Sunday 29 April 2007

7th Giro Ciclistico della Penisola Sorrentina e Costiera Amalfitana - Part 1

A grand sounding title. It wasn't a "giro" lasting 3 weeks like the Giro d'Italia. This was a one-day race. Well, the course wouldn't take all day to do - it was 117km. It was grand in local terms though, as there were 700 riders and it involved racing around the Amalfi and Sorrento coast.

I didn't really know what to expect. A couple of years ago when I was considering doing this race I emailed the organiser saying to him I thought it would take me about 5 hours to cover the distance, and asked if this would be within the cut-off time for the event. He replied by saying "I hope you can do it in 4hours !!" Reading that as I sign I would be out of my league I decided not to humiliate myself so didn't enter the race.

But this time around, on the Thursday that I got there I phoned the organiser, asking if I could still enter the Giro. He was ok with it. He actually sent a friend of his, Federico over to my apartment on Friday morning to register me for the race. When he arrived he took the time to explain the event to me, and all the procedures etc. Now that's what I call good service. He also said to me that the cut-off time was 6 and a half hours (though the fast guys would take around 4 hours). That made me feel alot happier about my ability to get through the race.
I'd even managed to get chatting to the local bike hire shop owner, an ex road racer. He told me that there wasn't really anything to worry about in the race. It's not the alps. "You don't need anything more than 39 x 18". When I showed him my compact gearing he laughed. "No, you don't need all that - anyway it's all about the legs, not the bike !" I laughed with him, even though I didn't take his word for it.

On Saturday I then went up to the event HQ to sign on for the race, collect my race number/timing chip and goodie bag. The event HQ was only 5 miles away in Sant'Agata sui due Golfi. However the journey was all uphill. I was going to ride there, but a combination of feeling under the weather and the weather being a bit wet, made me decide to take the bus. As the bus stuggled up the road I had a real feeling of dread at the prospect of having to ride up this road tomorrow morning to make the 8am start.

Once at the race HQ I found there was real chaos and disorganisation. The registration took place in a church hall in the village centre. The room was just a big crowd of men apparently "queueing" to get their bits and pieces for the race. Italian blokes signing up to do a bike race. They didn't look like the lean mean stylish types like Ivan Basso or Mario Cipollini. They were just short, mainly middle aged blokes, dressed in a way that didn't show off any sporty physique. The posters in the room were the only sign that that this was the event HQ for the cyclosportive. It could have been a working men's club !

The registration process was painfully slow. There was only one person manning each station, and as this event had alot of teams riding, it meant that alot of people were there to register their whole team - as many as 15 people. This meant the queue made very slow progress. I was there just to register myself, but had to wait my turn patiently.

There I was in a small village in southern Italy where there were no non-Italians around as far as I could see. I felt nervous about what to say. I could only speak touristic Italian, and hardly anyone spoke English. The men must have found it a bit strange that I was in amongst them, also hoping to do the race ! A man pointed out in broken English what I needed to do, so I just "queued" the best I could. People began to get a bit impatient with waiting, and there were a few arguments about queue-jumping. One guy had a go at me, but I stood my ground. Sometimes in these situations it's an advantage to not understand what people are saying !

Finally, after more than an hour I was given my race pack and goodie bag and literally managed to nab the bus back to Sorrento by the skin of my teeth.

I was keen to get home, do a carbo-load and get an early night so that I could make the 5.45am alarm. Here was hoping my muscles would be awake enough to start the climb up that hill at 6.45!

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