On Sunday 26th September, the 50th edition of arguably the greatest sportive in the world takes place in Italy, the Nove Colli Gran Fondo.
Eleven-thousand riders will descend on Cesenatico to do battle with either the 205km or 130km parcours, or the 96km e-bike route.
TEST OF THE ‘NINE CLIMBS’
The 205km route will test the limits of the most stoical cyclist as it features 3,840m climbing over nine climbs from which the event gets its name (Nove Colli is Italian for ‘nine climbs’). The ascent to the gods begins with the first climb after 37km near Bertinoro. It’s 8km long at an average 3% that maxes out at 13%.
It’s something to warm the blood and stimulate the synapses as it’s the first of nine significant climbs. Arguably the most challenging ascent of the day comes 91km in when the riders face the Barbotto ascent.
The 5.5km-long stretch rises 372m at an average gradient of 6.9%, peaking at 18%. There’s little respite less than 30km later (141km in) with the seventh climb of the day at Monte Pugliano.
This is the greatest elevation gain in the Nove Colli, rising 511m in just 9km. That’s down to an average gradient of 5.6% and maximum hit of 12%.
Just for good measure, the final tough climb of the day (176km) is the Gorolo. Yes, it’s relatively short at 4km but has a wall of 17%.
It’s tough and not for the faint-hearted. In fact, all three race options will stretch the entrants.
It’s why 39 x 28 isn’t a bad gear option for the race. Actually, 34 x 28 doesn’t seem a bad idea, either!
UNA BELLA STORIA
There’ll be suffering, of course. But what a place to suffer. After leaving the beautiful seaside town of Cesenatico, the closed-road route heads into the stunning rolling hills that mark the border between Marche and Emilia Romagna. As you climb the Italian hills and descend toward the Adriatic coast, you’ll remember what you love about this great sport.
Many onlookers will appreciate the Nove Colli Gran Fondo, too, as it’s televised in Italy. It’s all a far cry from the first race that took place in 1971.
Apart from the Covid-cancelled 2020 edition, it’s run every year since. That inaugural event started with 17 intrepid pioneers and was organised by local bike club ASD Fausto Coppi – the former club of the five-time Giro d’Italia winner.
Those nine hills were also where another legend, Marco Pantani, learnt his trade. The race is historic but still leads the world today, just like Campagnolo.
But that’s not the only thing the two Italian greats have in common.
Both pay great heed to environmental concerns. Novi Colli Gran Fondo is deemed a “green and sustainable race”, earning official certification from Ecoevents – the first Gran Fondo to be recognised in this manner.
As an example, the organisers have dramatically cut the use of plastic and paper use and source seasonal ingredients for the pasta party. To that end, they encourage entrants to not litter during the race and, if possible, ride to the race.
Campagnolo also takes its ecological responsibilities seriously with all manufacturing taking place in Europe, not Asia.
The Nove Colli Gran Fondo is one of the most stunning and toughest events on the calendar. It’s sure to make dreams come true – and break some hearts – for this year’s entrants.
But whatever happens, the memories will live forever.
For everyone competing at the 50th Nove Colli Gran Fondo, good luck.