Bristol to Rome the long read

Bristol to Rome Bike Ride – August 2010

Day 1 Bristol to Poole 6hrs 16mins 80.91miles Ave Speed 12.9mph Max speed 35.4mph Total Ascent 1679m Total Descent 1751m Cal 4590 We woke to a grey damp, drizzly day.  An emotional start, Rob Britton kindly came over to send us off, which was very good of him. We set off at about 7am this morning with it drizzling, which luckily stopped after we had completed 5 miles and it kept dry until about 45 miles but was then raining the rest of the way until we arrived in Poole.  We had a strong coldish headwind most of the way.  We’ve had a good day and kept up a good steady pace all day.  I led the way doing the map reading with Ginette and Gary following. Our 1st stop was at the 25mile point where we found a cafe at Rocky Mountain Garden Centre, where the owner kindly sponsored us £10 and gave us our drinks and a bacon roll on the house, which was very kind of her.  We then agreed to stop regularly at 20mile intervals.  Our legs are feeling a bit tired and we are doing our best to dry out our kit ready for tomorrow.


Day 2 Poole to Saint Lo via Brittany Ferry to Cherbourg

5hrs 8min riding time 66.92 miles 147.83 in total Ave Speed 13mph Max speed 35mph Total Ascent 1079m Total Descent 1060m Cal Burnt 3731 Better day weather wise – been grey and cloudy it tried to rain on the odd occasion but it wasn’t more than a few spots. It’s been really warm with a breeze which luckily wasn’t strong as yesterday. It was strange cycling on the right side of the roads and I did get it wrong on a few left hand turns but Gary soon shouted and I pulled over.  The rounds are a bit rougher over here and one road which we used said that it was a dead end and then ended up turning into a gravel track.  We’ve had good fun today and the channel crossing was a laugh – the fog horn had to be on and quite a few people were being sick as the crossing was a bit choppy but luckily none of us were affected.


Day 3

Saint Lo to Alencon

7hrs 49mins Total riding time 19hrs 13mins 91.81miles Total miles completed 239.63 Ave Speed 11.7mph Max speed 40.5mph Ascent 1209m total climbed 3967m Decent 1226m total down hill 4037m cal 5364 total cal burnt 13685 Woke with the sound of howling wind and rain outside.  Went down to breakfast at 7am but Gary & Ginette didn’t come down – so went back up and bagged on their door – Gary had forgotten to move his watch forward an hour so the alarm hadn’t yet gone off and they were only just getting up. This was our longest mileage day – when we set off the sky was cloudy & grey and the wind was very strong and it was trying to drizzle.  Luckily the wind was mostly behind us or from the side.  The weather slowly got better and after 40miles when we reached Clecy the sun came out and we had to put some sun cream on and it remained nice for the rest of the day. I found some nice hair pin bends on a steep descent – Gary didn’t think so though as he lost control in the wet and had to navigate via a grass bank as didn’t quite make the bend.  Ginette also had problem with her bad thumb – which she dislocated and is causing her some pain, she went into a pharmacy later this afternoon which we were passing but they refused to give her want she wanted to help with the pain – they were insistent that she needed to go to the hospital and gave her a map of how to find it.  She didn’t want to go to the hospital as old injury and it was also in the wrong direction for us. It has been fantastic help having a support crew – Gary’s sister and family – Tracey, Andy and their son Jack who is 11 years old. They take the majority of our bags and equipment which saves us having to carry it on the bike. Andy joined us on his bike with 37miles to go and Jack joined us with 14 miles to go – both did brilliantly without any training. We arrive at our hotel tonight somewhat tired after a hard days enjoyable ride but we couldn’t have a shower as the water had been turned off as they were doing road works outside. However we did have an excellent BBQ which Tracey & Andy cooked for us. An enjoyable day – my legs are aching and my achillies is hurting, I think we all know we have been riding for the last 3 days and we haven’t even got to the hard bit yet – I’m hoping that my legs and body acclimatise to what I’m putting my body through each day.


Day 4

Alencon to Chateaudun

Day 4 – Alencon to Chateaudun 6hrs 19 mins of riding today – total riding time 27hrs 2mins completed 84.51miles total – total distance covered 324.14miles Ave speed today 13.4mph Max speed today 31.7mph Ascent today 1026m – total climbing so far 4993m Descent today 1110 – total downhill so far 5147m Cal burnt today 4658 – total burnt 18343 Woke this morning to perfect blue sky hardly a cloud in sight.  Bit chilly to start of with at 7:30am but the going was good and the terrain was flatter than previous days – clocking up the quickest average so far.  The terrain at the start was a bit up and down and we were passing sunflower fields.  We stopped off at Coudray-au-Perche for lunch – we asked for 3 ham sandwiches and we got 3 massive french stick rolls with loads of ham.  we then stopped off at a cafe in the afternoon for a coke at Chatillon-en-Dunois.  In the afternoon it was completely flat – like the Luckily levels – there were massive fields of corn stubble or corn on the cob and you could see for miles. Luckily most of the day the breeze was behind us and it helped keep us cool with the sun shinning all day. The traffic has been a bit heavier today but no where near as the UK – Sunday our first day in France – there was no traffic on the road at all, yesterday there was some but not much. It was a road kill day – we had seen a number of frogs/toads over the last 2 days but today we saw a red squirrel, 2 hedgehogs, a rat, our first badger and a mole.  The mole was just after we had past a place called Moulhard were Gary was discussing that moles are hard from here, clearly this one wasn’t hard enough – the little things which take your mind of the pain and add a little fun to the day. Ginette’s thumb and my achilles are still hurting quite a bit but I believe our bodies are starting to get use to the daily bounding we are giving ourselves on the bikes.  I’ve finally got use to cycling on the right side of the road. Tomorrow should be a very flat day – approx 87miles from Chateaudun to Montargis – going through Varize, Patay, Chevilly, Marigny-les-Usages, Trainou, Combreux & Presnoy.


