Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Great long day with Brian and Sarah - day 2 with lots of climbing.

Yesterday, I had a nice day of guiding two Australians on a pretty big tour in the Gaiole area.  We went out Saturday, but it was pretty much pouring rain, and we just rode hard with our heads down for a couple of hours.  I was concerned the weather was not going to cooperate again, as the forecast was for 40% chance of showers, but we had nice weather the whole ride.  Not clear skies, but a nice temperature and no precipitation the whole ride.  We left the Badia Coltibuono, where they were staying and descended around 20 k through Montevarchi toward the highway.  We had to pass through the town and another town, both of which are not overly pretty before a short climb to Loro Ciufienno where we caught the start of the strada Sette Ponte.

I think this is one of the nicest roads to ride in the area, and today did not dissapoint.  I have only ridden the road from Loro Ciuffeno once before, but I had scouted the access when I drove back on Saturday. A great ride over to Regello, then a nice stop for cafe and pastries.  Brian is into coffee, and had a cappucino, then a machiato.  We all ended up with double shots and were ready to roll.  I explained we had a couple of options to get to Figline, and they choose the shortest option.  We rolled into Figline on a different route than my normal one, and I only took one wrong turn, which was easily fixed.  We hooked up with the climb to Passo de Sugame, and powered up the climb.  My plan was to turn off around 3/4 the way up and ride through Lucolena, but they rode that yesterday, so we continued up to the top of the pass, then descended to Greve.  A big market was going on in Greve and it was packed.  We took off for the climb to Panzano, and worked it pretty hard.

Gelato at the top in Panzano, along with another espresso for Brian.  We descended to the valley below, and after some discussion I directed us up the road to Castellina.  This is a good, relatively long climb, and we were all starting to feel the effort.  They rode quite quickly the whole day, and I am not sure I could have dropped them if I tried.  I think so on the climbs, but that would be mostly because I know the climbs which gives one an advantage.  We were all very compatible with our fitness and speed, so it worked well.  From the ridge road close to Castellina, we turned toward Radda and cruised / climbed / descended almost to Radda.  They wanted to ride to a town called Lechi, which they had ridden the other way yesterday.  We easily found the road, and Brian led us as he remembered the road well.

We had a very nice descent then a pretty steep climb to the town of Lechi.  It is a beautiful little town, with stone buildings and we stopped for a short picture break.  A person who runs a cycling tour company out of the town saw us and came out with sandwiches and shot blocks, as his group was done for the day and he had extras.  It is also probably a good way to market.  It turns out Brian is on his mailing list, and we all talked a little and enjoyed the sandwiches.  It is a high end tour operation, but looks quite nice.  Two Mercedes sedans with racks as the support vehicles and the owner said on some trips they have two support people for each rider with massages at the end of each ride.  Wow!  As we left, Brian explained the owner is a former professional racer - pretty cool.  From Lechi we descended to Gaiole, then had a climb of around 400 vertical meters back to the Badia.  We were all tired, and around 1/2 way up the climb, I decided not to wait and ride with the slowest person, which was Brian on this climb and just take my own pace to the top.

For the first time in 2 days of riding, I actually dropped them.  Sarah was only a couple of minutes behind at the turn off to the Badia where I waited, but Brian was around 10 minutes behind.  It was a long day, and the sandwich in Lechi did not agree with Brian.  Only around 1/2 kilometer of climbing and we were back at the Badia.  We were all quite tired, with around 130 kilometers of riding in with over 2000 meters of climbing.  I still had to change, drive back to Firenze, park Kate's car and get the keys to her, so my day was not over.  I splashed some water on myself and changed, then said goodbye.  Neither client had the energy to get up from their chairs, which is the way I felt as well.  They were really fun to ride with and very good strong riders.  I enjoyed taking them out, but have decided if this situation comes up in the future, I need to charge more to make up for all the logistics of getting out there and back, getting a car, etc.  I think it added 3 to 4 hours to each of my days, so that is reasonable.  We ended up with 127 kilometers ridden with around 6800 vertical feet climbed.  Excellent day!

There were Irises between the rows of olive trees on strada
Sette Ponte between Loro Ciufenna and Castelfranco.

My clients, Brian and Sarah taking pictures of the flowers.

Brian taking a photo in a different hillside olive grove.

They did not want to stand still for a photo, so I took this
picture on the climb toward Castellina, only 2 climbs left
after completing this one.

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