Velo Veneto - Ciclismo Italiano !

Stories from the Velo Veneto bike racing camp in Castelcucco, Italy

Name:
Location: San Francisco, California, United States

I'm a 50 year old kid who loves to race bikes. I operate a bike racing camp in Northern Italy. When not in Italy I have the good fortune of living in one of the best places to ride, the Northern California Wine Country.

Monday, July 21, 2008

GF Pinarello

by Bud Napolio
San Francisco, CA

What is a Gran Fondo? Is it a bicycle race? Well, sort of, but not in the way we typically think of races with categories of racers going off in waves with other racers in their categories (or maybe several categories combined). Is it like a century? Absolutely NOT, most centuries I’ve done have a span of time over which you can start and don’t keep track of your time and most people I’ve seen who do centuries are not rabid racers like the participants in a Gran Fondo are. In the end, in my opinion, a Gran Fondo is a race, a celebration of cycling and a marketing masterpiece (I saw more Pinarellos on this one ride than I’ve seen if you counted up every Pinarello I’ve ever seen and added them all together). It’s also a great focus for anyone who is serious about riding a racing bicycle and riding it fast. It’s a big deal in Italy where thousands of people train for and race in Gran Fondos. There are professional teams that compete in Gran Fondos, there are magazines fully devoted to Gran Fondos. There are Gran Fondos that take place in many parts of Italy .

The format of the Pinarello Gran Fondo is really pretty simple. 4,000 people start in two waves, the first wave is for the 209km (130 mile) “lungo – long” course, the second wave is for the 125 km (78 mile) “media – medium” course). Each rider has a timing chip on a velcro strap that he/she attaches somewhere on the lower part of either their bodies or their bicycles – most people seemed to attach them to one of their ankles. The timing chip records when you cross the start line, as you can imagine it takes that many people a few minutes to cross the start line – so it’s nice that your timing chip doesn’t begin to register until you actually cross the start line. It also records your time at various checkpoints along the course, and, of course, your finishing time. It’s all pretty high-tech. There are narrow strips of blue carpet that run across the course at each checkpoint, and at the finish – you can hear a little “beep” as you and your timing chip cross each checkpoint. Once you cross the start line, you ride along with an ever-changing and never-ending group of riders as fast as you’d like, or can, until you cross the finish line. Then you hang out in a giant tent eating good food, drinking beer, having a caffe’, maybe a gelato and watching all the people and their cool bicycles, kits and gear mill around with tired but happy, tanned and healthy faces.

Team Velo Veneto consisted of two maniacs from Manhattan – George and Bill, who were each doing the 130 mile long course (which also had 2 giant 10km (6 mile) climbs) and the only slightly less crazed but larger group of us doing the 78 mile medium course – Tom (from Terre Haute, Indiana) Jim and Jeff (from Portland, Oregon), Alex (from Hermisillo, Mexico), Simon (from Southern California), Il Capo Pat (Velo Veneto Directeur Sportive from Castelcucco and Santa Rosa, CA) and me (from San Francisco). We left the Hotel Monte Grappa at 5:30 AM for the roughly one hour drive to Treviso – the start time for the long course was 7:00 and for the medium course was 7:30.

After a brief warm-up and restroom hunt, we took our places toward the back off the mob at the start line – we were way behind the start line. The announcer was going on in Italian in a voice and manner similar to that of an announcer with the World Wide Wrestling Federation. I think he was announcing some of the dignitaries who were doing the Fondo and generally just trying to whip the crowd into a frenzy (the crowd seemed pretty calm though). I heard later that both 5 time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain and former classics superstar Michele Bartoli where participating in the race but I never saw either of them. Finally, the long awaited countdown to the start occurred as the frenzied MC shouted “cinque, quattro, tre, due, uno, BANG”……..………………………..and then nothing happened – we didn’t move an inch, we looked up at the mass of helmets as far as we could see and there was no movement at all, we waited a minute and still nothing. Could we have mis-interpreted the countdown? Kind of hard to mis-interpret that! Finally, we noticed some movement – then in a few minutes, we were clipping in and beginning to slowly ride toward the start line. As we approached the start line we began to ride a bit faster, then shortly after the start line we were suddenly doing about 25-27 mph in a mob of hundreds of people. Just think about that for a second, you’re maybe 3257th wheel in a giant peloton moving through the fairly wide streets of Treviso, Italy with absolutely no automobile traffic – all intersections are closed off, no cars are parked on the streets, you have the entire street – curb-to-curb, you’re zipping along listening to the buzz of 8,000 skinny, high pressure tires on the road; ahead of, and completely surrounding you is an ocean of brightly colored jersey, helmets and bikes, all of your senses are on high alert, your blood is coursing through your body – YOU’RE FULLY ALIVE, YOUR ENTIRE BEING IS COMPLETELY IN THE MOMENT, YOU’RE IN ITALY RIDING YOUR BIKE AND RIDING IT FAST!!! It’s hard to capture that feeling without actually doing a Gran Fondo.

