Today was our first full day on our bikes and it was spectacular. We road 56 miles between 9am and 4:30pm with a ton of breaks and loads of climbing. In fact, today we climbed ~4000 feet some of it in the lowest gear we had. So much to write about – where to begin?
Some of the rough parts of the trip first: a) Cindy's not sleeping. Last night she was up from midnight to 4:30 pacing, walking the premises of Castle Del Nero, bathing and even resorted to watching Italian TV all to no avail. There is something tougher about the time change than I remember in past trips. It is not uncommon to be wide awake at midnight on this trip. She was a trooper through the 32 miles she rode today. b) Alex's cleat issues. His cleats (part of the shoes that clip to the pedals) picked a tough time to wear out and hiking around the gravel rest spaces in them didn't likely help his cause. He was able to pick up new ones in Gaiole (hometown to Eddo, one of our fantastic guides) after several botched attempts to fix. A brief note to bike part manufacturers: you have made shoes and pedals too complicated and parts incompatible. Customers don't like this. Before that point he was pretty much riding with one leg and we had lots of chats about tying him into the pedals. c) Bonkville for Alex and Me hit hard around mile 50 leaving 6 tough miles into a headwind and up some serious grades until we arrived back at the plush Oasis that is Castello Del Nero. This place would lift anyone's spirits. Tomorrow we carry more food on the bike.
The route: this morning was easy. Downhill early and moderate climbing until right before lunch. The pull up to lunch was a big one lasting 30-40 minutes but still very doable. After a swift, short downhill that reminds you of what you see on the grand tours we reached lunch at Badia a Coltibuono, a 11 century monastery that has since been converted into a 300 year old winery's and Olive Oil resort. It was worth every bit of the short but hugely steep climb to reach it. After a tour and olive oil tasting (yep, we drank tastes of the oil and whistled in to get an understanding of the tastes/notes) and honey tasting (honey with bees that visit a high variety of flowers is pretty not great – I know, hard to believe I found honey I don't like). After the tour we zoomed down the mountain (I hit 55km!) to Gaoile where we visited Eddo's hometown and even met his mama! She was born, now lives and works within 100 meters of each spot. We enjoyed our 2nd espresso/macchiato (espresso with a taste of milk) of the day, bought some stuff from Eddo's Mama and then off again. Most folks bailed at the next break stop but Alex and Me (and two other guys) continued onward and definitely upward to put in an 89km day. The highlights were definitely the tours, Raddo and the high speed descents (we hit 62kph on the way down a lengthy descent in the late afternoon. The salad at lunch was also amazing. Very little salad and very much antipasti (marinated garlic cloves, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, cheeses, olives, artichokes, tuna, etc). The guides would fill your bowls with food until you said “basta” (stop) and would not fill the bowl with any one item if you didn't use proper Italian. No one went hungry. They also had these juice-box sized smoothies that are all organic, 2 servings of fruit and delicious. I think Barillo made them. Worth looking for once home.
After a long day of riding complete with bonking at the end it was great to get cleaned up and head out to the winery at Passignano. We took another great winery tour through a Chianti Classico vineyard specializing in the San Giovese grape. They made some great wines including a Super Tuscan (unregulated but using all San Giovese grapes). Dinner was another 5 course meal perfectly prepared and matched to flights of their wine and olive oils. The food on this trip has been nothing less than amazing!
So far this has been one incredible vacation! I'm not sure how we will top this one. Cindy is getting much more comfortable on her bike and is crazy strong going uphill. Her speed on the downhills continues to get better as she gets more comfortable. There's a strong chance she might consider a road bike in her future at home. It has been fun riding with her and she continues to tell me she's really enjoying it. So cool!