Club members Daniel and Nasser standing in front of the Colosseum, wearing the fabulous Rome Granfondo official cycling outfit, in cool dry Mediterranean weather at 6:45 am with circa 4000 mainly fit Italian male cyclists was the first and most cherished moment of the 125km 2000 metre climb ride. Both of us enthralled with the ultimate historical surroundings, we started our cycling on acceptable but not the best hired bikes promptly at 7:30 am and were impressed by the organised fashion it kicked off. Cycling over cobblestones was a fairly new experience for both us which we could have happily done without. We appreciated the early start considering the temperature peaked at over 28C.
The ride included three serious hills one of which culminated in a frustrating 11% climb at one section and eventually adding up to the 2000 metres carefully measured and chip-monitored target. We cycled along river, lake, shady hills and interesting old villages in a loop ending back at the Terma de Caracalla.
Unlike the more disciplined Daniel, Nasser could not resist the temptations for more frequent , even if brief , stops, be it to sample the tasty culinary delicacies on offer for the riders or the stunning visual delights all around and in so many ways. We did not appreciate the surprisingly limited number of official water stops, however many villages along the way had natural cold spring water flowing along the main roads which many cyclists took advantage of.
We were delighted to have completed the Rome Granfondo; Daniel with impressive riding time of 4 hours 31mins, and distracted slower Nasser with 5 hours 21 minutes. We were impressed by the wide cross section of riders and number of seriously fit senior participants. Although the initial road segments were protected and decent, the last two hours were over roads in fairly poor conditions and eventually we rode along limited vehicle traffic especially in the suburbs of Rome before completing the ride.
We joined the cyclists in a pasta luncheon at the village near the Caracalla Baths grounds after collecting our Roman coin-like completion medals. Soon thereafter we headed to our flat few Kms away to escape the scorching almost 30c weather at that time, but not before treating ourselves to amazing gelato (Daniel had three scoops!).
The next day, Monday, we enjoyed a leisure ride through the old parts of Rome where we had the privilege of being called imbecille (imbeciles ) in a quintessential Italian fashion by an irate driver - guess he has had enough of cyclists the day before.
This was our first Granfondo as such and we found the experience thrilling; it offered the wide range of competitive to leisure and social riding with enthusiasm. These rides differ from our club traditional rides as stops are supposed to be quite limited and without our usual long lunch break. Italy is known for its numerous Granfondos in various parts of the country - we plan and hope to lead more of them in 2015.