Italy Divide 2019 – Part 1: Finding the Right Tool for the Job.

Reflecting on a Seasons missed races

So here we are, in the 78th(?!) lockdown in the UK, with all plans for ultra racing and trips in 2020 and a fair few in 2021 abandoned for safer times. I had lots of plans dashed, as did we all.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog, so I thought I’d use some of this extra indoors time to reflect and share some thoughts on the 2019 Italy Divide on a Curve Cycling GXR, aka ‘Kevin’ that I borrowed from G!RO Cycles in Esher, and comparing it with the 2018 Italy Divide I complete on my Curve Belgie Spirit.

My Curve Belgie Spirit in Florence in 2018

After battling through the Italy Divide in 2018 on a Curve Cycling Belgie Spirit, I was keen to come back on a bike that is better suited to this race. In 2018, my Belgie Spirit had 35c tyres and 1:1 max gear ratio (32×32). It got around, I had a lot of fun pushing the bike to its limits – which actually included pushing the bike a lot – but I felt it was really lacking in some of the tougher terrain. It basically could have done with bigger tyres, wider handlebars and more gears. It went beyond its limits, but was a LOT of fun.

The race didn’t go ahead in 2020 for obvious reasons, but I will be going back in the delayed event in July 2021 on my new Curve Kevin of Steel – watch out for the comparisons later this year assuming all goes to plan. 2019 Italy Divide was probably the most extreme demos of a bike, but it worked and convinced me into buying a steel one 🙂

I’ll be breaking this post into a few parts, kit, race write up with a comparison of the two races and bikes.

What’s different about the Kevin?

In 2019 I was lucky enough to borrow a Curve Cycling GXR also known as ‘Kevin’ from G!RO Cycles, my local bike shop, café and hub for the cycling community and majority of my friends in Esher, Surrey for the 2019 Italy Divide race. I added tubeless 700x43c Gravel King tyres, and upgrade (downgraded?) the gearing from 42x to 38×11/42t to give me that little bit more than 1:1 gearing to give me that little bit of an edge above last year, but still match the rolling speed that I had on the Belgie Spirit last year.

Curve GXR aka ‘Kevin’, Greve in Chianti, Tuscany

How they compare:

ComponentBelgie 2018Kevin 2019Comment
Frame54 SpiritGXR MediumKevin
Group setSRAM eTap 2×11 48/32 x 11/32 (1:1 min ratio)SRAM Force 1×11 38 x 10/42 (0.9 min ratio)I appreciated the extra gears. Missed smooth gear changes. Missed electronic!
Handle bars38 cm46 cm Wider for more control
TyresGravel King 35 clincher/tubesGravel King 43 tubeless Bigger tyres for more grip
WheelsCustom Noble carbonCurve Grave-Al aluminium Both with SON Dynamo
BrakesCable w/ Hydro Calipers (Juin Tech)Full SRAM Hydraulic First time using full hydro brakes.

What is the Italy Divide?

This is an off-road mixed surface ultra race from Naples, Italy to Torbole on the shores of Lake Garda. The terrain is mixed, with gravel, some paved roads, fields, single and double track, as well as some hike-a-bike. The route navigates through some of the more challenging Italian countryside, but also taking in some historical towns and cities along the way – starting in Naples, navigating through Rome, Siena, Florence, Bologna, Mantua and Verona before finishing in Torbole, on the shore of Lake Garda. It’s anything but flat. The 2019 race is about 250 KM longer, as the 2018 edition started in Rome.

2019 Kit list

My kit was essentially my usual set up for bikepacking, but a little different to the TCR, primarily with a few tubeless related spares and cut back on the sleeping kit. The primary two differences between 2018 & 2019 were the bike and no bivvy kit – it was my holiday, so hotels only.

Full List:
  • Medium Curve GXR, aka ‘Kevin’
  • Curve Grav AL 700c wheels with SON 28 Dynamo hub
  • Gravel King 700x43c Tubeless tyres
  • SRAM Force Hydro 1×11 Groupset
  • Fizik Antares Saddle and MTB shoes
  • Apidura bike packing bags – Frame, top tube and saddle bags, with an alpkit food pouch.
  • Profile Design Aero bars
  • Supernova E3 Triple Dynamo front light – an unbelievably bright dynamo light
  • Exposure Strada Front light – for those hike a bikes when the dynamo can’t help
  • Exposure Diablo Front/Helmet light – a backup light, which I managed to leave this in a café in Tuscany…
  • Topeak Mega Redlite Rear battery light
  • Moon USB rear light backup, just in case.
  • Wahoo Elemnt & Elemnt Bolt for navigation & backup
  • My iPhone on a Quad Lock motorbike mount
  • Anker 20000 mha power bank
  • 2x iPhone & micro USB cables, 1 x Exposure USB charging cable
  • Two inner tubes
  • 3x spare brake pads
  • Cable ties
  • Tubeless plug kit
  • Stans No Tubes sealant
  • Couple of different multi tools 
  • Cable Ties
  • 5 & 4mm hex keys (for easy bike assembly at airport)
  • 2 x Tyre levers
  • Tube & Tyre patches
  • Topeak mini pump
  • Electrical tape

1x Kit – G!RO Team Attaquer Bibs & Jersey, Summer base layer, Gillet (with pockets!), arm warmers, knee warmers, socks, Fizik MTB shoes, Attaquer Race Rain Jacket (amazing!)
Casquette, Helmet & Oakley’s.
Musette for service station and supermarket splash and dashes


I had a good stash of food as my plan was to ride through the first night. A good mix:

  • Soreen mini loaves
  • Endurance by Nature energy balls (amazing!)
  • Snickers & Twix, Wine Gums
  • SiS Hydro & Berocca

For details of my 2018 Italy Divide, head over to my write up over here:

The Italy Divide – Part 1: Rome to Bologna

Italy Divide Part 2: Bologna to Torbole

The Bikes

2018 Curve Cycling Belgie Spirit

2019 Curve Cycling GXR ‘Kevin’

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