Jamie Busher and David Bradley completed Granfondo Milan San Remo on June 8th, following the same route as the Classic itself. Busher is a regular racer, while Bradley has just joined the club, and they also found two Bray Wheelers for company.

While it's not an official race it was a full on affair after a neutralised 20 km start out of Milan. There were several Italian teams participating with support vehicles, race radios and designated feed zones! The lead group averaged over 35 kmph for the full 296km, with Busher netting himself an excellent 11th with no support, in a time of 8h 27'.

Congratulations to them both on completing an arduous challenge, and then saving enough energy to write two fantastic accounts of the event for your enjoyment!


David Bradley

I joined Orwell this year and have really enjoyed the club atmosphere and organisation, in particular the club league and training spins. Unfortunately I didnt get to join many of the training spins as my friend, and one of Orwell's strongest riders, Jamie Busher, had already roped me into doing Milan San Remo, meaning my usual and casual winter/spring training schedule was now decidedly different!!

It was the grand tours that first got me interested in cycling but I quickly discovered that actually it was the one day races and particularly the monuments that I most enjoyed watching. When Jamie talked to me about Milan San Remo I was initially enthusiastic and had all the usual dreams of emulating Sean Kellys descent of the Poggio and fighting it out with noisy Italians as we enter San Remo, but very quickly the reality of the challenge hit home. Overall though, to be honest, I was looking forward to it.

Training went well and for anyone wondering, I didn't really do crazy miles. In fact the furthest I went was 229km. I was more focused on building my power and my basic speed. I figured that other things on the day, large peleton, great weather, adrenaline, etc. would get me through the distance.

Travelling a lot for work, I was happy enough to only arrive into Milan the day before, the Saturday. I didn't fancy having too much time to think beforehand and this worked very well for me. In fact on the day, I landed, got to the hotel, built the bike up, got my gear ready, signed on, ate dinner and went to bed! It was that quick!

Next thing I know its 5am and I need shovel a whole load of food into me! Im not good at this and its something that you have to account for. Out of necessity, and constant reminders from Jamie on how important nutrition was going to be, I stuffed myself as much as I could. Quick shower, put on the club gear, pack what seems like a hundred gels and energy bars into the pockets and tally-ho!

The start is fantastic. Everything I hoped it would be. Noisy, nervous, laughing, reflective, quiet, anxious, excited... At 7am the flag dropped and we headed off in a huge peleton of colour, chat, aero wheels, squeky brakes and so on for a neutralized section of about 15km. Then bang! Race off and we were quickly travelling at 45-50kph involving intermittent efforts of varying intensity. Above all else though, you had to concentrate very hard. The speed continued to climb and to be honest the chat stopped as everyone became slightly anxious and extra determined not to be dropped.

I coped with the start pretty well. I had decided, unlike Jamie, that I was going to stop at the first water stop to refill the water bottles. This was at the 120km mark and even accounting for the slow start it still only took about 3hrs to cover that section. The first climb is the Turchino and it comes right after the stop. It drags on for about 20k but isnt particularly difficult. I got through this ok and joined a decent group descending off the climb.

The next section is down on the coast just after the halfway point, about 155km in. The towns are beautiful and given it was a really hot day the beaches looked very appealing to all of us sweating cyclists going by. The routine along the coast was set; descend into the town, negotiate the seafront and then climb out at the far end. The legs were starting to feel it.

With Jamie up ahead, I joined up with our Bray Wheeler friends - Noel Conway and Barry Cahill - just before the second water stop around the 200km mark. The heat, building all day was now mid thirties and one of the lads was suffering with bad cramp in his right leg. No choice though, onwards we go but knowing that this is where it gets tough. Mentally at this point you need to prepare for the best part of 100km still to go and with all the major climbing to come.

We hit the Capos, shown as lumps on the map, and the legs screamed. Tough climbs, a few km in length but all together they really soften you up for whats coming, the Cipressa and Poggio. Descending at this stage needed concentration given the fatigue setting in and unfortunately there were quite a few spills witnessed as we went by. The Cipressa and Poggio, on their own and tackled when fresh on a Sunday morning, are not the most difficult but after 275km, in tough heat and already softened up, they present a great challenge. I have even more respect now for how the pros 'big ring' these climbs in the race proper.

