Granfondo Campagnolo - Veneto - 20/06/10

A report from Jonathon Andrew:-

Start and finish in Feltre in Veneto. Well, the signs weren't good - the weather forecast was for a 100% probability of rain. What the forecast didn't say was that it was also 100% certain to last the entire day.

Woke up to the sound of rain hammering it down outside, undeterred the group got up at 5.15, had breakfast and bundled into the minibus.

Kit worn comprised, long sleeve base layer, short sleeved jersey, arm warmers, newly-purchased rain jacket, leggings and neoprene overshoes and long fingered gloves. And this is Italy in June.

We set off on schedule at 7.30 and marvelled at the lengths people had gone to as attempts to keep the water out - in the end all would prove futile. The first couple of passes were long but not too tough, but as the altitude rose the temperature fell and the descents became steadily more challenging to keep warm. The wind proof gilet went on and the squelching in the shoes wasn't too bad as at least the neoprene was keeping the water warm - a bit like a very uncomfortable foot spa.

At the top of the 3rd climb stopped for the minimum time possible and had warrm liptonice (canny Italian improvisation), and as it was blowing a hooly and down to 7 degrees quiclkly got going (well quick by now was a relative term). On the way down my brakes developed an interesting feature of not actually slowing the bike down at all. This quickly (in the traditional use of the term) became, not so much an issue, more a crisis.

One of my group who had been riding with me, was most bemused to see me whistling past with reckless abandon coming down to a hairpin. He quickly twigged why as I shouted "no brakes!!!) - I wasn't bragging, but I'm not sure that the two Italians I cut up appreciated why. By now I had appreciated that the only way to stop using a suicidal short cut to the bottom (some 8kms distant) was to use the crash barrier (well I was going to crash one or the other, so it seemed legitimate to me). My handle bars bounced off the barrier and then the wheels slid (did I mention it was raining - lots?) and I slid on my backside still attached to the bike and came to graceful (ahem) standstil.

Incredibly an ambulance was just behind me, but because it was so wet (did I mention it was a bit damp) there was little friction, no road rash and my recently purchased (as in the day before) rain jacket acquired new ventilation features. I was fine. But the medics decided it would be a good idea to give me a lift to the bottom, given the novel features of my brakes.

While shivering in the ambulance I debated the prudence of continuing. It was deeply imprudent but pride forbid abondoning. At the bottom I got out and assessed the damage, which appeared superficial. However, the brake cable at the rear had pulled through under the extreme effort of trying to get some friction in the driving rain (did I mention the unseasonable weather?). After a quick fix with frozen hands I decided that it was fit to go ahead and got pedalling though I was shivering so hard the bars were shaking.

Shortly after my bike computer beeped at me and turned itself off (it probably drowned). There was one more climb (if I had known it was one of the steepest of the day I might have stayed in the ambo!). Once the gradient picked up again I stopped shivering and felt a bit better. I ground my way up to the top and started the descent - of course the newly acquired feature reasserted itself so I found a driveway that headed back up the hill to stop me. Another fiddle and I got going again - this time the brakes worked. I then made my way down to the finish, with not a bit of relief that it was no longer downhill.

So the Zero Gravity brakes are heading to eBay! Probably user error (there is a very fine tolerance of adjustment to get max leverage onto the rim) but my confidence in them is shot. But it was a mission of a ride and for the record it as the Mediofondo that I did (the Granfondo route was cancelled due to snow on the first pass). Pretty happy with the ride given the very limited miles I had managed to get in the bank. And this part of Italy is stunning (what I saw of it through the driving rain - I did mention that didn't I?).

Jonathan Andrew

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