Author: sallymckenzieblog

Milano-San Remo – La Primavera…from Poggio!

After a nice shower and a bit of breakfast we continued on south.  Since we weren’t in a rush we took the ‘scenic route’ rather than the peage/motorway.

Part of the drive was quite nice but part was a bit drab – narrow winding valleys and not much greenery on the trees yet.  Also the gravel works on the river weren’t that attractive.

Making it to Imperia right at noon we took the coast road west along the Sea until turning off to go up to Poggio.

The car park at the top was pretty full but we managed to find the perfect spot – right near the fence and overlooking the Sea.

It was very windy so we didn’t spend much time outside, although I did take Mo for a short walk after lunch.  We also went to the cafe/bar a little later for a quick drink.

The bar is right at the corner where the riders will come from the crest of the climb, make a sharp left and start the descent to San Remo – we’ve watched the race from near that spot twice now, staying in the same car park overlooking it.

Race day was overcast but somewhat less windy.  There are only a few other campervans in the car park with us but it’s almost full – most of the cars were there yesterday so we assume the owners must live nearby and just leave their cars all the time.

Going early to the cafe we had a nice cappuccino, then a stroll through the town.

A couple of hours later another cappuccino, this time followed by a walk across the road to the wine store – the one with the taps coming out of the walls.  I opted for a ‘bag-in-box’ red that the lady said was dry and a bit rich but very good.

Partway through the morning many of the barriers were already up and the officious fellow with the whistle was already directing people here, there and everywhere.  Many amateur riders have been coming up, and there are definitely more folks around than the last time we were here – the 2020 race that was delayed to August because of the covid.

Since crowds were gathering we walked down to stake our spots fairly early, knowing we’d have an hour and a half or more wait.  I stopped at the very same spot as I did in 2020, and Colin continued down just past the next corner.

I saw a Bianchi bike above me and wondered if it belonged to a former Jumbo team rider as it had Jumbo Visma on the cross-bar.

I made friends with both the ‘official’ guy and the policeman that was nearest me.  Lots of folks were still coming up from places below and they eventually tied a rope across the opening I was sitting at.

The policeman made sure no one got in front of me, and ended up standing just down from my right shoulder.

I kept asking the official guy how long until the racers arrived and he gave me updates – they were way ahead of schedule because of a fierce tailwind.

The first rider passed at 4:37, followed closely by Pogacar, van der Poel, van Aert and Mohoric, with the peloton right behind.

Because it’s a sharp corner the riders lean into it and swing very wide to my side of the road.

By the time the last racer passed about 20 minutes later the race was long over in San Remo.  It was a sprint to the finish with Matej Mohoric coming out on top.

We tried to get into the bar to see any replays but it was so packed we didn’t bother until later when we were almost the only ones there enjoying a refreshing beverage.

Milano-Torino from San Martino Canavese

We placed our chairs at the side of the road just across from a campervan with a couple of very annoying barking dogs – ok it was ours.  The race approached at the early end of the predicted time.

As the official vehicles and motos just in front of the riders rounded the curve below us I saw a black car in one of the driveways start to move forward.  The fucking idiot partially entered the road and the nearest official car had to swerve to avoid broadsiding him, meaning that the moto nearest to that car had to swerve also.  If not for the excellent handling skills of the moto driver I would have been flattened by a skidding motorcycle.

I just sat there screaming obsenities as the first racers passed, having seen what had happened right in front of them, with the front end of the black car on the road.  There was a breakaway of three, followed in about two minutes by the whole peloton.

The driver of the black car that almost caused carnage stood beside his vehicle looking totally bewildered, having finally backed up into his driveway a bit out of the way because of all the oncoming traffic.

How can you possibly not be aware that a World Tour Race is coming through your town?  The oldest Classic there is – 103 years now!  There are signs everywhere about no parking and pink arrows and everything – how can you be that dumb?  In addition to being furious I was also extremely relieved that I hadn’t been crushed by a moto – what an asshole.

