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Loving Lucca

img_0458This is the end of my second week in Lucca, thanks to my improving health and the “chilling-out” factor, I’ve been able to enjoy myself just relaxing and that has added greatly to my cycling this week.

It started with a wonderful Monday afternoon ride to Pisa with Rudy and Simoni, two great cyclists who have great fun on the road and sweep you up their excitement. We scooted through the afternoon traffic at around 30-35 kph till we hit some low hills and entered a long tunnel that brought us out above Pisa. The view of the city of Pisa was brilliant and soon we switchbacked our way down till we reached the centre of the city, the centro. We rode through the crowds right up to that spectacle that is La Torre di Pisa. So beautiful, familiar but stunning.

img_0581After that expedition it was a ride back out to Rudy’s La Formica Pizzeria. I met his girlfriend Beatrix and checked out the Pizzeria. Then a spin up to Monte Carlo where Rudy won the Monte Carlo Gran Fondo in an uphill sprint finish. He demonstrated his talent to me, finishing 750 metres before me. It was then back home via some lively Strada Bianca.

 

 
img_0507Tuesday I got myself a ticket to a recital of Puccini’s arias in Lucca. A beautiful night of music in a small church near St Matin’s Square, topped off with an excellent late night dinner.

There was some more cycling including a return to Matraia, a full moon ride out to La Formica Pizzeria and a first attempt at Monte Serra.

I had an incident with a Land Rover 4 x 4 on Saturday when the driver overtook me while going through a village. He misjudged my speed and cut in too early hitting me on my hand which was around the left hood nearly knocking me into wall of a house. I stayed upright and survived despite thinking I was on the way to Ospedale Di Lucca for sure. It was one of those intense 5 second moments in time that everyone occasionally experiences. I survived if not a bit shaken. He turned at the next right turn oblivious to the drama he’d caused. 99.9% of the time I have no problems, although in Australia these events happen all too regularly and there they often with intent.

img_0653Saturday evening was wonderful. My Strava friends, Renata and Paolo picked me up and took me out to Vinci to see the house Leonardo was born and grew up. Incredible to walk on the ground he did and view the vistas he saw including Monte Serra, that mountain that imposingly watches over Lucca.  I imagined looking at that mountain gave him the idea for bicicletta, the bike.

We drove down to Vinci and walked around the village that his name carries into eternity. A beautiful place set amongst fantastic rolling hills and olive groves.

Then we went to dinner and enjoyed a terrific dinner of pasta and fish and vegetables.

We came as Strava friends separated by thousands of kilometres but left as regular friends. It was beautiful and I look forward to a continuing friendship. This is an obvious benefit of social media.

img_0671The view of Monte Serra we witnessed from Leonardo’s birthplace inspired me to do the ride to the top of the 900 metre peak the next day. Thank you Renata and Paolo for sharing your climbs, countryside and the earth that you live on.

 

 

 

 

img_0759Finally late on Sunday I had the incredible experience of seeing Australia win the Gold Medal over the USA in Wheelchair Rugby at the Rio Paralympics. My workmate Ben Fawcett was on the winning team. When I say “watched” I mean I saw the score bounce around a point at a time on a phone app as it wasn’t broadcast here. Then a video of the winning point and photos on Twitter of Ben getting his medal presented. Jubilation across the seas. I went out to celebrate with a pizza and win. The water sat me next to a couple Louise and Kim and I was able to talk about the victory and Protect’s part in sponsoring Disability, Sport and Recreation.

What a night to cap off the week. Sorry this is a little late, I’ve been very relaxed!

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

La mia bicicletta

p1290045At the end of my first week in Lucca I’m tired. The cold I picked up since leaving home has got worse. I’m complete now, with running nose and persistent cough which is an irritant to all I suspect.