Day 5

Chateaudun to Montargis

6hrs 21mins of riding today – total riding time 33hrs 23mins completed 85.48miles total – total distance covered 409.62miles Ave speed today 13.5mph Max speed today 21.6mph Ascent today 550m – total climbing so far 5543m Descent today 580m – total downhill so far 5727m Cal burnt today 4560 – total burnt 22903


Sorry no notes for this day.
Day 6

Montargis to Tonnerre

6 hrs 39mins Total time taken 40hrs 2mins 85.82 miles today – total 495.44 miles Ave speed 12.9mph Max speed 31.9mph Ascent 1304m – total uphil for trip 6847m Descent 1335 – total downhill for trip 7062m Cal 4768 – total cal for trip 27671 Started off as a grey day – humid with a cool breeze, after about 25miles (2hrs – about 10am) the sun had come out and I had to put my sun cream on.  Temp was 28 degrees centigrade.  If you cycled faster the cooler you were – you certainly felt the heat when climbing up the hills but we kept up a good pace today. The terrain has changed from yesterday from being flat to rolling hills – started seeing and cycling through vinyards.  Had a couple of off road sections/unpaved roads we went on – in one section we saw 2 dead cows next to each other – only carcass and horns left.  We saw a few small lizards and we saw a number of speeding trains shoot past us. Andy and Jack joined us on their bikes for the last stretch of the day – this is the last day they are with us and we will have full panniers tomorrow – so we are expecting it to be tougher.  Ginette’s thumb is still hurting and causing her pain and she has also a large blister on her palm. Route tomorrow – Tonnerre to Chenove going through the following places – Sambourg, Sarry, Viserny, Juilly, Vitteaux, Avosnes, Bussy-la-Pesle, Pasques & Talant.


Day 7

Tonnerre to Marsannary

8hrs 33mins – Total time 48hrs 35mins 92.68miles Ave 10.8mph max 39.0mph Ascent 2291m – total climbed 9138m Descent 2308m – total downhill luggage Cal 5358 total cal burnt 33029 Woke this morning to a crash of thunder and it was pouring down with rain.  This was our first day without support so had to take all our luggage ourselves – with panniers fitted and the bikes weighing a ton (could hardly lift them) we set off at 7:30am in the rain. This has been our longest day in terms of being in the saddle and number of miles completed.  Today was hard!!! and we all found it tough going today, none of us had the best nights sleep, I had to kill a mosquito which was trying to bite me before I could get to sleep and poor Gary was sick in the night – it was either he had eaten too much at the restaurant or it could have been the snails we tried last night – it didn’t have much taste – I thought it was like eating fatty meat. We went up the first climb – which was over 1 mile long – at the top I needed to adjust my panniers – like a complete novice I hadn’t ridden with them before and they were too far forward as I was hitting my heals on them. Gary also had to change his new shorts as they were rubbing him.  Up the first climb unfortunately we saw a dead cat. It doesn’t get any easier riding the bike – it’s getting more uncomfortable and all our legs/bodies are getting tired. It was a slow start today – only averaging 10.2mph for the first 20 miles.  The rain soon stopped within 30 mins and at the 20 mile point we removed our waterproofs, the sun then came out & we had to put on sun cream and we had a nice warm day albeit we had a very strong head and cross wind all day which made the going hard together with the extra weight we are now carrying. We had about 5/6 hills today which were at least 1 mile long and ranged from 21-12% gradient but thankfully we had a 4.5 mile downhill to the finish into Dijon. Much hillier day today – we passed many fields with white cows in and also a few fields with donkeys in. We also passed a chateau on top of a hill side and we saw a dead snake by the side of the road. We all found it hard today – so much so Gary wasn’t singing as usual and Ginette’s hand and thumb are still causing her pain.  My achillies is still painful and will not get any better with the punishment I’m putting it under. We are all tied and looking to get an early night. Tomorrows route – 74miles – should also be a slightlyt flatter day – Marsannary to Le Chatelaine – going through Neuilly-les-Dijon, Tart-le-Haut, Trouhans, Les Maillys, Billey, Chatenois, Rochefort-s-Nenon, Saline, Pagnoz & Ivory


Day 8

Marsannay to La Chatelaine 6hrs 11 mins – total time 54hrs 46mins 73.17miles – total 661.29 miles Ave speed 11.8mph Max speed 30.9mph Ascent 1111 – total 10249 Descent 806 – Total 10176 Cal 4239 – total 37268 Woke up to a grey skys. Saw Gary and the first thing he said ‘We have a problem’. Ginette’s front wheel had a puncture right on the valve so unable to repair with a patch and Gary had sent his spare inner tubes back with the support crew. We thought that we were going to have to find a bike shop to get a spare and went on-line to find the nearest shop, luckily there was a supermarket which we could see from our hotel and they sold them.  Our accommodation last night was very basic but tonights is excellent – Ginette and Gary have 2 floors to their room and have a complimentary bottle of wine. We set off about 9:20am this morning delayed due to sorting out the pucture, we came across a cycle path running along the canal so we decided to take that route for a change – at thast point Ginette noticed water pouring out of Gary’s panniers – one of his bottles of water had broken. We carried along the canal path for about 18 miles – at the end Ginette had another puncture in her front wheel which gary fixed and we then decided to go back onto the roads as the rough canal paths were hurting Ginette’s hand/thumb. The weather improved during the morning – sunny & cloudy and we had to put on our suncream but there was a stiff chilly breeze and when the sun went behind the clouds it was a bit cold. Not a bad days cycling – quite flat to start off with and then became hiller closer to the finish – going through a gorge and a long climb to follow. We saw brown and white cows today – some with cow bells on, in one field a calf had been born – within the last few hours.  We stopped off for lunch at Rochefort and had chips and a hotdog and just after we crossed a lovely river. This is the first day in France were we have seen a lot of cyclists – we found a cycle track which went on for about 8 miles – along a long straight road running through the woods. Tomorrow gets a bit hiller as we go into Switzerland and head for Geneve – passing through – Valempoulieres, Sirod, Les Pontets, Mouthe, Le Sentier, Bassins and Commugny


