then yet again to the hotel and to bed.
Monday: Check Out
After a top breakfast, Dennis and I are leaving a drizzly San Remo, to arrive two stops and 13 hours later in Hoensbroek unload the bikes. 01:00 I'm finally in my own bed. Broken but satisfied.
What an adventure !! Thanks guys, this weekend we will not soon forget!
See my ride details here:
Sun, 26 April