Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A couple days of guiding and rides.

Good couple of days, although I seem to have a lingering reaction from some food or drink from a party Sunday night.  Emily has been hit with this much harder than I, but I think a little thing is kind of hanging on inside me right now.  It seems better each day though, and I am fine riding.  Nice meet and greet yesterday with two mothers and two daughters.  The daughters were both 30, so I am guessing the Moms were 55 to 60.  Great 5 day self guided adventure for them.  They were fine for the tour and fit enough to enjoy it.  Sometimes the self guided people have me a little worried about their fitness for the rides they schedule.  These 4 were neighbors in Fairbanks, Alaska, so that says something about how tough they are.  One family has moved to Washington State, but the other remains in Alaska.  Both the younger girls are married.  Anyway, nice group of 4 adventurous women and it was fun to help them get started.  Sorry, no pictures, as they had me using their cameras at all our stops.

Today, I got out for a nice 70 plus kilometer ride not early, but in the morning.  The heat has broken for now, and we are enjoying highs in the low 90s instead of the low 100's.  It makes a difference to me.  When I am guiding, I rarely get out to the west, so that was my route today.  A favorite ride to Seano, Bacheretto, Pinone, Castra, Montelupo, then back to Firenze along the river.  Nice tail wind on the way home.  Ciao tutti, a dopo.

Loved this sculpture in Bacheretto right by the fountain and across the 
street from the bar.  It is a small town so everything is pretty much in one place.

The bar in Bacheretto where I stopped today for a cafe macchiato.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Blowing out the cobwebs after a late night.

Yesterday I had a nice tour with a couple from London, Gordon and Karen, doing the Florence by Bike Chianti tour to Villa le Corti.  It is a great tour with a hard climb around 1/3 the way to the Villa.  They got through that climb and even on a relatively hot day had a very nice time.  After the "light" lunch and tour, we decided to return through Luiano, as they were not worried about a few extra kilometers.  We stopped just below Luiano, and it was one of those moments that makes it all worth it.  They both had expressions on their faces of wow!  Then they verbalized how wonderful they thought the descent was and how the view from our stopping point was exactly what they had dreamed of seeing in Tuscany.  Thanks for a nice tour guys.

Today, after a very late night last night, I had a meeting, then did some hopefully helpful things at home.  Emily was not feeling well, as it was  night of lots of food and wine.  I was not at my top form either, as lots of rich food and wine can certainly take it out of me and a bed time of after 1:30 is very late for me.  So, I knew a ride to blow away the cobwebs from last night would help and motivated to get out on the bike.  It of course worked, although I think a nap is calling after posting this.  I did a favorite ride of around 2-1/2 hours up Via Carota to Osteria Nuova, then up to San Donato, down to Cellai, up / over to Bombone, then down to Rosano.  Back into town through Nave a Rovezzano and home.  53.4 kilometers in 2:22 with 644 meters of climbing.

Karen and Gordon after the Giogoli climb on a nice FBB Chianti
tour to Villa le Corti yesterday.

A sample of the wonderful views after the first pitch on the 
way to Bombone from Cellai.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Ciao Filippo, we all will miss your wonderful spirit.

I have had a couple of difficult days, as on Wednesday evening we lost a good friend and fun cycling partner from our team.  I found out Thursday morning, and it was simply a freak accident while he was working on his small farm with a tractor.  Filippo was such a wonderful man to be around and get to know.  He had only been cycling and with us on the team for a little over a year, but he was always there and had lots of passion for cycling.  In the course of the first 9 months of riding he lost 22 kilos (around 47 lbs) and just continually got stronger.  He entered many competitive events and his spirit was always pushing him forward.  A super strong rider on the flats, he became better with the hills with time.  I remember our first ride together when he had just joined the team, and we were doing a 4 pass ride, really quite difficult.  He was slow, but never complained, and just kept at it.  Amazing.  Always generous with his time, emotions, and his home, he hosted many events / dinners for the team.  Just a wonderful guy to have been around and to have had the honor to get to know and share the passion for cycling with.

