by il scribe Don
We are in Trento a delightful and picturesque town at the foot of the alps, with its strong German heritage the historic town centre has an almost fairytale like appearance. We have been together almost 3 weeks and I note that Graham has left the toilet seat up. Every. Single. Day. I know this relationship cannot continue after the holiday.
Our first day in Trento and we ride up Monte Bondone a 20km 7% HC climb. A real Cojone Cruncher. This was Raymond Roccacelli's signature mountain. At the 3rd hairpin from the top we stop and pay homage to the great man where a small memorial has been erected in his honour. This was the bend where Raymond met his untimely end, attempting to overtake Christo Carbanara on the 3rd descent on the final day of the 1992 Giro d'italia. We gaze out over the ravine and shed a tear.
As you ascend the mountain the strong German/Bavarian influence is evident. It just does not feel like Italy, in fact for a moment I think I am back in Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. At a cafe on the summit we are asked to sign a book dedicated to all cyclists who have conquered this mountain. We happily sign our names, but unfortunately Alan manages to scrawl his signature over another riders autograph. Thus forever obscuring the name, Mr. C. Evans, Barwon Heads, Australia.
At the summit it feels like we are on top of the world. As we look north to the next mountain range we can see Switzerland. From the valley below we hear the strains of children singing "Doh a Deer". Here at last, proof that the Von Trapp family escaped the Nazis. I hate films with ambiguous endings.
The ride finishes down in the valley on bike paths hidden deep in the orchards and vineyards of the region. We arrive back in Trento in time for lunch, a first on the tour to date. We catch up with Howard who has beaten us home having elected to take the faster autostrada route to our hotel.
The surprising rider of the tour so far has been Ian. His unique pre tour cross training program has really paid dividends and he is often spotted near the front of the peloton on the major climbs. Like a strong and sturdy tugboat supporting the big swinging ships.
Yesterdays ride took us to spectacular Lake Garda where we took a ferry across the lake and then climbed a few 15% hills before having lunch in Vesio high above the lake. It was a long ride back to our train station and with 45 minutes to wait for the next train we managed to each consume 2 litres of beer.
So what happens when 8 middle aged dehydrated men consume that much beer and then share a train carriage with 3 young Nigerian women looking to marry anyone with a Euro/US/Aust passport? What goes on tour stays on tour, but with backing music provided courtesy of Wendy Hyland's Disco Favourites, Ian on air guitar, Howard singing "Day Dream Believer" by the Monkees and Alan showing the Nigerian Nymphettes his best dance moves, its not hard to guess this train trip quickly went pear shaped.
Tonight will be our last night together as a group. Graham and I are heading to Milan on Sunday morning where we have reserved the honeymoon suite at the Amore Albergo. It also means Sandro will be spending his final nights with "Garmin Julia" and he does not look happy. Keep pushing those buttons Sandro.
What will I miss once the tour ends? The conversations over breakfast? For example:
"will it be hot today?"
"what time will lunch be?"
"how hard will the climbs be?"
"can I borrow someones Beljum Budder?"
"what colour was your urine this morning?"
I think not.
But I will miss the camaraderie and banter and the unique sense of achievement that can only come from cycling, with a great group of guys, far and wide over this wonderful country.
Those of you familiar with the role that Guiseppe Garibaldi played in the foundation of modern Italy, will be aware that General Garibaldi was not only a master military tactician but is also credited with uniting the disparate regions that make up the modern Italy we know today. Tonight at our farewell dinner we will pay tribute to the great man by bestowing the inaugural TDL "Garibaldi" award on one of our own. One of us has plotted and planned this tour with military precision, mastering the Italian train and road system with aplomb. Booking hotels and answering every challenge with methodical calm. At the same time uniting a diverse group of Melbournites, from the prosperous south of East Melbourne to the northern industrial heartland of Brunswick. Tonight it gives us great pleasure to award "General" Jim Houghton the TDL Garibaldi. Congratulations and thanks Jim.
And so its arrivederci from:
General Jim Houghton
Sandro (the Italian Stallion) Biscaro
Alan (il Duce) Contini
Steve (Duff Man) Hicks
Graham (I'm hungry) Beer
Ian (!#%* me) Hyland
Howard (Jackeroo) Draper
Don (il scribe) Phillips