Monday, April 30, 2007

The Gran Fondo

This past Friday afternoon, we found out about a HUGE group ride that will come right by the house on Sunday. It's 140km, supported, and the "thing" to do if you like to ride your bike and are in Italy. It's called the Gran Fondo. We all decided that would be super fun, so our "SRM house Dad" signed us up.

I was really excited. I love "Ride the Rockies" kinds of rides. Everyone starts when they want to, goes at their own pace, and stopping at the aid stations is a must. I was really excited for Italian aid stations (would there be cappuccino?). What other kinds of yummies would there be?

Saturday night we got our entry packet. Instead of a T-shirt and water bottle, it was filled with a number for your jersey, a number for your bike and a timing chip. A timing chip?! What kind of "Ride the Rockies" ride is this?

The next morning as we drove to the start, we pass not one typical "RTR" rider (no panniers). Instead all the participants are there with teams, some are warming up on trainers, others are getting their legs rubbed and we didn't see a single female.

Despite all this, I was still planning on aid stations and a "RTR" type of ride. The plan was to ride with Brooke and we both would "stop and smell the flowers" on the ride. With camera in hand, we rode to the start 10 min before it was supposed to start.

Here is what we saw:

Our SRM "house Dad" told the announcer who we were and he had us come right to the front of the start. See the red timing mats under the blue banner? That is where we (the 5 U.S. girls) started. I don't have a picture of that because all of a sudden I realized this was no "RTR" kind of ride. We were placed in front of 2,990 foaming-at-the-mouth, big-ego men who were there to race each other (the other 10 participants were the women). As we stood on the red mats, I gave my camera to Frank and got really nervous. It felt like we were in the running of the bulls.

The gun went off and all 3,000 of us started. Fast! After 5km of racing, tangling handlebars with a guy and seeing 3 crashes one of which tried to involve me and did involve the under-23 World Champion I decided I wanted no part of this "race". It was the worst male ego trip I have ever seen. When you risk crashing yourself and another (especially a girl) in a for fun race, that is when you know your ego is too big. I had men taking my wheel, yelling at me and trying to prove they were better than me.

Despite these negatives, it was a neat ride. I saw amazing scenery, tons of people were there to support their big-egoed loved ones and I did stop at the one aid station and ate 2 chocolate cookies, a dried fig the size of my fist (not really, but it was big and really good), and filled both my water bottles with fizzy water, of course as this is Europe.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like quite a "Ride the Rockies" European-style, Alison! Glad you didn't get hurt!! I love keeping up with you; thanks for your great blog! Your Mom and I are having fun following you & Jason. I hear you're headed our way soon. Safe travels, and hope to see you!
Love, Joanne

Anonymous said...

I worked with your dad at ATC & Time Warner. Saw him recently in Herdon, VA and got an update on your racing. Doing great! Enjoyed your pictures w/ Chippo. I'm a recreational (two-time RTR rider) cyclist. Enjoy Europe!

Steve J