Italy, June 17, 2006
It's said that Italy is the fashion capital of the world but that doesn't necessarily mean that all fashion you'll see here is great. In fact, the style here is incredibly individual and you'll see some bizarre casual gear getting around and some even stranger fashions on the bike. Last Saturday we competed in the Cento women's race, a 105km crit style road race, which consists of a 7km loop completed 15 times. As with other races in Italy, we were once again treated to some interesting fashions exhibited by Italians!!!
Warming up for a race always gives you a chance to check out any teams of which you were previously unaware and of course familiarising yourselves with their kits. In Cento some of the new team kits were nice but one in particular really stood out, for all the wrong reasons. The kit of `team circus' was incredibly retro from the 80s era, featuring shiny lycra and incorporating one too many fluorescent colours. We all decided that we could never join this team and we wouldn't be seen in this kit ever! Who designed this and what were they thinking? Fluoros went out in the 80s and should not be repeated - unless perhaps for high visibility safety wear applications sported by lollipop ladies and road workers!
After warming up a little we seemed to find it a little difficult to get pumped up for the race as we had just come off five recovery days following the Giro d'italia. Who knew how we would feel or go? Broso's (AIS team manager) encouragement of 'come on girls, you don't look very excited' really didn't help us to rally that much. We continued to warm up and lined up for the start.
Following the introduction and presentation of a gift to what seemed like every Italian rider, we started the race in the old town of Cento over cobbles. The cobbles were pretty rough and created major difficulties for one of our rookie riders, Josie Loane, when it took her about 500 metres to clip into her pedals! Being called a hubbard by team mate, Jenny Macpherson, really didn't help improve things as laughing actually makes things much harder.
Luckily for our struggling rider the first lap was quite steady and relaxed and the 130 starters settled into the technical course zooming around corners, through archways, around 'John' and over the one km of cobbles. The start and finish of each lap incorporated the cobbles and if you've never ridden over them then here are some of our team's thoughts: "Imagine the pain if you came off on these things", "Gosh, I hope my bike stays together", "These cobbles are making my vision blurry, uh no it's just the fluoro kit in front of me", "I'm going to be a busted unit after this one", "I hope no one can see my butt wobbling", "My arms are friggin' killing me" and "If we have to race over cobbles again, it'll be too soon".
After the relaxing first lap and shock of the cobbles the race started when the first attacks started going early into the second lap. None of the attacks were sticking until a group of four involving our very own Kate Nichols broke away after 40km. This group of four later became five riders when a sole Bianchi rider bridged across to the breakaway. During the breakaway the other Aussie riders continued to circle within the peloton, absorbing the other cyclists, their fashion and riding styles. There was the rider with ridiculously large dangly earrings which might possibly double as lassos, the rider in star-covered knicks who lost the wheel in front through every corner and overpass and 'Team hot pant knicks'. There was also `ribbon helmet' who had several coloured ribbons trailing from her helmet, 'undies under knicks girl', 'Team arm warmers in 38 degree heat' and 'Space ship helmet' rider. So while the team contemplated these strange athletes the group of five stayed away for around three laps when Nobili's hard work finally paid off and the breakaway was brought back.
As soon as the pack re-formed another breakaway of five attacked and formed a working group, which involved two Aussies, Josie Loane and team Nurnberger Oenone Wood. The lead group worked together quite well for three laps to increase their lead to over a minute, however the group dynamic was lost during the last lap and the pack bore down on our leaders to swallow them up in the final sprint.
So strange Italian fashions and all, Australia had a successful day at Cento with all of its 6 riders in the top 22!! Jenny Macpherson was the highest placed Aussie finishing fifth, with Australia having a rider in each of the major breakaways. It was a good result for Australia in a strong field with teams such as Nobili, Safi, Fassa Bortolo, Colnago - Fenix. Forno D'Asolo, Saccarelli, Bianchi, Fanini, FRW, as well as two Nurnberger riders including Regina Schleicher the current world champ, who took the win.