Chloe's Nove Colli experience

PUBLISHED: 16:00 02 June 2009 | UPDATED: 23:35 15 June 2010

Started in 1970 by a group of friends, the Nove Colli cycling race in Italy now attracts over 11,000 riders from all over Italy and beyond.

Started in 1970 by a group of friends, the Nove Colli cycling race in Italy now attracts over 11,000 riders from all over Italy and beyond. With 205km to cover and total climbing of 3840m a tough workout is guaranteed Starting from Cesenatico home of the famous cyclist Marco Pantani , the route heads into the hills that mark the Marche / Emilia Romagna border. The hills come thick and fast and although the highest point, Monte Pugliano, at 791m is no alp, the constant undulations are sure to take their toll by the finish. With 205km to cover and total climbing of 3840m a tough workout is guaranteed. Chloe Thomas, niece of Herald sports editor Lee Glanville, hails from Exeter, and is well known on both running and cycling circuits. She had a go - and succeeded. This is her report:Chloe's Nove Colli 2009Having run the world's best marathon only six months previously in New York, with 32,000 other runners, I was excited and a little scared to see what 1100 riders would look like and the 2009 Nove Colli did not disappoint. I stood on the start line with my bike in the little ring, ready to spin and save my 'glycogen' levels for the later climbs (I do like my little gear and spinning but apparently this was the wrong approach as there wasn't a hill for the first 25miles. Huw pointed out that within 20 yards of the start the group was likely to be travelling at 30mph so after a reset by the boys (our La Fuga tour guides/ chaperones), I was in the big gear and ready to go. Rush hour in Italy At 6.10 on the dot (the only time I have known Italians to be on time), we are off... on this start I am most scared about is getting boxed in by 11,000 riders, it's like the carnage outside the pine cafe on a Saturday club run multiplied by several thousand. Imagine getting off the train at London Bridge in rush hour but your all on bikes and trying to be first through the barriers. I was that awful person whose ticket won't go through or even worse the old lady with a wheelie suitcase. I can't get my foot in the pedal and in just a few seconds I'm thousands of places behind group. Riding for our lives We are soon flying along at 25MPH for the first 20miles. It is like we are riding for our lives from a tornado or an attack of aliens. Somehow, after a few minutes, Laurie (a chap from our tour party) and I are completely alone. It's very odd. We were fighting away to get back on to the group but suddenly it's just us. We are in an eerie no mans between the staggered starting pens. The blues had left us behind and the yellows were about to chase us down. The carnage left behind from the blue group is scattered to each side of us, with a man, face down in a gutter and various others nursing road rash are sprawled to each side. It was like a town that had been torn apart by the advancing Roman army. Like a freight train, the yellow start group come flying by... I shout to Laurie. 'GO GO GO, jump on a wheel.' Suddenly we are in a yellow-current and being swept to the first climb. Take ThatIt's all pretty easy. Climbs one and two just disappear, but it is only 8am and the temperature is still low. I by pass the first feed station. The desperation of the other riders at this feed station is similar to a bunch of 14year olds at a 'take that' concert, with grown men fighting for water and running back to their bikes. Climb 3 was lined with people all cheering and I find myself with the purple ladies Pinarello team and this is all really good fun. At 50miles Laurie found me again, this is where the heat and the pain kicks in.. The big one and melting cleats Climb four is the big one over the Barbotto . The crowd were amazing, lining the route, cheering and watching cyclists falling to the sides and resort or walking, as the hot tarmac is melting their cleats. The last few hairpins really take it out of you. For the first time I wasn't sure if it was possible to make it to the end. The sound from the crowd is deafening and some Italian offers me a push. They roar as he starts to push me up the hill, 'faster' I shout and I'm propelled passed 20 riders, trying not to knock them off as I whiz past. My newfound power is short lived as I was soon back to 5mph and crawling. We reach the top and pass the crowd in the village but within a few metres it goes up again, like a cat playing with its pray, the Barbotto hasn't finished with us yet.One disgruntled LondonerLaurie is most unimpressed by this and proceeds to swear about it for the next 20k. 'What's the point of having all that palaver when it's not even the top of the hill' - he's in a dark place. Soon after this the 100k sign is passed and the route splits. We couldn't believe it, hundreds were riding straight on and taking the short route home. What a bunch of Pansies these bloody Italians are. All the kit, all the tan, and all the legs but no action. They are the real life version of Barbie's Ken, they look the part but fail to deliver anything worthy. Another disgruntled Londoner The hours are flying by but the miles are not shifting quite so quickly. Along the route we pass locals coming out of their houses and hosing us down and enjoying the excitement of the day. After a few 10k climbs I am starting to roast. We pick up a grumpy looking Dave (another chap from our party). He's also in a dark, dark place and really