Last night the final riders drifted into the hotel at 9:30 pm, tired and hungry. They had spent most of the day shepherding weaker or injured riders who were ultimately picked up by the vans. Two final hours riding in the day must have been exhausting and sapping of any enthusiasm but, when they arrived at the hotel restaurant, where we were already eating, they looked cheerful. Possibly just happy to be there.
No many hours of rest and recovery and another early start. Pack, breakfast, load vans, prepare bikes and off.
The idea was to have a gentler day after two tough opening rides. If that was the idea, something went awry between planning and implementation.
We set off as early as we could, yesterday's team of four augmented by an additional volunteer. Our idea was to make progress on the road at a steady pace, stop for refreshments when necessary and still get to the hotel at a decent hour to begin the recovery for the next day.
"The first twenty miles are on the SS19" I was told as I lead off, others riding in my slipstream. My GPS squeaked in protest but after the difficulties of the day before, I put this down to gremlins in my Garmin and headed on.
After 12 flat miles, one of our party asked "Wasn't there supposed to be a climb at 10 miles?"
We stopped and checked various devices. We were a couple of miles to the east of the route which did not join the SS19 until mile 25. We elected to stay on the road until the junction and rode on enjoying some spectacular descents but knowing as we did that what goes down has to go up again.
And so it did. The morning was warming up and the sun strong as we climbed. False summits appeared one after the other with each turn dashing hopes of respite. Th climb was steep, long and very hot but mercifully lacking in too much traffic.
Our pace was slow. Slow enough for flies and other insects to follow us and plague us. Bees in the bonnet is one thing but we were becoming concerned about hornets in helmets. There is a truly horrid feeling when one realises that something has flown in through the vents of one's helmet and is not leaving. Dark thoughts creep through one's mind as the insect creeps through one's sweat soaked hair.
We eventually reached what we concluded had to be the true summit and found a cafe.
Three other riders, who had set off later than us but along the correct route joined us for cold drinks and plenty of them.
We left on course and enjoyed a good descent, reward for the climb. Down below we sped towards the outer suburbs of Naples. The traffic was increasing and the road surfaces varied. As a rule, quite roads had appalling surfaces. Busy roads often did as well.
50 miles in and another cafe stop followed by an unplanned one to fix a puncture and then the next climb. Not so high but very steep and the day was getting hotter. And then we saw the vans in what appeared to be a pretty hill top town and pulled over for lunch. The riders we had seen earlier were already there eating and we swiftly joined them and then left before them as another large group arrived.
It transpired that the town was not a hill top town. The hill went up further,. Just what we needed immediately after lunch. And then it came down in what can only be described as a technical descent. Hairpin bends, poor road surfaces, and traffic in both directions.
Warning cries of "Hole!" "Gravel!" "Car!" punched into the lunchtime quiet of the villages we rode through.
40 miles remained of flat riding through the outer suburbs of Naples with traffic building and road surfaces deteriorating.
As we rode, thunder clouds formed darkly in the sky. As we reached the hotel, we heard the first crash of thunder and were happy to have arrived. We were the firt group in. Others were not so lucky.
114 miles ridden and 4,800 feet climbed.
Tomorrow is a "hard" day.
I need food and sleep.