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Paul Jackson - Race Across Italy is ON!

Here we are with just over a week to go until the race begins. Everything is in place and now all that remains is to get the team and the kit to Italy and do the actual ride. The main driver, Jason, and myself leave Guernsey on Monday on the ferry to St Malo, France and we’ll drive down to Silvi, on the Adriatic coast of Italy with the bikes and kit that we need for the race via an overnight stop near Geneva. The rest of the team, comprising of my wife Karina, mechanic, driver and tech wizard Neil and his wife, Kerry follow us by plane on Wednesday, flying from Guernsey via Gatwick into Rome. We should all be together on the Wednesday evening ready for sign-on and equipment inspection on the following day.

Inspection involves checks of the bikes and the van to insure we have all the required equipment and that we’re adhering to all of the rules in regards to safety. At this stage we’ll also get the GPS tracker to attach to the bike so that we can be followed via the weblink and “dot watched”. There will also be a briefing which all the riders and crew need to attend.

The race itself begins on Friday and the format is the same as a traditional time-trial with the riders starting individually at one and a half minute intervals (no idea..!) and the clock doesn’t stop until you cross the finish line, there are no allowances for any stops whatsoever. There’s also no drafting allowed off of other riders or vehicles, it’s a completely singular effort in regards to riding the bike. That said, it’s been a massive team effort to get me to the start line and I would have no chance of trying to achieve this goal without the support of Karina, Jason, Neil and Kerry, all to whom I’m extremely grateful to for giving up their time and their energy, not just for the race itself but also during the build up to it.

My race number is 12 and my start time is 11:48, which makes me one of the last riders to get underway. My initial goal is just to complete it within the official cut-off time of 42 hours. It’s very much an unknown for me as although I’ve covered the distance before I’ve not done anything near the duration. The terrain is a real game changer with many mountains to climb and so I’ll be starting off very reserved and trying to stay within a certain power bracket to conserve energy. Something that has always stuck in my mind is some advice I was given when I did my first 12 hour race and that is, for the first few hours “if you don’t think that you’re going too slow then you’re going too fast”. I’ll be trying to remember that so I can conserve energy as much as possible. I’ll also be doing as much freewheeling as I can..!

The route has now been confirmed and it will take us from Silvi in a huge figure of eight across Italy and back to Silvi again via three time stations. Stage one is 233km long and takes us from Silvi to Opi which is in the mountains on the border of the regions of Abruzzo and Lazio. The second timestation is at 345km and is near Minturno on the south-western coast and the final timestation is at Roccaraso back in the mountains again and at 575km, is around 208 km from the finish.

Route finding is something that has caused a certain amount of paranoia on my behalf for a while and I’ve tried to cover this part of the organisation as best I can. I’ll have radio communication with the follow-car and be given step-by-step instructions by the team from the route book which all crews are given. I’ll also be using a Garmin 1030 on my bike with the route uploaded to it which is basically a Sat-Nav on the bike and with which I can follow the route. There’s a spare Garmin (thank you Goff ;-)) mounted on the dashboard of the car as a back-up for me which the crew can use for route finding as well. And as back-ups for the back-up, there’s an i-pad and Sat-Nav in the car which also have the route uploaded to them. The problem will come if we either lose the GPS coverage or if one device doesn’t agree with another or with the route book. There could be a few “emotional” moments if that happens..! We’ve allowed for a tech failure though, which is shouting out of the car window..!!

I can’t wait to get going now, it’s very much a step into the unknown for all of us but I’m happy that we’ve prepared as much as we can in all of the aspects which we can control so if the body is willing, the mind is able, the kit holds up and our navigation skills are any good we hope to arrive back in Silvi and at the finish line sometime late Saturday night or during the early hours of Sunday morning.

Thanks especially to everyone at Ian Brown’s Cycles for their incredible support and expertise, Gareth at Matt Bottrill Performance Coaching for his cycling coaching and guidance (and counselling at times..!). The Team Botterill sponsors, Vanguard Power, Endura, HSS Hire, NW Ridley Tech Consultants, Cyclon UK and, as always, to my amazing wife Karina for her incredible support and to Neil, Kerry and Jason for giving up their time (and sleep) to help. Without any of these people I wouldn’t be able to compete next week and I’m extremely grateful to everyone for giving me this opportunity.

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