Day 5 - Lloyd's Cycling Club

Day 5 - Lloyd's Cycling Club

This was promised to be the hardest day but, at first, the signs pointed otherwise. Two people who, the evening before, looked as though they were destined to leave the tour, appeared at breakfast kitted up. The young treaty underwriter with the chaffed privates was on display as was Pete whose knee had blown the day before.

One great sadness was that Peter Harris of Besso, who had organised the whole event almost single handedly, had to take to the support van with an injured knee. From there he directed the day's events.

The sun was rising as we pedalled off with the mist collecting gently in the hills. This was a day of climbing. Seven major climbs and a number of less major ones. Indeed, it became hard to distinguish major climbs from everyday bits of road.

The road surfaces, while still occasionally silky, were often badly corrupted; collections of loose tarmac dotted around holes, particularly to the side of the road where traffic forced cyclists to ride. Italy did not achieve its budget deficit by paying for road repairs.

Traffic, even at 7am was heavy with considerable construction traffic. Rome certainly wasn't built in a day; they are still building it.

Four of us rode together at a steady pace. We were overtaken by the van that warned us of impassable conditions ahead. Once more we went on a detour, although this time a sanctioned one. It added miles to the journey.

Back on route we tackled climb after climb. At one stage I was riding at the head of the line a noticed that my speed was dropping despite seemingly going downhill. A trick of the light or of the road provided a false flat. We were climbing at 2.5% and the climb went on for miles through a massive olive grove.

Another climb up to a hill top town and the rain and thunder started. We were soaked. Rivers ran down the hill as torrential rains poured down. My glasses become fogged and rain splattered and coated with sunscreen washed from my forehead. I couldn't see. One of my companions turned on his rear light to guide me on.

Luckily the lunch stop was shortly after the summit. I couldn't have descended blind.

At lunch a debate raged as the rain continued. Health and safety were cited. Some, including me, resisted. The rain would pass. No coach could be hit=red at short notice. The rain did pass. We were on our way again.

More hills, more descents.

And then, after a wonderful descent by a massive lake, the rain started again. As we traversed a plain, people started to look for shelter. A solitary tree in the middle of the plain was all that was on offer. Mindful of warnings about sheltering under trees in thunder storms, we went on and found a rough shelter by a petrol station and wasps' nest.

Eventually the rain abated. We continued to a town but were forced to shelter again before a major descent.

Time was passing and the worst climb of the day remained. As we hit it, the sun was setting and as the sun set, the rain started to fall harder.

After an hour of climbing it was dark; we were wet and we were cold. With the diversion in the morning, we could not tell how far we still had to go. We pressed on dispirited. Eventually one of the vans appeared and led us the final 400 metres to the hotel.

Soaked and cold I waited to get a room.

I was told there wasn't one for me. This did not impress me.

While I had coped physically with the challenges of the day, this mental challenge was one too many. My sense of humour deserted me. Luckily, I had some very good club mates who were on hand to calm the situation and discover what had happened to my accommodation and within minutes I was standing in a hot shower slowly calming myself and starting to prepare for the next day.

After the last couple of days, it can only get easier.

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