MICK IVES SOLO GIRO 2017
Mick Ives completed his solo ride round the course of the 2017 Giro d’Italia, riding a few days ahead of the race. Thanks to Scot Whitlock we have some edited extracts from the daily diary. Remember, Mick had no support riders, no team physio, no closed roads, and that he is all but 78 years old.
Mick was well into his stride by Day Nine, on the way from Montenero di Biscaccia to Blockhaus, and he was about to hit the hills;
The first part of stage ran along the rather busy Statale Adriatica (SS-16 ) which, unsurprisingly, contours the stunning Adriatic, with a wavy profile. The route finally left the coast after Francavilla a Mare and hit Chieti, which presented a short climb with punchy bits - an intermediate sprint in the race.
From Chieti the real climb started. Confusion was on the cards as the roads became narrow and the surface worn (we encountered several workmen frantically filling in the holes in preparation for the Giro), but the Garmin delivered.
The ascent to the Blockhaus (category one climb) really starts at San Valentin, in Abruzzo Citeoire,
Mick was brimming with confidence at the prospect of conquering the Blockhaus. The climb was steady early on, however, the final climb (13km) created plenty of perspiration. Mick hit the summit in time for a brief snowball fight.
Just as Mick was sticking to the route, he adhered to the race plan - with few exceptions. Day Ten was a time trial and a well earned rest after a transfer to Florence.
The next stage from Florence to Bagno di Romagna had an historic slant, setting off from the Cycling Museum Gino Bartali in Ponte a Ema.
We left the highlife and chic of Firenze. Immediately Mick encountered the force of the Apennines, the climbing was gradual with only the occasional small descent. He’d have to conquer four consecutive categorised climbs today, the Passo della Consuma, Passo della Calla, Passo del Carnaio and Monte Fumaiolo.
Once again the sun was happily shining, the scenery was glorious, the landscape was a mass of greenery with only an occasional house detracting from the view.
Mick coped amazingly with the climbs, the roads were surprisingly good and we were en route to the next start in Forli early.
On Day Twelve it was impossible to follow the main route.
Setting out from Forli nice and early, Mick diverted when the race route ran along the autosrada. With lots of traffic joining him, no hard shoulder and drops on the edge, it is one thing to ride 220 km on a closed road, but another in busy urban areas such as Modena and Bologna.
Mick was happy to emerge unscathed.
The next day was basically along the valley of the River Po, but, once again, the big challenge was the traffic. Queues of cars and congestion aren’t good for a steady pace. Clearly Mick kept a bit in store of the last few kilometres, managing a healthy 27 km/hour into Tortona. A creature of habit, Mick had plenty of time to get ready for dinner at seven o’clock, sharp.
The following day was different.
The ride was fairly flat, finishing on the Santuario di Oropa (category one climb) which is the seat of the ‘Montagna Pantani’ for the 2017 Giro, recalling Marco Pantani’s great achievement during Stage 15 at the 1999 Giro, when he made a breathtaking comeback after a mechanical accident at the foot of the climb, chasing all the way from the back to the front of the race, to nail an unforgettable victory.
From Tortona we had to make a brief transfer south to the start point of Castellania. Mick went fast on a succession of good roads with, thankfully, hard shoulders.
Negotiating Biella was fraught with danger and some navigationsal headaches, but finally the climb started up the Oropa to its magnificent Sanctuary.
Considering it is classed CAT 1 ascent, Mick coped amazingly and, on completion, he commented that is was in fact easier than some category two and three climbs in Sicily and Sardinia.
We arrived at our hotel earlier than expected giving Mick the chance to clean his bike. Our evening meal consisted Pizza in the palatial surroundings of a fast food joint.
The Stage from Rovetta to Bormio was, at 222 km, a long one, but there was a bit more to it than that.
After a much needed rest day in Bergamo, today’s Queen Stage commenced from Rovetta so a short transfer was required. The route cust across the Alps, featuring a double pass over the legendary Stelvio; first along the Bormio side, and then up the Swiss side.