Day 9

Le Chatelaine to Geneve

5hrs 33mins – total time cycling 60hrs 30mins 69.08miles – total miles 730.37 Ave speed 12.0mph Max speed 34.5mph Ascent 1362m – total amount climbed 11580m Descent 1629m – total downhill 11771m Cal 4050 – total cal burnt 41318 We stayed in a lovely hotel last night – with an outdoor pool but was a bit cold to use.  Unfortunately the restaurant was closed so we had to walk 1k down the road to get to the nearest restaurant – excellent food and we had a good laugh with the staff – they sat us in the middle of the room with French people all around. I felt that we needed an easier route today so I made some adjustments and we headed down the N5 towards Geneve – cut off about 20 miles and 800m worth of climbing.  The road was busier than we are use to as we have been mainly using small lanes, but the road was plenty wide enough that the car didn’t bother us. We set off with blue sky this morning but there was a chilly wind so had to have our waterproof coats on to keep warm.  It was a cloudy & blue sky all day but the chilly wind continued all day.  As you cycled there was a constant sound of ringing from the cow bells which the cows all had round their necks. Most of the morning was spent climbing until about 2pm where we stopped off and had a bite to eat and rest our weary legs.  We climbed to 1323m to the Col de la Faucille and we were in ski country – we could see the chair lifts and we passed a number of ski shops.  From the top of the hill/mountain we had a 6.5mile downhill with hairpin bends – the scenery was fantastic/breathtaking – this is the longest hill I think I’ve cycled down, we passed a few poor cyclist cycling up. We’ve had an excellent day today with great scenery to look at.  At one point a good looking, fit young lady cyclist passed us and I was able to follow her for a number of miles but in the process I left Gary & Ginette behind, unfortunately she turned right and I then slowed up for Gary & Ginette to catch me back up. It’s hard work sitting on the saddle for so many hours day after day and I believe we are all feeling it – I made the step early on today to wear 2 pairs of cycle shorts which helped a bit – Ginette also did the same later on in the day. We crossed the French/Swiss border today. Tomorrow we have 66miles to do but have approx 3804m to climb – setting off from Geneve heading south to La Croisette, Thones and Flumet to Paravy


Day 10

Geneve to Paravy

5hrs 10mins – Total time riding 65hrs 40mins 50.77miles – total miles completed 781.14miles Ave speed 9.8mph Max speed 35.8mph Ascent 1774m – total climbed 13,354m Descent 1000m – total downhill 12,771m Cal burnt 4252 – total burnt 45,570 Had a lovely cooked breakfast this morning – I changed the route for today – reduced both the mileage and amount of climbing. It was busy initially getting out of Geneve and until we started into the Alps. It was fantastic today – we have Julie (Gary’s other sister) and Brian supporting us through the Alps, so we were able to leave our panniers at the hotel for them to pick them up – it made such a difference. The scenery has been breathtaking – you have to be here to believe it – have taken lots of photos today as we had plenty of time as only had to do 50miles today.  In Geneve Ginette crashed into the back of my bike and fell off when I slowed up to stop to let a young lady cross at the zebra crossing, luckily Ginette wasn’t badly hurt. We have been cycling through the Alps most of the day and up through ski resorts with chairlifts and bubble cars going up and down the mountain side. We climbed to the top of the Col des Aravis – 1486m. The weather has been kind to us – it had rained over night but this morning it was dry – blue sky with white and grey clouds around and there was a cold wind, which was very noticeable after lunch. We stopped off for lunch at the top of the Col des Aravis when we came out to descent to La Giettaz & Flument we had to put our waterproofs on to keep the wind out. Tonight we are staying at 1300m and the views from my bedroom are amazing overlooking the mountains and just out the front there is a chairlift. There are 6 other cyclist staying here tonight from England who are cycling in the same direction as us. Tomorrow is expected to be the same with some stunning scenery – approx 54miles planned for tomorrow – over the Col des Saisies 1650m heading towards Beaufort, going over the Cormet de Roselend at 1967m, to Maurice, Villaroger, La Thuile to Barrage de Tignes.