However I’ve managed to relax and unwind, as much as is possible with a cold. I’ve started to do a little cycling, ciclismo and that has been a saving grace or “pick-me-up”. I explored some roads: first the Lucca city loop which is about four and a half kilometres around the city wall in heavy traffic, mostly trying to get across town to the SS11, the Autostrada. After a few loops I broke out and tried my hand at running for the hills I could see in the distance.

img_0322It took a few attempts but soon found myself on the SS12 and then I took a turn that gradually started an ascent to a place called Matraia. There are avenues of grand villas on the way up to this place which is on a hilly range of 300 metres elevation or so. The most beautiful country, rolling hills of olive groves and vineyards, old houses and twisty lanes. A great place to ride on any day.

 

 

img_0365Another day I had a conversation with some professional cyclists, a women’s team from the UK called Drops, not from the bike handlebars but drops of wallpaper. The team’s main sponsor makes cycling wallpaper. They were a great bunch of young women who you’ll no doubt hear more about.

 

 

 

img_0380Rudy’s Bunch

On Saturday I’d arranged to join Rudy Giovacchini’s bunch ride. He sent me a meet-up location for a 7:00am start. I was pretty surprised I made despite leaving early with my talent for getting lost around here. Nevertheless 10 riders including me showed up, had a few jokes and I shook hands with a few riders including Marco from Paris who has lived here 20 years. What worried me they mostly had sleeves on and wind-jackets in their jersey pockets. I had experienced any day here when I needed sleeves. What they know that I didn’t?

It turned out they knew it was going to be a 150km ride through 3000VM up into the mountains. I indicated to Rudy I might have to head back at some point due to my health problems. Sure enough after loosing the bunch twice I decided it was better to bail and head back. It was spectacular country and sights we saw as we rode through including seeing a 15th century bridge. I was happy with the ride and enjoyed the company.

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I might see if Rudy can do some weekday rides this week, maybe down to Pisa. That’s my week in Lucca, Italy and the first week in ages when I cracked over 350km, recovery underway.

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Posted by on September 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Ensconced@Lucca

P1290016The trip from Australia to Rome is a really long way and the stopover in Dubai seems to far if not exotic. Watching the flights arrive and depart from places like Tehran, Entebbe and Kuwait give the place a surreal feel. When I left Dubai the route was over to Africa then Cairo and crossing Crete which sounded impossibly faraway. I landed in Rome at 1:30pm and then had to get my bike from the oversized luggage department along with my 13 kg of backpack. They specially hire the grumpiest people to work in the oversized luggage department no matter the country I think. After that it was a trip to the hotel I’d booked for the evening. My head was completely dull from from the hours cooped up in the plane and all I ate was some pasta with an Italian beer.  My senses were entirely dead to everything I tried to plan so things were left to the next day with the vague idea it would work out.

IMG_0239Miraculously they did and I got my ticket for Part B of the journey and worked out how to board, store the bike and enjoy the comfort of the high speed train for the Part A to Florence.

It was then the final leg of an exhausting journey that I’d almost given up on in weeks before, when I’d crashed my bike and injured myself in Warrandyte. Instead of Florence to Pisa I took the direct, slow Lucca train where I had a couple of adventures, that’s travel.

But here I was in Italy and now at The Off Season Recovery Camp. The place I’m staying has a very tranquil spirit with a beautiful view of some high mountains, bella vista.  Something to inspire every cyclists’ heart.

IMG_0265I got worn down on the way over here with lack of sleep and had been fighting with a cold before taking the flight. Now I have a full on cold. Stuff happens. Mine host, signora Francesca made me a green tea and lemon combo. Really good.

I’ve done a few short rides here and am getting to understand the geography of the parts.

This whole month Lucca has a festival for music (Puchini was born here), open air films, running and other stuff. Two local bike riders have contacted me, offering to show me rides they do in the region. Getting better first is the main thing. So I’m excited if not a little worn down. Below I’ll post some pictures from my journey so far.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2016 in Uncategorized

 
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Arrivederci

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Posted by on August 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Arrivederci….almost!

IMG_0138This Wednesday night I’ll be heading off to Italy for a long rest in the sunshine and a chance to do nothing but ride my bike, think, watch the world go by and post a card.

