2018 Milano Taranto, 8th-14th July
No.102 – Jack Hagan riding a 1950’s Moto Guzzi 250 Airone
No.73 – Jan-Willem Labeij riding a 1950’s Moto Morini 175 SetteBello (as last year)
Nick Hagan & Cyrille Labeij in a Toyota Hi Ace van – without air conditioning!
By Nick Hagan…
Day – 1, Milan
Jack and Nick arrived at the Idriscalo rendezvous area at 5pm and, shortly after, Jan Willem and Cyrille arrived. The bikes were unloaded from the van and taken to scrutineering, which was passed with flying colours by both bikes and bibs and night route plan issued.
First Route- Milan to Padua
Prior to the start line-out, however, Jan-Willem’s bike would not start. After fiddling with the bike for a short while (otherwise known as fault finding!) the situation was looking dire until a local biker volunteered to help claiming that he had the same motorbike.
Soon after that, the bike was up and running. We believe the problem was due to an earthing issue. More later!
Now that both bikes had passed scrutineering, the team had no more to do but wait for a few hours for the start of the race. We sat by the lake with some soft drinks, and relaxed.
This year, armed with the knowledge from last year, bug repellent was applied in large quantities; all team members were happier for it the next day except for poor Cyrille who had been subject to a low level attack by a squadron of mosquitos in Bavia the previous evening and was still suffering.
15 minutes before Jan Willem’s start time, his bike would not kickstart. The bike required a running start which worked perfectly.
As bonus points are awarded for starting the race with a running start both Jan Willem and Jack opted to go for it.
Jan Willem performed the running start perfectly and off he went. 15 minutes later Jack unfortunately failed his running start, and was given a push by a bystander. But somehow Jack was still awarded the bonus points!
Meanwhile Cyrille and Nick had been watching the contestants start, and whilst waiting for Jack’s start time were soaked in water by a man with a hose! He claimed it was an accident.
Right after Jack’s start, Cyrille and Nick set off in pursuit. Whilst trying our hardest to spot the red arrow markers in the dark, a wrong turn was taken and a group of 3 or 4 bikers foolishly followed. Luckily it didn’t take us long to get back on track.
The night time part of the first stage was thankfully uneventful, apart from Jack’s lights getting dimmer by the minute as his battery was not being charged; he would have been driving blind had he not installed incredibly bright LED lights in anticipation of this.
After daylight finally arrived, both bikes were running well along the spectacular Lake Garda coastline and then the first foray into the mountains. The Passo Pian delle Fugazze was an exquisite series of winding roads which took us to a peak height of 1163 metres (4,464 ft) which is higher than Ben Nevis!
The day continued with riders and driver becoming more tired but ended well in a very nice hotel in Padua with a cold beer, a hot shower and a fabulous meal and, finally, well deserved sleep!
Day 2 Tuesday Padua to Arezzo
After a brief but good breakfast, with pancakes included, the day was underway at 0800 with final preparations, which meant more work on Jan-Willem’s bike and quite a lot of push starts throughout the day.
There were 4 stops to break up the 347km day. Quite flat and fast for the first 2 thirds but increasingly steep and mountainous for the last part. Stop 3, Modigliana, was a Parilla museum situated in the basement of someone’s country house!
They were very welcoming and had a beautiful collection of bikes.
Weather was sunny and hot, a little cloudy later with some surprise lightning and a brief shower on arrival in Arezzo. Despite that, both riders managed a penalty free day and both bikes coped well. The only trouble was that our small team was split between 2 different hotels about 1km apart with no transport provided!! This led to a wardrobe malfunction for Jack who had left his second bag, with his shoes in, in the van which was at the other hotel. Meaning he had to go to dinner in his motorbike boots!
Day 3 Wednesday Arezzo to Colli del Tronto.
Difficult night for both halves of the team as they were separated in different hotels which made communication difficult. The only 2 things connecting them was the identical evening meal and failed air conditioning!!
Despite that and the Hagan’s luggage going AWOL for some time, J-W managed to strip, clean and re- assemble his carburettor, which helped with the starting issue. Meanwhile Jack used his Costa wooden stirrer as an oil dipstick and rode on regardless!
Today was comprised of 2 long and 2 short legs but generally quite hilly and despite Cyrille’s sporty driving, Cyrille and Nick had difficulty making the rest stops on time but did manage an impromptu tour of the lower levels and of the spectacular walled city of Gubbio.
It was here that both J-W and Jack discovered potential oil leaks; J-W resolved to complete a full check of every nut, bolt and screw on the external engine and gearbox, whilst Jack thought about topping up his oil!
Both made it OK to the final RV at the rather attractive and well situated hotel in Colli del Tronto although having resolved to service the bikes, a dip in the outdoor pool with a view, was very enticing.
The only problem was the unbelievably poor service from the bar that would have made Basil Fawlty an instantaneous saint!
The meal was again very pleasant. Nick and Jack received a crash course in conversational Dutch! (Without subtitles!)
