With the last 2 editions of this legendary Gran Fondo being cancelled and pushed to different dates (and clashing with many other events having been forced to do the same), returning to the rolling Tuscan countryside and beauty of the old city of Siena after a 3 year absence was like stepping back in time. The weather was clear with blue, sunny skies, but cold — 1°c on the start line, and thanks to the continuous wind blowing across the Tuscan plains, never really got above 3° for the whole event.
The 6,000 riders at the start line made for a wonderful sight, signalling a semi-return to normal. The start was, as always, fast and furious, with the first 20km averaging over 45kmh, but I easily hopped through group to group before hitting the first gravel sector. Then, for the first time in the 6 editions I have raced here, I got a snake bite flat just 20m into the gravel… No matter how fast one fixes it, at this stage in the race where all the riders are still together, you can’t avoid losing 2,000-3,000 places as the peloton flies by. So once I got back on, I spent the next 2 hours passing hundreds of riders spread out across the road, to get to a less packed scenario.
From that point on, I was able to enjoy the event (but knowing I was too far back to now make it up) with amazing views 100km in all directions. After about 4 hours the sky clouded over, and the loss of the sun meant it got even colder. The final climbs of the Colle Pinzuto and Le Tolfe were easier than I recall, but perhaps the legs of this 50+ rider got a little stronger over the winter ;)
Coming up the Santa Catarina and into the Piazza del Campo was again like a trip back in time, and despite my face being frozen into a half-smile, I was definitely happy and smiling from inside as I crossed the finish line.
Grazie, Siena! Al prossimo anno!