Now I’m back in Belgium I can honestly say I miss Italy. Well at least I miss the weather and the cappuccino. One thing I definitely don’t miss is not being able to communicate with Italians. Being English works to my advantage as the world knows we are philistines and can’t speak a word of any language other than our own. Unfortunately having made myself try to learn Dutch and French I do feel really bad and definitely at times embarrassed not even being able to try at Italian.
However I am an adventurer and so decided that posting a parcel in Italy was not going to be a problem for me. Armed with the word ‘inscriptione’, Italian for recorded delivery I felt I could take on the world. Arriving at the post office I found a ticket machine. Being used to this system in Belgium I looked at the four options and chose the one with an envelope on, simple. After a few minutes of being sat down (I am a bike rider, never stand if you can sit etc) my number comes up and up I get and go to the kiosk. As I hand over my parcel the lady starts rabbiting away in Italian while handing me back my parcel. I can only assume she thought I was stupid as she then proceeded to repeat the same speedy babble in a much louder voice whilst pointing at the picture above her kiosk, which was a euro sign.
Plan B, back I go to the chair. Sitting there wondering what Bear Grylls would do at this point I decided finding bugs to eat would be a bad idea and maybe I should examine the machine again. Still not understanding Italian I pressed every button and got 4 tickets, went back to my chair and waited for the kiosk with the envelope on to call my number. I was very proud of myself and felt if I had been parachute dropped in deep Alaska I would be able to survive, although maybe my training would be slightly affected.
Later on in the week Jamie told us about a big group ride that left from the local Rowa bike shop on a Sunday morning. The owners were keen to have me come along and ride with them and had spread the word to the local men that a ‘girl was gonna kick their arses’! Not racing that weekend we thought it would be fun to go and see more routes. So Sunday morning at 8am we were on the road to the shop and the ‘Freccia Rossa (Red Arrows to us English types) club run. At first it started as a small group which grew along the main road out of Rimini to a good 40-50 riders. After about an hour we hit the first small hill and the speed started going up. Stef performed the perfect domestic role as we had been waiting at the back to see what the etiquette was and were now being dropped. Jumping from group to group he dropped me off at the front about 200metres from the top of the hill, where they all stopped or went back for the others. Ooopps, guess we could have saved our energy there then.
At Pesaro the group split again and Stef and Jamie went on the shorter ride as they had things to do and I was given my guide for the rest of the ride. About 15 of us continued onto the long ride which then went up more hills. Not sure again what the etiquette was I just sat in and did as I was told. They kept the group together on the smaller hills and went hard on the flats. So towards the end of the ride I hit the front just as we reached the final climb. Being a girl I like to subtly half wheel when on the front of a group ride for short periods of time, usually I choose my victim knowing I am slightly stronger than them and it always makes me look good. A young junior at the end of a ride or an old guy who hasn’t had great wind protection before that point always make for good victims. However I didn’t know any of these guys so slowly started upping the pace to test the water. No one told me to slow down so I kept subtly half wheeling until we had reached the top, with only 4 of us left. My guide, who didn’t speak any English hand signalled that we had to go back down the hill. Thinking maybe the others were waiting at the bottom I set of at full pace, only to discover they actually meant turn around again when you see the last riders. My poor guide had to sprint further down the hill after me tap me on the shoulder and point me back up the hill. Obviously I then sprinted back to the top dropping him again.
Back home the boys commented that this must be what a normal person feels like on a Sunday. Monday to Friday normal job, Sunday morning 130km club run, big cooked lunch and then fall asleep to cross on the TV. I could easily get used to everything but the Monday to Friday part.
The rest of our time in Italy was good. I won the Trophee Del Ponte near Treviso in Italy and just about managed to fit all the wonderful goodies you win at Italian races in the car. We also went to a ‘Texan’ night in Rimini, which me and Jamie discovered following set line dancing routines was too hard and so invented our own ones. The video is available to the highest bidder.
Finally on our way home we stopped off at Wetzikon for the final race of our trip, where I took a close 2nd behind Hanka Kupfernagel ahead of mountain bike star Sabine Spitz. Not so many goodies as Italy but still a good hard race.
Now we are back in Belgium looking forward to the Christmas block. For girls there isn’t as much racing as there are for the guys so it’s just the two world cups and Loenhout for me. All are of a great standard though and the Christmas spectators are pretty wild.
So till then.