Day 15 2018-10-19 Levanto - Rome Airport Fiumicino- Abu Dhabi- Sydney

Day 15 2018-10-19 Levanto - Rome Airport Fiumicino- Abu Dhabi- Sydney

We awake in Levanto to our last day  in Italy and the end of an excellent holiday. I packed the bicycle and donated my CO2 canister to the local bike as it couldn’t go in the plane. We did our last shopping walk and bought final presents.

Levanto appears to have had its holiday accommodation building boom in early 80s. Parking is scarce, and we were pleased to have underground parking in the Oasis Hotel.

Departing Levanto the coastal drive to the Rome airport was predicted by Maps.me to be 430km & 4:40. 

We exited the AutoStrada to the coast via the old port town of Livorno. It was a large working port with cruise ships and large inter-island ferries. The ancient castles and walled town had been heavily bombed in WW2, with some had been restored.

We enjoyed our last panini lunch at a cafe on town square. The town had a designer shop area aimed at the cruise ship customers.

Due to a multi-car accident at a section of roadwork, we consumed  our spare time contingency and dropped the SIXT rental car back with 15mins to spare at 18:45.

We had enough time in the lounge to get some dinner and my only hot chocolate in Italy. Our full plane left on time at 22:00 for 6hrs flight to Abu Dhabi.

The last sector home to Sydney was 13:00hr flight. We used the Etihad lounge in Abu Dhabi to relax before 9:00am flight departure.

The flight to Sydney for another 14:00hrs and we arrived on time early into Sydney. Simon picked us up and as always we appreciated being home.

 Levanto Surf Shop

Levanto Surf Shop

 Livorno - Fortezza Nuova (new castle)

Livorno - Fortezza Nuova (new castle)

 Livorno - looked like an old fish market

Livorno - looked like an old fish market

 Livorno- Fortezza Vecchia (old fortress)

Livorno- Fortezza Vecchia (old fortress)

 Livorno- 11th Century Tower incorporated into old town.

Livorno- 11th Century Tower incorporated into old town.

 Livorno - one of the more visible Big “M” we saw

Livorno - one of the more visible Big “M” we saw

 Livorno - our last lunch

Livorno - our last lunch

 Rome International Airport

Rome International Airport

Day 14 2018-10-18 Levanto & Cinque Terre

Day 14 2018-10-18 Levanto & Cinque Terre

We fueled up with an early hotel breakfast, then took the short tunneled train ride from Levanto to Monterosso to begin the coastal walk to Vernazza.

The day started cool, with the first 4Km track not yet being busy. It was a steep, narrow track with steps cut into the seemingly almost vertical steep slope dropping a long way to the ocean. This section took 2 hrs and the legs felt worked.

Vernazza’s tiny harbor was the focal point of the gelato enjoying tourists. There were a lots of interesting shops and bars in the narrow street and was one of the most photographed village on the Cinque Terre.

An observation was that the beach size appeared to reduce as we headed south, with Bonassola, Levanto and Monterosso having the longest beaches. The four most southern fishing villages of Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore had tiny or no beaches and/or small boat harbors.

We then started the 3.5km from Vernazza to Corniglia. This was slightly easier, although the first climb was steep up seemingly endless stairs.

On arrival in Corniglia, it was time to rest the legs and eat lunch. We found a nice touristy outdoor cafe and enjoyed paninis and ‘aqua with gas’.

Corniglia appeared to have no easy access beach or harbor on the north side. After lunch, we headed through town and descended many steps to the train station for the 5 min trip to next village of Manarola.

We had a quick look around Manarola. It had a steep, main pathed street to the ocean, lined with fishing boats. There was a hoist to get the boats into the water.

We then continued by another short train ride to Riomaggiore. This village had a scenic tiny harbor and the multi colored village seemed to hang on the cliffs. Some of the fishing boats were stored on the main path thru the village. This was our last village and we felt it was one one of the prettiest. There was an option to take a ferry back to Levanto (€16). We decided to take the train instead and use the time to look around Levanto.

Before packing the bicycle for the flight home, I had to scrub it thoroughly with soap and a tooth brush to remove any remnants of Tuscan white roads. Australian customs are very strict on this.

Our last Italian dinner was at a relaxing tourist restaurant La Posada, near the beach. I finished with Bruschetta and Ravioli and we enjoyed the local wine.

