In 1903 the inaugural Tour de France was held to help publicise the newly created newspaper, L’Auto. Sixty entrants enrolled to tackle a 2500km course split into six stages and held over 15 days. Twenty one riders completed the course with the winner, Maurice Garin, taking over 96 hours to complete the clockwise circuit of France.
One hundred and five years later, two friends living in London had a similar idea. Looking for an idea to promote their newly created travel firm, La Fuga, they drew up a challenge to capture the imagination of their fellow cycling enthusiast peers and provide a physical but rewarding challenge. The concept they arrived at involved completing the routes of Italy’s four star granfondos over four days, comprising over 800km of riding and 15,000m of vertical ascent, over twice the height of Mount Everest.
The challenge would commence in the northeastern town of Treviso, in the region of Veneto with the route of the Granfondo Pinarello. The 208km course takes in two major climbs taking the participants over from the valley of Tarzo to the valley of Belluno and back over the infamous climbs of the Passo San Boldo and Nevegal. The run back to the finish in Treviso is punctuated with smaller climbs like aftershocks in the wake of the earthquakes of San Boldo and Nevegal. From there, the challenge would head northwards to tackle the route of the Granfondo Campagnolo, probably the most demanding sportive event on the Italian calendar at 215km long and total ascent over 5000km. Completion of the course would involve the conquest of six major passes, each one over 10km each with the highest summit over 2000m above sea level.
Having reached the half way point, the challenge would move to the Emilia Romagna coast to tackle the route of the Nove Colli, the classic sportive event held in the unforgiving undulating hills to the southwest of the start town in Cesenatico. Although not featuring the steep alpine terrain of the previous two events, the 200km length and 3800m total ascent of the Nove Colli deserves respect. Rounding off the challenge would be the classic Tuscan event of L’Eroica. The percorso covers 200km in the hills of Chianti and Montalcino and uniquely, involves the traverse of over 100km of gravel roads known as stradi bianchi. The almost overwhelming beautiful Tuscan countryside would provide a suitably epic backdrop to the challenge of finale.
And to document this ambitious undertaking a film maker was invited along for the ride. Those four days became known as the Italian Job.