2016. What a year! At times it might have seemed like the world was fracturing: with wildly unexpected political outcomes alongside ongoing turmoil and suffering. Against this backdrop my world of …
The 2016 Tour of Bright was, for me, the culmination of my most committed period of training since I took up racing. A race that started well enough, my Tour almost ended in disaster before ultimat…
This 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.
After 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.
Tuesday 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.
Saturday 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.
The 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.
Finally 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!
At 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.
It 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.
Another 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
Miraculously 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.
I 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.
This 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.
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.
Next time I post I’ll be somewhere else