Italia, beer, burgers, bikes – Castelli 24h 2016

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So, 2015 was a big year for me and my family. Despite being stuck in the middle of a truly rank situation we were fortunate to have the support of a fantastic group of people. Stand up and take a bow, charge your Dark and Stormies and toast the glorious Purple and Gold.  Together we raised £000s in support of Breast Cancer Care. Hell we even took the Vegas message global and raced all over the place, near and far (East); to the point where our sartorial elegance is recognised and feared from Belgium, to France, to Italy, to Cambodia, Japan and China… not Australia though, they couldn’t care less about anything other than warm stubbies…

Your support has meant an enormous amount over the past 18 months and Helen has never given up, continuing to Kick Cancer’s Arse on a daily basis.

Maybe it’s this inspiration, maybe it’s the fact that we felt we came up a bit short last year and owed a bit more to Barry and the Vegas Spirit. Maybe it’s because we couldn’t get enough of the Grappa, or the fact that we wanted to prove to the EU that we don’t hate them. For whatever reason we returned to the Castelli 24  this year determined to improve on last year’s mid pack place… Vegas were welcomed back with typical Italian hospitality, free press passes and therefore access to booze… and podium dancers…

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W
ell, it’s Italy…

Echoing last year’s team spirit we had a number of us who has never met one another, some who had never raced at all, let alone a crit….in Italy… for 24 hours… what could possibly go wrong? To offset the “scratch” nature of our team we had a couple of handy “ringers” riding this year – an Ironman (for a laugh) and some cat 2 whippets. Nice.

 The Dolomites dished up their usual unpredictable weather- it had been raining HARD all week in the run up to the race itself but this hadn’t stopped some last minute training rides up the 40K climb to Monte Grappa because sometimes, doing hill repeats just isn’t enough…

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Meanwhile others took a more leisurely approach and rocked up a couple of hours before the start, ate some burgers and maybe had a beer.. or two. This may or may not have contributed to jamming an internal seat clamp at the wrong end of a seat tube with an hour to go, maybe it inspired the boy scout solution of fishing it out using a rear QR or maybe it just led to that getting stuck  inside the frame as well…. I guess we’ll never know.

 Despite last-minute hiccups and a rather “loose” racing strategy all got under way and we settled in without incident. Apart from being gridded on the front row because, you know … we’re epic and stuff. This did present some challenges, like being wedged between several pairs of well-oiled German thighs, so tight in fact that you were only able to turn corners when Jan, Big Wilhelm & Co. deemed it necessary.

 So we got stuck in, ploughing headlong into the darkness with some heroic, if uneventful shifts through the small hours until rather randomly, unannounced,  our hosts from last year’s adopted Café arrived at 5am with a tray of espressos for all; the vegas casquette still perched jauntily atop her carefully coiffed barnet. 

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We steadily reeled in teams ahead and the first time we checked the results  we were in the top  30… again. However our carefully planned (lies) strategy of attrition was slowly wearing our rivals down as they literally fell by the wayside.. all was going well. Until it rained. HARD.

 The biblical downpour continued for a good couple of hours and as the Italians couldn’t safely drive their Ferrari pace car around the track, it was decided that all festivities should be temporarily put on hold. We therefore spent the next 2.5 hours crammed under our trusty  gazebo, trying to stop it collapsing under the deluge. It was standing room only but most chairs were broken by now anyway – no doubt due to some overly exuberant cake training.

 Eventually the course was deemed  safe to  ride again so we set off behind the pace car in at the sharp end, each lap increasing in speed and nervousness, the pack splitting as the pace became more frenetic until the boy racer in charge got bored and let us off the leash while he retired to the hospitality tent to marinade himself in Prosecco. Despite this interruption to our well laid plans (chortle) we had climbed to 24th.

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Hand overs were metronomic  (at least in the Leoni Veloci team, last year’s winners, still in first and at this point by several laps ) but the pain and rather pitiful hill were starting to take their toll…until the inevitable greasy corner finally had its moment of glory thanks to a dose of complacency, bravado and, well… stupidity. Luckily damage was minimal apart from a virgin pair of shorts and a bruised ego…. and arse. The hours ticked down and the inexorable rise continued now up to 22nd.  With a couple of hours to go, the race organisers came to see us and told not to go anywhere after the finish, even they were convinced by the magnificence of the Vegas way. With literally laps (?!) to go and much scrutineering of the lap times the pressure rose, “were we actually going to win this?!”.

 Nope. Not so much.  We had let one get away. Team Boa ( as in the ratchet business) had an A team that had sneaked off the front, meanwhile  we had sent a rider out without a time chip- wouldn’t want to make it look easy would we….?

 We were to finish 7 laps down, 21 minutes behind. 2ndplace. 1st losers, but 1st  to the Bar J.

 A valiant attempt but thwarted.

The organisers want us to return as next year surely we’ll win that ugly piece of crystal, 3rd time lucky and all that…

Finale Ligure looks rather appealing though.

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 wp-1468403252033.jpgApparently it’s not cheating if you’re in another country…

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