 Leaving Levanto  

Leaving Levanto  

 Monterosso - start of first walk

Monterosso - start of first walk

 Monterosso

Monterosso

 Checkpoint for walk to Vernazza

Checkpoint for walk to Vernazza

 Just follow the signs

Just follow the signs

 Stairway to Heavon

Stairway to Heavon

 Looking north towards Monterosso

Looking north towards Monterosso

 The track is rarely level

The track is rarely level

 Almost at Vernazza

Almost at Vernazza

 Busy with tourist in Vernazza

Busy with tourist in Vernazza

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IMG_4866.JPG
 Vernazza to Corniglia

Vernazza to Corniglia

 Corniglia

Corniglia

 Corniglia for lunch

Corniglia for lunch

 Manarola

Manarola

 Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Day 13 Wed 2018-10-17 Castellina - Levanto

Day 13 Wed 2018-10-17 Castellina - Levanto

We had our last breakfast together, and Franco gave us a tour of the private chapel. He was very proud of the villa and the chapel. The Villa was renovated in 1500s and 1800s!

We loaded the car and did our last drive down our favoured cycling descent (SP51) to Poggibonsi.

We bid farewell to Becky and Charlie at Poggibonsi Station. They caught 11:45 train to Florence then a fast train to Bologna for a few planned days of sightseeing before flying home.

The next phase of our Italian holiday started as we drove north west to the Cinque Terre coastal region.

On route we visited the walled town of Lucca, located at the north end of Tuscany region. It is a Renaissance era walled town which we enjoyed wandering the narrow streets. Interestingly, Wikipedia told us in 56 BC at the  Lucca Conference, Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus reaffirmed their political alliance.

Beginning in the 11th Century, Lucca became prosperous through the silk trade and came to rival the silks of Byzantium.

There was evidence of a recent large gaming and comics festival. The town wall seemed to also protect the town from flooding as it was on a flood plain near the Fiume Serchio River

The final drive to the Oasi Hotel at the seaside town of Levanto was a mix of tolled Autostradas (€12+€2+€2) and a final very twisty decent.

Finding the hotel and it’s parking was easy. It was close to the beach and the underground parking was easy. This town is a popular base and starting point for the train to the Cinque Terre villages, so parking is at a premium.

With the remaining daylight, we did a scenic walk from Levanto via the old Maremonti Pedestrian & Bike train tunnel located in an abandoned train tunnel. There were a few cyclists training doing laps.

Dinner was tasty seafood at a good cafe. Tomorrow is the big tourist day to see the 5 villages hanging on the seaside cliffs.

 Farewell to Becky & Charlie

Farewell to Becky & Charlie

 Lucca - entering the walled town

Lucca - entering the walled town

 Lucca - Cathedral At the main Square

Lucca - Cathedral At the main Square

 Lucca - Comic & Game Exhibition looked big

Lucca - Comic & Game Exhibition looked big

 Carrara Marble

Carrara Marble

 Levanto - The Oasi Hotel

Levanto - The Oasi Hotel

 Levanto streets

Levanto streets

 Levanto Baths

Levanto Baths

 Levanto Beach

Levanto Beach

 Old Levanto to Bonassola train tunnel built in 1874, survived Allies bombing in WW2, then replaced by a larger train tunnel. It was converted to bicycle/walking path and opened in 2011.

Old Levanto to Bonassola train tunnel built in 1874, survived Allies bombing in WW2, then replaced by a larger train tunnel. It was converted to bicycle/walking path and opened in 2011.

 Walking towards Bonassola at dusk

Walking towards Bonassola at dusk

 Bonassola beach side dining

Bonassola beach side dining

 Hotel Palazzo Vannoni, Levanto. Early 17th Century Palace.

Hotel Palazzo Vannoni, Levanto. Early 17th Century Palace.

Day 12 Tues 2018-10-16 Castellina - San Gimignano

Day 12 2018-10-16 Castellina - San Gimignano. (Cycled 40km, 327m )

With an early breakfast, still no WiFi to distract us and wanting to get to the tourist town of San Gimignano for lunch, we headed down the scenic SP51. I topped out at 60km/hr as there was a slight headwind and my jacket is not very aerodynamic- it was a lot of fun to descend from 560m to 120m in about 10km.

Karen met us in the car at the bicycle hire store on the other side of Poggibonsi. The four of us set out for 7.5km climb up 220m to San Gimignano.

