A departure worthy, as always, of a school trip.
This is how it works: I head out and set the pace for the group that, slowly, calmly, follows right behind me.
Then discreetly, the big rouleaus arrive and start running their legs like a treadmill, making heart beats speed up and the first drops of sweat fall.
And as the first ramps begin, the group “breaks up” and each continues climbing to the extent that his heart and legs allow.
As I said, it is a rather long climb, divided into two very different portions.
From Pietrabona to Macchino, a challenging but luckily regular climb with more demanding portions after the town of Vellano, with slopes of around 7/8%.
Then, after the Valdinievole crossroads at Goraiolo, the climb turns into an extremely long, apparently flat ground, boring but sly and deceptive at the same time that makes you bear down on the ratio. This allows you to run more miles of course, but it also fills your legs with lactic acid.
At the top of the slope, one of the most beautiful moments of the event… refreshment time! Because it’s not just a matter of having something to eat and drink, but a chance to meet together and chat, like fishermen or hunters, about the outcomes of one’s own performance.
And just FYI, the little café at the top of Prunetta is very well supplied with fruit tarts of every type.
Once the lost calories are replenished, we’re off again for – barring any flat tires – a long ride across the beautiful Val di Lima up to the location earmarked for the group picture, today in front of the splendid Ponte della Maddalena Bridge, better known as Ponte del Diavolo (Devil’s Bridge).
The last kilometers are all marked by the sounds of “ciao ciao, see you”.
And slowly, as they pass in front of their houses, one by one the friends leave the group. As the group gets smaller and smaller, the last remaining cyclists come up with the idea of a “part three” to the event. Like any vain and slightly pompous athlete, we show off in a traditional ride atop the city Walls on the ring surrounding “Lucca drento” – the historic part of the city within the Walls.
And so once again, after 115 km and a thousand meters of difference in altitude, the ride ends and Sunday libations can officially begin.
… Let’s just hope our wives and relatives won’t be too angry with us!
See you next time!