I finally have a wifi connection and after being badgered by Jamie to put up the pictures, I have a small selection for you.
Here is Joff doing what he does best. We are in a fantastic authentic little Italian restaurant in a backstreet in Arona. The food was superb. As we were all clearly athletes nobody drank any of the local red wine, obviously!
This is Pete coming out of the toolshop in Pavia without a solution to his pannier rack. Can you see how gutted he looks, especially as that means that someone else will be carrying his bags for him....again!
The main piazza in Pavia. They had a catwalk setup in the middle of the square and had models parading up and down whilst people in the bars and restaurants around the square watched. They know how to live in Italy!
A quick one just to let everyone know that we have completed the ride! We finished at 4pm yesterday and I immediately collapsed into a heap! Our last day involved a massive climb to get to the top of the highest part of the Apennines. We had a gain of 1000m of altitude in 15km, it was tough! You know it's tough when you are climbing at the side of a cable car! The trip total was 2460km, so my estimate was surprisingly accurate. I would just like to thank all the people who cycled parts of the route with me, Terry, Martin, Pete, Joff, Conor, Chris and my wife Tina! And thank you to everyone who sponsored us. I have built up quite a library of photos and I will post them in the next few days when I can get a decent phone signal.
We are now in L'Aquila, which is the principal city of Abruzzo. For those who remember, L'Aquila was the centre of a massive earthquake last year and the city is still putting itself back together. Yesterday we were planning to have a low mileage day as we knew there would be a lot of climbing as we crossed the Apennines. Unfortunately we finished up doing over 140km in an increasingly desperate search for somewhere to stay. We spent nearly 11.5 hours in the saddle yesterday with the last hour in darkness. It was a good job that Terry had some lights or we would have been in real trouble. We have a short day today and then the final day on Tuesday which is a huge climb over the final range of The Apennines so we are resting our legs. If you are following the route then we are climbing up to Campo Imperatore which is famous in Italy as the place where Mussolini hid during the war, it is also famous as the place where they found him and then strung him up! I have now covered 2340km so it's looking like the 2500 estimate is going to be surprisingly close!
We have had a slightly frustrating day today battling through Perugia. To be honest, it's not the prettiest of Italian cities and you can get fed up with industrial estates, congested streets and lots of litter. We also found it was at the top of a long long hill. Whilst in England it's a fair assumption that a road will follow the easiest route through the terrain and that the city will be in a valley. In Italy things are different, all cities are old fortresses and are therefore as inaccessible as possible, which makes cycling to them a bit of a pain. We found that we have spent what should been an easier day going up and down big, big hills. Some facts and figures for those who are interested. Firstly, I have covered just over 2200km and everything is now aching all the time. I am finding that strange things are happening. I can't hold a fork because the constant impact through the handlebars is having an effect on my nerve endings and my eyes are on fire as i am digging out about 10 flies every evening...nice! Secondly, Martin has been cycling with a heart rate monitor and yesterday he burned just over 6000 calories! We cycled for 7 hours 58 minutes and he was only under his range for 3 minutes!! Tomorrow we start the mountains and we are expecting two and a half days of climbing before our final descent. Yes, the Apennines are that big! We are now 20km North of Spoleto in Umbria
I am re-typing this as my phone tells me that it has not posted and deleted the blog. Excuse me if this is a copy or not as funny as the original!