After a short while, the giant mob began to break up into sub-groups, each in itself quite large. Pat, Alex, Jim and I stayed together and sort of leap-frogged our way up from group to group – we were always moving forward, no group passed us, if a faster group came along, we’d just hop on the train until a faster group came by, this pattern repeated itself several times until finally there was a team that was smoking fast – we jumped in with that group and stayed with them until we hit the first climb (I don’t think our staying with that group had anything to do with the supremely fit, tanned women with perfect bottoms and legs wearing the short-shorts, in fact, I didn’t even notice them).

The first climb was tricky – Alex and I were climbing relatively faster than most and tried to move up on the climb – however, the road was narrow and completely full of riders. The left side of the road was the “passing lane”, we got into this lane and whenever we saw daylight we darted into the opening and moved up as best we could – it’s amazing that we somehow managed to reach the summit together given all the traffic we had to maneuver through. Of course, what goes up, must come down – we now had the prospect of descending a narrow twisty road that was about 80% blocked. The descent was surprisingly fast and safe – maybe two “yahoos” were taking unsafe chances but the rest of us descended quite quickly and comfortably.

The pattern above continued for the next few climbs. Items of note were: there was an “official” descending with us on his Vespa, the scooter just couldn’t cut the switchbacks the way the bicycles could, so on a few of the turns the underside of its floorboards skidded along the pavement letting sparks fly and creating that flinty smell of sparkling metal. Alex and I quickly got by the Vespa before it went down and stung us. As Alex and I sped along, an hour into the ride, we saw a Velo Veneto jersey up ahead – “that crafty Pat, he found a way to snake ahead” I thought, however, when we caught up with our teammate it turned out to be not the young and spry Pat, but 65 year-old Simon. Simon had started a bit ahead of us and was smoking along in a pack at 25-26 mph – how many 65 year olds do you know who can do that? Simon looked “molto italiano” in his Velo Veneto team kit on his custom Cavalera (Michele Cavalera is a master framebuilder who has his shop in the area). Alex and I hooked up with Simon and we stayed together until the next climb – as we approached the climb we could see that it zig-zagged up the side of a forested mountain – it was really cool to look up the mountain and see the road and its 8 or so switchbacks covered and colored by the never-ending line of cyclists. By this point in time, it was easier to move up in the group on the climbs. Just about every group we got into (after the climbs) had a handful of older guys looking smooth and relaxed – by older, I mean 60 +, truly inspirational.

There were a handful of ristori (rest stops) along the way, they consisted of a throng of volunteers who had cups and pitchers of water – the first one was a bit tricky to navigate because a lot of people stopped to grab a cup of water or fill up a water bottle. It wasn’t in my plan to stop at any of the ristori but by the second one (maybe halfway through the ride), I had already drained my two water bottles and was feeling a bit off. I told Alex that I needed to stop for water, we stopped and it took my a few minutes to fill my two water bottles – Alex and I lost each other at the rest stop so I was on my own for the rest of the ride.

I began to feel better and better such that when I hit the last climb I was completely on fire and in the zone – the final climb is 3 kilometers long followed by a very fast descent and then 20-25 kilometers of flat roads to the finish. Pat had taken us up the final hill and down the descent earlier in the week which was a great idea – I knew exactly how to pace the climb and what the descent was like. I literally passed over 200 riders on the final climb – I learned that I just needed to ride up the left side of the road shouting “Ocio” (sp?) which I believe literally means “eye” but in this context means “Please to give some space to the American who thinks he’s alone out in front on the Alpe d’Huez stage of the Tour de France.” People were really good about making space and even yelling out “vai, vai – go, go”. I crested the climb feeling great but remembering Pat telling us that on the descent last year he was doing 50 mph when he felt a hand push him along because he wasn’t descending fast enough. I really didn’t want that to happen so just before the descent I jumped into the 300 hundred meters of space between two groups of about 20 riders – I went by the first group figuring I could comfortably do the descent and then bridge up to the front group on the flats, or wait for the rear group to catch me. Well the plan worked for about half of the descent – somehow I caught the front group and flew by them at over 50 mph – wow, these few weeks in Italy have really helped my descending!!