We found the town square, and scouted out a possible lunch location. Most had only paninis, so we enjoyed take-away pizza on the steps of church in sun.

Desert was gelato. We started queuing at the “Best Gelato in the World”, and as the queue was long we opted for the “World’s Best Icecream”. It was very tasty and good energy food for the descent back.

We were a bit early for Cicliosport opening due to lunch time siesta. We are amazed at how many businesses and schools still practice this break.

The bikes were returned with no issues (ebikes @ €145ea and carbon @ €180). We learnt a lot about ebikes over the week, especially about managing assist power and also taking advantage of regeneration braking.

Before dinner, we looked around the old town of Castellini, and were amazed by the tunnels built inside the wall. These days they housed wine casks, restaurants and the professional photographer with amazing local Tuscany landscape photos.

I bought a Chianti Classic cycling jersey (€64) and we purchased some presents (the soft toy Boar and Fiat500 socks)

Dinner was at a restaurant in the church square which had been run by the same family since 1892. Only the English speaking patrons were queuing at 19:30 when the restaurant opened.

I ordered buchetta, tortilini with shaved truffle, and tiramisu for desert. All was great, as I love Italian food!

 On the way to San Gimignano  

On the way to San Gimignano  

 Karen arriving after another Tuscan climb. 

Karen arriving after another Tuscan climb. 

 Becky, Karen and Charlie being tourists in San Gimignano  

Becky, Karen and Charlie being tourists in San Gimignano  

 Acting our age in the narrow alley ways. 

Acting our age in the narrow alley ways. 

 Queuing at Gelato World Champion  

Queuing at Gelato World Champion  

 Eating Gelato from “The Best Icecream in the World” 

Eating Gelato from “The Best Icecream in the World” 

 Returning the hired bicycle

Returning the hired bicycle

 Interesting tunnels at Castellina  

Interesting tunnels at Castellina  

 Castellina Church

Castellina Church

 End of Tuscany Cycling Dinner. 

End of Tuscany Cycling Dinner. 

Day 11 Monday 2018-10-15, Castellina - Badesse return.

Day 11 Monday 2018-10-15, Castellina - Badesse return.

Today was to be a quite day with a late start. With new found knowledge of ebike battery regeneration setting, we headed  partly down the SR222 (the south Florence to Siena route route).

It was an easy descent to Fonterutoli, where we looked for a wine tasting vineyard. It appears most wineries give tours only, so we noted the restaurant as a possible lunch destination for later.

Further south on SR222 was a good descent and we rode through the village of Quercegrossa.

Then we turned west on  a small link rode via Basciano. It was a very scenic road for photo stops through the Tuscan hills.

The village of Badesse was the lowest point of elevation, before we started the climb up the pretty and challenging yellow road via the villages of Lornano, Tolena , Quattrovie and Leonino.

We made it to the winery restaurant by 3:00pm for a late lunch in the tiny village of Fonterutoli. The food presentation was creative, with the tirimusu served in a ceramic plat pot. It was our most expensive meal (€110) and a good reward for the big hill climbs.

The pedal up the last 4.5km gained 85m of elevation. Karen had worked out the gears and the ebike assist mode and took the climb in her stride.

Dinner was another picnic of meat, cheese and olives on the terrace. It was a pleasant setting for dining and we enjoyed the less formality of going to a restaurant.

 Karen, Charlie and Becky on the way down SR222

Karen, Charlie and Becky on the way down SR222

 Karen racing a Ferrari 

Karen racing a Ferrari 

 A nice day for cycling

A nice day for cycling

  Karen on her ebike

 Karen on her ebike

 Our late lunch at the winery Restaurant  

Our late lunch at the winery Restaurant  

 The very large ravioli  

The very large ravioli  

 The tirimisu in the pot plant

The tirimisu in the pot plant

 The view from the terrace where we at dinner

The view from the terrace where we at dinner

​Day 10- Sunday2018-10-14 Castellina - Colle di Val d’Elsa - Volterra return.

Day 10- Sunday2018-10-14 Castellina - Colle di Val d’Elsa - Volterra return.

After another good breakfast to as cycling fuel, we headed on our  biggest planned day yet. We would  ride to Volterra, about 50km away and about the same elevation as Castellina (560m). We descended down SP51 dropping to about 120m. The descent was a great way to start another sunny day.

