I was born in Sardinia, Mediterranean island extremely hot and dry, we rarely see any clouds (to say that I am supposed to be able to support the heat).

Being an island relatively close to Tuscany we (the islanders) often reach the continent via one of Tuscan ports so I’ve been there many times but I never realized how hot could get around the southern hills of that region in July.

After the Cronoscalata Pantani (I reported about some days ago) I, my son and Dino (Minnesotan with Viking origins, not so compatible with over 90s) have been riding up and down for 2 days struggling to find water to refill our bottles, I adjusted my new bike to try to get slightly better and in some moments I even felt to have a really much better condition (I now believe in “the super hot new bike” adrenaline generator) Dino told me I see you much better today but as I just said I guess it was just a temporary great feeling not an increase in strength.

The early morning before the race I, my son Sam and Dino got up very early for a SUPER Breakfast with lots of pasta, salsiccia, pane nostrano, frutta.. we had enough for the whole week end…. I was following the suggestions of experts and it worked well. too bad I couldn't do the same for water like camels.

The Gran Fondo starting-time comes and we get to the very head of the stream of ciclisti, I (the rider in the worse physical condition) got in front of over 1000 riders thanks to a VIP registration.

Great perspective ad sweet kisses of the smokin hot photo girls; being lined up beside Max, Cipo, Nocentini and a couple of other pro from the 2008 Giro, has its rewards. You real racers may think “what do we care about all this” but to me this is attractive, it attracts paparazzi’s attention too and we, the unknowns, enjoyed the hugs, cheek kisses and flashes.

Manciano 08:30 am

The race starts and the race-chief (pardon my limited cycling vocabulary) standing on a convertible Audi takes the whole peloton at low speed around town before heading to the real start, the beginning of a 5.5K descent! (bad idea to start 1000 riders downhill) He kept yelling “I do not want to see blood in town, SLOW DOWN!!” till he had to give up to the pressure of the whole peloton that got pushed from behind

In life I’ve never breathed so much tire-burning fume, what a smell, I guess the start descent could have been used to test brake pads reactions in extreme conditions…. I love my Campy kit and my Veloflex tubulars!

For a very short while I stayed at the head of the peloton beside Smirnoff and Nocentini, for about 2 Ks, and then started to loose contact with them to give space to crazy stream of wheels touching each other, people yelling and some crushes.

by the 4.5 K, almost down at the bottom of the first descent, I supposed things were settled but another tight turn squeezes the group up and a guy crushes right in front of us, the two on my left hit him hard and I, riding on his back wheel ended up off road hitting the wall that runs along the turn. 2 of the guys got hurt and I and another had just got some scratches, my handlebar was slightly damaged and turned and the brake lever scratched. One of the motorcycles got there right away to help the two injuried guys while I was going away.

In less than 2 minutes I forgot what happened and tried to catch up enjoying the amazing views, the Romans literally cut the mountain (rock not dirt) to make the road practicable, a sort of extruded space shaped like a snake, made to “easy” (for horses maybe, not for me) climb up the hill.

After the first descent and climb we reached a wonderful area, it was amazing to see a sort of wonderful natural deep canyon on the left, the top of the hill with a town as cherry on the whipped cream, the road extruded into it and the local people on the road cheering, old ladies at the doors yelling to go faster and offering water. It was great! Total participation of the whole community

The environment was great, my physical status was already down to the bottom, I already felt like shi…

At the end of the second climb I was still with somebody and I could find water to refill, once I got to the intersection for the SHORT GF and the Medium and Long course I started to be alone, just by myself. I know you would say why in this world a guy that has no abilities and adequate condition wants to do 96 miles “ride” under a desert-like condition?? Well, I just wanted to do it and to complete it, no matter how long would take me and how hard even if to someone may seam stupid.

I kept riding alone for the whole remaining 5- 6 or whatever number of climbs (my memory is kind of foggy when I go back to count the climbs)

I, with my delay, ended up being the driest and last guy to take the long course. No one supposed I did it, so…. no more refills!

It was incredible, the refill organization stopped refilling the tables with waterbottles, it was hard to keep going with no water, that was the worse part of the whole experience, the lack of water.

At the arrival in Manciano, right were we started, I found the time keepers that were packing and getting ready to leave, told them to wait a minute to allow me to go to the very top and pass the finish line and then I went back to give my chip and get my cash back. I got into the long course final results as last rider, last but I got qualified somehow. Over 75% of riders picked the short or medium course, I didn’t considered those as real Gran Fondo courses so I kept them out of my thoughts.

Took me forever to complete the real GF course, my average speed in KM ended up being 18, I do not like to write it in miles because the number gets ridiculously low… however, in spite of being so tired, I got a blast of energy once I reached Manciano and then our apartment where the Viking and my son were waiting for me. I felt great!

I will do all I can to go back to Tuscany next year and try my best (getting in better condition by the end of March)

Lets try this experience in a XXX group and travel with me to Italy next year, we can Have Max Lelli himself taking our group out for the 6 or 10 days prior to the GF.

He got me a very affordable lodging solution right in Manciano by the start, we had lots of fun and next year the GF goes back to the end of March, the proper climate for this type of race. Lets have a great XXX expedition to Tuscany planned for 2009 (10th anniversary of XXX deserves a special trip)