So many cool things had already happened in the Gran Fondo and there were only 20 flat, seemingly uneventful kilometers ahead – but this is Italy and unexpected pleasures and experiences literally await around ever corner – the highlight of my ride was yet to come.

Shortly after finishing the descent I was briefly alone, she saw me from the second floor window of her expansive family villa, she leaned out amongst the brilliant flowers along the bottom of the window in her low-cut, tight blouse, she had a bottle of Sangiovese in her olive skinned left hand and waved, then she called to me “ciclisto, ciclisto bello – come here please, I need you” ……………er, well not really! It was more like this:

I was briefly alone and saw a couple of guys from the same team up ahead – something like “UC Castelfranco”. These guys were roleurs – big guys (6 feet, 170+ pounds) who looked like they could lay down some smack on the flats, I guess they were in their 30s. I bridged up to them and immediately the three of us took short 20-30 second pulls at 25 mph, we were flying along, working together when we passed another rider in a nice green and blue kit (think Sprite can), he latched onto the back but didn’t take any pulls – I couldn’t really see his face I just knew that he was there and suffering to stay on – as we approached a round-about he was just about pinched off the back, however, after the round-about, he was right back on our wheels – he took the slightly shorter left side route around the round-about (pretty crafty). I took a pull then pulled over to let one of the UC Castelfranco quarter horses through. No one came through so I flicked my elbow and moved over in a very obvious fashion – no one came through. I looked back and the quarter horses were nowhere in sight but the Sprite can was on my wheel, I got a good hard look at him – the guy was ancient – his skin was brown and wrinkled, he didn’t have sunglasses on so I could see that the whites of his eyes were yellowed like an old newspaper, his face was strained, there was a large protruding vein running diagonally down the center of his forehead, the carotid arteries running down the sides of his dark, loose-skinned, wrinkled neck were pulsing – I was actually frightened for a moment – it was like I came up upon one of those unliving/undead pirates from the “Pirates of the Carribean” movies. He said something to me in Italian – I said, “mi dispiace, non parlo Italiano – I’m sorry I don’t speak Italian” (I used that term almost as much as “un cappuccino per favore”). He indicated to me by grabbing his leg and yelping that one of the quarter horses had cramped up. So it was just me and him. There was a group of about 40 riders about 300 to 400 meters ahead of us – we caught glimpses of them on the long straights or when the route took 90 degree turns – I motioned to him to sit on my wheel and I would try to pull him up to the group. I now had a focus, and, I thought, a noble purpose. He gave me the thumbs up and we began the pursuit. I took it up to 25 mph and looked under my arm to see if he was there – I could see his front wheel about 4 inches from my rear wheel. I took it up to 26 and did another check, still there – we stayed at 26 for about 5 minutes and he was still there, looking smooth but not particularly comfortable – yet he still gave me a thumbs up – a few more minutes and I took it up to 27, the underarm check showed that he was about 2 inches from my wheel – we were really close to the big group of 40 now – I gently nudged it up to 28, yes 28 mph and here’s the Ancient Mariner in the same air bubble with me, his wheel was only an inch or so from mine. We did it!!! We caught up to the back of the group and I kept the momentum up until we were mid-pack, then I pulled over – he rode up next to me and gently but firmly took my arm (which somehow transported us to a very quiet place), he looked me right in the eyes and said something like “grazie, grazie, tu molto forte - thank you, thank you, you are very strong”. I made up Italian and said somelike like “e tu molto forte, con complementi, molto respecto per tu, tu un inspirazione” he understood and his eyes shone – I asked him “quanti anni – how many years do you have”? “Settanta – Seventy” was his response (from the neck up he actually looked older but from the neck down he could have been my age). He rode like he was born on the bike, smooth and relaxed with a perfect pedal stroke despite the fact that he was suffering immensely – I was a little alarmed at how close he rode to my rear wheel but he just did it – which made me focus on keeping all of my moves super smooth – so he helped me too.

He and I stayed safely in the big group until we rode through the narrow archway in the old wall around Treviso and across the finish line in front of the Pinarello store. We said our goodbyes and he left an indelible mark on me – I’d like to ride like that, right here in Italy when I’m 70 – it’s not just a hobby or a sport, it’s a lifestyle and a culture and I’m in it for the long haul!!!!

