Putting the holiday in “ Cycling Holiday”
By Tom Allford
My European riding adventure is now into its fifth week. Week five brings a change of pace from the continuous racing of Belgium, moving down to the sunshine if Italy for a little “rest”.
The word “rest” could be very loosely used to describe our training week on the banks of Lake Como. The spectacular views of the lake and mountains were complimented by almost flawless weather for the whole week. Food in Italy is obviously hard to fault, so no comment on that, or how much was consumed. The one point of interest worth your reading and my writing was the training!
After a month of flat, fast racing in Belgium, some mountains and long days were well over due for the crew, and we got what we wanted.
The roads that twist and turn around the shoreline of the lake were, admittedly pretty average. They were barley wide enough for a car let alone the trucks and busses that attempt the gauntlet of broken wing mirrors and traffic jams. They were slow and tedious to navigate.
But take one single turn up any of the towering mountains and onto a climb, then it fast became one of the best training grounds in the world. Our riding was less of planned structured intervals, and more of an unplanned exploration.
One of the first proper rides we did was across the opposing side of the lake, to then climb one of the more famous roads – up to the Madonna del Ghisallo. This is an elaborate “Cycling Church” and museum of cycling atop a reasonably challenging climb. The ride up was less social and more of a Strava hunting smash-fest, but this road having been often used for bigger races put the KOM’s out of reach, so it was just self punishment for the sake of pleasure. That being said, the view and the museum were well worth it. The museum was staked with priceless pieces of cycling history, from old bikes and kit, to a wall of signed winners pink jerseys spanning decades. Well worth the trip.
While on the topic of worthy climbs in the region, the descending of these things is worth a mention. It is a slightly more lazy part of the sport, but just so enjoyable when it all comes together. Some of the downhill’s we encountered through our training week were long and fast, 25km brake pad destroying drops. Others were just sheer cliff faces negotiated in the classic Italian way – super narrow and with steep switchbacks. After sweating up a storm grinding up these things, locking and loading with your mates to bomb down is as refreshing as it is exciting.
Another memorable ride from the week was our three-man expedition to Switzerland. Its not really as ambitious as it sounds, the Swiss border being a stone throw from Como. Anyway, up over the range and around the banks of Lake Lugano, and onto some Swiss bergs. Hardly much different to any other, still long steep and challenging, although there was a noticeable increase in road quality and the regularity of icy streams for bottle refills. Oh and for all the Strava hunter type people, Nibali trains often in the area, so fat chance.
Moral of the Lake Como story is this; Italy is an amazing place to burn in some killer tan lines and put a hole in the worlds gelato supply.