Thursday, 6 August 2009

Day 8 - Careful Now!

Andalo to Riva del Garda.

So this is it. I've dreamed of this day for months. We're still in the competition. We haven't thrown in the towel, or broken a collarbone, or fallen out, or fallen off at 50mph on a gravel road, or broken a bike fatally, or come down with West Nile Hemorrhagic Fever... Better than all of these things, we're still in start block B and we've been climbing the table every day going from results in the high 80s to 54th yesterday. We're getting the measure of the thing. I almost don't want it to end, except that there's nothing I want more than to be speeding over the finish line and running into Lake Garda.

There are murmurs of a scary descent on today's stage, but it's just hearsay since we missed the evening briefing and went out for pizza and beer instead. I'm feeling uneasy in the start pen, partly a bit of a hangover and partly the fear that we may get complacent. One more routine climb with some pushing and we arrive at the Passo san Giovanni and then it's all downhill to Riva. It's an insanely difficult downhill where riders queue at the turn off from the gravel and peer over the brink. We ride straight on through. It's a steep, rutted hillside to begin with and we can pick our way through the walkers until it narrows to an endless series of steep, slimy switchbacks. We ride what we can but there are just too many people in the way to get a good run at it. Dave gets ahead and I keep him in sight for a while but get bogged down behind knots of walking riders. I'm in a group who ride where it's clear enough but we keep running into scrums of others who won't even attempt it. Frustrating, but I'm content to arrive intact at the bottom.

Dave is waiting at the timing strip along with the other Brits we've been riding with all week, Geoff and Steve the other Kinesis riders and Army and Navy, whose names I never did find out. The rest of the stage looks like road all the way, except for the steep gravel-covered concrete stuff which I hit too fast and unprepared having mentally switched off. There's more rocky singletrack late on and then we have a fast procession along cycle paths through orchards. There's no energy left in my tanks but I hold on grimly on Dave's back wheel. A marshall shouts "Zwei kilometre" and suddenly we're in Riva. Around a corner we see the Jeantex arch and we're at the finish line. The emotion of finishing overwhelms me for a moment and I have a wee blub like a lassie.

Suddenly it's all over. It has been an amazing few days and I'm all out of superlative adjectives. The vision of running into Lake Garda which has sustained me for months of training in the dark and wind and pishing rain actually comes to pass. We finish 51st on the day and 65th overall in Masters from 118 finishers. Solid mid-table mediocrity!

Lake Garda

(Thanks to everyone who dutifully followed this drivel and apologies for not updating things on the day. In mitigation, it appears that Italy doesn't have an internet, but now that I see how consistently beautiful Italian women are, I can understand why they might not need one...). I'll post final thoughts and some photos in a final roundup in the next few days and then I'll move on with my life.