At Colle di Valle, we met Karen who was having a rest day and driving. We enjoyed a Gelato and watched a 2yr old practice soccer amazingly well with a balloon

We cycled up and down via Castle San Gimignano  to eventually climb the summit at our destination in the wonderful walled town of Voltera. It’s a tough climb, and we felt an achievement to have made it. Half way statistics 769m, 52.68km

We found Karen in the picturesque main square as planned. It was at this location ten years ago with our boys  we had seen an amazing array of vintage cars.

Next was a much needed lunch of pasta in a great little outdoor restaurant.

The ride back had less stops and took just over 3hrs for 50km with 906m of vertical climb. Becky’s ebike used 3 batteries for the day.

I arrived back in the dark having taken longer then then others to to the climb to Castellina At 570m. The afternoon light and sunset provided a lot of photo opportunities.

Dinner was at a local pizza shop, which was surprisingly busy and better decor inside then expected. We discussed the big day and shared photos before returning for much needed rest.

 The descent down SP51 to Colle di Val d’Elsa was very fast and fun.

The descent down SP51 to Colle di Val d’Elsa was very fast and fun.

 We met Karen in the town square at Colle di Val d’Elsa for morning tea.

We met Karen in the town square at Colle di Val d’Elsa for morning tea.

 Energy Gelati

Energy Gelati

 Colle di Val d’Elsa Coffee Shop

Colle di Val d’Elsa Coffee Shop

 Pit stop for battery swap before the 300m+ climb. 

Pit stop for battery swap before the 300m+ climb. 

 After the epic climb to Volterra I had to celebrate. 

After the epic climb to Volterra I had to celebrate. 

 Volterra Square- ten years ago I cycled the climb to this same spot.

Volterra Square- ten years ago I cycled the climb to this same spot.

 Dates back to Roman times. 

Dates back to Roman times. 

 Two wheels by two

Two wheels by two

 Lunch with lots of pasta and bread

Lunch with lots of pasta and bread

 Becky and Charlie in the peloton

Becky and Charlie in the peloton

 Cycling gives so many opportunities for great photos.

Cycling gives so many opportunities for great photos.

 To remind me that it was a long day. 

To remind me that it was a long day. 

Day 9 - Sat 2018-10-13 Castellina to Madona di Pietracupa return

Day 9 - Saturday 2018-10-13 Castellina to Madona di Pietracupa return.

Charlie and I started with a reconnaissance ride north towards Greve to see the elevation change. The drop was 340m to our turnaround at 10.5km. It was a fantastic descent (some 15%), and very cold at the river just past Grignano. The climb back was exhausting in places and we soon warmed up. Being the weekend there some other cyclist out and a lot of red Ducati’s.

After another big breakfast, the plan was for the four of us to cycle to Madona di Pietracupa. It was another scenic hamlet village.

We had a walk around the interesting Saturday markets in Castellina.

The descent to our destination was a great twisty, scenic route. We settled on a restaurant with a great view and pastor. The waiter even talked cycling.

The 11km  return ride was up hill (240m) and took 50mins. Karen changed to the second battery on the ebike

We then relaxed around the pool, soaking our legs in the cold water to relax the muscles

Dinner was last night leftovers as we watched the moon in the clear night. The days have been 22°c and the evenings down to 8 °c.

 Early morning ride north on ST222

Early morning ride north on ST222

 A fine selection of market cheese

A fine selection of market cheese

 Castellina Saturday Markets

Castellina Saturday Markets

 A wine tasting of local produce

A wine tasting of local produce

  Balsimic Vinegar  

 Balsimic Vinegar  

 Ducati’s out for a Saturday ride

Ducati’s out for a Saturday ride

 Madona di Pietracupa

Madona di Pietracupa

 Soothing the muscles after a day of cycling

Soothing the muscles after a day of cycling

​Day 8 - Friday 2018-10-12 Castellina to Siena

Day 8 - Friday 2018-10-12 Castellina to Siena return-59.3 km. 902m assent.

We started early as it was a big day planned to go to Siena via the walled town of Monteriggioni.

Karen would drive the car to rest her legs and to bring the spare batteries. It also allowed us to lighten our load.