Day 11

Paravy to Tignes Les Boisses

5hrs 58mins – total time 71hrs 38mins 55.07miles – total miles 836.21miles Ave speed 9.2mph Max speed 40.3mph Ascent 2647m – total climbing 16,001m Descent 2220m – total downhill 14,991m Cal burnt 4630 – total cal burnt 50,200 Staying at 1863m – overlooking the mountains. I would say the best day yet – the scenery was amazing and stunning – it was hard work – long hills 5-9% gradient– climbing a total of 2647m today – up and over the Col des Saisies 1650m, then the Col de Meraille 1605m, then Cormet de Roselend at 1967m then finally climbing up to Tignes Les Boisses 1863m. We set off at 8am this morning – perfectly blue skies but it was very cold – there was frost on the chalet below.  We all dressed up but soon got warm climbing up the first climb.  Down the other side it was freezing with the cold wind and being in the shade of the mountain, as soon as we reached the bottom we started the second and longest climb – climbing from 787m to 1967m = 1179m (19km) of climb.  The views were stunning – passing the bluest lake/reservoir  I’ve ever seen, this is where Julie and Brian (our support) met us and fed and watered us. The last 2 days we have been following the Tour de France route – the names such as Lance Armstrong have been painted on the road. We had an excellent ride down from the Cormet de Roselend, hitting 40mph, a lot more hairpin bends – it was a lot warmer by then – we then stopped off at Bourg-St-Maurice and had lunch – unfortunately Ginette’s lunch had too much cheese in which she is allergic to and she didn’t feel the best this afternoon but she did well and still cycled all the way. After lunch we cycled 16miles – 99% of which was up hill – at the end the road turned into a ski run for the last 1/4 mile. Our accommodation tonight – overlooks the mountains and they have a heated swimming pool 24degrees – Gary and I both had a swim – it had a power jet/wave system one end so that you could swim. The landlady also offered to wash our kit. Tomorrow is a hard day – approx 84miles – crossing the French/Italian border – heading for Sangano via Val-d’Isere, over the Belv de la Tarentaise 2528m, Bessans, over the Col du Mont Cenis 2084m, Bar Cenisio, Susa, Bussoleno, Avigliana & Trana.


Day 12

Tignes Les Boisses to Sangano


7hrs 0mins – total riding time 78hrs 38mins 87.57miles – Total distance 923.78miles Ave speed 12.5mph Max speed 37.1mph Ascent 2000m – total climbing 18,001m Descent 3612m – total downhill 18,603m Cal 4833 – total cal burnt 55,033 This morning we set off at 8am the sky was blue and not a cloud in sight – it’s been a nice warm day, we set off uphill straight away – through the tunnels towards Val-d’Isere and up towards Col de L’Iseran 2764m – on the way up took lots of photos and Gary & I played snowballs, there were pockets of snow on the ground and lots on the mountain tops.  Also on the way up we saw some Marmots – beaver like creatures with bushy tails – apparently they are very shy. Unfortunately Ginette wasn’t feeling that well this morning – had a bad stomach.  Julie and Brian met us up at the top of the Col de L’Iseran and fed and watered us. We all noticed it was getting harder to breath as we went up the mountain with the air getting thinner. We met up with the other 6 cyclists from Rolling Road/RR Transfers from the day before at the top of the Col de L’Iseran and then again later before we turned left up towards Italy and the Col du Mont Cenis.  They kindly gave us £20 towards Cancer Research. They were a good bunch and it was great meeting up with them and having a chat. At one point up the hill Julie sang the ‘Sound of Music’ to help spur us up the hill and I was also encouraged Ginette helping her get to the top. At the top of the Col du Mont Cenis 2084m Julie and Brian met us again and fed and watered us – we then a drink in the cafe at the top – both Gary & I needed the toilet – it appeared we had the same stomach bug as Ginette.  After we passed the lake at the top we skirted round it and then started a 15mile descent into Italy – it was fantastic – there was no real border into Italy – only a small sign.  When we got to the bottom of the hill – into Susa you could really feel the heat/temperature rise. At the bottom of the hill when we arrived at Susa we had about 25 miles to our destination – the road was busy and we had a very strong headwind, but we kept up a good pace with me leading and Ginette and Gary right behind me sheltering from the wind.  With 17miles to go we stopped off at a cafe/hotel and had a coke, Gary also needed the toilet again.  We saw a lot of Italian cyclists but they don’t appear to be as friendly as the French. We finally arrived at our hotel – all tired and aching, pleased to have arrived. Gary’s right shin is swollen and is playing him up, my left achilles is also swollen and causing me a bit of pain, Ginette’s thumb and blistered hands are causing her discomfort. Tomorrow we have 79miles planned from Sangano to Acqui Terme via Polonghera, Racconigi, Sommariva del Bosco, Baldissero d’Alba, Castagnito, Neive, Canelli, and Terzo.


Day 13

Sangano to Acqui Terme

6hrs 17mins – Total time taken 84hrs 55mins 80.54miles – total miles completed 1004.32miles Ave speed 12.8mph Max speed 32.5mph Ascent 1194m – total climbing 19,195m Descent 1370m – total downhill 19,973m Cal 4867 – total cal burnt 59,900 Set off at 8am the sun was out, blue sky and wispy clouds, it was a bit hazy in the distance – it was warm enough not to have an extra top on, I was only in a short sleeve race top & shorts. The first 40miles this morning were flat and boring from what we have use to over the last few days – only broken up by small towns and villages, the roads were busy and the condition of the roads were poor – rough and cracked and braking up in places.  We were passing corn in the cob fields – they looked more ripe and ready to be harvested than in France, it was very rural area. We had to stop on 2 occasions for trains which were crossing the road, 1st being just outside None – in None the road had been closed for a local large market which we walked through.  We passed some police sorting out a traffic incident. We found a number of cobbled streets to cycle through in the towns/villages. After passing through one cobbled town – I think it may have been Sommarisa de Bosco the terrain suddenly changed into hilly vineyard terrain (mainly red grapes) and the scenery was fantastic – there were some challenging hills – I found a 25% gradient hill, which Ginette walked up.  We thought that we had left the hairpin bends behind but we had lots of hairpin bends to descend – which was excellent fun. Ginette was hungry so we headed for the next town – Neive – unfortunately it was on top of a hill, the town was old and very historic looking – we got to the top but couldn’t find a reasonably priced restaurant to get something to eat so we carried on back down the hill and continued on the route – luckily we found an excellent restaurant approx. 1mile further on. We all had pasta and felt refreshed and fuelled up ready to continue our journey – we had 26miles to get to our destination – the temperature was extremely hot now at least 29degrees.  We continued up and down and through the vineyards – at 12 miles to go we had a hill which we climbed which was 4.5miles long gradients ranging from 9-12% steeper than the Alps – it was hard work having cycled all day and with the heat – sweat was pouring down my legs and arms as we peddled up the long hill and as I waited for Gary & Ginette to catch me up. We were very low and running out of water, so had to make an emergency stop at Aldi to get some.  We only had 3.5miles to go but I was feeling very dry and needed more water. We eventually arrived at our destination – tired and relieved to have arrived.  Gary and I had a swim in the pool – very refreshing and relaxing. we then walked into town and saw the sights – there was a hot fountain – apparently with healing properties. We got something to eat and then bought ice cream on the walk back. Tomorrow looks like being a hard day – 70miles but 3787m worth of climbing – Ginette has asked me to review the route to see if I can cut own some of the climbing – the route at present is taking us to Genova on the Italian coast via – Grognardo, San Pietro d’Olba, Urbe, Masone, Molino Alto and Borzoli.


