How do I begin a post after what, two months? I don’t want to subject anyone to a series of excuses and reasons why there have been no updates. Quite simply life has gotten in the way. And I’m a lazy bastard. You put those two things together and you have weeks and weeks with no writing. Not that I haven’t thought about it! I’ve written some impressive stuff in my head. I wonder if other people who write blogs go through this, they must. So what have I been doing if I haven’t been writing?
Well, guiding a bit, thank God. Though that has only taken a small part of my time. Lots of riding however, which means my spirits are good. The Giro d’Italia was a major distraction, a daily ritual which I was unable to disengage myself from.Many of my cycling friends are just as enamored as I am of pro racing, others have no time for it what so ever. Maybe because I live in Italy, have been a part of it from the inside to an extent or have simply been in love with it for decades. Fact is I can’t give it up for all its faults. And this year’s Giro was a good one in many ways. With the final week being over the top in terms of challenges; weather, terrain and hard racing .
The biggest part of my time however is taken up by my main gig, the one where excuses don’t wash and no one even wants to hear them. House Man. That’s right my friends, I answer to two people and one dog who are accustomed to a certain level of care. Two meals a day, fresh home made sourdough bread, a clean house, ironed clothes (everyone irons everything in Italy, we don’t use dryers here. I would be considered only a very average housewife though because I don’t iron sheets) and a well stocked larder. Fresh veggies daily, fruit too, in season only please. All of that takes time, especially cooking and food shopping, both big deals here. A real food shop entails at least three or four different shops, green grocers or more typically, the grower him/herself. The butcher, the baker (for those who don’t make bread), the cheese and salami shop and finally the supermarket. I’m in the business of taking care of people, both on the bike and off the bike.
Some of you who have had the patience and go back far enough with this blog might recall a post about some old riding buddies that I wrote last year. I called them the pain brothers. Their names are Jeff, Andy and Rick. The fourth brother Eric was unable to attend this year as his company had posted him across the country from Colorado to Indiana. Apparently in the midst of a major move, wife, kids, household, new schools etc. it was deemed unwise to follow through on a ten day cycling vacation to Italy with the boys. I can see how that might be a bad move marriage wise. Next year he’ll be back. In years past I’ve always had my ass kicked by these guys, not intentionally mind you, it just happens on long rides with maniacs intent on inflicting as much pain as possible. On themselves first and foremost, those around them by mere proximity. Like second hand smoke. But this year I was either lucky or fit or a bit of both. Or maybe they’re aging!Notice from the photo how we are dressed so differently, they’re freezing but they like it, all part of the pain package. I’m in a vest and arm warmers and I’m wearing a wool jersey under the vest and I’m just right.
Anyway, I was saying, I was either lucky or fit this year because I did two rides with them and not only held my own, I felt good! In years past I was groveling on their wheels praying for a flat tire just so we could stop for a few minutes. Not this year. Granted, the first ride together came on day three for them, so they probably already had over 450 km in their legs. Plus they were fully loaded (with seat-post mounted luggage) as they were riding from Castagneto Carducci to Monte Amiata and the hotel “Le Macinaie” at 1400 meters. A trip of 160 km at least. This was a four day outing, hence the luggage. I met them in Suvereto and road half way with them before turning around to ride home….with, can you believe it, a TAIL WIND. Porca Puttana! I had a tail-wind for 75 km and was just hauling ass all the way home. Wondering the whole time which cycling Gods were pulling favors to make this happen. And how much was the pay-back going to be in the future. But hell, you only receive those kinds of blessings once a decade, why not enjoy it? I did.
However that meant that those poor boys had a massive head-wind all the way to the foot of the punishing 9 km climb up to the hotel. They then spent three days there riding themselves into a stupor, down and then back up each ride to Le Macinaie, a truly punishing climb from any of the three or four possible routes up. Wanting to add an additional ration of hardship to the vacation, on the fourth day away from Home (Hotel Zi Martino’s in Castagneto) they loaded everything back onto their bikes and returned north. Somehow the tail-wind that had pushed me back to Campiglia the previous Sunday, blowing south to north, was a sustained north-south that day making it that much harder. So that when we rode together the following day they were toasted, like coffee beans, dark and crunchy. They were putty in my hands, I could almost hear their legs moaning each time the road angled upward. For all that however they were still plucky, no complaining at all, ready for anything, game for climbs galore and kilometers. But they weren’t on the gas the whole time, that was the big difference. Which made it totally pleasant for me. Though I sort of missed the pain factor. I’ll have to ask them to dole it out more carefully next year, leaving just enough for a taste on our rides together.