Towns: Fano, Bellochi, Calcinelli, Calmazzo, Fossombrone, Urbino
The customary dipping of the rear wheel in the Adriatic sea - the start of the journey west.
MAY 13, 2007:
DAY 2 PHOTO GALLERY
If Day 1 put a smile on everyone's faces, Day 2 quickly turned it into a grimace. Thank heavens the medieval splendor of our destination town, Urbino, made everyone forget about the climbing immediately before.
"It's not really any harder than any other day, it's just because it's the first day," said Dana.
Things started out chipper with a dipping of our rear tires in the Adriatic, something I've never really bothered to do, but made for a great picture - as long as you don't get sand in your rear hub.
As the week wore on, we all became stronger, but those of us who never train, or treat the first day of any tour as the first day of training, like yours truly, were taken by surprise. I found my legs completely devoid of energy at mile 36, despite the bottomless top up of energy food dispensed from Dana's wicker basket.
And the heat. "This heat is not characteristic of this time of year," said Andreas. "We had no snow."
I was told that Italy was best in May, by June you can toast foccacia on your helmet, but thanks to global warming, everything is being dialed backwards. At this rate, drizzly Eugene Oregon will soon be destination for snowbirds.
Every day of the trip carried options to do an extra loop, or 'extra loop-e' as people started to say for some strange reason. Loop-e is not even an Italian word.
I decided to do today's extra loop-e. This involved a pleasant climb of an additional 7 miles, up onto a serene ridge with medieval hill towns popping up in the distance like a fairy tale. We pedaled up into the cobbled town of Barchi which has a clever sundial. Well, mostly clever - it could not distingish between normal time and daylight saving.
One fabulous feature of climbing in Italy is the sweeping hairpin descents. Dana lectured us on the correct way to descend so as not to end up a statistic - steer with your hips, weight on the outside leg as your corner, grip the top tube with your thighs ... except Bike Friday doesn't have a top tube. You have to use the long nose of the seat for that.
Before leaving on this trip our NYC dealer David Lam loaned me a special U-shaped saddle, one of a slew that came out after research suggested the traditional seat could 'ruin your love life'. Since I have nonesuch to ruin, I was more interested in seeing if a noseless seat would prolong riding comfort beyond that 50 mile marker or so. However, I decided not to risk the combo of a toptubeless Friday AND a noseless saddle on Italy's hairpins, and will have to report on this saddle at another time.
After a day of climbing we arrived at the hill town of Urbino, and the four star Albergo San Domenico, a fabulous old courtyard edifice with polished floors and shuttered windows.
It is exhilarating to be pedaling through twisty, medieval stone walled lanes to a castle-like hotel, instead of the more familiar drive past stripmalls to a Motel 6.
After cleaning up we hiked up those twisty cobbled lanes to the site of our first italian lesson - on a grassy hill high above the main square of Urbino. No wonder the Italians are healthy. I can't remember a word of the lesson, conducted by Andrea, but I remember thinking, school should have been like this ...
The evening meal was at a local restaurant and featured a dish I will never forget - large fresh egg noodles with porcini mushroom ... still nursing a strange tummy, I thought, what the hell ...
A little ritual takes place after dinner - the awarding of the 'blue caps'. Two Italian style cycling caps are awarded by the current holders to their peers each night, Sharpied with a dedication. I was awarded one by Wendy for 'being so sick but smiling all the time and never complaining.' Sheesh, I thought I was complaining, judging by the number of Tums, Roll Aids, and Emergen-C's I managed to collect from sympathizers. The other was awarded to Sandra, who had already sussed out the shoe scene and arrived at dinner wearing sharp white and gold leather sneakers.
Consider this an insider fashionista tip for 2008 - you read it here first.
Italian Lesson on top of a grassy knoll above Urbino ... beside locals drinking wine and eating Pecorino.
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