Day 14

Acqui Terme to Genova

5hrs 39mins – total riding time 90hrs 34mins 60.56miles – total miles 1096.56miles Ave speed 10.7mph Max speed 36.6mph Ascent 1844 – total climbing 21,039 Descent 2103 – total downhill 22,076 Cal 4141 – total cal burnt 64,041 Set off at 8am – the sky was blue and no clouds. I amended the route slightly to reduce the climbs and mileage but the 1st part of the day remained unchanged. We headed off out of our hotel – straight into a climb and that was the way our morning was going to be – we climbed for approx 2miles – gradient between 9-12% peaking at 18% for sections – stepper than the Alps were.  We shot down the other side 1.25miles – Well Gary & I did – Ginette got a false start and stalled at the top due to the steepness of the hill – it was 22% downhill – Ginette got herself sorted out and then headed down behind us – only to get stung on her back through her racing top – we think by a wasp.  This was the first time Ginette has ever been stung and it was stinging all day – she bravely continued – although she didn’t have much choice as our support crew had now gone – they were dropping off our panniers at tonight’s hotel and then making their way back home.  We’ve got full panniers tomorrow and for the rest of the trip so the cycling will be tougher and slower carrying the extra weight. After we descended the first 22% hill of the day we went straight into another climb which seemed to just go on and on. Any descents we had were short and steep and you didn’t get the opportunity to recover because as soon as you were down you were going back up again – a real rollercoaster ride – extremely tough – with gradients ranging from 7- 14% and going as high as 18%. I miss read the satnav and ended taking Ginette and Gary into Toleto down a hill they didn’t have to do, so we had to turn around and go back up it – Gary & Ginette were thrilled as if we hadn’t done enough hills.  At the top of one of the hills I phoned Julie back who had rung me to confirm what bags needed to be left at the hotel – whilst on the phone I was attacked by a large fly-insect thing which was trying to bite me – it continued to chase me and try and bite me all the way up the next hill until it finally gave up. My satnav hasn’t had a good day today – it wanted to take us through someone’s garden and off road at one point so we had to turn round and go up a different road – we lost about 10mins going backwards and forwards and going up & down the road trying to work it out – it eventually sorted itself out. At about 1:30pm we stopped by the side of the road as we were all tired and needed something to eat and also needed the loo. Ginette went to go to the loo beside a wall only to get the shock of her life and started shrieking when she surprised a large lizard, luckily she didn’t wet herself but I’m sure the lizard was more shocked nearly to be wet upon and shot into a hole in the wall. After an eventful stop we continued uphill again, after a few miles, having completed about 35miles today we rounded the top of the hill to discover a magnificent sight – a massive valley stretching all the way down to the sea. We headed down the valley, stopping to take photos on the way down of the fantastic scenery. 11miles later and we had reached the bottom just south of Mele on the coast – an excellent reward for all our hard efforts of the morning. The temperatureand the top of the hill was about 24degrees and it was a bit chilly when the sun went behind a cloud which had now formed but when we got to sea and bottom of the valley it was 33degrees and we had to battle through traffic for approx 14miles going through Pra, Pegli, Sestri Ponente and Genova.  The satnav on my bike had difficulty but I knew that we had to follow the coast line to find our hotel. When we arrived at our destination, appears due to a miscommunication we found that the support crew hadn’t left Ginette’s panniers which she needed – it had all her clothes in. Gary & I went for a swim in the sea whilst Ginette went shopping for some clothes to wear. She couldn’t find anything so we all caught the 42 bus into the centre of town so she could find things to wear – unfortunately she couldn’t find a bra big enough. No change to Ginette’s thumb and hand – no new blisters – I think the sting has distracted from the usual pain from her hand/thumb. Gary is having trouble walking due to his right shin injury – which is swollen and is very painful but not so bad when he is cycling.  He has also been bitten in 6 places and that is with insect repellent on. The receptionist at the hotel has mentioned that there is a cycle route which we may be able to use for some of the way tomorrow so will investigate that – our trip tomorrow is approx 83miles following the coast round to Massa.


