A4D Cycle Challenge Team with banner 2019 the italian job two

In September 2019, Team A4D took to the hills of the Emilia-Romagna in Italy for the A4D Cycle Challenge 2019: The Italian Job – Two.

Cycling the equivalent of Rome to Perth (Australia) and over 257,000 m of ascent, the riders showed #bloodsweatandgears to raise enough money to support 150 disadvantaged young people with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) for a whole year.

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Ride Report: The Italian Job – Two

Team A4D met at Bologna airport for the A4D Cycle Challenge 2019 with a sense of trepidation. Those who had joined us before had memories of Passo Stelvio, Col du Tourmalet, the Galibier – rides that rank as some of the hardest and most spectacular in the world. Whereas for those new to the team, it was a step into the unknown.

What challenges would this year bring? 

The briefing from Punto Tours showed there were big days ahead: classic routes from the Giro D’Italia and the famous Nove Colli Grandfondo.

For those who wanted an extra challenge, the training hill of Marco Pantani – the infamous Italian cyclist regarded as one of the greatest climbers of all time – was also on the cards.

But until they were out on the hills with the tarmac beneath them, Team A4D could not know for sure what lay install.


DAY 1 – Warm Up

The team drove up into the Apennine Mountains to the small town of Acquapartita. After arriving at the hotel that was base for the next three nights, the group fitted the bikes and got their customised kit from Le Col before heading for a warm-up spin. The real cycling would start the following day. 

Vince from Punto Tours briefing the riders the before the warm up,
Vince from Punto briefing on the day ahead.
Rob Russell from Lockton getting ready for fundraising bike ride
Rob Russell preparing for a day on the saddle.

DAY 2 – The Landslide Loop

Bad weather the week before had caused a landslide that knocked out a road in the hills. So the team had to adapt. They devised a new route that took them up to Monte Fumaiolo which is known as the source of the river Tiber. Clocking 93km with 2300m of climbing the ride was not to be sniffed at.

However, our sponsors had set some additional challenges for the riders — the Zuellig Pharma ascent challenge of 240,000m and from Hello Health Group, a distance challenge of 12000km. Every extra metre climbed, and every addition km covered, the team would raise more money for the charity.

Bernd Lepper on charity bike ride
Bernd Lepper who went onto win best cyclist jersey.
Intega healthcare sponsored the A4D cycle ride
Intega Healthcare were one of the sponsors for the ride

With this in mind, Bernd Lepper, from Intega, put in some extra hours and peddled 127km and battled up 2740m of elevation on his new road bike. Having refused suggestions that this bike was electric, the A4D Team assumed that it must have been his german engineering that allowed him to achieve this extreme feat.

DAY 3 – Discovering the other side of the Fumiaolo

The following day, once again, the team set their sights on Monte Fumaiolo. However, unlike the day before they would be reaching it from the south-east side rather than west. Little did the team know this would lead to one of the toughest rides on the trip.

But before they could tackle the Fumaiolo, they first had to get over the Passo Dei Mandrioli at 1173m. It was a long climb to start the day and gave up some beautiful views of our winding road below. 

the winding road leading up to Passo Dei Mandrioli
The long and winding road up to Passo Dei Mandrioli.

The climb was followed by a steady descent that welcomed the team into Tuscany and then kicked up into the National park Falterona a Campagna. Avoiding the Apennine Wolfs and other native wildlife, Team A4D reached the Valico dello Spino at 1005m. Hungry and tired after a morning on the road, the riders quickly dropped down into the valley below for lunch.

The second climb of the day.

But the relief of lunch quickly passed, and the peloton continued to the base of their biggest climb yet: the Valico Monte Fumiolo. At 1400m the climb was long and steep, and coming from the other side meant the road averaged at 10% for the last 2.5km and hit 18% at times. Legs were burning by the top, but it was then smooth cycling back down to the hotel. A glance at the Garmin showed a 110km day with over 2500m of climbing. 

