A first assignment in the land of Dante Alighieri, where history is never far... And indeed, the Granfondo Citta di Pisa pays homage to this city which attracts tourists from all over the world, with a start through the city centre and its monuments including the leaning tower of the Piazza dei Miracoli. 6 kilometres in 25 minutes as appetizers, and for the UCI Eco-Cyclo Team’s first Italian adventure, a very wet affair. Dante’s Inferno came to mind, with rain, hail, and to top it off a mighty wind on the last section of the course which brought back memories of the 2011 Issoire to St Flour Tour Stage in 2012, no less...
As a personal preference, I went for the “Percorsi Medio”, a wise choice: What was described as a low pass to start with ended up with 8 kilometres at more than 8% of average inclination and the expected 103 kilometres became 118 with the last 15 straight into the wind. Having made it in one piece was achievement enough for me. Not alone in this, I even had to get off the pedals when the wind was at its strongest on our return to Pisa: never very enjoyable.
Concerning our assignment, little rubbish ended up in the Tuscany countryside (I counted around twenty on the course). However, I was rather surprised when travelling in a small group of 10 cyclists including 6 members of the local Pisa Club, the call of “mangiare” saw their single lady rider reach for her sandwich and happily dispose of its whole wrapping, bit by bit, on the side of the road. So much for “not doing abroad what you wouldn’t do at home”. So much also for the theory that Testosterone levels have a lot to answer for in such behaviours.
A shame really as we had a good level of feminine presence, with 7 young ladies from the national Russian team and a rather long legged Miss Italy always at the head of the race (though not on a bike).
Also visible were a large number of still foaming anti-puncture sprays left by the side of the road, further proof that the weather conditions had an impact on cyclists. However, the frustration of a puncture should not detract from re-pocketing the used equipment, especially since this only returns it to its original location. As to the potential toxicity of the foam for the local biomass, it might need some looking into…
In terms of organisation, everything was in place to support the riders, even in heavy rain. Olive oil and local red wine offered, numerous refill stations (I counted 5 on the average course), and up to 3 and 4 flag waiving guides posted at each crossroad.
Our discovery of cyclosport in Italy was thus an enjoyable experience, even if Italian as the only available language made communication more difficult, all the way to within the pack. The reputation of Italian cycling is indeed not overdone, which makes the achievements of the 2 out of 6 “Patrollers” which reached the podium even more remarkable. Congratulations to all of the Patrouilleurs which truly “got their shirts wet” and travelled more than 1,000 kilometres to fight the good fight, car-sharing of course.
And thanks to the organisers for their great welcome and support. Only the weather did not play along, but not much that we could have done about it… or can we?