I woke up both excited and nervous about the day ahead. Louise and I would tackle the Stelvio mountain pass (Feltre, Italy) from two sides, our first big ride together. I knew Louise was a strong climber and that Stelvio is a tough ascent, only time would tell if I was a worthy match for her.
We unpacked our bikes; Louise’s a Canyon Ultimate SL and my beloved Wilier Cento1. In matt black with a set of Zipp 303 Firecrest’s, it was a thing of pure beauty – my pride and joy was going to ascend quite possibly the most epic climb in its home country (I still like to believe that Italian bikes are actually made in Italy).
Following a few mechanical’s including gear and puncture repairs we rode side by side down the smooth windy roads to the start of the ascent of Stelvio. Louise matched my pace as our heart rates began to rise with the gradient. We both rode a high cadence through the first section since the warm up had been brief. We both took a sip of our bottles – carefully prepared by me to contain a 2:1 Maltodextrin:Dextrose + Electrolyte mix, I proudly copyrighted the mix Mountain Powder before we set out. “My god Lee that’s disgusting”! Louise cried out. She was right, I had overshot the electrolyte and it tasted like salt water.
Alessandro Ballan won the 2008 World Championships on his Cento1 and from that point it has been widely considered to be among the most balanced framesets in the world. The tight-wheel base geometry coupled with a comfortable, tapered head tube acts as the stabilizer to an otherwise over-excited frame geometry. In other words, this juxtaposition creates a bike that remains comfortable over the long haul, but drops the hammer in the quick moments of an attack. Being a small rider (5’7”) I prefer an aggressive riding position and the 115mm stack of the Cento1 is perfect. The integrated seat post gives an extra connection with the road. The frame is compact and extremely stiff.
As the gradient of the Stelvio climb increased I upped my power and the Cento1 responded wonderfully. This is where Louise and I parted until the top. My lone ascent of the remainder of the climb was epic – a mixture of awe at the scale of road as it winded upwards, pure enjoyment and of course suffering that goes with a hard out effort. Through tunnels, around hairpin bends, one after another, the Cento1 seemed to summon me to push harder, go faster and do it justice in its homeland. Climbing mostly seated the position was comfortable in the flat bars. Out of the saddle on the steep sections was also a joy and rested my core a little. As I neared the top groups of walkers cheered me on into the clouds. The weather grew cold, very cold, but I couldn’t feel it. There it was, within sight, the end of the challenge. I let out a last effort and joined the tens of other cyclists, motorbike riders and tourists at the mountain top cafe. There is nothing quite like hitting the top of a tough climb, especially for the first time.
Once Louise joined me at the top and we shared our first kiss, my bike had been named. Stelvio went on to fight many racing battles with me, performing excellently on the flats, inclines and declines alike. It was in the 2015 Wally Gimber that Stelvio tragically came to its end due to its stupid rider slamming into the bonnet of a car. Defiant and brave I tried to get back on to finish the race before realising that I could not move and my bike was in 3 pieces.
There were no questions asked by Louise when I stated I would be replacing the Cento1 with the Cento1 SR. By representing our first big climb together and first kiss, no cost was too great!
I was not disappointed. The Cento1 SR is just like the Cento1 but with a slightly more modern frame tubing, better cabling system and a better paint job. In Black and Fluro Yellow it really looks the part. The geometry is the same aggressive design making a lean mean racing machine. With an upgrade to Dura Ace the bike is extremely light whilst maintaining stiffness. The Wilier Cento1 will always hold a special place in my cycling memories.