The terrible tragedy of the earthquake in Amatrice in the nearby province of Rieti looms large and I was really shocked me when I saw the news pop up on a screen. It’ll be a very long time before life returns to anything like normal for those people affected, which will be thousands. My thoughts will be with those people and I will do what I can when I’m there.

Last week my cycling almost returned to normal as I completed over 250km on the bike including  one ride of 107km. It hurt a bit but it  was mostly good and somehow I think its incredible that I’m able to make this trip when I look back. Thanks all for the encouragement especially on the Mr Turners Bakery ride in the rain of last Sunday.

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This week I’ve backed off a bit, just doing just shorter rides with some time on the trainer. However I did two memorable “people rides” this week; one to see the gang down at Saluministi who have relocated from North Melbourne to Bourke Street in Docklands. What a warm, affectionate Italian welcome I received there. The other was to see George and his Hammer & Tong commuting crew in Fitzroy. An exceptional breakfast with lots of bike banter about racing (local and international), food, crashes and tackers. A good bunch to hang out with on a Friday.

Today I’ll take the Roubaix off the trainer and do a  ride up to Kinglake on the and back to Warrandyte for lunch and that will just about be it for cycling till Lucca. They’ll be few farewells to friends over the weekend, a couple of days at work and just before I leave on Wednesday there’s the annual visit to the dietician which will a very really good thing to do before I hit Italy.

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Next time I post I’ll be somewhere else

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Posted by on August 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Recovery on track minus fitness and adding fatness!

IMG_0062Today is the August GreenWEDGE Cycling ride. We’re heading out Wallan way via Arthurs Creek and back via Mr Turners Bakery in Mernda. The weather isn’t flash and its about 100km with extras.Currently there’s some drizzle so I think it’ll be a tough day in the saddle. But rule #5 we’ll have to kick in.

Yesterday I did a Buttermans Track loop which was 49km from home with a 1000VM. I feel I’m on track for recovery minus fitness and adding fatness! Today will test that initial recovery. Then its 11days till I head to my off-season Tuscany recovery camp.

Life moves on.

 

 

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Posted by on August 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Nineteen Days and Counting

imageMy recovery is well underway and I’m feeling generally good. Last Sunday I did a 63km ride out Whittlesea way on Dietmar’s suggestion which was a milestone. After parking in the tennis courts at Arthurs Creek/Plenty Roads we started winding up along Plenty Road when Dietmar and me caught Shane out on a training spin. Turned out his plan was something like mine, long and flat. That used to be a coffee spin 63km but now it was a bit epic! Since then I’ve been doing fine, a few more rides at work during lunch and I will do a spin with Peter out to Strathy this Sunday. I’ve also hit the trainer!

imageMy training got a boost when I finally got the Zwift running using my Lemond Revolution trainer. It was fantastic to see the watts ticking over and to start moving down the virtual road with other riders. I bought a starter kit and set up the Roubaix on the Lemond Revolution a few weeks ago but couldn’t get it to go until I had a light bulb moment last Tuesday. I realized if I mounted another ANT to sense the tiny magnet on the Lemond flywheel it might go and bingo with a bit software tweaking it worked and I was virtually racing through London. WooHoo!!!

The equipment setup includes these items;

A Bike – (Specialized are best option)
LeMond Revolution Trainer
2 Garmin ANTs [one for cadence and other for speed of flywheel]
Apple iMac
Zwift plug in ANT
Zwift software
Heart strap

imageMy other good news is I put in my claim on my Velosure Insurance for the bike crash damage on Thursday July 4. I received an email back Friday asking me to contact them the following week which I did on the Tuesday. They made me an offer of full compensation for it less the $250 excess and if I wanted I could buy the bike back for $250. Done deal, money was in my bank account the next morning. Bike will be repaired through Total Rush while I’m away. I can recommend Velosure bike insurance.

 

Roll on Italy in 18 days time

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Posted by on August 12, 2016 in Cycling, Uncategorized

 

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