When we came to Italy, I thought that those Kalamaja-hipster climbers with hairy legs, the BMI of an anorexic girl, and the ability to taste the difference in IPAs, will be burned out in the first few days on flat land.
(Pictured here: some stylish Italian gentlemen who passed us on the way out from Sanremo)
I was certain that smooth legged MAMILs, whose wheelset costs more than my bike, and who carry extra luggage on their bellies, will be burned out on the first climb, despite having consumed all the chemicals in the periodic table of elements. I thought the girls were the only threat stopping me from reaching my dream to be the king of the hills.
But I was wrong. Except for the girls, they kicked ass. When the third day separated the men from the boys, so to speak, then today was all about surviving the extreme conditions. Distance wasn’t something crazy – 145km – but the 2,000-meter vertical ascent in 34°C and 40°C in direct sunlight, without almost any wind, made it an epic challenge.
Going up the San Bernardo was sick. I didn’t ask how long the climb would be, so I just rode it like I owned it. I started bit later with a few Kalamaja climbers and pro mamils, having emptied our bladders first. I rode from group to group, with one Kalamaja-hipster climber, Martin, behind me. In a few kilometers, we were in the lead. The girls decided to give us a chance and not leave us embarassed.
There we went, me and two Kalamaja climbers – Tarmo and Martin – who weigh around 60kg each, Indrek, a sprinter from the center of Tallinn, and me, the first to make it to the legendary Cypressa yesterday. My pulse was around 170 BPM, so I thought there was a bit left in my legs for a sprint finish, but kilometers went on and soon I only saw the back wheels of my fellow competitors, disappearing into the mountains with each stride.
There I was - left alone by two hairy legged hipsters and a sprinter. This was real kick in the cojones, but there was nothing I could do. My engine was boiling and all I dreamed of was getting a nice cold bottle of Coke by the sea. The only thing that kept us going was this lovely scenery around us.
We made it to the top, with groundbreaking results:
1. Tarmo (hairy hipster from Kalamaja)
2. Indrek (smooth sprinter from the centre of Tallinn)
3. Martin (a bit less hairy hipster from Kalamaja)
All the exporiders made it to the top, which is quite an amazing result.
Having conquered the peak, the few kilometers going downhill felt ultra-short compared to 20km of climbing, so we were a bit sad.
After eating a ton of gels and bars by SIS, the final climb appeared. The steepest grade was 14%, so some of us, including me, felt like dying. At the end of every corner, you hoped to see the top, but it just wasn’t there. Finally we made it and two gels in a few minutes wasn’t a problem.
After very fast ups and downs on the last 10km, we finally made it to the finish. A beautiful cottage in Dogliani, with a super lovely host family. They served us the best six-course dinner yet. (As we were starving, it served us right.) Pasta as appetizer, salad with four different parts of chicken for the main course, and fruit salad for dessert. A local winery owner – who looked like a young Bill Gates – served us the drinks.
When our stomachs were packed with high quality Italian food and the pain in our legs had been numbed by local wine, it was time to take in the horizontal position in the bed and prepare for the next day in saddle.
More photos in Flickr
Follow us on Instagram
View our official Facebook page