After a two-year absence (something with Covid...), the three-day Cyprus Gran Fondo could take place again this year. This GF is one of the events in which you can qualify for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championship which wil be held in September in Trento. Would I be able to do that at my age?
When you pick up your rental car and get in on the wrong side as a driver, you find out that the UK still has some influence here. The same can be said for the Russians, who made sure that quite a few cancellations took place (involuntary or niet).
A small 200 enthusiastic riders showed up. Only the die hards of course participated in both the time trial (21 km) and the two mountain stages (97 km with 1600m+ and 54 km with 1450m+). As usual a mixed group, including quite a few Brits, Israelis and local Cypriot heroes.
The time trial took place in Kouklia, just under 20 km from Paphos. First we had to climb a nasty slope and then give everything on an rolling course next to the sea, without forgetting the last rather steep 500 meters. The weather was beautiful, the organization was excellent and the atmosphere pleasant. It's a shame that I was only allowed to bring one bike (the road bike) and that I still haven't found a solution for a handlebar for "aerobars". If you miss the podium and the qualification for the World Championships, it's a small blow. Especially since it is your 63rd birthday. Just imagine you were born on April 1...
On to Saturday with that feeling of revenge. The legs felt good, the weather was beautiful (25 degrees) and I had done a recon of the 70 hardest kilometers. Seven climbs awaited, with the three toughest between kilometers 35 and 60. Part of the third climb is a stretch of totally crumbling road with a gradient of 10-11%. My 28mm tires came in handy! After the young people had gone (with a few golden oldies still around to keep up), I ended up in a group where the pace was high but fine for me. On each climb we picked up those who had overestimated themselves a bit. I was happy to see that there were two riders in my age group. With twenty kilometers to go, the cramps announced themselves again. A problem I always struggle with. Stepping back on the gas; no more pressure; hope it improves. Except for two shorter hills, it was fortunately downhill. Then, it turned out I came in second in my age group, you take your burnt legs and the cramps for granted. The qualification for the World Championships road race is thus also in the pocket! The organization had treated me to a sports massage, after I arrived at the hotel and found that my reservation had not been given. And that came in handy!
After two days of riding full speed, it's always wait and see how the third day goes. Almost 1500 meters of climbing spread over 54 kilometers with a flat run-up of 12 kilometers means a lot of climbing within a short time frame. The first climb was only 1.5 km; plan was to go with the first group. That worked out, but I paid the price for it the rest of the day. On the second climb, I was messed up pretty quickly and I couldn't follow the riders I was in a group with the day before. For thirty long kilometers I saw them riding in front of me. Especially because there was often a lot of headwind, it hurt. I could still ride at a good pace, but there was no acceleration in my legs. At 3 km from the end (a final climb of 6.5 km) I was completely wasted.
In my age group, it still sufficed for a third place finish. Over the three days I can be proud of a second place (fourteen participants). However, the difference with the Polish winner is very large. There are still a lot of over-60s out there who could fit into that gap.
I was able to observe a lot of passion and dedication from the organizers and the participants. While in the low countries the weather was cold and sad, I was able to ride around in the sun for a week. Good timing, three times on the podium and qualification for the road race in my pocket! A successful week to celebrate my birthday.