In my many long walks, including from the Italian-Swiss border to Otranto in southeastern Italy, I have learned a very important lesson: no matter what you have done and no matter how incredible you think your latest accomplishment is, there is somebody who has done more, longer, faster and under more difficult conditions.
Case in point…I cross the finish line in San Remo three days ago under a driving rain after ten hours and 56 minutes on the bike. Milan, my departure point 296 kilometers away, is already almost a distant memory as are the three climbs that are the signature characteristic of the last 40 kilometers of the Milano-San Remo bike race. I’m feeling nothing short of ebullient for having finished the longest bike ride of my life and for having done it in less than 11 hours, which was my second goal (the first was just finishing).
I’m dripping wet, shivering, completely knackered, and extraordinarily happy. Up strolls Francesco to say hello. He looks everything I am not: dry, warm and rested. He also looks happy so I guess we shared that. Come to find out Francesco has done the Milano-San Remo 30 times and this time he did it an hour and 45 minutes faster than me. The kicker…I think he is 20 years older than me (I didn’t have the courage to ask him how fast he did the race in years gone by when he was my age).
I’ll be back next year with another set of goals – finishing first and foremost and secondly finishing in ten hours. Francesco will have completed his 31st Milano-San Remo by then.
Some general information on the race: 1,200 people crossed the starting line in Milan at 7am and 891 made it to San Remo. I was number 792, but who’s counting. The winner, a Frenchman named Alexandre Blain, finished in 7 hours 44 minutes. The top woman, Italian Ilaria Rinaldi, came in a mere 14 minutes later.