It’s been 4 years since took part in the Torino Nice Rally and I can assure you there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about it.
I dug up the old map a few days ago along with some postcards and a leaflet from Rifugio Carbonetto, one of the many rifugio’s you can stay at on route.
“The term “rifugi” translates to the mountain refuge, and the Dolomites offer a vast network of these mountain huts located throughout the region. Ranging from simple and rugged to more comfortable amenities, they all offer suitable and welcome shelter to walkers, mountaineers, skiers and anyone desiring to get up close and personal with the beautiful terrain of the Dolomite Mountains.” Extract taken from Rifugious in the Dolomites.
Given it’s been such a long time since I did this event I’m pretty astonished that I didn’t write anything sooner. That said, I was at Eurobike and in Paris, at another trade show after, which is why I only had 7 days to complete the TNR, looking back I wish I’d given myself another week! This wasn’t because of how challenging it was but simply because the scenery and landscapes were so breathtaking that it was a shame having to amlmsot rush the route.
Having failed miserably at the Trans Continental Race 2015 (another tour I never wrote up), the TNR was a new adventure but one I could enjoy with no clock ticking, no crazy 200/300km days and no shermer’s neck or saddle sores. And holy shit was it an incredible adventure.
I’m pretty sure what made my experience so amazing was getting my kit dialled in. I recall James Hayden being asked how to prepare for the Trans Continental Race in an interview and he simply said, do the race for the first time to learn how to do the race properly the second time, which was a pretty accurate interpretation of my experience (along with 100’s of other learning curves) excluding the second time part. I’d had my taste of ultra-endurance cycling and totally kicked in the ass. However, I realised what really got me pumped about these events was going incredible place on a bike and proving to myself I could do it in a short space of time with only the kit I could carry on my bike.
One of the biggest disappointments to ultra-endurance, particularly thinking back to the TCR, is cycling the breathtaking Strada dell’Assietta and getting to the end the checkpoint feeling like I hadn’t seen or taken in enough of the route as I was so busy focusing on getting to the next stage of the race.
Whilst I did the tour on my own I met a number of different people on the way, shared campsites and hotel rooms with fellow TNR riders along the way. I particularly remember rocking up to a campsite late one night with Staffan and Peter from Ass Savers only to find there wasn’t any room left. We decided to cut the costs of purchasing a room individually and just share a 3-bed room. We checked in, grabbed a big dinner and hit the hay for the night. Same thing happened when I found myself riding with a chap called Simon, we we’re at the top of a popular ski destination (can’t remeber which part) and again just got a room to share. It’s moments like these that really make the Torino Nice Rally so special, even just stopping at the water troughs along the route, there are usually a few riders taking a break.
It’s also worth mentioning that whilst the Torino Nice Rally is a haven for anyone looking to taste a multitude of gravel, there’s a delightful amount of smooth tarmac too, Which at times was a small relief from the constat grind of gravel.
The route is tough, but it’s only as tough as you make it (food, drink stops, chill at the side of the road etc). There were a few of the gravel climbs which really tested me towards the end, but I think part of that was down to fatigue and a slight bit of panic to get of the top of the col before dark. With multiple routes you have the choice to make it longer or shorter many times during the ride. I did the shortest route but I think the next time I do it I’ll take all the longer routes just to extend the journey!
The Torino Nice Rally was a truly incredible adventure and experience for me, one of which I’ll never forget. I hope that if you’re at all unsure about the TNR this might have just tipped you over the edge.
I also want to mention Smart Shelter Foundation which all the money for the patches (entry fee essential) goes to. Even if you’re not doing the route at the time of the event, in keeping with the ethos of the event it would be a worthy cause to donate too and ensure that not only the Torino Nice Rally will continue but the Smart Shelfer foundation will go on to thrive and do so much to help the communities they work in. You can find out more about the Smart Foundation Shelter here.
If you’re interested in the route 2017 route you can see it below in the strava details.