Wednesday, 9 October 2013

On yer bike!

Some things are anxiously anticipated. Like exam results.

Others are nervously pre-empted. Like lurking parking wardens.

Even more are totally fretted about due to fear of failure or being 'shown up' as a pretentious wannabe who is all talk and no action and will be (self) dubbed 'Madame Escargot' by the rest of the party.

Yes. You know where I am coming from.

That strange land of the two-wheeled lycra-clad power-to-weight-ratio obsessed cyclists.

And I loved it.

After a rather delayed departure from Heathrow (thank you BA) that entailed replacing lightbulbs and lots of noise involving hydraulics for some two plus hours, we finally winged our way to Linate (that's Milano, Italy, in case you were not au fait with such matters) and were swiftly driven - via an incorrect a baffling a scenic Garmin-led detour through Monza's outskirts - to the gorgeous setting of Bellagio on Lake Como.

Just a touch of cloud and rain

I know this area, but not as well as I thought as I had forgotten how majestic the mountains are, how stunning the views, and how bloody cold it can be when the daytime temperature hovers around 14C degrees!

Never mind. Good food and wine soon put paid to any reservations about the forecast - chilly and drizzle - as did the sight of my bike:

All together now: "Ooooooohh!"

I was smitten. Even more so when we finally set out the following morning.

Actually, I lie. The photo above is Dan Martin's bike. But mine was the same, and that was good enough for me. Sadly it did not make me go a) faster, or b) uphill without considerable effort, but I'll put that down to all the distractions along the way. The views were just one of them. Lots of men in lycra may have been another.

So on Saturday we cycled round lakes, up hills and down vales. Some 100km odd, of which I managed 76km before being swept up by the broom wagon. Am I too proud to admit defeat in the face of Category 1 climbs? Uhmm. No, not really. Especially since the afore-mentioned Garmin route finder was being particularly adept, again, at sending us (in the BW) the opposite way to the rest of the cycling party and I was able to make myself indispensable by pushing the four ton minivan backwards off a raised kerb, uphill.

Yes, I have my uses. Fast two-wheeled ascents are not one of them.

That evening, more fabulous food and wine, great conversation and lots of laughs with other members of our group: a father - 'King' Russell - and (6ft 5in) son James, an American couple - Nate and Kate - from Washington DC, Nick the exiled Yorkshireman residing in Belgium and permanently looking for a cash machine, and our amazing guides Richard and Jim.

Cyclists united in lycra

Sunday saw us rendezvous in Bergamo for the start of the Giro di Lombardia.

Bergamo - calm before the circus hit town

And part of the circus arrives

I found my laundry fairy!

The Death Star (aka Team Sky)

In true Italian style, everyone heads for the start
at the same time, en masse. 

'Il Lombardia' is a one day 242km race with the mother-of-all-bastard-climbs at the 180km mark, the infamous Muro di Sormano which we had attempted to master the day before. Two of the group managed: 'dad' Russell (much to his son's chagrin) and guide Jim. Richard proved his worth on the Sunday by conquering it as well.

Here's a visual taste for you:

Yes, that does say AVERAGE incline
of 17%

Fortunately, although it was cool and wet, there was better visibility than when we were at the peak the previous day:

Which way is down please?

I digress. The point I am trying (feebly) to make is that these professional cyclists sailed over this monster hill of some 1.7km in length and then still had another hill to climb past the Madonna del Ghisallo chapel before cycling down a hairpin bend-ful descent (yes, I made that phrase up) and another 40km to the finish line.

You cannot but be in awe of these athletes. The fact that you can furthermore be in the thick of it at the start, during the event and throughout the whole race and within licking - not literally - distance of the the cycling stars adds further to the fun and entertainment.

Total concentration and power

Those numbers? Not distance travelled, oh no.
Increase in height above sea level.
Just in case you thought "it doesn't look that steep"

Favourite moment?

Sending the kids back home (who are all mad about the sport) this photo with a question: guess whose bike this is?

Clue in the name on the frame

Next morning I received my reply:

"Neripin Tarna".

I am still laughing. I'm hoping he would be too.

Colombian rider extraordinaire: Nairo Quintana,
henceforth Neripin Tarna in the LCM household

Huge thanks to La Fuga and the Giro team with whom we enjoyed (in OH's words) "one of the best weekends away ever".  A most fitting anniversary present for twenty years' worth of nagging.

And they didn't even pay me to write this post. 

Even though I can drop a (lightweight) hint.

Love the bike!


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