We started on a twisty descent on the main SR222 via Fonterutoli. This is the direct route from Florence to Siena. We then turned west and followed the scenic SP119 via the hamlets of San Leonino and Lornano. We were still descending until we took a short gravel road, crossed the railway line, under the freeway and had a short climb to the walled village of Monteriggioni. I had cycled past in 2008, so put it on the list for this trip.

We cycled all the way into town square, where we met Karen. She was in the car today, and fortunately being out of peak the parking was available- judging by the amount of bus and RV Parking it appears to get busy in peak times.

We shopped for sovereigns (T-Shirts and olive oil jugs), and enjoyed the recuperating power of Italian Gelato.

The ride to Siena was 15km and a few wrong turns in the medieval roads, we met in the busy Piazza del Campo. This famous square hosts the crazy horse race twice a year. We had climbed the Torres del Mangia on Monday and it was much busier today.

We enjoyed lunch at an outdoor cafe just out of the busiest strip. We ordered pasta dishes to refuel the bicycle legs.

We then took Becky and Charlie on a Siena walking tour and admired the majestic Duoma Church with its striped construction on white and jade colored stone.

After changing the ebike battery, the ride back was generally uphill  via Badesse and Lornano and up the stunningly scenic SP119.

Karen had food shopped in Siena and we had a good picnic on the Villa Terrace. It was an enjoyable end to a good day’s touring.

 Charlie, Becky and the Tuscan Hills

Charlie, Becky and the Tuscan Hills

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 Siena - Piazza del Campo. Site of the annual bareback horse race

Siena - Piazza del Campo. Site of the annual bareback horse race

 Easy Parking in Siena

Easy Parking in Siena

 The Siena Duomo

The Siena Duomo

 More Rolling Tuscan Landscape

More Rolling Tuscan Landscape

 Our Villa at Castellina  

Our Villa at Castellina  

​Day 7 Thurs- 2018-10-11 cycle to Radda

Day 7 Thurs- 2018-10-11 cycle to Radda return 50km - 769m

Charlie and I did an early morning reconnaissance ride north on SR222 to assess the grade. The 350m descent to 220m was fantastic and an exerting climb back.

At the bottom of the valley our fingers were very cold. We decided this route was not a good start for the first full day on the ebikes.

Over a late, long breakfast we planned some possible routes and then headed to the tourist info to buy a map. We were advised to take the white road via our hotel to Radda. This had a descent from the ridge to the river and via the L’Eroica route to Radda.

In the old village of Radda, we enjoyed a good pasta lunch- lots of bread, tomato’s, pasta and olive oil. The ride back was via the bitumen road and was quicker and easier. The ebikes performed well.

For dinner, we walked the 2.5km to in the old town of Castellina. The restaurant had great food, though the service not quite comparable.

 Karen and Becky on the ebikes reading to ride to Radda

Karen and Becky on the ebikes reading to ride to Radda

 A trip Castellina to get a map

A trip Castellina to get a map

 White Road to Radda

White Road to Radda

 Lunch in Radda

Lunch in Radda

 My previous visit to Radda was four nights earlier at 20:30 near the end of L’ Eroica

My previous visit to Radda was four nights earlier at 20:30 near the end of L’ Eroica

 The Rooster is the Chianti Region symbol since 1600s. 

The Rooster is the Chianti Region symbol since 1600s. 

Day 5 2018-10-0 Bagno Vignoni

Day 5 Tues 2018-10-09 - Bagno Vignoni

We started another warm Tuscan day with a 3.5km walk towards the historic town of San Quirico d’Orcia. Along the way we met a winemaker, and conversed in no common language.

After a welcome breakfast, we then drove to San Quirico d’Orcia. It’s was a beautiful walled city that we wandered around, viewing old churches, gardens before settling on authentic Margareta pizza for lunch.

From our village we could see a very visible tall tower, which we later learnt was the 11th century Tentennana Tower. It’s high commanding position was a great asset over the centuries to the occupier. We drove the short distance and climbed to the top. The small village was almost car free as the 130m altitude change meant twisty, small roads.

The hamlet was built as a spa resting spot for pilgrims over the centuries. We had a very relaxing spa in luxurious Albergo Posta hotel.

Dinner was in the Osteria de Leone  restaurant downstairs. It was excellent food, and only 10m from our B&B door.

This was the perfect place to relax and recover after L’Eroica.

