It’s fast, it’s furious and it flippin’ well goes on for 24 hours!
I’m at the Castelli 24 hour criterium in Feltre, northern Italy, and can’t remember the last time I had this much fun on two wheels.
Between 10pm and 1.30am last night I was racing around a 1.8km circuit in front of huge crowds against the likes of Marzio Bruseghin, Andrea Noe, Michele Bartoli, Francisco Ballerini and various amateur riders, Italian industry insiders and local weekend warriors.
And I do mean racing. It’s flat out, people are attacking, others are getting dropped and as I write this we’re only just about to hit the halfway mark.
The peloton is made up of 100 teams, each team has 12 riders, only one of which is out on the course at any one time.
Each team member typically rides for 20-30 minutes before swinging off and letting their team mate jump in to the race – like a Madison but with not hand slings.
It actually takes a fair bit of concentration to get the change over right. When waiting in the numbered pits before going out, you have to watch out for your team mate coming by. Most teams use the system of holding fingers up to signal how many more laps they intend to do.
The real skill is riding out of the pits and jumping in to the group your team mate was just in. I got this wrong last night and chased the group all the way up the climb, only to blow and have to sit up and wait for the next one.
The course itself is great fun with a deceptively hard climb up through the start finish area, a, fast twisty descent and a long, fast flat section round the back of the circuit that finishes on a wide, sweeping cobbled left hander that brings you back to the start finish.
Get yourself in a good group and you’re lapping in just under three minutes.
Things I learnt last night
Zipp 404 wheels are very, very fast
Franco Ballerini’s legs are huge. Seriously, they’re huge
Not to make eye contact with beautiful female commentators – they’ll interview you and make you look stupid in front of lots of people