Thursday from Bologna to Florence ( that's Firenze to the Italians who can't spell!) We set off early to miss the mad traffic but we didn't! The locals had heard about 3 Lycra-clad Gods cycling through the city but they were disappointed when they found us instead so tried to mow us down at every opportunity! With hindsight choosing a new route in the bar the night before may have been a mistake. We set off from Bologna and after losing the traffic we turned a corner and went straight up, and I mean UP! I'm not the best map reader but if you see a name called Dante's Peak and you're cycling through it there's a bit of a clue! Needless to say after 10k of cycling up a hill I didn't need to, I did have a bit of a toys out of pram moment, I can't repeat the actual words but let's just say some Italians who heard picked up a bit of real English! After we had dropped to the bottom of the extra hill we added in we started the climb proper.. 40k straight up, this was our first crossing of the Apennines, lovely! Full marks to Pete Connelly who dragged us all up the hill, he was strong whilst the rest of us just wanted to go home! We managed to get through the mountains in one piece but that was nothing compared to the traffic in Florence....every city seems to get worse! We managed to get to one of Florence's tourist traps( sorry, locations of significant historical importance!) after we had fought off the hordes of American and Japanese tourists we managed to get 6in of space on Ponte Vecchio, just so Pete could prove to some of his ( careful with money) sponsors that he had done his bit. We got the photo and collapsed in the hotel , we had completed 130k that day and we were knackered!
We had a new tram member join us for the final leg into Abruzzo, Martin. At the same time Pete had to catch a flight back home and you could tell he had mixed emotions, he wanted to get home and see his family after 9 days away but he also wanted to keep cycling as well. As we set off it was an emotional goodbye but I think Pete was ok because he had found the Armani shop and 'was just going for a look, honest!' This morning I crossed the 2000km barrier and funnily enough it was climbing one of the hills of Tuscany. We have spent all day climbing up and down, up and down, up, up, then up and then down! We have covered another 130km today and we are absolutely knackered! We found a nice place on the side of Lake Tresimeno which is about 30km from Perugia. Tomorrow we climb again, can't wait! I nice baptism of fire for Martin, oh and apparently Terry's backside is in 'tatters'!
After yesterday's M25 episode we decided to add some miles and head to Bologna via the B roads of Italy. It has proven to be a good decision, we have seen the real Italy today. Lots of quiet sleepy villages and small towns with a bar complete with a set of blokes arguing over a game of cards. Pete has also fixed his panniers, he was up at 6 o'clock armed with gaffer tape and bungees and has created a masterpiece that Isambard Brunell would have been proud of. I am happy to report that Pete has now carried his own bag We have covered around 120km today and it has been hot, hot, hot! Temp was measured at 37c at 5pm tonight so went through a lot of water. I'm not looking for sympathy as I have been told that it's chucking it down at home, sorry.....honest! We had lunch in Maranello today and I was looking for the Ferrari factory, I didn't see the factory but we spotted a couple of Ferraris, driven by an Italian Stallion, of course! Terry literally had a bee in his bonnet when a bee flew into his helmet, there was a bit of a panic but we didn't laugh too much as he tried to get his helmet off in time, it's all about team spirit! We are trying to do the 'local thing' so we have had Parma ham in Parma, we have had bolognese in Bologna and tomorrow in Florence we are having....chips (family show!)
We have now arrived in Parma after travelling just over 120km down a long straight road called the Via Emilia. I have to say to that whilst I know that Italian drivers are mad I had heard a rumour that they respect cyclists. I can confirm that there is no respect for cyclists, you are just considered to be a more interesting moving target for them to aim at! Never, ever cycle on the road from Pavia to Parma! We have had to have a beer to calm our nerves. Tomorrow we are plotting a route on quieter roads. We had a disaster with Pete's pannier rack this morning, both supports snapped and we can't get a replacement. Obviously the rack didn't snap due to the weight of Pete's wardrobe! Terry had to carry one of Pete's bags and then we tried to find a solution. We had an interesting conversation in a toolshop, my Italian is okay for ordering food but does anyone know the Italian for 'jubilee clip'? Trip total is now 1750km and well done to Pete who has now done 650km, although most of it was with someone else carrying his bags!