Last night, I dreamed we were riding Montesenario together, and today, I just had a very strong desire to do this ride.  After the funeral, I started on the ride, and I remembered the dream, and really felt like Filippo was there with me on this fun, but sometimes difficult climb.  For a change, there was light rain, but it was not at all cold, so I just kept going.  I guess this was my way to say goodbye to Filippo.  Perhaps his spirit will join me on future rides, I will be hoping to feel it from time to time.  The funeral was in a small church, which did not allow many people inside.  I viewed the casket before the ceremony, and along with many flowers, his team jersey was draped on the casket.  He really loved the team and was so great.  As they took the casket to the vehicle to the actual burial, all the flowers were gone, but the team jersey was still there.  Around 25 cyclists from the team were there and most of us broke up seeing the jersey.

With Steve lost a couple months ago, I have a couple of friends whose spirits will accompany me at times while I ride.  Ciao, Filippo, I miss you already.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2 days, 2 rides.

Yesterday, I had a meet and greet for a nice couple from Australia, and guided them to Impruneta.  We had a cafe, pastry, and I gave them maps, advice, etc. and we parted ways.  This is what my job is for this service, and I think I go a little beyond what is expected, which is fun for me.  I received a call later in the day, while on the bus going to help Emily with the grandchildren, and the Austrailians were stranded in Panzano.  Yesterday was perhaps the hottest day of the year, with a high above 40, so in the mid 100's.  Lee, the female half of the couple had simply run out of gas.  Not much I could do to help, as I was on the bus at the time, but I gave Greg some suggestions.  After arriving at the grandchildren's, I sent a message to Laura, who is one of my employers on this service, and she said she would try to contact them and see if they needed additional help.  I never heard anything else, so I hope all was fine.  

I was up early this morning, and on the bike by 7:15, which seems to be what happens when I awake at 6am.  Really nice ride this early morning, with excellent temperatures starting around 75 and rising to 85 as I rode.  I assume we will hit 100 again here today, so it is nice to get out.  The light is also really nice for photos.  I designed the ride around the hill from Sieci to the Windmill, and all the pictures are from that part of the ride.  A nice sort of figure 8 in the close in Mugello.  53.3 kilometers in 2:43 with 845 meters of climbing.  Ciao.

The rows of vineyards provide a fun foreground for this view into the Mugello.

Just another beautiful road to ride in Tuscany

Beautiful working villa surrounded by vineyards.

I love the vineyards in this hidden valley, only visible from this road.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Early morning ride beats the heat!

I changed my routine this morning, which is quite a departure for me.  I did less than half my normal yoga routine, then a quick breakfast, allowing me a wake up at 6am and departure on the bike around 7am.  It is really quite hot in Florence now, and has been for a month or so.  Most days we are hitting 100F (38C) and riding in the middle of the day should be avoided.  So, I was out at 7 this morning and home from a 3-1/2 hour ride by 11 with time for a cafe on the road.  It was only really starting to get hot upon my return, and other than work, as long as it stays this hot, I will be trying to use this routine.  After returning, I did the remaining 1/2 of my yoga and it felt very good.  Nice ride, one of my favorites, out Via Carota to Osteria Nuova, then up and over the hill and down to Incisa.  Up to Dudda, then up and down through La Panca and home through Grassina.  Really nice ride with mostly quite pleasant temperatures.  Water at 4 different places on the ride, so I stayed pretty hydrated.  75.7 kilometers in 3:23 with 956 meters of climbing.  Nice to be home and riding!

Iconic Tuscan landscape and road on the way to Dudda.

Pretty vineyards just below Dudda.

The city in the valley and it looks like it is starting to get 
hot there.

The  sign shows the nature of the descent coming from La Panca,
one of my favorites.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Last 2015 ride in Ortesei - more exploring, great roads, great ride.

My last ride for this year in Ortesei, and it was great.  With 6 days of riding, I simply can't or at least don't want to do more than a couple of "epic" rides.  I really enjoyed the last 2 days of what passes for taking it easy here, although between the two days, I climbed around 3500 meters in 5:30 or so.  I did more exploring today, and will be set for some different epic rides next year.  Good to have a list ready for next summer.  The roads and scenery is just so beautiful, it takes your breath away, or maybe that is all the climbing.  Either way it is super fun for me to ride here.  Back to the heat and normal life in Florence tomorrow, which is not so bad.  Last ride was 40.4 kilometers or so with 1385 meters of climbing in 2:09.

A tiny town between St. Peter and Laion.  

Amazing scenery.

Beautiful roads and hillsides.

I thought this road between Laion and Gudon was just so pretty,
with no traffic, that perhaps it was a dream.