Results:

I finished in an official time of 3:33:55, my cyclometer put me at an average speed of 21.8 mph, I was 522nd overall and 65th in my age group (whatever age group that is). Interesting note – about 10 minutes after he finished the Gran Fondo, while sitting under the giant pasta feed tent, Simon received a text message that said something like, “Congratualtions Simon, you have finished the Gran Fondo in 3:41:31, you were in 726th place overall and 13th in your age group.” How’s that for high tech quick results – I guess the timing chip sends the signal to the Gran Fondo computer which records the time and placement data and had Simon’s contact information in it such that it could send him his results immediately – even before he stopped sweating!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

UDACE Race on Croce d'Aune




By "Guest Blogger"
Bud Napolio
San Francisco, CA

Below is a long report, not just on a race, but on the whole experience of racing in Italy – the executive summary is that I finished 8th in the Veterani Category (ages 40-47), at 47 I was at the upper end of the age group. The course was a challenging roughly 20 kilometer (12 mile) loop that we did 3 times followed by a roughly 10 kilometer (6 mile) climb up the fabled Croce D’Aune (the climb where Tullio Campagnolo had the idea for the quick release and thus hatched his company). The 20 K loops had everything - hills, cobblestones, flats, roundabouts with “traffic furniture”, sections that went through towns where the road was only about 5 riders wide as it squeezed through ancient buildings, fast descents, a GPM (KOM), false flats, tricky tight corners. The 10 K climb was steep and tough with lots of switchbacks and has been used in the Giro d’Italia on several occasions.

I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful this experience was and the decent result was just icing on the cake. Pat asked me to be the guest blogger for the Velo Veneto Blog, so that’s why I rambled on in the full report below. So for the none or two of you who would like all the gory details read on:

Race Report: Pedavena Race

Sunday July 13, 2008

Racing in Italy is just plain different.

Registration:
Team Velo Veneto showed up at the race venue which started at the 110 yr old brewery in Pedavena near the town of Feltre in the foothills of the Dolomites. We were there a little early and registration had not yet opened. I asked one of the women at the registration table “Scusi, dove bagno? – excuse me, where is the bathroom?” She got up from here chair, smiled at me and then practically took me by the hand all the way around to the back of the building. She took me right to the door of the men’s room and then asked me in Italian, with hand motions that I understood, if I could find my way back. Oh yeah, and she was gorgeous in a very natural, non-put-together, non-made-up way: jeans, a loose fitting silvery-grey T shirt and her hair up in a bun. Then as I was washing my hands the janitor came in and started yelling at me something I couldn’t understand. “Mi dispiace, non parlo italiano – I’m sorry I don’t speak Italian” I said. It didn’t slow him down, he yelled at me “Chiuso, Chiuso – closed, closed”. I repeated my line again – “Mi dispiace.” and rushed back to my warmer, prettier new friend.

I found my way back to registration and told Velo Veneto Director Sportive Pat Carroll “I might need your help filling out the registration form.” “What registration form?” he asked, “They take your racing license, it has all the information they need, they don’t have you sign waivers or anything like that here.”

So I got into the registration line for my category – my racing age is 47, so I am a Veterani, which is ages 40-47, so I’d be the old man of the group. There were two registration lines, one for the 4 or 5 categories that exist for those under 47 (juniores, dillentantes, under 23’s, etc – or something like that) and one for the age groups over 47 and the women. Since I was 4th in line I was given number 4, the guys in front of me, #’s 2 and 3, had butts about as wide as my thumb and looked ready to rock. I gave the lovely woman my license and she gave me a number that was different from the numbers we use in California in a few respects – it was fairly small, it was more cloth-like than paper-like and it had been used many times before as one could tell by the many pin holes in it. She took my license and said “otto euro – 8 euros”, that’s right 8 euros to race, not $30 to $40, and no paperwork to fill out.

The Course:
A humdinger!!! 3 roughly 20 kilometer giri (loops) with hills, cobblestones, flats, roundabouts with “traffic furniture”, sections that went through towns where the road was only about 5 riders wide as it squeezed through ancient buildings, fast descents, a GPM (KOM), false flats, tricky tight corners – it had everything. Then after the 3 loops we did a roughly 10 kilometer climb up the fabled Croce D’Aune. It was on the Croce D’Aune where Tullio Campagnolo came up with the idea for the quick release and the company Campagnolo was born. There’s a monument to him and the company at the top of the climb.