Day 15

Genova to Marina di Massa

6hrs 43mins – total riding time 97hrs 17mins 86.97miles – total miles 1183.53miles Ave speed 12.9mph Max speed 34.1mph Ascent 1481m – total climbing 22,520m Descent 1557m – total downhill 23,633m Cal 5310 – total cal burnt 69,351 The day of the Italian cyclists came out to play. We set off at 7:45am this morning – with clear blue skies and the sun beating down – the temperature was 20degrees. We set off expecting a tough day – following the coast to Massa – up and down all day – all the Italian cyclists were out today – there were individual cyclists but also quite a number of groups of about 8 cyclists – all friendly. One of these groups started to come pass us on the first climb – I jumped onto the wheel of the 3rd cyclist and I cycled up the hill in the middle of them – it must have been an amusing sight, they were all on road bikes and had their racing tops on and I was on a mountain bike with all my panniers on, I kept with them half way up the climb before I succumbed to the weight of my panniers and the thought that I still had over 70miles to do today and 4 days more cycling.  There was then another group which I kept with going downhill into Riva. A moment of excitement and few strange noises from Ginette when Ginette nearly crashed into the back of me when she was taking avoiding a_ction trying not to run over a butterfly on the road – luckily she missed us both. I got asked for directions by a passing motorist when I was stopped waiting for Gary and Ginette to catch me up following a downhill section but he soon realised I was unable to help him when he found out I wasn’t Italian. I was a task master today – knowing we had over 80miles to do and I knew it was going to be hot – so we continued and did 35miles before our first break rather than the usual 25miles. We thought that we had got to the top of a long climb so we agreed to have a short break and have a bite to eat by the side of the road overlooking the stunning view down to the coast. We set off again to discover that around the next bend instead of going down continued up and up and up which never seemed to end – it was approx another 10 miles of up – we climbed to the top of the Passo del Bracco 617m – luckily it wasn’t as steep as previous days – only 3- 7% gradient. We then had a nice downhill into Borghetto di Vara – where we stopped for some pasta & a coke and rested for an hour. The Temperature had risen to 34 degrees by this time and sweat was pouring off us. We set off after lunch expecting it to be hard – much like the morning – but to our surprise it continued slightly downhill for a while and then flat all the way to our destination.  During this time we continued at an excellent rate of between 17-20mph – Ginette and Gary did an excellent job and also kept up the pace.  We caught up with an Italian cyclist – we overtook him and then he came back passed us again before we passed him again – he tried to talk to me but I didn’t have a clue what he was saying, he then turned off and we passed 2 other Italian cyclists – one of them chased after us and eventually caught us and hung on the back until we slowed and he continued on.  On the final stretch back to the sea front and Massa we saw a cyclist in the distance which I felt that we needed to catch – we did – I passed him, Ginette also went to follow me but Gary stopped her as they were being over taken by a car and there wasn’t room to overtake at that point – the cyclist then tailgated me and we sped along at 20mph, a gap formed between us and Ginette and Gary so I slowed and he came passed me – we then regrouped and all 3 of us caught and passed him.  Ginette feels that there are a number of Italian cyclists who were annoyed and their egos bruised today with 3 cyclists passing them – 2 with full panniers on and by a girl. On reaching Massa I had got the wrong water way marked on my map and we were unable to locate our hotel for the night – Gary used his Italian and we found out from a couple of people that the hotel was 4km further down the road. We eventual arrived and we went down to the beach for a swim (Ginette joined us today as she was able to get a swimming costume yesterday). When we got to the beach we were ushered off as it was a private beach and we were told to move along the beach to the other side of the rope into the free part of the beach. We swam back into the private area as a bit of fun. Ginette’s right knee has been playing her up today and Gary’s right shin is still painful and ishaving difficulty walking. My legs are a bit tired and I have a few twinges here and there but overall not feeling too bad. Between us we have even managed to wear Gary out today – Ginette has been riding really well and fast as she has no panniers to weigh her down and Gary is having to carry her clothing as Ginette doesn’t have any panniers due to the mix up yesterday. Tomorrow we are heading for San Baronto – hitting the Italian mountains – I will need to change the route slightly as we can see the mountains from our hotel tonight and we are all starting to feel tired and every uphill now is hard work. Our current plan is to go through Altagnana, Campagrina, Isola Santa, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, Gallicano, Forneli, Collodi, Uzzanese & San Rocco.


Day 16

Marina Di Massa to San Baronto

4hrs 2min – total time 101hrs 19mins 54.36miles – total miles completed 1237.89miles Ave speed 13.4mph Max speed 32.3mph Ascent 655m total climbing 23,175m Descent 358m total downhill 23,991m Cal 3362 – total cal burnt 72,713 We all arrived for breakfast at 7:30am very tired – there had been a disco in one of the bars on the beach which we could hear from our hotel – there was also a lot of noise going on all night and none of us got the best night’s sleep, I didn’t get to bed until 11:30 as was sorting out the new route for today. We headed south down the coast to Lido di Camnoire rather than going directly east from Massa – in that way we skirted the mountains – we went through Montramito, Quiesa, Lucca,Querce, Stabbia, Lazzesetto and Lamporecchio.  We were going to have to do 81.5miles and climb 3011m, so with everyone feeling as they did this morning everyone was pleased with the new route today. Not quite so hot today – the sun was out and there was more wispy cloud and it was hazy.  The temperature was about 27 degrees today. We set off at a good pace following the flat coast road – going the other way were loads of groups of Italian cyclist all kitted out in their sponsored tops and all on road bikes – it was like large pelotons were going passed – we must have passed 100’s of cyclists going the other way today – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many cyclists in one day.  Like yesterday we passed some Italian cyclists and some passed us. The first 18 miles of today were flat then we hit a hill but by our standards now it was quite short, we went down the other side and then the terrain was flat again. We stopped off for a coke at Lamporecchio before the final push to our hotel – when we restarted the temperature seemed to have risen; we had about 3miles of climbing to finish the day and reach our hotel. We made good time today – probably one of the easiest days – with flat terrain and less miles than usual.  We arrived at our destination at 1: 15pm so it gave us the afternoon off to relax by the pool and have a swim in the sunshine. For the last 20miles or so the back of my right knee was causing me a bit of pain, although my legs feel strong – I’m hoping after a swim and a restful afternoon it will be fine for tomorrow. Tomorrow we have 85.4miles to complete with about 2450m worth of climbing – we are heading south from San Baronto heading for Montalcino via Vinci, Empoli, Marcialla,Poggibonsi, Monteriggioni, past Siena and continuing on via Le Ville di Corsano, Radi, Vescovado & Bibbiano.