View from a bench I stopped at on the way back from Gudon 
to Laion.  Nice spot for a snack.

Bike and bench just before getting back on for the return to Ortesei.

My reward upon my return to the Hotel Grones.  A large beer
on tap with peanuts and chips for some salt replacement.  Ciao.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A day exploring and climbing around Ortesei and Castelrotto.

Another great day of riding here today, although I changed plans after looking at the weather forecast this morning.  No epic ride, but lots of fun doing some exploring on some roads I always wanted to try.  I started by climbing to Bulla, which is only about 2 kilometers of climbing off the road to Passo Pinei.  Beautiful, fun road, but short enough that I definitely wanted more.  I rode over Passo Pinei to Castelrotto, then took a road I have thought about many times to Alpi di Suisi, and turned around at the top, just above Saltrina.  It is around 1000 meters of climbing above Castelrotto, and I did not want to descend to Saltrina just to climb back, as the road definitely ends there.  I was there on Sunday on a mountain bike, and it was nice to link these roads together in my mind.  Lots of ski lifts at the top and a gondola from a town just below Castelrotto.  I totally enjoyed the ride, and am thinking that perhaps I don't need an epic ride tomorrow to be happy.  Today, 50.8 kilometers in 3:18 with 1961 meters of climbing.  It is simply steep here with almost no flat or grades even approaching flat here.  Super beautiful and challenging riding, though.  I am loving being here.  

What a beautiful church and view at this little church in Bulla.

The hillside just past Bulla.

Looking down at the Val Gardena and Ortesei from just above Bulla.

What a beautiful view toward the start of the climb from Castelrotto
to Alpi di Suisi.  How could I not keep climbing all the way to the
top?  1000 meters of climbing later, I was wondering, but I enjoyed the climb.

A little sculpture of a nordic skier at the top of todays climb,
which is also at the top of a ski lift.  

The little restaurant in St. Michael where I had excellent cafe
machiato and chocolate cake yesterday.  I was set for water today,
so I did not stop, except for this picture.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Another day riding in the difficult cycling paradise of the Dolomiti.

I now have everything ironed out with the bike, which meant that I found the one shop in the Ortesei area that had brake pads for Shimano Ultegra brakes.  It is so much more fun and comfortable when you can rely on the brakes.  It is very vertical here, and feeling good about the brakes is a must.  Not sure if I will ever rent from this shop again, but it is nice having the bike set in a way I can trust.  My intention was a "recovery ride" after a couple of hard days in the saddle.  Well the ride was certainly shorter, and only had one real pass, but somehow I managed to climb 2066 meters in 45 kilometers, which includes the downhill distance.  So, I guess it was steep and difficult, and if the numbers are correct, the climbing averaged around 10%.  Yikes!  I was out of water when passing through the little village of San Michele, and stopped at the one restaurant / cafe there.  Great choice.  Excellent cafe machiato, free samples of a wonderful chocolate cake, and great water from the tap.  Topped off by the people serving at the bar being super friendly and even understanding my fractured Italian.  

Perhaps a long day tomorrow, but presently I am still a little tired from the last 4 days of effort.  Great to be here and riding in this wonderful, but super challenging place.  Ciao.

What a beautiful church in the tiny town on Saint Peter, with the ride just
starting.  There is around a 2 kilometer climb at around 10% to get here.

Beautiful roads and beautiful cycling here, with my first close
glimpse of the valley floor.  Around 1500 meters of climbing
back to Ortesei.

A cool castle on the hillside on the descent to the valley floor 
from Lajen.

The curvy road descending to the valley floor from Lajen.
Even a castle on the hill.

My only pass of the day, Passo Pinei.

A beautiful "wellness" resort at Passo Pinei - 4 stars.

There is this super cool shelter at Passo Pinei, which I enjoyed
while having a snack on a swing in the shade.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sella, Fedaia, Arraba, Campolunga, Corvara, and a taxi home with a broken wheel.