Most rewarding, I crest the Poggio and hit the descent made famous by Kelly. I didnt replicate the descent as I had hoped and dreamt about but I really enjoyed the feeling of achievement and following a route covered by all the greats. Into San Remo after 296km and the 3 of us crossed the line together. 9hr 12mins of enjoyment was then made even better when I heard that Jamie has finished 11th!! Already making plans on winning next year!

Busher with his breakaway companions

Bradley recovering


Jamie Busher

Milan San Remo has been a race that intrigued me for the last few years, having listened to our own Declan Quigley and Magnus Backstedt discuss the nutritional and physical demands a race of such a distance puts on the body I decided I would take up the challenge. At 296km its the longest professional race in the world and the amateur version takes place the first week in June which is even more appealing from the viewpoint of a fine weather starved Irish person.

Myself and David Bradley - who joined Orwell this year - and Noel Conway and Barry Cahill of Bray Wheelers decided we would dedicate a winters/spring training for this event.

The Milano San Remo Granfondo was previously billed as the amateur Italian championships. I participated in the event in 2013 which culminated in the winner being disqualified for being a current professional with team Raleigh, even more bangers in these events than Irish races. Some changes to the structure meant the pros stayed away in this edition and gave the weekend warriors a chance.

We arrived in Milan on Friday evening and began the carb loading Italian style. On Saturday we had a quick spin into the city followed by a massive buffet meal with all the other cyclists.

Race morning and a 5am start, high temperatures were forecast so priority number one is get lots of water down and food! Having guzzled down some water we immediately sniffed out the bacon/eggs and got some nutrition on board.

The first 10-15km out of the city are neutralised and when the flag goes down the pace picks up. Its a pretty big bunch with 500+ riders a large portion of which are Italians who like to shout for no apparent reason, it all adds to the atmosphere and occasion.

The first 100km are completely flat so pace is high. The temperature is 26 at 10am so I know there is a big decision at the first stop at 118km, stop reload and let the front group off or continue and gamble I can make it to 200km with the bottles I've got on the frame, I decide to plough on.

The first climb is the Turchino at around 120km, I got caught out the previous year so made my made to the front for the steep part of the climb, I made it over with the top 15 and when we descended nobody was willing to ride on the front so everyone sat up and waited for chasing riders. The group swelled to around 40 and the pace picked up again. The Italian teams had on road support and there were motorbikes flying up and down the group constantly handing them food and water whilst the foreigners looked nervously at each other wondering where and when the next bottle would come from.

We hit the coast at 160km which provided some spectacular views of the Mediterranean on a perfectly clear day with blue skies. I knew the tough stuff was about to come so us foreigners discussed how best we would get some liquids on board and stay with the lead bunch. The drinks stop was advertised at 199 so we decided to try jump off the front at 195 to give us some time to reload, we made the jump but the stop was actually at 205km and were tailed right to the drinks stop so had a frantic stop and then started the chase which lasted 10 mins. Most got back on and with some liquids on board confidence was a little higher.

Temperatures were now 32 degrees so those bottles didn't last long, we were planning our next assault at 250km before the tough hills. The situation was beginning to get heated among the Italian teams, a spaghetti armed Italian throws a punch at another teams motorbike support which I assume was a dispute about water, that's a first!

Again we stopped but this time 10 riders put the boot down and there was no getting them back. Once we were on the Capos the group blew to pieces and riders took the hills at their own pace. I got in a nice group with a Belgium rider who could put down big power on the flats and a Swiss girl who was had won the ladies race twice in the previous 3 years. We worked our way over the Cipressa/Poggio and at this stage I was dreading going to the front as I was empty!

We somehow managed to keep a decent pace, descended the Poggio and the finish line was in sight! I rolled over the line 11th exhausted but happy in a time of 8 hours 27 mins. San Remo is a beautiful seaside town and that night we re hydrated Irish style.


As well as footage of the ride, you can catch an interview with Busher at 12:25 above.
44a Granfondo Milano-Sanremo Cicloturistica 2014 from NWT on Vimeo.