Sunday November 20th 7AM. If you were at the corner of Miracle Mile and Coral way in the Coral Gables near Miami Florida USA, you would have encountered a group of 5 Canadians wearing green, in the rain and the emerging daylight. They were feverishly preparing to get to the start line, along with 1300 other similar souls, of the Colnago Gran Fondo Miami.
There, the large crowds were getting excited as the Leading Ferrari cars started their roaring engines, the music blasted, and the commentators got all the participants raring to go. The celebrity guest riders were introduced at the front of the pack just before the ‘off’. There was 2009 World F1 champion Jensen Button, 2 time Giro d’ Italia winner Gilberto Simoni, former Marco Pantani ‘domestique’ and also a former Giro winner Stefano Garzelli. To top it off, Olympic gold medalist, 1997 Tour de France winner and living legend of the sport of bike racing, from the former ‘East’ Germany Jan Ullrich.
The rain held off for the first part of the event, which was a good thing indeed, as we had a ‘century’ to cover, an American century that is, meaning a 100 miles. The riders headed South with the wind at their backs as they took a meandering scenic route towards the town of Homestead, almost at the famous Florida ‘Everglades’. Most of the participants were able to stay within the huge leading pack as the pace held at roughly 36 Km/h, which, if you’ve ever ridden in a large ‘peloton’ of cyclists on flat roads on a Carbon and titanium road racing bike and with a fairly brisk tail wind, you’ll know is quite an easy and pleasant pace to achieve.
And then the real fun started in the cross-winds. Followers of the sport of bike racing will have vivid images in their minds of past early season ‘Classics’ such as the Belgian ‘Liege-Bastogne-Liege’ race. In that event the racers always form groups, or ‘echolons’ as they’re known, working together to combat the spring winds blowing across the wide exposed roads, a struggle to get into the leading echolon ensues, which invariably is made up of the best and toughest riders on the road that day, as they start to pull away from the echelons behind them.
Well, there was somewhat of a Miami version of a Liege-Bastogne-Liege race that morning of the Gran Fondo, with the event ‘blowing apart’ and many riders losing sight of the front group. The participants then headed back North towards Miami and had to deal with mostly headwinds. The pace remained high, although nearing the city with the police escorts and Ferrari lead cars having disappeared, it was necessary to take precautions amongst traffic and at intersections. The event was, after all, billed as a social ride and not as a regular race where one would not expect to have to negotiate intersections normally and heeding traffic lights. The irony is that whenever you pin numbers onto so many competitive people, line them up and say “GO”, then you’re going to get a race of some sorts, which is why so many negotiated intersections with traffic as quickly as they could.
Many were also able to take great satisfaction in having been able to make it quite a distance after the hammer had dropped. There aren’t many amateur cyclists that can tell the tale of having mixed it up with Tour de France and Giro d’ Italia winners. Eddie Reinish, Chad Leudtke, and Steve Colomby were 3 of our group that made it a long way past the start of the cross-wind sections with the front groups, while the ‘race hardened’ duo of Ilija Petrovski and Kevin Davis made it to the finish with the front group, which by that time had been whittled down to around 10 cyclists.
At the finish area our group took full advantage of the refreshments that were of an Italian influence while sharing all of our ‘tales of the big ring’. We noted that most of the celebrity contingent had cut the route slightly short so that they could get a bit of a head-start on said refreshments. We took advantage of the time to get a group shot of ourselves with Jan Ullrich who was kept busy for 2 or 3 hours posing for photographs with fans.
A great finish to a great day, and a confirmation that a 3 or 4 day trip with good friends, sharing an exhilarating and healthy pastime is one of the best times you can have.
Below is video of working in the early breakaway (green NAC jersey’s):
Jan Ullrich #1
Ilija Petrovski #22
Kevin Davis #20
working in the early breakaway (green NAC jersey’s).