An early morning start at sunrise for the boys in from England...the aftermath rains of hurricane Penelope had drifted on out of town and the morning was dry...an immediate boost to the spirits and it was in to town for the off as soon as we could...last minute bike checks, thinning out some unnecessary kit we went down to the start. A lot of banter in the queue. The Italians just loved the British lightweights on show, many an admiring comment passed on the chrome work of the Holdsworth, a wry smile about the Union Jack spray job at the rear, the Hetchins SS drew many a comment as a Hetchins always does.
It wasn't too long before bikes were checked to ensure they met the 'period' restrictions and we were off on a gentle climb to the first stretch of bianchi strada, the white chalk paths that make this ride so famous. A good little climb to get the blood moving and onto the flat run that showed the true beauty of this area. Until now everything had been shrouded in mist and rain. But first problem for the team. Merlins' derailleur burst apart and with bits all over the road he was in for a long day.
Chain shortened Merlin was down to a single speed set up, problems to be compounded with rubbing back wheel throughout the day. A stoic performance as we were only 10km into the ride. I would have been tempted to hail a cab from the next cafe... To rally the troops each stead was given a name. 'Sorry Lad' and 'Unnecessarily Shiny', made good early headway guided by the wise heads aboard. This ride is one of great beauty. The colours were vibrant, and the distance that you could see all around you on such a clear day was truly breathtaking.
The ride is no gentle stroll but its not a race for most involved. You will finish its just a matter of time. Plenty of walkers on the steep sections but we managed to keep those wheels turning though the pace was pretty slow on the last few ascents. My merino 'Hoxton' was perfect for this ride, kept me warm whilst hanging around at the start, wicked away the sweat on the climbs. Italians loved the quality of the merino and the classic cut and colour.
But its not just the ride and scenery, the hospitality is so warm and welcoming. Food stops consist of bread dipped in wine, salt and sugar, sounds odd but goes down a treat. Bread and olive oil with salt. Fresh walnuts, figs, grapes, cheeses. Water a plenty and just as much wine.
With the sun pretty strong we were keen to take on as much fluid as possible!!
As the end comes closer you can loosen the reins and have a little more wine and a little less water. Some great Italian ice creams also hit the spot. Cards were stamped by local officials and pretty girls.
The down hills on that gravel can be pretty tricky but its the up that gives the pain. As we get closer to home each village saw another bar or stall offering goodies. We also came across a good old British Mini parked in one of the many narrow streets next to it's more local sister from the time. With the Holdsworth in Chrome and Union Jack getting many an envious look.
It's a last few climbs and then one long descent home. Having led our little crew of Brits up the hills throughout the day Lance and I decide to wait for Algy and Merlin to role into town as one. The line soon breaks and its a sprint finish, confusion and before you know it I've missed the turning and am heading out of town!
Back to the support HQ for pasta and vino, stories were swapped. There were some unusual post ride team tracksuits on parade to add to the evening then its back to the Jolly Bar for coffees and brandies a steep walk to the hotel and late night swims in the heated pool...a great end to a truly great day....Thank you Tuscany, we shall be back for more...