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03.07.17 – Race day 1 – Milan to Pisa. ~400km/250miles.
After snatching only 2 hours sleep before travelling from Pavia to Milan’s Idroscalo, we arrived yesterday (Sunday) as planned, around 5pm. John and Clive had already left in the morning to stay in the airport hotel in Milan with Les and Jack to make the most of their rest before the start.
Already lots of activity, with a stream of vans, motorbikes and sidecars arriving and the parking area buzzing with more and more with excitement.
A quick registration and we were issued with ‘Auto al Seguito’ stickers for the vans, participant booklets, bibs, participants badges, scorecard, etc.
Scrutineering was also quick and all bikes flew through.
Les’ bike however refused to start. 5 Men and several hours later, it was running, but unfortunately Les decided not to start with the rest of the team due to knee problems.
It had already been too long a day to do a night ride safely, so we hope he will join us later in the tour as it will not be the same without him in the team.
We had a short preparation time for the bikes after the riders briefing at 11pm. Jan-Willem was the first to start at 0:28 – extra points for the push-start!
 – followed by Jack and later Bjorn and John, which left Clive and myself, after taking numerous photos and cheering the riders on from the starting line, with 2 vans and no idea where to go! A quick programming of the satnav later  and we were on our way.
Jan-Willem had to follow another rider’s taillight closely as his electrics went down 5 minutes after race start. Fortunately sunrise came quickly!
The route went via Crema, Ciriano, Vigolo Marchese, Bardi and the Passo Santa Donna (beautiful sunrise going through the mountains), Filattiera, Castelnuovo and Lucca to Pisa.
The night stops were amazing: Driving through pitch black darkness with the stops lighting up the sky: Lights, food and drink, coffee, power naps, more coffee and the sound of multiple languages and motorbikes. At the approach of your start time, gear on and back to the motorbikes to check in for the next stage, if possible exactly on time.
The mountain stops were chilly, but towards sunrise it warmed up quickly again.
The route and the road surfaces, especially around Bari, were highly challenging and even disappearing in some spots, but nice and curvy. Hunting for small red route arrows is already second nature to us.
In the final stage looking for the route to the hotel in busy Pisa proved difficult: Everyone had been riding through the night and was really tired. The last sidecar arrived at the hotel at 5pm.
For most of us, a quick sleep before dinner did the trick, however the car park was filled with motorcycle parts, so sleep was not priority for everyone.
 Having had a wonderful dinner with all the participants, the team retired to our rooms and will be ready for the 8 am start tomorrow for the next stage to Principina Terra.
Cyrille Labeij.