Lloyd's Cycling Club Tour 2014 The Toe of Italy to Monte Carlo
We were hoping for a non-eventful day. A day when we didn't get lost, didn't get soaked and didn't have to over-exert ourselves. A nice ride along the coast to Genoa and then only one day to go.
Of course, nothing on this ride has been uneventful. Nothing has required us not to over exert ourselves. And, while we might have been worried about the heat before we came, it has been rain and cold that have really challenged us.
I checked the weather forecast before we left Lucca. Rain in the morning in Lucca; possible thunderstorms in the afternoon in Genoa. I popped my rain jacket in my jersey pocket along with my pump, wallet, phone and food. Lots of food.
Four of set off together in the rain and as we did one remarked that only two other riders had ridden the entire course. Six out of 26 and we were four of them. The others beset by adverse weather, mechanicals, injuries and exhaustion had led them, at one stage or another, to resort to motorised assistance.
Two days left and we resolved that we were going to complete it.
Five miles from the start and we hit our first climb. My legs felt good and showed little sign of the tiredness that one might expect after six days in the saddle and comfortably over 700 miles. I reached the top first and waited for the others. We were one short.
Jamie came up on foot with his bike. Broken spoke and buckled wheel.
He was devastated. This could be the end of his ride or at least would mean he would not remain among the select few.
While we tried to call the support van the second group came through with Darek, the mechanic.
He stayed with us, the others rode on. A couple of minutes later we received a call. The was a bike shop in the village at the bottom of the hill. We rode down. It opened at 9am, almost an hour later. We waited in a cafe. Just after nine, the proprietor arrived as did the support van. Half an hour later, the bike shop owner and Darek had Jamie's bike up and running and we were off, albeit a little behind schedule. The relief on Jamie's face was very apparent.
We moved on as the sun came out with Darek setting a fast pace, down to the coast at Viareggio.
A crash. Richard was hit by a car. Luckily the extent of the damage was a puncture. On we went again.
After about 50 miles we came across Colin, the doctor by the side of the road. He had a broken wheel and was waiting to be picked up by the van.
The six had become five.
Shortly after we left him, we hit a climb that seemed to go on forever., climbing up over the coast. I was pleased by my performance early on but as we got higher and steeper, I got slower and was delighted to reach the top. "Easy descent and then lunch" we cheered. Until Jamie reached the top. He showed us the elevation guide. We had only climbed to 900 feet. There was a short descent and then we hit the real climb to 2000 feet.
Such disappointments are becoming the hallmark of the tour.
We climbed. The sun shone.The hill went on. It became a mountain
The views down to the coast were spectacular but I wasn't in a position to stop and enjoy them or photograph them.
The summit came in the shape of a restaurant and lunch. One of the other groups was just leaving. The doctor arrived in the van and ate with us as a spare wheel was found for him. He joined us for the rest of the day.
A long and fast descent down to the coast at Sestri Lavante and then along the coast to Genoa. We had a number of sharp and some quite long climbs and stopped for what felt not long enough in a beach front cafe.
We reached Genoa as it got dark and navigated the heavy traffic to our hotel on the other side of town, at one stage led by the GPS through a street carnival.
We reached the hotel eventually, after 122 miles, shorty before 9pm, leaving us only minutes to shower and dress for dinner.
Tomorrow will be another but final tough day along the coast road with dozens of leg sapping short climbs, weekend beach traffic and traffic lights.
One of the curiosities of cycling is that one spends ages looking forward to doing it and then, as soon as one starts, one starts looking forward to it ending. Tomorrow is our last day. Over a year in the planning, over six months desperately losing weight and training and it will be done.
Given the attrition rate so far, the five of us who have not yet resorted to motorised help are going to be very lucky to get to Monte Carlo and Nice still on a bike.
But we are going to try and it would take a major upset to prevent us.