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08.07.17 – Race Day 6 – Bari to Taranto ~ 125km/78miles.

The last day: Bari to Taranto and back to Bari again. Jan-Willem had teamed up with Gabriele, on a Moto Morini Corsaro, who lead him through the busy Bari traffic.The first stop at Castellana Grotte, famous for its caves, had a VIP arrival with a red carpet! What a lovely town and what an effort went into welcoming us. Stalls with foods, cold water, liqueurs and proper ice-cream made from crushed ice (in my case lemon and coconut) which cooled us down nicely .Re-start on time and off via the red carpet on to the next town, Martina Franco, which we reached through the beautiful Puglia countryside, with drystone walls, trulli and, of course, olive trees.

Once again a nice town and a tree-lined square with, this time, a stop for water, melon and coconut.

On to way to the last stop for lunch I was flagged down by Sylvia on the Mas, with a problem. The long pin locking the drawers of the tool chest was small and long enough and gave just enough leverage to insert one of the pushrods back in and on her way she went. Respect!
Lunch at Villa Castelli saw one last start and stop only covering a 100m over the bridge, with lunch in the park under the bridge with local music and dance, and local dishes.
The local car club was represented by an immaculate Fiat 850, and Alfa Giulietta and a Ford Capri.
After lunch it was a mass exit over the bridge for the last stretch to Taranto.
With some of the vans being stopped by red traffic lights and consequently losing the bikes, we shot up to Taranto via a direct route following a van guiding us at warp speed. I never realised our van would go that fast, but I had to keep up as, being a newly to MiTa, I had not idea where I was going.
We arrived on time for the finish at the seafront with the first couple finishing on foot!
The bikes sprinted up to the finish in pairs, with even the local police stopping to take photos.
The Mas sidecar ( the oldest entrant in the sidecar) and the 2 Mas motorbikes (Sylvia being the youngest entrant) crossed the line together, while the KMZ sidecar unleashed full pyrotechnics crossing the line.
Last of all, the staff and the ambulance with lights and siren closed the finish and the event.
All bikes parked at the seafront for an individual drive back to the hotel in Bari.
John and Bjorn loaded their bikes in the van and I was very happy to ride the Settebello the 100+km back to the hotel in Bari, together with John Adams on a Honda CB 160cc. It took a few minutes to get familiar with the gear change: Toes down and heel up. Overtaking uphill was brilliant, the bike suddenly gives you power hitting 5000 rpm, tucking in elbows on legs and flat on the tank to squeeze out the last km to stay in 4th gear, but for the steeper hills I had to get down to 3rd. The brakes were interesting and reminded me of advice given my first drive in our Austin 7: ‘Forget braking and look for the hole in the hedge’. Braking meant looking far ahead, going down in gears and ‘Fred Flintstone-ing’ the last metres. I did have some strange looks on the way, as the rider of bike no. 75 seemed to have lost a beard and gained a braid!
We phoned Pietro and Denise to say that we all crossed the finish line and that we would be celebrating that evening.
We loaded the bikes in the van and sat down on the terrace for some well deserved cold beers (the temperature hit 44 degrees today) and reflection on the Milano-Taranto.
Awards were presented during dinner and the whole team received their cups and limited edition Milano-Taranto prints, which of course will be framed. We also received a memory stick with photos taken by the professional team at which we will have a closer look accompanied by a glass of wine when we arrive back home.
Final results: Jan-Willem on -5, Bjorn 63 and John 3132 penalty points (as he unfortunately missed a full day fixing the bike!).
The organisation of the MiTa was incredible: To take care and cater for so many people, the planning of registration, start times, the route, hotels, food, water, stops, slow and fast bikes, accidents, breakdowns, the staff racing ahead to indicate sudden turns and waiting in the burning sun until the last participant passed (or overshooting the turn and needing to turn around!), the tech support, the following vehicle to make sure nobody is left stranded and of course the ambulance team being at hand – and all through the varied Italian landscape, tasting the local delicacies along the way.
When we return to the UK at the end of the week, we will park the bikes at Pietro’s, so anybody wanting to drop in to see the bikes and undoubtedly more photos….
Cyrille Labeij.