Another great day of riding here in the Dolomiti, but with some interesting twists.  I have been putting my sunglasses on my back, hooked into the collar of my jersey for around a year now, and today was probably my last time, as when I arrived at the top of Passo Sella, I reached for my Oakleys, and they were nowhere to be found.  Oh well, it is just stuff, but something I really liked.  I will start a replacement search tomorrow.  The other interesting part of the day was I am not happy with the carbon / aluminum rim Reynolds wheels that the rental bike has.  The front brake simply screams, and I tried this morning doing what the online suggestions were to repair.  On the way down from Passo Fedaia, which is quite steep, they were screaming, but I needed to use the front brake to be safe.  around 1/3 to 1/2 the way down, I think the wheel got so hot, that it had a small rupture.  This meant me using the front brakes as little as possible, then at the bottom, I checked the wheel for the 4th time, and it seemed fine for climbing.  I changed my planned route, and climbed to Arraba, on a different road which was super fun and cool, then climbed Passo Campolunga.  I figured I could see how it would work using only the back brake descending from Campolunga to Corvara.  It worked, but I pulled into the shop I rented my bike at last year for advice.  They said I could probably make it, but descending from Passo Gardena would need to be very slow with lots of stops.

The suggestion was for a cab, kind of pricey at 80 euros, but got me back safely.  I stopped at the shop where I rented the bike, and the person there sent me to the mechanic, another 150 meters of climbing away.  It was fine, but the mechanic was sure I had hit something, as the wheel, quite expensive, was relatively new.  I swore I did not hit anything, he asked me if I thought he was stupid, and then we both said the same things a number of times.  Finally, I asked what they wanted to do, as I know I did not hit anything or fall, I showed him they were no cuts or scrapes on me, and he replaced the wheel with a regular wheel, which will work better.  He did not replace it happily, but it is fine now.  I stopped at the shop on the way home and discussed this with the person I rented from and he was fine with it.  He agreed with me that the wheels are probably not appropriate for rental bikes.  Still, a very long day in the saddle, with 85.6 kilometers in 5:21 with 3410 meters of climbing.  Looking at those numbers, I am kind of glad I could not add in Passo Gardena, which adds another 600 meters.  Yikes!

Prettier views at Passo Sella today than yesterday.

Pretty scenic from the top of the Sella.

Descending to that little town is what awaits starting down
from Sella, with new, cheap, sunglasses.

The view starting the climb to Passo Fedaia.

Beautiful lake at Fedaia.

I think I should keep the sunglasses on for the selfies, as 
I am always squinting to see the shot. 

Just a little way down from the top of Fedaia.

This beautiful church and town is after you catch back up to the 
main road to Arraba.  Also after a pretty difficult climb from the 
valley floor.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sella Ronda, 2015

On the road bike, a rental, but really very nice, today for the first of 5 days.  I thought I was kind of taking it easy with doing the Sella Ronda, a famous route in these parts.  I have done it a couple of times before, and it is not too long.  Well, it was certainly harder than I remembered and longer as well.  I don't think I am in as good form as I was last year, as when you are doing lots of tours, you spend lots of time on the bike, but very little time going fast or hard.  Fun day, partly cloudy all day, and arm warmers and even a shell needed for some of the descents.  I think I will go "big" tomorrow, but we shall see how this old man feels.  Lots of pictures follow, so this description is done.  75.6 kilometers in 4:31 with 2651 meters of climbing.  Of course I am tired - what was I thinking?

After the ride, I had Emily take a picture of me, as I was wearing 
the "Band of Brothers" jersey to honor my friend Steve, who 
passed away 6 weeks or so ago.  I sent pictures to the other
6 college friends and fraternity brothers who did the ride.
I think, a good and positive way to remember a good friend.

These are not in any real order, as this is passo della Sella, the 
last pass of the day.  I was surprisingly tired.  For some unknown
reason, I thought today's ride would be easy.

Passo Pordoi, my favorite of the 4 passes today.  There is a 
sign at the bottom and plaque saying this is known as, "The
graveyard of Champions" as it is a famous Giro climb where
past champions have faltered.  34 numbered switchbacks on
the climb, the 3rd of the 4 passes for the day.

Another Passo Pordoi picture.

A selfie, for the same reason as the picture above, to send to my 
old college friends.  It is by this fountain in Arraba that the plaque
commemorates the climb as the graveyard of champions.

The rental bike at the fountain.  It is a very nice bike, but the squealing
of the brakes on the carbon rims is more than a little annoying.

Passo Campolongo, the 2nd of the 4 passes and the easiest 
one by far, with only around 400 meters of climbing from Corvara.

Passo Gardena, the 1st of the 4 passes, and really quite beautiful.

A scenic view from Passo Gardena.