Saturday, October 4, 2008

26 years later

New Zealand cycling team in Italy
Well 26 years after last racing in the fabled land of Italia, I was back…

26 years ago, 26 years ago, yep the older I get, the better I was, that’s for sure.

Robbeco d’ Oligio, is in the vast expanse of flat in northern Italy, known as the Po valley. Today was an early season race of around 60km, my grade, Veteran and the grade above called Gentlemen.

I arrived to register at midday in the local bar, and while drinking espresso, I noted that they mostly looked like a bunch of punters and perhaps this was going to be a complete waste of an afternoon, and the local trattoria, a plate of Gnocchi and mezzo litro of vino rosso was starting to look like a much better bet.

The rain began to clear as I left the sanctuary of the bar and the espresso machine, and through the rising gloom the team cars were starting to pull into town.

As a bunch of mature riders in New Zealand, I thought we looked pretty good, flash bikes, nice kit, a little definition through the legs, all the prerequisites to say that we were ok in our day, and now we were old and flash, but still not too shabby all the same.

Well, veteran racing in Lombardia makes the Protour scene look like a PNP race on the coast road of Wainuiomata. These boys are flash, bikes, team kit, and tans that were not to be had in Lombardia in the last 3 months that’s for sure.

Nic and Felix kept reassuring me that I also was looking pretty dam sharp in my R+R / Immigrants Son kit, but it was starting to get daunting with the arrival of every new team car.

With a brave face I lined up for our 4 lap race amongst the motor cycle cavalcade, the team cars, ambulances, horns and sirens.

The roads were starting to dry as the flag dropped, and sitting in the bunch we quickly moved out of town and into the 4 metre, wide winding country road at a comfortable 45 to 48kph.

Now the field was about 80 strong, and on these narrow roads, I was trying to move up through the bunch to no avail. The first complete lap I fought to hold my position of about 69th in the bunch, cursing and swearing under my breath, that now I was performing like the punter, as the real racing was going on about 60 riders ahead of me. 

Finally I managed to fight my way to the front, and settled the lone team rider of Robertson & Robertson Consultants in with the flashest of team jerseys. For two laps we hammered it out, and with each move off the front, I realised how pointless it was to try and go up the road, but never the less I kept trying.

After what seemed like only minutes, the lead out trains were getting formed and poor old Slim, without a team was getting bashed around like a third former on the college bus.

With about 1500 to go, my lead out wheel faded and I sat up, just as the barging and pushing was reaching Pakistani rioting proportions.

The inevitable was going to happen and it did, 10 or so of the big boys came down and there were bikes going everywhere. I had almost managed to sneak through, when a big sprinter type, lay across the road trying to slow my approach to the line….

Well, I climbed back on, got back off, put my chain back on and rode back into the finish, yep, 26 years later it hadn’t got any easier.

Next Sunday can’t come soon enough, cause I’m feeling like after the last 26 years my craft ain’t as sharp as it used to be and if you think I’m going out without getting close to sniffing the win, you must have been riding with Slim for the last 26 years with your eyes closed.


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