The race that was … that wasn’t.
My race across Italy was a great success in many ways yet so disappointing and frustrating in others.
The headlines are – 400 miles covered in 35 hours and over £1600 raised for Cancer research.
So the race itself. My physical preparation and state of mind were great. That part couldn’t have gone any better and I felt great flying out to Italy. My mechanic and crew member from Leeds wasn’t so lucky. He missed his flight then got detained by police overly complaining at the airport! Not the best start!
The morning of the race I sat on a bike on the road for the first time in over 19 months! I’d not trained or ridden in over a year and a half! Instead training indoors and in spin classes getting myself into the best shape in a disciplined and controlled environment. Having got myself ready, I nearly missed my start time! I started ten minutes earlier than I thought, left my sunglasses in a shop in the rush to get back, and didn’t have time to put sun cream on! It was only sunny and 21 degrees!
Off we went. I felt great, despite a couple of wrong turns due to some dodgy mapping! Within a couple of hours I’d reached the start of the longest climb of the race. A near continuous climb to a ski resort that was over 24 miles long! After 15 hours I’d covered 200 miles and three monster climbs. People were already starting to drop out of the race but I was well and truly there and going well.
I reached the halfway point hours inside the cut off point required to avoid disqualification. I was going well and time was on my side. Then the early hours of the first night hit, and a cold I’ve never felt. A moist horrible cold that cut right through you along with patchy freezing fog. It nearly wiped me out. It just made me want to sleep!! For hours I battled slowly through till sunlight hoping the sunshine would lift me. It did and as I finally woke back up I realised just how not having time to put sun cream on the previous day had cost me. My arms and legs were so burnt! Strangely I couldn’t feel the burn. Just adrenaline I guess!
I had lost time through the night and as more racers dropped out of the race through illness, injury or fatigue I realised I was going to have to be strong to make the 42 hour timed deadline, but I was strong and holding the averages needed. The climbs and mountains were coming thick and fast as the second evening was entered. In warm evening sunshine I started a ten mile climb in shorts and t shirt. The climb finished in a freezing (still in season) ski resort! I then had 10km to descend to the final time station and that would give me around 7 hours to race hell for leather the final hundred miles to make the end of the race. With my speed rising there was nothing to suggest I wouldn’t finish in time … although I knew it would be very close.
The plan was to get to the final time station, sign myself in and get away ASAP. I arrived utterly frozen having descended from a ski resort at an average over 30kmph down simply the most dangerous road I’ve ever ridden in my life. Holes in the road, rocks from landslips across the road itself, and me reaching speeds of up to 50kmph trying to avoid them! Crazy conditions.
I arrived at the time station (A café in a quaint valley village) to find no one there. I sat in the warm van while the crew phoned race HQ to find out what was happening and where people were! Then the news … the organisers had decided, based on their calculations, they didn’t think I would finish in time so they “Finished me” – disqualified. While the race was still on going with me still standing good to go and over 7 hours remaining. Officially I was told I could carry on to the finish but I still wouldn’t be recognised as a finisher. Why would I want to do that? They had given up on me and gone home.
I was utterly gutted. There was no mention of any time limit for the final time station, so even if I got there with two minutes of the whole race remaining that would still count right? I wasn’t even acknowledged as arriving at the final time station despite there being over 7 hours to the race end. It was just so disappointing.
Sure I’m not an elite rider and I was never going to compete with the top 10 but this was a story for the everyman. With the live tracking it would have been great late drama. An hour to go … can he cover 20+ miles etc. It was just a horrible end to a great race.
I guess I’ll just have to go back next year and make sure there aren’t any time issues … and make sure some bugger stays at that time station until whatever time!
A few days on and the standard endurance riding ailments and injuries are clearing up nicely and I will be back in moderate training within a couple of weeks while sourcing something else later in the summer. Reaching 400 miles in the National 24 hour time trial looks tasty!! ;oJ