Number 5 in our series of sportives you have to ride in your lifetime is a gem on the Adriatic. Not widely known in the UK with only a few hundred Brits in attendance each year, this is one of the biggest events in the Italian amateur cycling calendar. Entries for the 2016 event sold out in record time – just 4 minutes! And this is not a small, local sportive. 13,000 riders take to the streets of Cesenatico every year to take on the Nove Colli.
Started in 1971 by the local cycling club GC Fausto Coppi, this is the father of all Gran Fondos in Italy and stands together with La Marmotte as the original classics. Nove Colli translates as nine hills and the route takes you out from the coastal plains into the hill country for the meat of the route before spitting you back out for a sprint home to the sea. For leading amateurs on either side of their pro career this is a big race in Italy with the action shown live on Italian TV. With two route options this can either be a great day out in the hills or one of your biggest challenges of the season.
Catch up on other sportives in this series of sportives you have to ride in your lifetime – #6 Tour of Flanders
With the same route every year, over 40 years of experience and some 1,000 local volunteers, this is a big sportive with incredible organisation. The entire 200km route is closed to traffic and there are mechanical stops and feed stations far more often than you need them. This means quick speeds and long stretches of riding in the same groups without traffic lights and vehicles to slow you down.
The route is a cracker with two long quick sections on the coastal plains – average speeds likely to be anywhere from 35-50km/h and some great climbs in gorgeous countryside. Best of all, Nove Colli is ideal for all sorts of rider with different aims / levels of fitness. The short route is gentle enough for most riders with under 2,000m climbing but this route also has enough for serious cyclists and cat racers with steep climbs and some quick wheels to hold onto. The long route at over 200km and nearly 4,000m is as tough as many of the big mountain sportives.
Emilia Romagna, the host region of Nove Colli, is a lovely place to be at the end of May and is incredibly friendly to cyclists. The food is mostly sensational with some great seafood restaurants. The local specialty is piadinas, a delicious flat bread either stuffed or plain.
Date – May 22nd 2016
Distances – Long 200km | Medium 130km
Elevation – Long 3840m | Medium 1871m
Start Town – Cesenatico
Finish Town – Cesenatico
Entries – With accommodation packages only.
Accommodation – There are several good cycle hotels along the coast but for this weekend we recommend basing yourself in Cesenatico. Check out our hotel & entries deals, 3 nights from £335 pp
At 200km this is one of the longer sportives in Europe. Starting in Cesenatico at 7am (pens open at 6am so this is an early start), the long route (200km, 3840m) begins with a mad dash to the hills and then the 9 hills come in quick succession – 9 climbs in 150km, about 40% of the kilometres will be uphill. As the profile map suggests, once you hit the ascent of second climb it is almost all climbing and descending. There are well stocked feed stations and helpful mechanical stops at the top of most climbs so you should not need to worry about a lack of food or running out of water.
The medium route (130km, 1871m)follows the longer route until you get over the top of the fourth and hardest climb – the Barbotto. The roads will be much busier when both routes are together and the first couple of hills are packed. Off the top of the Barbotto there is a long descent down the the coast with some cross winds when you are on the plains. This route has similarities to Velothon Wales & Ride London. Even if you are not in great shape the medium route should be a lot of fun.
Cesenatico is a great spot for a long weekend. The main attraction in town is the old canal with historic fishing boats. This is also Marco Pantani country and there is a museum dedicated to his life. During the Nove Colli weekend there is a big expo in town with most leading bike brands exhibiting their latest kit and a few Italian retailers selling outrageous kit. There is plenty of great riding in the days leading up to the sportive. This region is used by many Italian & international teams as a spring training location and the routes on offer have a nice balance between flat and hilly terrain. There are many stunning old villages in the hills to explore and enjoy an espresso – perfect for a 50km warm up before the main event.
Nove Colli is without a doubt one of the very best organised sportives in Europe with a stunning route over closed roads and brilliant support on the course. With two route options this can be treated as a great ride in the hills to mark the end of your spring training or as your big cycling challenge for the season. And, its in a beautiful setting in Italy. Whats not to like about that.