Shortly after the race had passed an ambulance roared by with lights flashing and siren on – a rider must have crashed on the downhill not long after going by us.  We hope he’s ok. 

We watched the end of the race on Colin’s phone – Cavendish won!  The first Brit ever in 103 editions – good for him!

We stayed at the roadside spot for awhile, moving later back to the place we’d spent the previous night (across from the cemetery).  I read in bed until I finished the book I was reading about the Roman legions and had another very early night, with Mo tucked in beside me.

It rained lightly much of the night and we got up to a grey day.   With a relatively short drive back to the fruit farm near Cavour we weren’t in any hurry, stopping in Pinerolo at a campervan dump and to restock with more water.

Settling in at Cascina Mombello I made a nice and tender beef stew for dinner.  As usual momma Maya, little Spreet and the big lab welcomed us.

From Papiano to San Martino Canavese – via Cavour

The next day was a day of rest, laundry and watching the final day of Tirreno-Adriatic as well as Paris-Nice on tv.  Winners of each were as expected – the two Slovenians, Pogacar and Roglic.

Pogacar won TA in rather convincing fashion, but Roglic needed a good effort from Van Aert to rein in one of the Yatesies on the final climb of PN.

Packing up again on Monday morning didn’t take long as we hadn’t completely emptied the campervan the other night.  Saying goodbye to Papiano once again we left under beautiful sunshine and a clear blue sky.

Without being in any super-great hurry we ended up continuing on all the way to Cavour.  As we got further and further north the sunshine disappeared behind the clouds and the rain started, but we made it to the fruit farm ok.

As usual the dogs were in the courtyard to great us – mama Maya and her little one Spreet (he’s at least five now but still smaller than his mama, and she’s tiny) as well as the young lab that they got a few years ago when the old lab died.

It rained most of the night but by the time we got up it had stopped.  After a nice shower and some breakfast we saw the older fellow (father, we think) approaching.  His english is much worse than my Italian, and I managed to convey that we were just finishing eating, then would get some water and be ready to leave in about an hour.  That seemed ok as he said he’d be in the courtyard and we could find him when ready so he could open the gates for us.

The farm must be doing ok as there’s a shiny new tractor in one of the outbuildings.  In addition to producing the fruit they also make it into jams, etc, have occasional lunches and dinners, and sometimes run a pre-school.  Accepting campers isn’t a huge part of their business, but we’ve enjoyed staying there several times now.

The first time for me was five years ago when I spent six or seven days there upon my return from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Colin came and picked me up and we went to Mt. Ventoux for the dedication of the Tom Simpson memorial.  Colin had know Tommy years ago in his riding days so it was quite special.

The drive to our next destination didn’t take too long as it’s only a bit north of Torino.  Very shortly after leaving the motorway we saw a pink arrow and it was easy going following the route from there to the small town of San Martino Canavese that we’d chosen to watch the race from the next afternoon.

We had a nice chicken and rice lunch and spent the rest of the day reading.  Relocating just a bit for the night we found a large flat area across from the cemetery – far enough off the main road that the traffic noise was much less.

I took a walk around the cemetery the next morning, and was just pondering the fact that many of the folks residing there had lived to nice old ages…

…other than the ones named at the two war memorials…

…when I saw a teddy-bear.  The baby only lived a couple of months, and the plaque was very touching, being from ‘Mamma and Papa’.

The Alps loom in the distance, still of course, covered in snow.

Mid-morning we went for a walk through the town looking for a cafe – there’s another war memorial next to the steps going up.

We didn’t find a cafe, but did come across barking dogs behind every second fence.

Having some time before the race arrives we took a short drive to the next decent sized town on the route, managing this time to find a nice cafe that served delicious Segafredo coffee – totally worth the search.

Back at San Martino we parked in an area right on the race route, and settled in to wait.  A police car pulled up to warn us that the road was going to be closed soon but we assured him it was ok – that’s what we’re parked here for.

Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 6 – Carpegna

Having driven so far the previous evening it was less than an hour to where we wanted to watch stage 6 from.  We passed very close by to San Marino – we could see the city itself perched on it’s hillside just to the north.  Going in error to the centre of the town of Carpegna we were very nicely asked to turn around by a local cop.