We covered just over 120km today. I passed the 1500km mark and it was emotional, full Marks to Chris who celebrated the moment with a handshake at 30km per hour but I did miss the the 100km hug from Tina ( T, you know what I mean). It was a tough slog today. We are all sat talking about the day and muscles are aching but so what? All the time I tried to explain the Italian way of 'passiagiata' which means to walk but dressed up in all your finery. We have sat here and watched them flowing up and down the street, difficult to explain but you would understand if you saw it. Maybe it was the way we were 100 years ago? Is that good or bad, you decide? What I do know is that the whole family comes out for the Dominica Passagiatta (Sunday stroll). When it is is 25c you can understand, I think the Italians would freeze if they had a face a proper Lancastrian Summer's evening. Th trip total is now 1520km!! - Posted using BlogPress fromatimg my iPhone
Just a quick message before we set off again. Yesterday we completed a 45km climb over the Gotthard Pass. It is safe to say that it was both a horrible and exhilarating experience that I probably won't rush back and do again for some time. King of the Mountains goes to Conor who managed to get to the top in 2.5 hours whilst it took the rest of us nearly 5 hours. There is a rumour circulating that he caught the train! Crossing the border into Italy today and aiming to cycle along the edge of Lake Maggiore.
We had a big changeover day today. Tina caught a flight back home to Manchester and Pete, Conor and Chris arrived to start their stage of the trip. We took over a large part of the arrivals lounge and then turned it into a bike repair shop as 3 bikes were re-assembled. It kept the crowd of bored people sat in the cafe amused. Once we were all set up then Pete took us on a detour to a bike shop a get a missing part for his pannier rack, of course they didn't have the parts so Chris kindly volunteered to carry some of Pete's stuff, well it was words to that effect anyway! It took us a while to find the correct route away from the airport but once we did it was superb. To set the scene a bit I should tell you about Conor, who has a bit of a reputation for doing his cycling at one pace...as fast as possible! As a result we missed a lot of route signs as we went past them in a blur! After carrying our bikes across a field we had a team discussion and it was decided that maybe we should keep a lookout for signs a bit more. We had a bit of a race against the fading light to get to our first destination of Sursee and we were averaging between 25 and 35km per hour for the last part of the ride and a lot of it was uphill. We cycled just over 100km in less than half a day and the legs are feeling it. We are back on track now so hopefully the pace will ease off a bit tomorrow and give us time to recover for the big climb on Saturday. Total distance for the trip is now 1210km.
It's been another full day. My bike has been fixed and we managed to get our bikes on the train to Zurich. The Swiss are very organised and they provide hooks for you to hang the front wheel of your bike from. Every carriage had 2 or 3 bikes hanging up for the journey. We got to Zurich around 7pm and had a quick walk(or limp, in Tina's case) around. Considering it was a Wednesday night the place was alive with people and we managed to find a table in an old 'bier halle'.
This is a picture of Tina in the bierhalle. We now have wifi in the hotel so I can post pictures so I will add a few from the last few days.
This is Tina sat on a cushion in a restaurant, she literally couldn't sit down because of the cycling blisters!
- A picture of me in front of a castle in the Rhine Valley (no, I can't see it either).
There isn't a running theme here of Tina drinking beer but this is a picture of Tina drinking beer in Strasbourg!
A typical view of the Rhine, it doesn't really do the river justice but at this point the river was at least 400m wide. I promise to add some better photos from my camera when I get back.