Day 4, Colli del Tronto – Caserta 388km
After a reasonable night’s rest and mediocre meal (during which England lost at the World Cup semi finals, much to the disappointment of some of the other table members including Nick) the team set off for another day of riding. Cyrille managed to nip out of the hotel before Jack by following the path of a bigger van which had carved its way through the blockade of bikes.
We were expecting a long day (12 hours) however it wasn’t as hard work as we first thought. ss17 was a great road, the Airone took it all in its stride, and was surprisingly frugal with fuel. J-W complained that the long straight hill climb did not suit the SetteBello.
First stop at Tortorento lido was so short that riders didn’t even manage to grab an ice-cream before they were off again.
The second stop was 110 km further on in a beautiful classic Italian mountain side town with a lovely square, the cobbled lanes and steep streets that created problems for some riders.
After another 100 km long and infinitely climbing road that led to another spectacular town, the next stop was at Alanno scalo.The people were lovely and the food great. The largest force of spectators appeared and created a fantastic atmosphere.
Jan-Willem’s bike ran flawlessly and Jack’s bike worked perfectly all day apart from towards the end when he experienced a problem controlling the revs and discovered the top cap of his carburettor was about to fall off! A very kind Dutch team offered to lend a hand in the fixing and upon reattachment the the heart of the bike was beating in time again. All through the day steepening roads opened into stunning valley views and incredible landscapes.
Over the day some of the Milano Taranto participants were involved in a few accidents, with people sliding at corners and some small collisions with cars. Thankfully all of our team managed to stay safe.
The evening meal was a delicious selection of fish dishes which the team enjoyed along with a few bottles of wine before retiring for the evening.
Day 5 – Caserta to Matera 309 km,
The morning the standings were released which revealed that Jack was leading the 250cc class!
An ever increasing number of bikes were ending up on trailers or being mended by the wayside, but the team Di Marino bikes were fully functioning although some minor “spannering” was carried out intermittently, particularly on J-W’s carburettor.
First stop Ventican,o where an excellent bean soup was served amongst other delights.
There was a good atmosphere throughout the day with some brilliant twisting roads to ride and fight the support van through.
Second to last stop was at Potenza,
Whilst rushing to make the start in time, Jack kick-started his bike not realising that it was in first gear, causing his bike to jump forward and knock over a Moto Guzzi Falcone and a BMW! Luckily only slight damage was caused to a headlight and helmet. Jack righted the bikes with the help of other participants and then smartly drove off as he was within 30 seconds of his competition timing slot!!
Despite their disappointment, both owners were understanding, although was this calculated sabotage?
Other riders were still falling off and bikes were still breaking down, but not us – we carried on regardless.
Day 6 final day – Matera to Taranto 189km
The ride to the first checkpoint at Castellana Grotte was simple and calm, police set aside their radar checkpoints and enthusiastically waved bikes through built up areas and at roundabouts; Jack even received a salute from one very smart copper!
Lovely food, cooked by locals, a great refreshing stop in a peaceful park with amazing ‘granite’ (adult slushies) spoilt only by the fact that Jack was deep in conversation with his insurance company!
The next 2 short legs via Ostuni and Martina Franca were uneventful and the last stop at Villa Castelli was a little disappointing as there was no cooling shady grove with accordionists and dancing girls, nor the amazing spread of the previous year. To be fair, there was a local wedding there and the bride and groom have been ‘immortalised on celluloid’ making their way through an aisle of old motorbikes; I wonder what she had borrowed!!
The final leg to Taranto was easy and free and ended with an ice cream cone for all 4 of us! Limone! The very last bit was the sprint or drag race between the race tuned, thoroughbred Settebello and the underdog Airone. Well J-W got a shock as the little Airone shot off the start line and almost immediately gained around 30 metres; however, Jack’s elation was short lived as the little racing stallion couple with J-W’s experience gained pace and left the poor Airone (a little) behind! But, there was almost a levelling as J-W had not a lot of braking distance left by the finish line and was under pressure to slow signalled by the frantic arm movements by the marshals allowing Jack to nearly catch him at the line. A clear win for the Settebello and J-W.
The subsequent 100km back to Bari, completed sat behind the van, was uneventful but led to a little hooliganism by the 2 riders, a little head to head racing and tail chasing allowing Cyrille to practice one-handed driving whilst simultaneously take pictures with her free hand!
At Bari, both bikes were wiped as clean as possible given the time and loaded with most of the kit too. A welcome beer brought to the van by “water boy” Nick was thoroughly enjoyed and boosted morale. Following a superb meal, a successful prize giving with Jack winning his 250cc class by a half decent margin, we all retired mildly fatigued. Reflecting on a very successful but gruelling motorcycling experience which was even more enjoyable than last year, marred only by the theft of a Jack’s mobile phone at the very end of the evening. Both bikes performed well – a testament to Pietro and his team back in the pits in the UK, including his ‘Phone-a-friend’ out-of-hours support!
Would we do it again??
I’ll leave you all to work that one out for yourselves.
Ciao for now 🙂