Initially Mick climbed through some beautiful villages - the highlight was Lovere which hugs Lake d’Iseo - to cross the Val Camonica, the luscious greenery being enhanced by the sunlight.
Mick was making good progress but after 55 kilometres the gradient increased, sometimes topping 16%, up to the Mortirolo Pass.
The climb was taking its toll, however, as always, Mick battled away and finally cleared the top. After a fast, narrow descent to Grosio, the route followed the River Adda to Bormio
We finished in Bormio, our itinerary was to split Stage 16 into 2 days because of its length and the amount of climbing required.
On reflection it was a great day, the only negative was the rather tricky descent from Mortirolo, but, as always, Mick coped exceptionally and time for some rest before the prospect of the Stelvio tomorrow.
Next morning saw an early start.
Immediately out of Bormio we hit the infamous Stelvio climb, the sun had now awoken and Mick was pushing hard. The draw of the Stelvio is obvious, however the number of riders (especially in organised groups) was astonishing and slightly off-putting.
The zig-zagging hairpins are synonymous with the climb and Mick made good progress, passing groups with ease and joking as he did so.
As we approached the summit, the snow was over six feet deep in places. We later discovered the pass had only been open for the last couple of days.
Mick’s descent into Switzerland was at times treacherous and cold so he took it steady, his fingers numb. Then heading up the Umbrailpass (Giogo di Santa Maria). This ascent totals 13.5 km at a steady 9% gradient, with sections topping out at 12%. The Stage ended with 20 km back into Bormio, almost all downhill.
That was the one occasion when Mick’s itinerary differed from the race, by choice.
Still in the mountains, a 219 km stage beckoned, from Tirano to Canazei. It proved to be a long day.
The day started in bright sunshine, we were meeting a contingent from Polypipe (one of the main sponsors) who were going to ride with Mick.
There was an immediate climb up to Aprica (category two), followed by a sweeping descent through stunning greenery.
Next up was another category two climb to the Passo del Tonale, in beating sun; Mick’s pace reduced slightly due to the heat, but he was abundantly confident.
A long drop followed across Val di Sole. Mick’s speed was healthy before hitting Mezzolombardo when he starting climbing again (category three) up to the Giovo.
The route then climbed gradually from Camptello di Fassa for the last 5 kilometres on wide and well surfaced roads.
And so, Mick was eventually within a day of the end. A finish not without a challenge, although a time-trial in the real race.
The start of the intermediate time trial in the race is set on the home straight of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. After completing one lap of the circuit, the stage then enters the pit lane before negotiating Monza Park. It then enters the outskirts of Milan before finally concluded in Piazza Duomo.
Obviously Mick was unable to ride on the Monza circuit and after several discussions it was decided he would struggle to maintain any real speed within the city due to the traffic.
So it was decided he would pedal the 29.3 kilometres outside the city on hopefully less congested roads. In keeping with the rest of the trip, the weather was once again glorious.
Mick had chosen to ride North of the city, the roads were wide, straight and well paved. His pace was remarkable considering the toils of the last 20+ days.
He had to negotiate several underpasses and the kilometres flew by and in no time Mick had finished his epic journey and his warm down was already in place.
Our journey was one of many hardships but Mick, especially, came through relatively unscathed, he had lost weight, he had been exposed to a collection of ascents that would bring fear to most mortals, however as I expected he came through admirably and conquered the 100th Giro.
“I think there will be a significant time to reflect on his achievements before he hatches another madcap idea for the future.”
That was Scot’s final comment.
How to donate to Mick's good causes
There are two ways of donating money, either direct at the following Building Society or via Virgin Money Giving.
1 Hinckley and Rugby Building Society—14 Church Street, Rugby, Warks , CV21 3PL Acc No 81228218 Sort Code 40-24-19 – Send cheques made out to Tour of Italy Challenge Ride
2. Or online http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/micksitalianjob
PUBLISHED JUNE 2017