While we were getting our kits on near the Velo Veneto Van, one of the volunteers in an orange vest came over to talk to us. I think he heard us speaking English and thought we were a curiosity so he came over to check us out. It didn’t matter that he didn’t speak English – through Pat, and his able assistant, David Covington’s translations, we found out that his name was “Mamo”. Mamo gave us some pointers on the course – “watch out for the descent that comes halfway through the course, it’s fast and in a forest so there may be slippery leaves all over the road. The final climb up the Croce D’Aune is very steep at the beginning and at the end, but fairly “pedalable” in the middle section.

The Start
The skies were dark and there was loud, threatening thunder. All of the categories would start together and the placings would be picked separately. That meant us Veterani (40-47), Gentlemen (48-55) and Super Gentlemen (56+) would have to deal with the young budding pros out on the course.

The way the race started is there was a guy on a PA, he called up every single rider by name and race number – “Buda Napolio, numero Quattro”. There was another guy with a clipboard and a whistle – as each rider showed up on the start line, this guy would toot his whistle to acknowledge the rider checking in and then cross the name off the list on his clipboard. I wasn’t fully aware of how the system worked so there was a bit of a delay between the calling of my name and the whistle toot acknowledging my taking my place on the start line as I stood in the back waving my arm when they called my name. I wanted to start in the back to stay out of the way of the young bucks but my numero 4 meant that I was called up to start in the very front row.

As I stood there waiting for them to finish calling up the 100 or so racers, it started to rain. I was able to move back a few inches so that I was under the huge inflatable “Sportful” start arch. I was in Italy , I was in the front row, there was a herd of young bucks behind me, the course was technical, tricky and hard, it was raining and I was pretty darn nervous.

David had my camera and was able to capture my apprehension in about a dozen photos.

The race began with a promenade behind a small bevy of motorcycles and a lead car or two. They don’t do road closures here, and there is no center line rule. They do sort of a rolling closure and shepard cars off the road as we go – there were many cars on the left hand side of the road that had to stop to let us pass – most of the drivers sat patiently in their cars and more than a few got out of their cars to cheer us on – that was really cool.

The Race:
The speed during the promenade was about 15 mph, for about 8 minutes or so we rolled out of the brewery parking lot and through town. For this early on a rainy Sunday morning there were a surprising number of townsfolk out to watch the promenade and cheer us on. Then the lead car and motorcycle armada sped up and it was “game on”. Immediately, and I do mean immediately, 4 riders jumped off the front hard and the speed went from 15 to close to 30 mph, we quickly pulled them back in, but from that point on (i.e., for the next 2 hours or so) the race was fast and hard. I drifted to about 1/3 of the way back in the field and hung on for dear life. The challenge was to maintain the pace, avoid the road hazards (traffic furniture, cars pulled over on the left side of the road, the narrowing of the road through the old town, the fast descent (which wasn’t so slippery) and be very watchful as any gaps could quickly convert from a few seconds to minutes. One several occasions I saw a gap open up ahead of me – when this happened I waited a few seconds to see if someone would close the gap, but if not I bridged up to close the gap. On two occasions I almost got pinched off the back of what was beginning to be a leading group but I was able to hang on. My teammate, Alex, wasn’t so lucky in this respect – he got pinched off the back and ended up in a chase group that finished 5 minutes behind the lead group

At one point, I was suffering from the pace and drifting toward the back of the lead group, I was last in the line and considering easing up. All of a sudden the church bells from a local church tower began to ring – “Dude, you’re racing, IN ITALY , how cool is that, dig in man” Inspired by this divine intervention I found my way to the middle of the lead group. I was really pleased that I could hang on to the lead group given the difficulty and technical nature of the course and the fact that there were plenty of young bucks in the group. Somehow, each lap felt easier than the one before it, although Pat and David informed me that our splits per lap were incredibly consistent.

The racers in the pack were very smooth and safe and had perfect etiquette, any road hazard was translated through the pack, a few guys bumped elbows here and there and apologized to each other or made a joke about it by popping their elbows out and looking side-to-side like a gorilla ready to rumble. One guy who was in front of me held out his arm with his hand turned backward to me as if to say “clear this space”, he then took a quick check behind him to see that me and the other riders understood and proceeded to blow his nose into the dead space behind him.