We are sat in beautiful Basel soaking up the atmosphere. We have a few hours to explore the city while my bike is being fixed. I broke a spoke yesterday on the rear wheel and it's the spoke that you have to remove all the gear cogs to replace....a job for a professional, not me. We could say that Basel is a truly cosmopolitan city but at the minute it's full of England football fans from last night's match. Today is Tina's last cycling day and she flies home to Manchester tomorrow, we are reminiscing over some of the things we have seen. Some of the most prominent things have related to the ingenuity of the Dutch and German cyclists. We have seen 3 wheelers, 4 wheelers, trailers carrying kids, a couple pulling trailers each with a huge St Bernard dog asleep in them, and a chap who was cycling with a cockatoo sat happily on his shoulder! A combination of Tina's bad leg and my broken bike means that we are catching the train to Zurich tonight so Tina doesn't miss her flight tomorrow, it should be interesting to see how we manage to get our bikes on the train. We gave now covered 1130km
Tuesday 7th September We have had lots of unexpected events over the last few days. We crossed over the border into France and we have had problems finding somewhere to stay every night since. Hotels either look like the Bates Motel from Psycho or they are full, there is nothing in between. One night we asked a local B&B owner if he had room, of course he was full but he found us a room in someone's house. The old lady who lived in the house didn't speak English and we don't speak German so we had a lively conversation in the morning whilst she sat at the table watching us eat breakfast. We then stayed in Strasbourg which was full because the European Parliament was sitting. I managed to find one room (a suite) and my credit card is still yelping! I have to say Strasbourg is a beautiful city and we would liked to have stayed a bit longer to explore it. We woke up this morning to rain and it has bounced it down all day. Can't complain really as it's been the first day of rain since we left the Pennines behind. For those who know of Sod's Law, then they will understand when I thought, I didn't say because that would be tempting fate, I just thought that we had been lucky with the bikes. In the next few minutes the spoke on my back wheel snapped. It was also the spoke that needs you to remove all the rear cogs to replace...nightmare! we are on a bike path in the middle of a corn field in the rain and my back wheel's knackered, lovely! Thankfully a local farmer helped me to cut off what was left of the spoke and I straightened the wheel as much as I could. Tina was overjoyed when I told her that she had to carry extra weight so I could take strain off my back wheel. We then limped on to hit a day's total of 115km and we are now staying in the Bates Motel 30km outside of Basel, it goes down as a 'character building' day!! We have passed the 1000km milestone and we had a group hug to celebrate! I wanted a beer to celebrate but we were in the middle of nowhere. By the way, if you ever feel England is filling up, come to France, there is nobody here! The amount of villages we have cycled through and there are no shops and no people, you start to wonder how they eat and where are they?
We have spent the last two days cycling through the Rhine Valley. It's amazing just how dramatic the changes can be over a few kilometres. We have cycled through Bonn which is a bit like Manchester, but with sunshine! We then went through the more dramatic gorges near Boppard and St Goar and we passed the 'World Famous Loreley' which was basically a rock but with added Japanese tourists. I'm sure some of the Japanese tourists took pictures of two knackered British cyclists as we tried cycling through the hordes. We then moved into the wine regions around Nierstein. All the vineyards were having open days today and there was a lot of red-faced and very 'happy' people about. I have to say the bike was nearly thrown in the river so I could join them wine-tasting. We have finished in a city called Worms (!). We have now covered just over 750km. Tina has pulled a tendon in her leg and is in absolute agony but is taking whatever medicines she can find and carrying on....a strong Northern Lass!
Thursday 2nd September We have spent almost 10 hours in the saddle today and quite a lot of it was spent going around in circles in Cologne! Don't get me wrong I'm sure Cologne is a lovely place but I don't think Tina and I will be rushing back there, well not until they put up some signs anyway! Whilst part of the day has been frustrating we have also seen some fantastic countryside and cycled along the Rhine itself for quite a few hours. It's amazing to see the amount of activity on the river, some of the freight barges are enormous and they must take a lot of trucks off German roads. We have covered 125km today and Tina is happy to report that she now has a red eye to match her interpretation of a baboon's bum!
We started the day in Holland and finished the day in Germany. To be honest, the border crossing was a bit of an anti-climax. We think the border was halfway across a cow field as we cycled along a dam, we just noticed that car number plates had changed when we got onto a road.
I have attached a picture of Tina stood in front of a windmill as proof that we were actually in Holland (and no, it's not the one in Lytham St Annes). We have finished the day in a village called Budberg which is 20kms North of Duisberg. We have cycled 110kms today and the knees are starting to creak a bit, I am thinking that some nice German beer tonight might loosen things up! The only problem is that the hotel owners don't speak any English and we don't speak any German. I remembered the word 'zimmer' from 3rd year German but that was the wrong side of 20 years ago, we've no idea what we will end up eating tonight!