Italy Day 3 – Conquering Cippo
The itinerary today was a ride out to and up the climb known as Cippo. This is a climb up the Carpegna mountain which has legendary status thanks to the climber Marco Pantani. He famously commented “Il Carpegna mi Basta!” – The Carpegna is enough! when asked why he didn’t do reconnaissance training trips to the Alps and Pyrenees to prepare for the Tour de France. It’s the hardest climb around here and is now somewhat of a shrine to the much loved Pantani.
Riding to Carpegna
No one else was brave enough to take on Cippo with us today so it was just Chris and I. Our guide for the day was a fresh faced 24 year old cyclist. He was fresh legged too having just come off a 10 day rest period with just a short freshen up ride the day before. Something told me today was going to be a tough one! Something about him suggested that he was about to serve us a large portion of suffering. His grin whenever we mentioned such things simply confirmed this. His mischievous giggle when Cippo was mentioned didn’t help either. The ride out was good. It was a gradual climb of around 1000m over 50km. We were setting a decent pace today despite the fact that the previous couple of days rides meant that our legs were quite heavy. We stopped once for a quick photo but otherwise it was a fairly steady ride through the Italian hills.
The weather was good and the miles rolled by
In the village of Carpegna we turned right following the ‘Cippo’ sign and started the climb. Our guide led the way and soon opened up a gap. As the gradient kicked up to 15% Chris’s labrador like breathing did too. As we got out of our saddles for the steeper lower sections I pulled in front of Chris a little. He then stopped for a photo of one of the Cippo signs. I felt as though I’d prefer to keep going so kept our guides wheel in sight and continue up the climb. Each of the 22 bends was marked with sign counting them off which helps with the effort and the pacing. The gradient soon eased off a little to a steady but unrelenting 10%. Our guide stopped on one of the bends as well. I told him I’d rather keep going so was now alone with the climb. It was just me, the road and my own private suffering. I settled into a steady rhythm. It was suitably hard but hopefully sustainable for the whole climb. I was in a gear that I could turn seated some of the time but had me out of the saddle most of the time. It was reassuring to know that I had a couple of easier gears remaining should the need arise. Sweat was dripping despite the shade of the trees as the climb continued. I felt a little guilty not stopping for photos of the various signs and shrines or of the numerous etchings of ‘Il Carpegna mi Basta’ all over the road. As I came to a lodge and car park where car access up the climb ends I did quickly snap a photo of a wire sculpture of Pantani.
I barely stopped though as getting going again would be tough. I wanted to set a decent time up Cippo too. I was also aware of the fact that the others were behind me and I wanted to keep it that way. I negotiated a gate and from here on, the famous climb is reserved only for cyclists. The surface deteriorated somewhat too but on I went.
Turn 11, half way. Turn 15, less than a third to go. Turn 19 and things were getting tough. The tree cover had gone, the suns heat had sweat stinging my eyes but with only 1km to go I pushed on harder still.
After the final bend there was a sign saying 15%. I expected it to steepen up again with a final sting so eased up to prepare for it. But no, that was it I was at the top and descending already. The sign was a warning of the descent to come. I turned around and headed back to the top where I took some photos and waited for the others.
More photos and we were back on our bikes for the never ending descent.
I’m useless at descending so let the others go ahead so that I could gingerly negotiate the switchbacks without them witnessing my pathetic cornering skills. The descent was harder work for me than the climb. By the bottom I was shivering, mainly from the chill but probably partly with fear too!
Cippo had been conquered.
The Ride Back
We stopped at a nice roadside cafe for coffees. They were so nice that we had a second before heading on our way.
The ride back was a fast and furious mix of flats and descents along the Marrechia Valley. We took turns working on the front with the guide doing the lions share. Where things got twisty or steep downhill I’d lose ground and would have to work hard to get back on the wheel once things straightened up.
We did have one more fairly significant climb to do, the climb into Verruchio that we did yesterday. As the climb started our guide decided to stretch his legs a bit and headed off towards the top. I went with him and buried myself to stay with him. I did so most of the way but just couldn’t hang on for the final stretch. We stopped briefly at the top but headed off again once Chris joined us.
From here it was fast and furious again into Riccione. What a ride. Just short of 80 miles with over 7000ft of climbing.
Time to chill, refuel, and look forward to a relatively easy ride tomorrow.