Day 17

San Baronto to Montaicino

Time 7hrs 3mins – total riding time 108hrs 22 mins 83.46 miles – total miles completed 1,321.35miles Ave speed 11.85mph Max speed 35.0mph Ascent 1912m – total amount climbed 25,087m Descent 1810m – total amount downhill 25,801m Cal burnt 5241 – total cal burnt 77,954 Started later today as breakfast wasn’t served until 8am although we arrived at 7:30am and started eating some things – breakfast is a strange thing over here – you can nearly get anything served up for breakfast – a first today were white chocolate fingers – there are always plenty of cakes on offer, and we had doughnuts a couple of times, as well as the cold meats, cheese, cereals, pastries, yogurts. The orange juice is also red. I’m totally knackered – total has been a very tough day. The day started cooler but by 10:45am the temperature had reached 30degrees and the day seemed to get hotter and hotter until about 3: 45pm when there was some cloud, which when the sun went behind was lovely, we even had a few spots of rain about 4:30pm but that was all we had – it didn’t come to anything – Ginette and Gary were hoping it was going to rain. The first 35 miles of the day were very up and down gradients of up to 18-20% and on average the gradients were 12-14% – cycling through olive groves and vineyards – the scenery is stunning. We had 6-7 miles of unpaved road (rough gravel tracks) this morning – much of which wasn’t showing on my map – just showed as a normal road – this made the going slow as Ginette is on a road bike and had to walk when it got to rough or too steep up or down, and in some places it was quite steep – again about 20% gradient – I thoroughly enjoyed it.  We passed some Italian beehives in the middle of nowhere which was quite bizarre. Unfortunately in the last part of the off road section I nearly broke my chain – the chain now has a massive kink in it where the chain is heavily damaged, I used my chain tool to do what I could to fix it but the plate of one of the links is bent out of shape and the pin is only just holding in and I can feel it every time it goes around the cassette – I sent my replacement chain back with the support crew as I fitted a new chain just before I started this little adventure and didn’ t think I would need it.  I have a split link I could use but it is for a 8 speed chain and mine is a 9 speed chain – I’m praying that the chain lasts for the next 2 days and doesn’t need to be repaired/fixed on this trip – it’s lasted 50 miles today so I pray that this continues. What with my chain and the off road sections and the steep gradients – we had only managed to complete only 35miles by 1pm and still had 50 miles still left to do – we approached Linar which is is on the top of the hill – the road led straight up at 25% gradient according to the sign – so I made the decision to make a diversion and went around – which Ginette and Gary were grateful for. We then stopped off at a Garage/snack shop in Poggibonsi and I worked on an easier route on more main roads or we wouldn’t finish until very late in the evening – we are all knackered and extremely tired and all our legs hurt and every hill is an effort. We’ve seen lots of lizards today. We skirted round Siena – and got a lovely view of the old city – buildings and towers with the sun shining on it, we also passed a castle on a hill.  Our speed picked up on the bigger main roads, the same as yesterday our accommodation was right on top of a hill – so our last 3-4miles we had to slog up this hill – it was hard work but the views are fantastic. We got in exhausted, tired and hungry – Our rooms are fantastic – laid out on 2 floors – you need to go up the stairs to get to your bed. We had a quick swim in the pool – which was a bit cold but you could see for miles from the pool – it refreshed your legs.  We then went to get some food. We found a lovely pizza place and then we went and got some ice cream – the ice cream over here is fantastic – they heap it up and you can have a tub for 3euros with four different flavours – it’s to die for – a good way to finish the evening. Our sun tans are getting more defined now – particularly on my legs – it’s like I’m wearing white shorts and Ginette’s hands are so funny – where she has been wearing fingerless bike gloves her fingers from the joints are nicely tanned as well as her arms so it looks like she is wearing white gloves – and she has bruises all over her legs where she has bashed herself with the bike or the bike has hit her and she has a wedding to go to this Saturday on her return. Apparently according to Ginette she has got a very sore bottom and she is finding it uncomfortable to sit on her bike. Tomorrow heading for Bolsena approx 69miles via Monte Amiata, Santa Fiora, Casetta, Onano and Grotte di Castro.