I managed to hang on to the lead group for the last lap and was thinking, I’d be really happy if this race just ended after the third lap without having to climb the 10 kilometers up the Croce D’Aune. I had already been redlined for an hour and a half and was thrilled to have hung on to the lead group. But climb we must.

As soon as we hit the base of the climb the field splintered, I was about mid-pack when we hit the climb and just set out at a high tempo – a handful of guys jumped at the bottom of the climb. “It’s a long climb, there’s no way they can keep that pace” I thought, well I was about 90% wrong, I never saw most of those guys again. However, in the early part of the climb, I was able to begin picking off a few riders either alone on in clumps. Then things sort of stabilized. I couldn’t tell who was in which class, all I knew was that those of us who were 47 and under had 2 digit numbers and those over 47 had three digit numbers. It didn’t really matter though, I was racing in Italy and that was an end in itself.

As we climbed there were about 4 of us in a clump, that skinny #3 from the registration line, a guy with a frame and jersey that looked Eastern European (Croatia isn’t that far away) – the lettering on his jersey and frame had P’s and O’s and what looked like upside down K’s and a bunch of consonants without vowels to interrupt their flow. We were picking off riders but not many, finally, this little group split as skinny #3 and me rolled away – we took turns leading each other and then we rolled up to his teammate, even skinnier #2 – 2 and 3 had a brief exchange and then 3 and I rolled on. Somehow, we started talking with each other between breaths, I asked him “quanti chilometri a il fin – how many kilometers to the finish?” He thought 3 or 4 – we both let out an “UGH”, then we rounded two more switchbacks and he said “Americano – ultimo chilimetro” as he pointed to a sign on the side of the road. “Grazie” I said as I upped the pace a bit – he sat on my wheel for a while, but by 500 meters to go he was gapped. It felt a bit odd as we were sort of temporary “amici – friends” but hey this was a race. I saw the 300m, 200m and 100m signs but could not see the finishing arch. “Uh oh”, I thought, “what if the finish is not just around the corner – I’m burning my last match here”, fortunately, I rounded the last switchback to see the 50 m sign and the long awaited finishing arch. As I approached the finish line and official called out “numero Quattro – Buda Napolio” on the PA.

Results/Awards:
After a brief cooldown, David took my number off my jersey to return it to the officials in exchange for getting my license back. It turns out the official who had my license was the natural beauty from registration – that David, he’s no fool.

After maybe half an hour or so, the results were taped to the wall of the caffe, bar, ristortante at the top of the Croce D’Aune not far from the monument to Tullio Campagnolo. They only list the top 10 in each category, if you’re not in the top 10, you don’t know where you finished. Alex finished 8th in the Gentlemen category, he’s 52 and an incredible climber, I’m sure he would have been top 5 if he didn’t get pinched off on the loops back in town. I also finished 8th in the Veterani category which I’m incredibly pleased with. This really felt like a hard circuit race and then a hard hillclimb race rolled into one.

We waited around for the awards ceremony, there were plenty of “Sportful” bags filled with various items ranging from Sportful products to groceries, there were huge bottles of what looked like either apple cider or moonshine grappa and other items in the back of the hatchback that served as the lead vehicle (complete with the open roof from which, during the race, an official waving a traffic paddle of some sort stood looking and sounding very, well, official).

They were calling out the results counting down from tenth place to first, they started with the younger categories and after they called out the rider’s place, race number and name, the riders would walk down to the officials and collect his prizes. They got to the Veterani Category and said “8th place – Buda Napolino – numero quattro”, I took a few hesitant steps forward as I realized that the riders in 10th and 9th place hadn’t collected their booty. “Well they must have left” I thought, so I walked down to the awards presenters in full view of all. I said “Bud Napolio, numero Quattro, otto” They said what I thought was – “we’re on 7th right now, your award is next.” So I stood there like an idiot, while they called 7th, 6th, 5th, etc. I figuratively had my hand out waiting for my bag of goodies when Pat called out to me and waved for me to come over. I left my idiot spotlight next to the presenters to head over to Pat – Pat told me “they are only awarding prizes to the top 7, but they are recognizing the top 10.” Oh that’s what they said – duh!

In the end, I am really pleased with the race and the whole experience. Regardless of the result, it was definitely a “peak experience.” Finishing in the top 10 on such a challenging course, in Northern Italy - the epicenter of competitive cycling was just the icing on the cake.

It was a happy ride back to the Hotel/Bar/Ristorante Monte Grappa for yet another delicious Italian lunch and shared bottle of red wine followed by a sweet, delicious nap.


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