Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Great and First Torino-Nice Rally Day 1 - Turin to Condove via Columbardo 67 miles, 2254m ascent

The worst gift in the world pre-ride - a puncture. We fluffed it up with a massively unpacked pump and sprinted to the start line at a square in Turin. We hardly had time to admire the impeccable buildings and art that we were riding by.

Business at the start line was consumed by meeting other people, the 3 other women that were setting out and taking photos.

I met Bene and Dan who live in Grenoble despite having a house 1 mile away from our house in England. They were on an ambitious 5 day schedule. I didn't know what to expect from us but was a little relieved to find I wasn't immersed in a sea of whippet roadies carrying minimal kit. While there was a fair share, there was almost equal measure of mtbs or heavily laden steel steeds covered in racks and panniers.

When we set off to start, my tyre was flat again so with hundreds of kms to go, we sat on the steps of the statue and repaired our first puncture in 2 years of owning this bike (thorn picked up on the ride from the airport).  As we did so, another bunch of riders (including the organiser) headed off to the bike shop and post office to send bike bags and excess baggage home.

Never has an event start been so nonchalant and yet so spectacular at the same time.
Around 50-60 very intrepid people and their bikes, unsure of what is to come.

On our way out of town, riding back the way we came in, we had a chance to chat with other riders passing who we wouldn't see again. From there on we navigated our own way along the bike paths of the route with minor errors and one close call with a post that jumped out behind TSK and although I swerved, still clipped my bars. I stayed upright but rode a lot faster for a while as the adrenaline coursed through.

A few pleasant meadow lanes as the temperatures soared then our first off road section - a bouncy flat track that seemed hard but we would later look back on and laugh.

TSK enjoys our first taste of countryside and old architecture
We started as we meant to go on and ate a little before we started to go upwards.

The next tunnel restriction was skipped by many but  we opted to ride and then hike-a-bike through the beautifull village of Germagnano. Up steps, finally I saw wheely bins - a sign of vehicular access.

A short descent from Germagnono before the real climbing began and we promised ourselves lunch at Viù. Jesus it was a long way up. None of us knew what it looked like and we were getting hungry. I saw a couple of riders leaving a café on the left and got my hopes up.

Closed but there were some 20packs of pop on the porch and a small pile of euros to reimburse for the missing cans. We reciprocated similarly and with gusto consumed a fanta and a coke then stepped out to direct the riders behind us to the honesty bar.

We needed the break and washed down the pop with a great mozzarella sandwich. Our first Italian mountain meal. We catch team Bearbones a little further along and also see JJ and Cyril on the rough stuff.  By this point they are strangers but not for long as we repeatedly pass each other and by the top of the climb the statement, "just two more bends", had become a bit of a catch phrase.
"Can you make it look like I'm riding?" We meet JJ (Justin and John for the first time).

It's gravelly, rocky and dusty.  A lot of effort is going into staying upright as I have quite a lot of weight on the front bars.  We didn't realise we were leaving all the water behind at a bridge over a stream but manage to eek out everything we have until the top of the climb.  It takes a lot more time to get to the top than it does to write this sentence.

I have to force-feed Andrew a few times as he's flailing in the heat (he raced on Saturday) and I'm worried that he's drinking a lot but not ingesting enough calories.  There's a lot of swearing and pep talks and sitting in the shade with nothing but the buzz of bees and flies to listen to.  It's bliss and pain at the same time.

Peaks emerging from the haze. We'll be on that in an hour or so, enjoying a new valley
Everyone's a bit gobsmacked by the scenery.  Bearbones Stu takes the chance for rest/photo
A number of us roll over the top together.  I comment, "the descent must be a good surface because there's a fiat panda up here".  This just solicits the comment, "have you *seen* what the italians do to their cars?"

Summit bliss.  Helping a new friend ensure his headset is not on the piss.
He's right and we bounce down the descent.  It's epic and suddenly I am relieved I'm rocking a mountain bike with suspension and 2.5 inch tyres.  I leave an inner tube with Stuart from team Bearbones who has pinch punctured both inner tubes on his road bike.  Eventually we hit the tarmac where I nearly lose control as a few sunken holes kick my back wheel up in the air.  The hefty front wheel is still stuck to the ground and I kind of endo my way over it at 40 miles per hour.  Andrew thinks it's my sleeping bag bottoming out on my suspension but actually it's just my back tyre sliding about on the tarmac.

We have to break for a herd of goats crossing the road.
The castle (left) perched on the hillside above Cordove as the sun sets on Day 1
We finally roll into town at Condove as it's going dark.  There aren't any signs for campsites on the edge of town but there is a pizzeria with outside seating that doesn't seem to mind a couple of pretty skanky cyclists sitting outside enjoying the sunset.  Although we put on layers to keep the evening breeze off our bodies that were soalked in sweat 30 minutes ago, it's really very pleasant outside and when we reach the campsite, I'm padding about in my treasured Alpkit dry knickers, putting up the tent for our first camp.  It's a camping municipal without much in the way of facilities but a cold water wash using a sock as a sponge sees me relatively clean for the night time.

The glorious castle that we observed from the mountain side is illuminated for the evening and a midnight trip to the loo reveals the most incredible star-studded sky.  It's really feeling like a holiday now.

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