Jess Douglas

Euro Adventure for 6 weeks

29 June 2015

11391414 10152856532356003 6214113067621731022 nThe last six weeks spent riding and being a tour guide for Dave and Emma has created memories that will last a lifetime.

I have been home 1.5weeks and its time to give you an update on the last 2 tours.

Tour of Corsica was so much fun, with the beginning of summer about to start it was a perfect introduction to managing a group, driving overseas and riding on roads in not so great condition.

11140366 10152792573381003 7395165029518702837 nWe arrived back in Marone for a week to clean bikes, catch up on sleep and ride as much as I had free time.

Dave and Emma live here for the Top Bike Tour period and return home to Fitzroy for the rest of the year.

11243641 10152796432451003 5238029444411321227 nIts a beautiful lake side village with a train line, bars and cafes, a lake to swim in, hills to ride walk and run, and even a flat ride around the lake.  Its also extremely close to the snow fields like Ponte di Legno and even the Dolomites.  Thanks to Emma, who showed me what some very steep and rough yet still rideable country roads were like, a great intro to thinking that Mortorilo was kinda easier in comparison to her back yard hills.

The week holiday went quick, and tour number 2 brought Franco into the mix to assist with guiding, driving and other general tasks to keep the tour running.

11219584 10152804369311003 7016811798365020800 n11169239 10152804985771003 2018336133965275617 oWelcome to world of the C-nuts, a bunch of cycling friends from around Essendon and one ring in from Adelaide who was linked in somehow.
I had been warned from Dave that these boys were party animals and of course this was totally true as we would all find out.

11059603 10152807669241003 1397641919503046617 nThe first day was spent getting to know them with Franco driving one vehicle that I was in and Dave in the other.
By the time we stopped for lunch and to watch the Giro d’Italia come through some random town, we were like old mates.
After the rush of the Giro coming past our drive was a long and windy one up into Arabba, in the heart of the Dolomiti’s and it was raining pretty much the whole way there.
This tour started on Friday 22nd May and it was not warm and up in the mountains it was 0 degrees and on day one of our ride, it was snowing when we hit around 1800mts above sea level.

Arriving in Arabba, we checked into our 3 night accommodation at Hotel Evaldo.  There is a distinct Austrian/Swiss/German feel about the architecture up here, nothing like the Italy I had known before.  After settling in, it was for “get to know you” games by heading out to a local bar which was sourced our by the C-nuts with little delay.

400mts up the road we found Bar Peter.  All the bars seem to be called Bar someone or other.  We walked in and I think I recall we turned the quiet bar into a raucous nightclub venue!

It all started off slowly with Franco and I watching on, Dave wasn't there and I cant recall why but he got a night off the lucky bugger ;)

The C-nuts are a happy bunch of mates, all caring and looking out for one another but at the same time totally hypo and ready to party on with the best of them and they can back it up with a 100km mountain ride the next day.

Round 1 at Bar Peter was a choose your own drink, enjoy and socialise…and then it started, ‘shots!’ Good old Sammy “Salvatore” Chiodo (the nail!) can’t keep his money in his wallet and got the night started with round 1 of some concoction, and of course this was spurred on by his interest in the bar girl, Marina.  

As we were to find out, Franco and I, the boys are competitive, and if one shout goes up, it is answered with one better and 50euro notes are being thrown at the gorgeous girl behind the bar and its shot after shot after shot, and then the shouts are being offered to not just us, but her and the chef and the girlfriend that is quickly texted to come on down for a gander.

In Italy, bars serve savoury snacks with drinks ordered, for free, and the drinks are pretty cheap too.  This bar started serving pizzas and more pizza and then more in various shapes and flavours.

It was on like Donkey Kong and Franco and I joined in some and watched some, and I dropped my iphone from a great height smashing the screen to smithereens.  This is what 9 shots will do to you.

Mind you, it was not even dark, it was still only 6pm.  

