Nove Colli is the world’s oldest and Italy’s premier Gran Fondo.
Cape Town Giants cyclist Yazmin Limbada recalls her Granfondo Nove Colli experience …
We, the Cape Town Giants Cycling crew and other Disfrutadors arrived into the quaint and ancient port town of Cesenatico on the beautiful azure Adriatic coast, famously known for its canal designed by Leonardo Da Vinci and the home of cycling legend Marco Pantani! The charming historical centre of this town rest in uncertain harmony with the modern urban structure where one can still get the sense of the old fishermen’s village. With all its facilities on offer and hosts to international cycling events it is no doubt a cycling Mecca.
At the Nove Colli open air street expo the entire town was abuzz and alive with the cycling vibe as we headed to what proved to have so much on offer with Bianchi’s, Pinarello’s and cycling paraphernalia of the worlds greatest riders.
The Italian creativity made it more special. With More than 13000 entrants, each name appeared in an abstract circular artwork posted on a wall… Here the challenge seekers are lured into identifying their names! Then, we could not resist to purchase from the exciting Nove Colli stand, a keepsake or two for memoirs that would entice our friends, when worn on our rides back home. It was such kind of fun activity together with the Italian passion and generosity that made the expo one of a kind!
The morning of the race rain jackets and shower cap cladded helmets was the order of the day as we pedalled from our hotel to the start grids. The roads of Cesenatico became alive and energized as it was being invaded by cyclists – while the towns people slowly awakened by the pulse of the passion of thousands of cyclists and their determination to conquer the Nove Colli (Italian for “Nine Hills”).
Despite the adverse weather conditions, for a late spring gran fondo, thousands of saddle maniacs were singing and chanting … all with one voice of torque & cadence… As they took off on their saddles bouncing and smiling.
I opted on the day to complete the 130km Nove Colli route. The course proved to be very challenging even for some of the more experienced riders. When the race started off with an early morning climb I soon realized I had to keep my calm and focus on the pleasure of the ride and my journey of self discovery which in the end proved to have been my trick to such an achievement.
I did not miss the breath taking scenery and even stopped to capture some incredible photo memoirs of the charming Italian villages in the valleys and atop the hills of the Emilia Romagna region.
Barbotto is the fourth and most feared Nove Colli climb which featured in the 2010 Giro d’Italia and is said to have been the playground of Marco Pantani. Once I reached the summit of Barbotto, with a maximum 18% gradient and 536m elevation, I knew that I had broken the back of the race and after 1,871m of hill climbing the final 36km was a downhill cruise through the Italian hills to the Adriatic sea. However the other unnamed climbs were not be underestimated as I discovered that riding in Europe is all about CLIMB and more CLIMB! The descents with tricky hair pin bends were technical and daunting especially in wet conditions. This can be most challenging physically and mentally… yet… I derived a great deal of pleasure.
As I passed through the old cobbled stoned Italian villages I could not resist a coffee stop to perk up the energy with smooth rich Italian blends.
On returning to the port town I got sight of the waterfront and a sudden burst of energy overcame me as I realized that this long cold wet ride was coming to an end. I MADE IT!.. I made it I thought…. and sprinted with all the energy I had left to the finish chute, whilst the passion, cheering and applauding of the Italian spectators pumped my adrenalin to dizzying heights as I crossed the finish line and looked up at the clock with an overwhelming sense of elation to have made the official cut off time… It broke me down into tears of joy! Epic indeed!
There was something special about the Nove Colli. Something different. And it wasn’t just the breath taking route, the perfect setting or the professional organization. It was the unbelievable way the last finisher was greeted nearly 13 hours after the start.
With superb Italian cuisine and Leonardo Da Vinci Canal side Cafes, a luxurious seaside resort, steeped in the history of Legendary Marco Pantani, four decades of Gran Fondo & Giro d’Italia… AND the European experience and expertise of Disfruta Sports Tours, creates the perfect recipe for an Epic Tour.
To conclude on a personal note. I have learnt that cycling adventures are not just routes and destinations but an opportunity to discover the simple joys of life and God’s flawless beauty. Cycling is not just merely a sport but also the bicycle is a powerful tool to personal development and growth.
Live Cycling ~ Love Life
Join us at Nove Colli 2016 – http://disfruta.co.za/package/nove-colli/