Selle Italia 2017 Nove Colli Report

The 47th edition of Italy’s oldest cyclosportive event. A fun romp for cycling buffs all over the world. And for us it is also an opportunity to try out Selle Italia’s Novus SuperFlow Endurance – a saddle specially designed for long distances.

Sunday 21 May 2017 – When the alarm clock blares out at 4.30 in the morning, it is raining outside and you have a 200-km ride ahead of you, there is a huge temptation to pretend to be sick, roll over and go back to sleep. But that thought is quickly gone because you remember the real reason you came all the way here to Cesenatico, a 3 hour drive from Milan. You jump to your feet and start getting ready.

So what is the reason? To take part in the Queen of all the Gran Fondos, the best and the oldest – the one that all cycle enthusiasts should experience at least once in a lifetime.

Especially those of us who make no pretence of being cycling champions, the Nove Colli – Selle Italia is unadulterated cycling fun just waiting to be had: 12,000 participants from 48 different countries and an entire town “commandeered” for two days by hordes of cyclists pumped with adrenaline wheeling up and down the long avenues and anxiously waiting to get off… a feast for the eyes and an elixir for the spirit.

The routes

Altimetry route 200 km

Traditionally, there are two possible variants, the 130 one and the 200-km one. We are going for the first. We can always change our mind halfway through the race. The “short” way still entails a 1,870 difference in altitude with 4 major climbs and a maximum slope of 18%.

The long way doubles the difference in altitude and includes an additional 5 hills – bringing the total number of hills up to the iconic 9.

Whatever the choice, as the organisers say, both circuits lead you across hillock and knoll and along the Mediterranean coastline. Breathtakingly spectacular landscapes for the taking and once the sweat is dried and the toil forgotten, the beauty will indelibly remain.

The saddle

Today we are seizing the opportunity to test a saddle which has been specially designed for long distances: the Novus SuperFlow Endurance by Selle Italia, also chosen to be the official saddle for the formidable Race Across America.

It is a saddle with a slight lengthwise curve. This makes it easy to tilt forward and ensures a more comfortable position for the spinal column.

A perfect solution for those of us who are “getting on” and have a back that plays up every now and again. The elongated central cutout almost entirely bisects the seating zone, reducing pressure around the pelvic area and doing away with the numbness typically associated with long rides.

 

Altimetria percorso 130 Km

The race

So, where were we? The morning of the race… My friend Andrea and I leave at 5 in the morning to the patter of plump drops of warm brackish water. Luckily we will soon see the back of them. This is peerless cycling weather: constantly overcast and a temperature of 19 degrees.

On the starting grid, we get the first “thrill” of the day with a level crossing which is lowered to let a moving train past and the mass of departing cyclists is cut into two halves. Not a problem seeing as the good ones are ahead.

A low murmur fills the air, then the race is on. A race of sorts because in actual fact we are riding at a leisurely pace and enjoying the scenery – a photo session, a pitstop for replenishments and so forth. Not exactly the best way to pip the others to the post, but what the hell.

What counts is taking part. The only moment of tension occurs right at the start when the adrenaline is pounding through our veins. Everyone darts off and for the first 30 km we travel at 40 km/h. A gap has opened up in our group and I lag behind, stupidly falling into the beginner’s trap of trying to catch up by myself. A waste of time, of course. I only manage to reach Andrea at the first service stop.

Apart from that, all goes well and we keep an excellent pace by our standards, albeit a tyro speed, if I am to be honest.

Even the climbs, which never go over 7-8 km, are not excessively laborious. The only really challenging stretch is the legendary final Barbotto climb; this is the fourth hill with an uphill 18%-gradient sprint.

The Novus SuperFlow Endurance shows its mettle throughout the entire ride. We hardly notice we are sitting on it. Zero pressure & zero discomfort. The length of the cutout delivers supreme comfort as well as making the entire structure more flexible and catering for every single body movement during the ride.

We are feeling so good that on the finishing stretch at the 100-km fork it crosses our mind to turn off and join the long way, but fortunately common sense prevails and we go on our way. Just as well seeing as the cyclists battle against a moderate headwind for the last 30 kilometres and each overpass feels like the Stelvio pass.

We have done quite well for today. The pasta party awaits us.

Overall comments: everything went like clockwork. Commendable traffic management. Excellent refreshments at just the right places. Immaculate tarmac surfaces. What more could you possibly ask for?

 

130 km in detail

Departure from canal harbour of Cesenatico riding the initial 28 km with very high averages, then hills start cropping up along the route and the pace slows down. Here are the 4 uphill climbs along the 130-km route.

37 km: Polenta
The first climb during the Nove Colli involves an 8-kilometre ascent and 227 metres of difference in altitude. There is an average gradient of 3% and a maximum one of 13%.

65 km: Pieve di Rivoschio
At Piandispino another 8 kilometres of moderate ascent begin: 307 metres of difference in altitude – an average gradient of 4.7% and a maximum one of 9.%.

80 km: Ciola
Ciola is the third challenge: 6 km, 313 of elevation gain, 5.5% the average gradient and 11% the maximum gradient.

91 km: Barbotto
The last hill is the hardest. The infamous Barbotto. A climb of 372 metres in only 5.5 km. Average slope 6.9%. The last kilometre actually reaches 18%. From this point on, there are 40 km to the finishing line without a hitch.

3 tips

Here are 3 golden rules to bear in mind when you take part in a cyclosportive which is as challenging as this one.

Pace. Never get carried away with enthusiasm and never push yourself too hard. That way you will get to the end without too much hardship. The trick: find a group that goes at your own pace and stick with it.

Eating. Remember to eat and drink regularly because you will use up a lot of energy and sometimes you can drop when you are least expecting it.

Safety. Stay on the ball all the time. When you cycle packed like sardines and side by side, it doesn’t take much to bump up against someone else and fall. Ending up on the ground at 40 an hour is not nice! Especially in descent, don’t run any risks and stay at due distance from those bringing up the front.

 

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