Day 18

Montalcino to Bolsena

4hrs 1 min – total time riding 112hrs 23mins 51.98miles – total miles covered 1,373.33miles Ave speed 12.9mph Max speed 31.4mph Ascent 854m – total amount climbed 25,941m Descent 1083m – total amount of downhill 26,884m Cal burnt 2808 – total amount of cal burnt 80,762 Day started sunny with some cloud around – it was hot there was a wind cooling you down a bit. I amended the route for today as we are all tired and all we want to do now is get to Rome. We started today by having to climb up a cobbled street from our hotel – at least a 20% climb up these rough cobbles then we went downhill out of Montalcino for about 3 miles and we came to SR2 – fairly main road which heads for Rome and the road which we would stay on today all the way to Bolsena. The going was hard – we had a strong headwind and the clouds came in and it even tried to rain – but we only got a few spots – the sun was never far away and it remained hot all day and the sun was out when we got to our destination at about 2pm. The terrain was rolling hills and the climbs and downs were steady – between 2-5% gradients – some being quite long and with a fierce headwind the going was sometimes slow and tough. We caught up with another group of approx. 15 touring cyclists like ourselves laden with panniers, we passed them going up the hill before we came to a long tunnel which was just under 900m long – we stopped to put are rear lights on and continued through the tunnel.  The road up to that point hadn’t been too busy but as we went through 3 large lorries overtook us – flashing their lights and tooting their horns and with the roar of their engines – the noise was deafening. The group of cyclist which we had passed earlier caught up with us on the long downhill and one over took us just before we pulled in to get a well deserved break. We reset off refreshed having been to the loo and had a bit of food from our panniers – Ginette saw the first snake of the ride.  We continued and we caught and passed the cyclists again going up another long hill with a few bends on it. It was about 11:30am – at the top of the hill Gary spotted a small ‘Giant’ bike shop in the town of Acquapendente and we pulled over to see if they could sort my chain out – thankfully they had a good quality 9 speed chain in stock which they were able to fit for me within 15mins.  This was clearly an answer to prayer – not only had the chain held out for 50miles yesterday but another 38miles today. It was also a good job that we had kept a good pace going during the morning as if we had been 30mins later the shop would have been closed. This must be the most expensive chain at 40euros I’ve ever bought but it also did include the service/fitting charge – but it was more than worth it. The difference after the chain was replaced was fantastic. During the morning I had to be careful what gear I was in, trying to keep the chain as straight as possible – but it was clunking and going and it was not always staying in gear – it really was a miracle how it kept going for so long with it so badly damaged. After my chain was fixed we only had 12 miles to go today and we continued on slowly towards Bolsena which is located next to a massive lake. We had a shower then found a nice Italian restaurant and had some well deserved pasta – with the plan to have a nice easy rest this afternoon and maybe walk down to the lake. We are all knackered and none of us have much energy left and every hill is an effort. Ginette has forgotten to put sun cream on her ears and her right ear is sore and peeling. Tomorrow – our last day of cycling – only about 79miles and about 1500m of climbing between us and Rome – we plan to go via Bagnoregio, S Caterina, Viterbo, Ronciglione, Madonna di Braccino and Ottavia.


Day 19

Bolsena to Roma (our final day)

5hrs 47mins – time for total trip 118hrs 10mins 74.8 miles – total miles completed for this trip 1,448.13miles Ave speed 13.67mph Max speed 37.8mph Ascent 1445m – total amount climbed for trip 27,386m Descent 1758m – total downhill for trip 28,642m Cal burnt 4372 – total cal burnt this trip 85,134 We’ve made it to Roma (Rome). Our last day on the bike – I think we are all pleased about that – tomorrow will be strange not having to get on the bike. I was in bed by 9pm last night – I was extremely tired. We had thunderstorms all night apparently according to Ginette – I only heard them from 4:30am this morning – apparently a car alarm was also set off earlier in the night and dogs were barking but I was out for the count and didn’t hear anything until I heard the thunder at 4:30am. When we set off this morning it was 20degrees, the sky was grey but the sun was trying to break through – the ground was damp from the rain and thunder storms of last night but it was drying quickly – the sun continued to break through most of the day and we did have sunny periods and well as a few heavy showers. WE started off skirting the lake ‘Lago di Bolsena’ and headed towards Monetefiascone and continued on to Viterbo – it got extremely busy with traffic going into and through Viterbo. Once through we started a 7 mile climb up out of the city into the forests, gradient 4-8%, when we reached the top at 855m we were in the clouds.  As we descended we passed another large lake ‘Lago di Vico’ and on to Sutri.  It then started to rain in large drops luckily it didn’t last long but it was refreshing. On the way out of Sutri we passed some caves. We continued on and started another climb – we heard thunder in the distance as we climbed and as we neared the top it started to rain again for a brief spell. This climb wasn’t as long as the first and we soon started to descend to our 3rd lake of the day ‘Lago di Bracciano’. We headed round the lake in an anticlockwise way and stopped for lunch at Vicarello. It must be said that the Italian bread has been poor – it’ s dry and stale and not much taste to it compared to the French bread – although today’s bread at lunch time is probably the best Italian bread we have tasted but still not as good as the French bread. After replenished for pasta and coke/sprite we headed off – only 30miles to go to reach our final destination – it was hard to get the legs to work and get them going again but finally the pasta and coke kicked in and we got a good pace going 18-20mph – helped along by the side/tail wind. We went around the lake, past a castle and headed for Rome – we completed this pace up for about 19miles before we stopped for a quick pit stop, where we saw a black lizard with bright yellow spots. We only had 11miles to go – we started to get into a more built up area as we entered the outskirts of Rome and the traffic increased. The temperature was now 30degrees. Unfortunately there was no sign welcoming us to Rome it just became more built up which was a bit of a shame but we arrived safely at our hotel. We arrived just in time as only about 30mins later Rome was hit with a thunderstorm and it was chucking it down with rain – that didn’t stop us having a swim in the hotel’s outside pool – which was very refreshing, I thought it was quite warm, Ginette said it was cold. We seem to have passed a lot of rubbish around today which people have left or thrown out of their cars and the roads again today we of poor standard – very cracked and rough in lots of places. We are all very tired but pleased with our achievement – fantastic feeling – I’m sure it will feel even better tomorrow when we don’t have to get on our bikes and we take a tour around Rome and see all the sights before flying back late tomorrow afternoon.



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