 Part of the 2100km pilgrim walk from Canterbury, UK to Rome.(200km from here)

Part of the 2100km pilgrim walk from Canterbury, UK to Rome.(200km from here)

 A short stroll in the Tuscan hills

A short stroll in the Tuscan hills

 Bagno Vignoni- Our hotel was a pleasant surprise - great location and decor in this tiny hamlet

Bagno Vignoni- Our hotel was a pleasant surprise - great location and decor in this tiny hamlet

 San Quirico d’Orcia - a short distance away- another Middle Ages town

San Quirico d’Orcia - a short distance away- another Middle Ages town

 San Quirico d’Orcia- town square and markets

San Quirico d’Orcia- town square and markets

 Rocco di Tentennano - a prominent location since 12th century.

Rocco di Tentennano - a prominent location since 12th century.

 Climbing - Tentennana Tower

Climbing - Tentennana Tower

 View from the Rocca di Tentennana Tower; Bagno Vignoni centre; Note the swarm of inserts.

View from the Rocca di Tentennana Tower; Bagno Vignoni centre; Note the swarm of inserts.

 Castiglione d’Orcia, near Tentennana Tower.

Castiglione d’Orcia, near Tentennana Tower.

 The fantastic spa pools at Hotel Posta

The fantastic spa pools at Hotel Posta

 Our B&B in the evening 

Our B&B in the evening 

 The restaurant Osteria del Leone was below our B&B. 

The restaurant Osteria del Leone was below our B&B. 

 Enjoying dinner at Michelin listed Osteria del Leone in Bagno Vignoni 

Enjoying dinner at Michelin listed Osteria del Leone in Bagno Vignoni 

​Day 4 2018-10-08 Siena to Bagno Vignoni

Day 4 2018-10-08 Siena to Bagno Vignoni

After a welcome breakfast (I’d missed previous night’s dinner), we checked out and headed off on foot as Siena tourists.

We went to the Piazza del Campo. This famous square hosts the crazy horse race twice a year. We climbed    the 100m Torres del Mangia up the 400 steps to get a panoramic view over the square and rolling Tuscan hills.

We then enjoyed a relaxed one hour drive to the Spa area to the south east of Siena. Bagno Vignoni is a beautiful small village, with a hot spring large rectangular pool dating back to 1660. Although no longer used, it is the centerpiece of the village, surrounded by inviting outdoor restaurants. The afternoon sun was drawing patrons to enjoy the setting.

 Siena - Torres del Mangia

Siena - Torres del Mangia

 Piazza del Campo from 100m up

Piazza del Campo from 100m up

 Bagno Vignoni- a great place to relax

Bagno Vignoni- a great place to relax

Day 3 2018-10-07 L’Eroica Sunday

Day 3 2018-10-07 Giaole in Chianti

L’Eroica Sunday- 209km & 16hrs cycling later, I am now a member of “The Heroic”. Last year, I rode the 138km, which was also a tough day and a preparation for the long ride.

I awoke in Siena at 2:30, drove the 30km to Gaiole at 4:00am and was surprised at the number of cars already parked. It was a great sight to see the lights and chattering of the wave of 5:00am first starters pass by as I unloaded my early 80’s Vitus bicycle.

Preparation in the dark took longer then expected. I dispensed with the backpack as used last year, and carried all my charging cables, passport, wallet, batteries and puncture repair gear in my overloaded jersey’s back pockets.

Compared to 6:25am last year, the 5:15am start was more relaxed. There was a course official checking the bicycle was compliant with the vintage bicycle regulation.

The card was time stamped with the first of eight checkpoints. It was cool and threatening rain again, so I put on my bright new Altura jacket and headed south, wondering what challenges, frustrations and memories the next dozen hours would create.

The climb to Brollio castle in the dark is a good warmup. The start of the first gravel section is lined with candles for hundreds of metres and almost mystical. It is a forgiving white road section compared to the mountains further south.

As the sun rose, we passed via Pianella, then skirted around Siena to the first food break in the tiny village of Radi (48.6km) at 8:20. This year I found the dirt climb into the village easier, compared to last year when I ran out of gears on my planetary internal hub gears (1953 Sturmey Archer FM 4 speed), and walked the last 100m with many others.

At Radi, I limited the time at the food stop and mainly consumed Nutella on toast, as it agreed with me. At Radi, I met the only Australians on the ride.

