by Il scribe Don
The Day 2 Ride from Urbino knocks most of us out. The mega mountain climb and late afternoon finish are too much, so we declare a rest day and check out the tourist sites of Urbino. But 3 members of Team Hardcore venture out into the heat the next day. Half way through the ride Jim (the General) Houghton, comes off second best after a run in with a Fiat Panda. No matter, because it's just a flesh wound, 10 stitches, some pain killers and a few days rest should see him back on the bike as a podium contender. In the meantime General Jim can retreat to his bunker with his maps, sextant and Garmin to plan Team TDL's assault on the Dolomites.
The next day its back on the bikes for the rest of us to tackle 6, sac-sapping, Category 3 climbs. It's a great mornings ride, the highlight being a quick roadside cafe stop, where the waitress has just started work having pulled an all nighter at the nearby Bada Bing Pole Dancing Bar. Ian kindly offers to refill all our water bottles and proceeds to spend the next 20 minutes leaning on the counter watching the pole dancing lovely enthusiastically fill our bidens.
Post lunch and the heat over the remaining hill climbs gets to most of us. There is no way we can do another 8 hour day of hill climbing in these conditions. And so on completion of the ride the Lollobrigidas declare that, rather than do the next scheduled ride up Monte Carpegna (2000m climbing over 85km), we will escort Team Hardcore to the base of the mountain and then return home, an easy 50km round trip. Team Hardcore can take this mountain on their own. Howard is getting really twitchy about the intense riding program and starts to flick a cigarette lighter menacingly, while chanting "kill the pig, kill the pig"
Next morning the Tour Director declares a revised route of 56km with 500m climbing. It's a great compromise. Howard puts down the cigarette lighter. Piggy gets his glasses back and Steve gets to keep the Conch.
The ride is pretty successful, despite a 20km diversion that pushes the ride out to 75km with 1500m climbing. Over part of the ride it becomes clear that the Allies have shelled the road ahead of our arrival, for our path is pockmarked with bomb craters. Il Duce is not happy, the Partisans must be brought to heel.
Competition is fierce amongst the peloton NOT to get stuck behind Alan on the ride. He has bought his oldest most washed out pair of cycle shorts to Italy and in the early morning sunlight the sheer, diaphanous, fabric reveals more of his anatomy than any of us care to see. But we have seen too manner David Attenborough documentaries on the mating behaviour of baboons to fall for his tricks. It's less than 1 week to go Alan, just amuse yourself please.
This ride takes us as far south as we will go, almost to the Calabrian border. When we stop for lunch in the town of Pieve di Cagna we immediately notice the absence of any men under 40yo and the large number of young widows in the streets who peep shyly at us from beneath their black veils. Clearly the long standing feud between the Corleones and the Tattaglias has taken its toll on the population.
Post ride Howard declares that he must swim in the Adriatic and Ian declares that he is sick of pasta and must eat fish tonight. Il Duce hatches a plan to take the Fiat Behemoth to the beach in the nearby town of Pesaro known for its seafood. At the last minute Ian pulls out of the trip, a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Down at the seaside we battle traffic, train lines and sewerage outlets before finally reaching the beach. The sea is dead calm and murky. Looking at the locals at play I am reminded of the stories my Grandfather used to tell me of the Depression era, when weekly family bath routines involving all 11 of his siblings were the norm.
Noticing the significant number of bambinos in the water, the total absence of any tidal movement I have a lightbulb moment and work out why this tepid millpond is so warm and murky. I quickly join Steve on the beach. In the meantime Howard has donned his Red Speedos and does his best David Hasselhoff, Baywatch impersonation. Fear not Howard, no one will be drowning in this tepid cesspool today.
Post swim we wander around Pesaro looking for a place to eat when we stumble across Lo Scudiero, the number 1 (3 Chefs Hat) seafood restaurant in the region, sited in the basement of a building complete with vaulted brick lined ceiling, liveried waiters and a degustation menu. We have a TDL quorum present and at 48euro per head the Treasurer declares the restaurant to be within budget. The meal is sensational, think Heston Blumenthal meets Andrew McConnell. We just know Ian is going to want to know every mouth watering detail.
Today we travelled by train or van to Trento in the north. Those of us lucky enough to be travelling on the overrated Euro Star were subjected to Howard's vast backlog of road songs. As we headed north our fellow travellers were entertained to the rousing strains of 5 middle aged men singing Glen Campbell and John Denver songs. Has this TDL male bonding has gone too far?