Eventually on the race route we only got to the base of the real climb where we were stopped by a barrier – they’re not letting any vehicles up the best part!  There were several campervans already parked on the wide verge but it felt a bit soft to us so we followed the other small road down a short distance – driving over a large patch of solid ice on the way – it’s still very cold up here.

We parked on the side of the road behind three other campervans and had another cup of tea.  I took a couple of short walks – it’s another very beautiful area.  At the foot of the steep part of the climb are several homages to Marco Pantani – he didn’t grow up in Carpegna, but he trained on the climb many times.

A farmer across the road has put up a ‘parking’ sign and over the next few hours his field became packed – at least sixty or more vehicles so I hope he has a good day.

We watched as hundreds of people trecked up the road towards the top – seeing so many fans making the effort was great.  Around 2:45 we grabbed our lawn chairs and cameras and made our own trek, although not to the top.  We stopped just after the barrier as it’s the first of 22 hairpins and the riders should slow at least a bit as they go by.

A breakaway of five, including Alaphilippe arrived at 3:17…

…and the peloton arrived just a minute later with Pogacar in blue right near the front.

The sprinters arrived in a large bunch only eight minutes later, then I decided to cross the road to shoot the second time around.

A half hour after the first arrival they made their second pass – this time a slightly larger breakaway, including, of course, Pogacar.

It took over twenty minutes for the last rider to pass us, and one of them dropped his chain rounding the corner – he was not happy!  Luckily he managed to get it back on, and with a push from a spectator got back going up the hill.

I must say a word about some of the ‘fans’ – I find many of them very disrespectful.  The riders are on the last few miles of a very long race, and the hundreds of spectators that had taken the time and energy to walk to the top of the climb were coming down in droves as the later riders were still coming up.

At one point the people walking down were taking up the entire road as riders were trying to dodge between them.  I shouted and swore a couple of times at the f’ing idiots, especially when they walked right in front of me when I was trying to get a shot.  I’ve now been to dozens and dozens of races, and can hardly remember a time when I haven’t stayed where I was and clapped and cheered until the very last rider had passed – just wish more people showed more respect.

Back at the campervan we had a little surprise, and I couldn’t stop laughing.  Henry had managed to drag the garbage bag out of it’s door-side container and had strewn the contents all over the floor – he’d chewed the crap out of the lid and yanked it off, then grabbed the bag and pulled until it came up and out.  And we had no doubt it was Henry and not Mo that did it, although she may have egged him on from her perch on the bench.

We made the drive back to Papiano in time to shower and head down to the bar where Antonio was having another festa.  John and Janet were just about to leave but we did have a quick chat.  Then we went inside for one drink while talking with Afka and Janpietro before getting our pork-in-a-bun to take home.

Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 5 – Monte Urano

Having spent another quiet night in the church parking area we left early in the morning to find a spot to watch stage 5 from.  It wasn’t too far – just back to the coastal peage and north a bit then west near Fermo.

Along the way we stopped at an Autogrill where they had full campervan facilities such as water, etc. which was very convenient.  Also nice clean washrooms and, of course, delicious cappuccino.

We chose our spot in a nice wide flat area at the edge of Monte Urano just near the top of one of the three climbs of the day.  There was a great view of a nearby town on the top of the next hill.

The farmer whose garage we’re in front of had to move his tractor, but was ok with us being there – he maneuvered past us with no problem.  After a nice lunch of spaghetti in cream sauce with salmon we waited a few hours for the race.

A truck pulled up at one point and erected small banners – we’re at the ‘500 meters to go’ to the top of the climb mark.  One other campervan joined us and wanted us to move a bit so they could pull in but we didn’t want to block the farmer’s access to his own garage.  No problem, though, as they just backed in behind us and were happy enough.

I lay down for a half hour rest and when I got up we had many new neighbours.  In addition to the other campervan there were now dozens of cars, including several team cars with folks preparing bidons, etc. for their riders.