not looking good. Rejuvenated by seeing us, he picks up the pace. This is short lived when I start to feel sick and my head begins spinning. The heat is burning into me. We have to stop at every water point to pour water over our heads. I am as pink as my bike and the heat is still rising. Time for lunch/ can i have some wine with that At climb 7 we reach the little town at the top of a 9k climb, a lovely shady courtyard gated in with railings at the back and a stunning view that drops of to showcase the Italian landscape beyond. Set back from the road and under the grapevines is the town hall with tables set up outside and a huge Italian housewife in a tabard, ladle in hand, dishing out pasta from a pot big enough of all 3 of us to have a bath in. She greets 's me with open arms spouting some type of congratulating Italian and starts to serve me up a bowl. I ask for a 'minuet' serving and she takes one look at me and points the ladle to the view across Italy, shouting about the K's and mountains' I have to climb. 'this is only 7' she shouts with a knowing look. We take our pasta and three chaps jump up and offer us their seats. It's all very pleasant and I'd quite like a glass of wine too. With very few women on this course, us ladies are treated like royalty but after this very enjoyable lunch we look at each other and know it's time to go despite agreeing that it would be far nicer to sit in this courtyard for a bit longer.Zooming along Back on the road with only two more climbs we are feeling positive and zooming down the hills. Climb seven was a mental landmark as the worst was now over. The descents.. Now this lady is a pro, it's funny how you fail to care about downhills when your fingers are too tired to break. I was officially flying and very few riders seamed to overtake, I was calling back the obstacles to the boys, but they were both pretty quite. All along the way ambulances are waiting ready to take the many that failed to take the corners correctly. By this point I had seen a good 10 riders stretchered off. After this decent the ride turns into mere survival, big groups are taking time to sit in the shade, men are sitting at the side of the road with blank expressions. The heat is suffocating at 39¡ with no wind and I'm regularly dumping water over my head. When a climb is 10K long and your crawling at 5mph that's over an hour per climb - the time was slipping away. Hose me downThe final climb took some prisoners. After only a few k's a lady and her husband were out on the road with a hosepipe. These people's good will and time must have saved lives this weekend. She comes running up to me and takes out both my bottles. Pushing the men to one side and telling her husband to pour it over my head and feet... without these two I might never have made it up that hill. That last K was very emotional. After being bearable for a few miles it kicked up and hair pinned at over 17%, I told Dave not to look up. The rider in front of me starts to wobble, the drops of sweat are landing on the scorched tarmac and I can see him struggling. He pulls his foot up on the pedal and it doesn't make it down again. He falls in slow monition to the side still clipped in. His body has simply given up. Further up the hill we see a man upside down in a ditch still attached to a bike which his mate is trying to detach him from. The liars, the big fat liars We made it up the last hill and after a few undulating ks, we are on our way home and doing our last decent. The '20K to go' sign appears, we all cheer... a good 5miles later the 20K sign appears again. It my turn to swear and moan now. This strop was short lived as we proceed to floor it home, picking up a few chaps along the way. On the flat and into a head wind doing 20miles per hour, I do not know how I did it. It was all or nothing. After 10mins I'm still on the front and a call for Dave to come through results in no movement.. after 15 mins I call for Dave to come through. Dave is looking blankly at my back wheel and the nice chap from the back of the group comes around to save me and we soon get a through and off going. Then I'm stuck on the front again with a fat Italian refusing to take his turn. The boys protest at this and sprint away, leaving me behind, again the nice chap in green drops back to pick me up. I see why he drops back as I'm soon back on the front still flooring it on auto pilot but this time I accept my fate as a bit of a martyr. Where's Buckingham palace ? One kilometre to go and this torture will be over - we turn into the Nove Colli'S equivalent of The Mall, with people lining the finish straight and cheering us home. Dave comes to life for the last 150meters and sprints for the win. The other chaps follow but quickly slow down and allow me to cross the line before them. What gents! The men nearly lift me off my bike in our congratulating exchanges and hugs of amazement in how me managed to go so fast after 120miles. Dave however is looking a bit sheepish. I'm given a big medal and a flower that matches both my bike and the colour of my face, then filtered through to the pasta party. We get back to the ranch and I'm telling the guys how Dave beat me over the line after I dragged him the last 40k, the boys laugh and say to their mate now sitting with a blank expression "Who's this Dave bloke?.." Alan says 'I don't know but she's been calling me Dave since 100k and I didn't have the energy to tell her it was Alan'. 10hour 8min and 2 very tired legs

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