The 4th section of white road  started after Radi, and we were  welcomed on arrival (9:00am) at Murlo (56km) by the same priest as last year. He was again dressed in his full colourful Sunday robes.

It was a further 10km to the start of  Long Ride loop at 66km. The cutoff time is 12:00, which was extended by 1 hr over 2017. Last year I gladly missed the cutoff by 6 mins.

After kilometers of steep dirt climbs, the next checkpoint was the mountain town of Montalcino (90km), at 11:06. The food break was again welcome. Again my vintage shoes were uncomfortable, but I managed better then last year by not riding for too long with tight toe clip straps.

The steep descent from Montalcino at 600m was very enjoyable, especially being on bitumen. In L’Eroica quite often the descents are on gravel, which is always under brakes.

The village of Torrenieri (100km) was almost half way and just after was the 8th gravel section of 12km, being one of the longer one.

At 13:54 I arrived at the checkpoint of Lucignano d’Asso with 112km cycled.

Arriving at Buonconvento at 13:58 after 125km was a welcome stop for food and checkpoint and being over half way, I felt I was “heading home”. I called Karen, who had just arrived in Rome via Abu Dhabi from Sydney. She was catching a train via Florence to meet me in Siena tonight. It was good to hear her voice and that she was on the last sector of a 30hr journey.

Unfortunately as I went to leave Buonconvento, I noticed my rear tire has gone flat. It was a delay as I changed it, pumped it up and bought a new spare tube from the mobile mechanic.

The 10th gravel section covering 16km was next, and the afternoon sun was draining the energy. Arriving into the lovely hamlet of Asciano (146km) st 15:50 gained another checkpoint stamp, and a food stop from the welcoming hosts.

The gravel climb and road to Monte St Marie (147km) st 16:55 was one of the toughest of the day. In 45min I covered 7km, and as someone pointed out there was still many hours to ride. From last year I remembered the descents were particularly tricky and I was using a lot of brakes. Some went faster and slower, and a few crashed on the rutted, loose surfaces.

The ride to the checkpoint at Castelnuovo Berardenga (165km) 17:48 was a bit of a blur. I was making progress but the sun would soon set. I was hoping my headlight would hold out as it was switching itself between bright and dull on the rough surface.

The ride via Pianella (177km) and to Vagliagli (190km) was done with the same group of Italian cyclists. At a few of the turns we stop to discuss if this was the correct directions and made a committee decision.

The climb to Radda checkpoint (200km) at 20:29 and the subsequent climbs are some of the highest of the event at 600m. It was now very dark, and only the occasional rider. Although the end was near it was still a test of mental and physical strength. My shoes were uncomfortable especially on long climbs.

After Radda with 5km showing to Gaiole, I took a wrong turn and added another 10km to the total. I arrived at the Gaiole in Chianti finish at 21:20, after 16hrs cycling.

I had my photo taken to a welcome applause, lifting my bicycle in the mandatory pose of a L’Eroica finisher. It was a feeling of relief and I enjoyed getting the finisher’s medal and special boxed wine.

After gathering some energy, I cycled back to the car, and drove slowly back to Siena to meet Karen. As happened last year, I missed dinner, but enjoyed the soothing shower and the welcome sleep.

The day satisfied the 10months of training. My bike and body had held up.

 Starting L’Eroica At 5:40

Starting L’Eroica At 5:40

 Climb via candlelight to Brollio Castle  

Climb via candlelight to Brollio Castle  

 One of the first dirt sections - 8:02

One of the first dirt sections - 8:02

 The rain had stopped and settled down the dust

The rain had stopped and settled down the dust

 Radi at 8:20 - first food stop

Radi at 8:20 - first food stop

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 Murlo At 8:59 - checkpoint stamp. 

Murlo At 8:59 - checkpoint stamp. 

 Montalcino was a tough climb and great descent

Montalcino was a tough climb and great descent

 Checkpoint at 112km - San Giovanni d’Asso

Checkpoint at 112km - San Giovanni d’Asso

 Buonconvento At 13:58 and 125km- and my only flat Tyre 

Buonconvento At 13:58 and 125km- and my only flat Tyre 

 The Beautiful village of Asciano  - the dirt climb to follow was very tough

The Beautiful village of Asciano  - the dirt climb to follow was very tough

 I think I look fresher at this location last year

I think I look fresher at this location last year

 Yippee - the end after almost 16hrs cycling. 