Day 4 – Down to the coast with Lockton

You might think that going from the heart of the Apennine mountains to the Adriatic coast would be a downhill affair. However, the fourth day of the ride proved anything but. With most cyclist completing 122km and climbing 2300m, it was another tough day for Team A4D out on the Italian roads that included an optional extra: the infamous Monte Carpegna.

team a4d getting ready for a their ride to the coast
Gearing up for the ride down to the coast.

The Monte Carpegna was the training climb for the legendary cyclist, Marco Pantani. Regularly hitting 15% incline on the 7km track, each cyclist who took on this mountain added 600m to the Zuellig Pharma ascent challenge total. It was a brutal, relentless climb too steep and narrow for cars. Those who made it to the top could see why Marco sought out the ascent, saying ‘Carpegna is enough for me.’ Averaging over 10% and getting steeper towards the end, it was a ride to remember. 

Marco Pantani's spirit with Team A4D on cycle challenge
The Col Collective visits the Carpegna

Team A4D finished the day with a descent into Rimini and were welcomed by the glimmering Adriatic and an Aperol Spritz.

A big thank you to Lockton and Rob Russell for their generous donation and fundraising efforts for A4D.

Rob Russel Lockton on the A4D Cycle Challenge 2019

Day 5 – Panoramica trip with Hello Health Group

The sun burned brighter down on the coast of the Emilia-Romagna, and the team met its full glare on a 125km route to the panoramic viewpoint at Monte San Bartolo.

Hello Health donate money to Action4Diabetics

Joined by three extra riders, it was a perfect day to be sponsored by Hello Health Group as the team made significant steps towards reaching the 12,000km target. We had the largest ever A4D peloton in Europe!

With sharp climbs throughout and a strong headwind, it was a draining day, but the team pulled through.

Charles, Bernd and Erik on the A4D Cycle Challenge 2019

Day 6 – Giro D’Italia time trail to San Marino with Centro Sperimentale Del Latte (CSL)

Taking on the time trial route from the 2019 Giro D’Italia, the team cycled from Rimini up and across the Republic of San Marino to the hilltop castle at San Leo. 

CENTRO SPERIMENTALE DEL LATTE sponsored Italian Job A4D Cycle Challenge 2019
The day was generously supported by CSL who were represented by John Goebel, third from left.

Bumping into a Motor GP parade in San Marino, there were some wandering eyes amongst the team on their pushbikes. However, the group remained steadfast in their mission and reached the mountain top town of San Leo under pedal power.


San Leo was a spectacular place to finish the day with a much-needed lasagna picnic and got some drone footage for you to enjoy:

Day 7 – The Zuellig Pharma Finale: The Nove Colli Granfondo

A fantastic ending to a wonderful A4D Cycle Challenge 2019!

Twenty-two cyclists took on the legendary Nove Colli Granfondo course. Internationally known, the ride attracts over 12,000 cyclists to their annual event who come for the stunning scenery and challenging character. It was longest day in the history of the A4D Cycle Challenge.

Zuellig Pharma CSR A4D
Zuellig Pharma have supported A4D since 2017

Choosing between a 140km option, or a monstrous 215km, it was a big day, and the team gave #bloodsweatandgears to cycle 3248km and climbed 54,066m in total. The altitude gained was good news for the fundraisers, as is meant they got over the Zuellig Pharma ascent challenge target of 240,000 metres.

Overall, Team A4D cycled over 14,661 KM with 257,676 metres in ascent had enough metres to go up every 8000 metres plus mountain in the world twice.

With support from sponsors, the riders broke the fundraising target of $75,000. The funds represent supplies of essential medication and developmental support to 150 young people with Type 1 Diabetes for a whole year. These are children and families who would otherwise not be able to afford this life-saving care! 

There are many people to thank for making this year’s ride such a success. PuntoTours were once again fantastic in facilitating the trip, with brilliant guides Geoff and Davida. 

Do you want to join us in 2020? Let us know!

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