We were having a great time, until it dawned on us that we still had to head back for dinner at the hotel and pretend we were hungry and sober!
It was at this point I realised whilst I had a great time in that flurry of fun at Bar Peter I was not going to go back,I had to ride the Sella ronda loop the next day and be a happy and healthy guide and I was not what we called “piss fit”.  Yet some of the boys went back for seconds after dinner.

The C-nuts brought to the tour a couple of traditions, a disgusting rainbow jersey for someone to wear for the day because they did something stupid and a Angry Bird outfit that had to be worn to dinner because they stuffed up.  It was always a fun night with these awards and we were all nominated at least once.
So this is day 1…you may start to see that this is going to be one full on tour!

I did not last the distance beyond this night, but rather snuck off early to my room with the intent of getting a good night sleep so I could keep up with these boys on the bike the next day. They were all super human.

10389173 10152806824721003 3740726755827736497 n11295618 10152806835841003 5551096953192206180 n10988473 10152824923101003 7504123340982341980 n11350557 10152825131641003 279807479754351453 n11141380 10152820878616003 7622812488529854818 nThe tour took us on the Sella Ronda loop, Pazzo Falzerego, Garvia ascent and descent, Stelvio, joining the hype of the Giro d’Italia on the Mortirolo climb day, a fantastic 80km descent into Marone for lunch, some scenic riding around the winery regions and then a final day in Milano to watch the Giro.

11150806 10152829526506003 8159774167154207589 n22186 10152813405161003 1401402447482167913 nWe stayed in agritourismo’s, castles & quirky hotels with more food than you could ever cope with.
Working with Dave & Franco with this crew will be 11 days I will never forget.

On the final day in Milano Norm arrived as he would be joining us on the Tour of Sicily.
From here it was a quick drive back to Marone, 2 days off, bikes to clean and prepare for the final stint of work for me, and a great cycling holiday for Norm.

The Tour of Sicily.

1511715 10152847488766003 6335958228466855629 n

I had no idea what to expect and arriving on the Ferry from mainland Italy to Catania we were greeted with a new kind of heat, humidity! It was hot, I was tired and we had one night on our own before it was time to pick up our group.  We found our accommodation on the waterfront, caught up with emails and went for a walk for some gelato or granita. 

11407116 10152844212976003 7278005695604544871 nHistory surrounded us, as did custom, in the way the older men sat around and fixed boats, played cards, drank red wine and mingled lazily all afternoon.

11109514 10152843510296003 8207817781126683163 nThe next 10 days were to blur into a series or rides filled with climbs that meandered their way up through forests, agriculture, wind farms, coastal views and nothing too harsh in gradient.  Accompanying this was many many sweet flowing gradual ribbons of descents, dropping softly down into valleys and bringing you up again with minimal fuss.  A few descents were unforgettable like the one coming down from Mistretto to the coast where we finished in Cefalu.  I wanted to stop a million times and take pictures but then I would not have enjoyed the ride.

11407118 10152857273566003 1953731066617402650 nI would be certain that the whole tour group would agree on how wonderful these rides were.

10334238 10152855910926003 9091072768007989692 nOf course Dave had warned me and our clients that the roads in Sicily were unpredictable and not in great condition and we did find that out.  Once I got the gist of how this worked, it did become predictable in its own sense. 

11401062 10152847208876003 8995877417536256211 n11406822 10152853954641003 29754316911661700 nOur tour visited Lipari for 2 days, Nicosia, Cefalu (My favourite), Santa Cristina Gela, Agrigento & Caltigirone.  Each day was warm and some days warmer with any layers or winter gear relegated to a spare bag no longer needed.
Accommodation was always amazing and fun. Eating was just as fun, food was never ending...

What food does Sicily do well? In my opinion it was not so much meals, it was simple things like their bread, pasta and limone or caffe granita’s. 

After 6 weeks away from home it was a little sad to finish up, but I was very excited to get back to Australia and get stuck back into life.

I have come back to Australia with renewed purpose and ready to make the most of the 2nd half of 2015.

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