Yippee - the end after almost 16hrs cycling. 

Day 2 2018-10-06 Siena & Giaole in Chianti

Day 2 2018-10-06 Siena & Giaole in Chianti

With a jet lagged early start, I enjoyed the Hotel Italia breakfast and set about assembling my bicycle. Fortunately there were no missing or extra parts. The last task would be to top up the tire pressure with a proper pump.

The 30km drive to Chianti was as I had remembered cycling at 4:00am one year ago- Many hills and turns through a series of small villages including Ponte a Bozzone and Pianena.

Knowing it would be busy,  I took the first park 1km out of town, cycled in and queued up with an international mix of eager cyclists . Like many events before, the collection of the bib and event merchandise signals the emotion that the test of training is about to begin.

The markets of food, wine and vintage bicycles & parts were crowded, though somewhat calm and relaxed. There is an enjoyment of looking at the history of the bicycle in a marketplace and not relegated yet to a museum.

After a mushroom lasagne for lunch,I headed back to the hotel for a short afternoon sleep (3.5hrs!)

Dinner was at the  recommended restaurant “iL Vinaio”. The meal and service was excellent and I read the L’Eroica Times. Bobby, the waiter told me of their Vespa Club.

Time to set the alarms for 4:00am start.

 The start...and finish of L’Eroica in Gaiole 

The start...and finish of L’Eroica in Gaiole 

 L’Eroica- part costume party...

L’Eroica- part costume party...

 Rego and goodies collected

Rego and goodies collected

 Wild boar is very popular for hunting and eating in Tuscany  

Wild boar is very popular for hunting and eating in Tuscany  

 Need a vintage Italian Bianchi? 

Need a vintage Italian Bianchi? 

 Other interesting Italian machines. 

Other interesting Italian machines. 

​Day 1 2018-10-04/05 Sydney - Abu Dharbi - Rome- Siena

Day 1 2018-10-04/05 Sydney - Abu Dharbi - Rome- Siena

After 370 days and 10,700km cycling, the journey to compete in my second L’Eroica in Gaiole Vintage bicycle ride began.

I finished works at 17:00 (convenient at QANTAS Mascot), and Simon farewelled me at Sydney Kingsford-Smith Int’l Airport for a 20:55 departure on Etihad to Abu Dhabi. (7650miles). With 30-40% economy occupancy on a A380 , I had a window row to myself. As a sign of the times, Business Class seemed busier

The scenery into Abu Dhabi after 14.5hrs flight was interesting with the contrast of sparse settlements in deserts.

The transfer was 3hrs in a better terminal then I’d heard. With free airport WiFi, I messaged home to hear of the heavy rain in Sydney- maybe the worst drought in 50yrs is breaking. Karen had just flown in from Singapore. The excessively sweet $8 hot chocolate was a reminder that Australia makes the best hot chocolates in the world!

At 8:30, I boarded for the final 6hr sector to Rome (2900mls) on a B777-300.

This flight also had lots of spare economy seats. The Etihad service was good and the food met expectations for airlines.

After 24hrs travel, I arrived at Rome Fiumicino Airport on time at 14:00 and the bike arrived ok.

The car hire pickup was a Fiat SUV at Sixt Rentals, and I headed off on 250km drive to Siena. I was advised  to go via A4 , north of Rome as it had a higher speed limit then the coastal route. It was an easy drive, especially as the car had Apple Play and displayed my Google Maps. I listened to Italian pop for a while until I reverted to my iPhone playlists.

Arrival at Hotel Italia at 18:00 was the end of 29hrs of travel. I found a car spot in the tight hotel carpark and checked in.

The room is on the top floor with limited view. After a welcome shower, I headed to the tourist area and sat down to a welcome Italian dinner. Naturally I ordered Bushetta with tomato and mozzarella!

Tomorrow I sleep in, assemble the bicycle and drive to Giaole to register and enjoy the vintage bicycle festival.

 A lot of hours training in Centennial Park

A lot of hours training in Centennial Park

 I managed to cycle 200days straight- even in the snow. 

I managed to cycle 200days straight- even in the snow. 

 September- A milestone of 8000km in 2018- commuting helps the mile’s tally

September- A milestone of 8000km in 2018- commuting helps the mile’s tally

 The journey to Italy begins

The journey to Italy begins