Its six months since moving to Italy and i have hesitated in taking on either joining a club or riding with a local group. Most of the time has been spent training on my own which to be honest i have enjoyed but there does come a point when you think, ok enough, i need new routes, new challenges and some cycling buddies.

Why did i hesitate - simply....a pasty white Englishman joining a band of bronzed athletic hard core cyclists and the fear of getting dropped or spat out the back, i am cycling for pride and for England and St George, cant have that, need to at least look like i know what i am doing !!

So i have buried myself riding hard, training hard and getting bronzed...i am starting to look like i ride a bike abroad and live here, not just on holiday - it was time to ride...Italian style !!

There is a local group in our village, 10 guys that ride each Sunday 80 - 100 km leaving at 9 am ( why do all cycling groups leave at 9 am, who started that !?.....) the pace i was told was slow, there is no slow in Italy its just a bit less than fast. I had come to believe that the average age of these guys was 55 + so i would be the youngest at 51 !! I also found out that 1 guy used to train with Pantani and 2 of them cycled from Milan to Rome non stop....easy ride ummmm not so sure. Anyway what's the worst that can happen ???

At 08:50 i was outside Massimo's house ( not Milan San Remo Massimo but another one ) two guys rock up, then 2 more and before long we were 7 including me. They were in arm warmers, race cape and knee warmers, me short sleeve and shorts and it was 20 degrees !!...Ahh you Englishman, Cristina's husband yup that's me, introductions done off we went......

Turn left off the side road and on to a semi main road, two abreast everyone chatting me in bad Italian some of them in worse English, two speaking dialect - smile, nod, laugh when they laugh, of course i understand....right turn on the roundabout the road is dead straight and pan flat....no more chatting the warm up of approx 5 mins was done....in a line we strung out, me 3 of 7 and then the pace went up and up and up...We averaged 41 kmph for the first hour...i took really, really short turns on the front a) because i had no idea where we were going and b) i just couldn't hold the pace !!

Once on the back roads it eased up, two abreast again and chatting - nice bike etc etc etc. The first hill of the day - short steep and i thought ok at least show them you have half decent legs, so off the front i went...first over the climb. I thought i had dropped everyone - no chance all on my wheel making it look easy and i was working hard. 

First swooping descent of the day and they left me for dead doing 70 kmph !!! Since a bad crash, descending has been my weakness, i made the excuse that i was eating and enjoying the view....idiot, like they believed that....

I tell everyone, when on a fast ride save yourself, finish strong don't blow up. Short turns on the front, wheel suck and at the end or at least the second half of the ride start to up the tempo and effort. So main climb of the day i did just that...at the front setting the pace and managing to drop 3 of the 7. The old Pantani stuck on my wheel no chance of dropping him wayyyyy too strong. It continued like this for another hour most of the times either 1st or at worst 3rd over the climbs and getting dropped on the descent and working like a loony to catch up on the flat..my excuse of enjoying the view long gone, they twigged i was a s**t descender - DAMN. 

No coffee stop. I don't like them anyway but thought being Italy they would have one. We climbed hill top village after hill top village - beautiful views, vineyards, tranquil, limited traffic...i had no idea where we were, but after a huge left turn and 50 km done i thought we must be turning for home and so it was time. I started to see the roads i knew and it was time for me to take you lot home. I started sprinting/racing/full on attacks on the hills flat, hell even a couple of short descents i was ok, at the front the whole time. At the front i was holding 36 kmph and looking over my shoulder - still there damn you lot...however i didn't realize that only Pantani was on my wheel i had dropped the rest and one guy even had cramp....we re grouped at a major junction...take it easy they asked....ah breaking you perhaps. I hid a wry smile...

Left turn, last 20 km...same again kept the pace pretty steady i felt good...i thought they were all with me but no, dropped them all apart from Pantani...."take your helmet and glasses off so i know what you look like" he asked as we waited at the railway crossing for the train to pass - "then i can say hello to you in the village"...his English not bad, i responded as always in Italian - but badly.

Back to the roundabout where 3 hrs earlier the tempo went up. I went straight on, they all went right... thanks and ciaos said its was back home. " How was it?" asks the wife..."not bad" says i keeping the fact that i have to seriously work on my descending for next time to myself....and go again i will....always good to go with people that will push you....now where is that coffee i need...... 

 

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