5th October 2016
Evocatively called ‘The race of the falling leaves’ il Lombardia is the last of the monuments for the cycling professionals. Including over 14,500ft of climbing ‘if you don’t like climbing stay at home’ or do what we did and just do the climb in the middle! the Valcava (at 4,300ft still a bit of a beast!). We began our trip in the Parma area of Emilia Romagna which was absolutely stunning smaller hills than the Lakes but very challenging. Arriving at 5,30pm after leaving Wales at 2am we were thankful that our bikes were still in one piece and bombed out for a quick ride to acclimatise before dusk. Being new to the area took me a while to get used to the road quality in Italy and sinuous speedy descents nearly wrapping myself round some trees a couple of times. But managed to make it back in time to grab one of the many ‘al forno’ pizzas we devoured whilst there along with fried pasta (pasta fritte) and some rough local red wine day one done.
Day two: This was the big day of riding for us and decided to go for a lumpy 44 miler at first light to Borgortara val di taro and back followed by cheese, meat and bread then back out for another 45 miler and about 9,000ft of climbing. Saw some amazing scenery on the route including kingfishers, falcons, deer and stag then down to the local bar for pizza and vino.
Day three: started early today and I know now why all the cafes are shut midday in France/ Italy because at 5am the sleepy village we were staying in was super busy with everyone and their mam out mooching around. We downed a couple of espresso and pastries then hit the road to Lake Como to try and get up the Valcava before the pros hit the slopes. We thought the climb would be a okay but after climbing up a steep hill for 15 mins and still not at the start of the climb proper we knew this was going to be a brute.. in the end it took us about an hour and half to climb 8 miles but it had to be the hardest hill either of us had climbed absolute monster and it hit 20% for the last 2 miles. I was very glad to find in typical Italian fashion that there was a tent at the top with some amazing food and refreshment so after two meaty sausagey baps, glass of red and a grappa with espresso or two we were ready to cheer on the pros at what they do best and fair play it’s only when you ride these climbs before them that you truly appreciate how good they are, not a bead of sweat on any of them!
After a couple of hours hanging around at 4,500ft we were getting a bit chilly so hammered back to the car, knackered but buzzing and drove onto a village above Bellagio for a hastily booked Airbnb stay.. all I’ll say is never book airbnb hastily an overbearing smell of cat (only quelled by a stack of jos sticks) and a good nights sleep never go hand in hand!
Day four: we were due to fly today at 1,50pm so quick blast up the Madonna di Ghisella above lake Como, a mecca for all cyclists was on the cards before we packed up and blasted back to Milan via the lethal roads of lake como, burnt out and low on calories, finally replenished in blighty at Reading west services with a chicken and chorizo pasty bliss.
An amazing trip well worth the feeling of complete exhaustion I’m feeling now fuelled by espresso, cheese, ham & the amazing scenery of Emilia Romagna.. Grazie Mille!