At the house across the road from us was a lab that seemed quite excited by all of the extra people – he barked from time to time but not in an aggressive way – more like he wished someone would come over and pat him on the head.

Just ahead of the predicted schedule a breakaway of 12 or so riders arrived at 3:44, with the peloton in one large bunch 3 or 4 minutes back.

Even though we’re on a climb they passed at a very high speed and were gone in no time.

Because we hadn’t put the flags up we were able to leave almost as soon as the race had passed.  Heading again for the coast peage we drove north for a couple of hours, then west almost to San Marino.  We stopped before dark and pulled into a large parking area at the edge of a town along the road – not sure exactly which town but we’d made good progress towards our chosen area for stage 6.

Tirreno Adriatico stage 4 – Camera

Another chilly night, and having to ration water.  We spent a very frustrating few hours trying to find the nearest campervan dump and went up and down and around and around following signs – no dump, although we did see a bit of the local sites.

We finally got help from a couple of folks at an aire – an aire (or Sosta as they call them here) without water or dump facilities.  I think the couple work for the municipal recycling company, and they looked up on their phone and gave very clear directions on how to find the nearest place.

Finally we were able to empty water (etc. !) and take on water.  We then headed to a campervan place not far from Pisa to have the heating checked out so we don’t keep losing water at night.  The fellow said he’d be out in five minutes to have a look, but as soon as we returned to the campervan and did a final check the heating worked!  We did wait about fifteen minutes for the guy to come have a look over, but when he didn’t appear we left, and relocated a bit down the road to have lunch.

Refreshed, and with a bit of a drive ahead we were on our way again – southeast towards the Adriatic coast, going right past Perugia – so close to home, but we kept going on our way.

With night closing in we stopped at the town of Caldarola, in a very nice parking area just off the motorway.  It was nice and quiet and once again (becoming a habit!) had another early night.  I did read for a bit – Julia Child’s book ‘My Life in France’ – my sister gave it to me a few months ago and I’m really enjoying it.  And having the heat working meant no more freezing in the morning, or losing the water, and also – I get to do dishes with hot water – what a treat!

Another early start and we were on our way via the motorway/peage south towards the small town of Bellante, near Teramo.  After doing a loop of the next day’s race route we settled on a churchyard near the outskirts of the even smaller town of Camera.

It’s a quite beautiful area with small villages on every hillside, and overlooked by large mountains topped with snow.

We had a lovely roast chicken for lunch, with plenty left over for a cold meal as well as soup, which is after all, the best part of roasting a chicken.

A short walk down a nearby lane introduced us to many of the local dogs, and a couple of cats.

Also on the next hill a local flock of sheep…or should it be a flock of local sheep?

The morning of stage 4 was again beautiful and sunny, although the breeze was a bit chilly.

The race passed our spot twice, and in the first pass there was one leader, followed within a minute by a small chase group, then another small group containing Evenepoel, Pogacar and Ganna just behind.

The sprinters, including Cavendish, were another five minutes back.

Right on the predicted time schedule the race reappeared 29 minutes later, still with the lone breakaway rider but with the peloton back together and within sight of him.

We read later that Pogacar had won again, and in very convincing fashion too.

Lido de Camaiore for Tirreno-Adriatico ITT

Leaving the aire before 8:00 we headed north towards Lido de Camaiore, stopping along the way for a fabulous cappuccino at a highway rest stop.

We got to Camaiore in good time and drove along the Lido, passing several of the team buses in the best parking areas.

Most of the parking areas were taped off for the teams and other race officials but we came to a perfect place near the Hotel Joseph.

There were some other campervans there already so we figured it was a good place to stop.

After a bite to eat we went for a walk back towards the start of tomorrow’s ITT – it was a bit of a ways and there were no cafes open or anything.  We did enjoy the excercise and fresh air, however.

There are several teams staying at the Hotel Joseph, and the mechanics, etc. are all in process of washing the time trial bikes and everything.

There are all sorts of sculptures and art pieces along the Lido – some of them are quite nice and some of them a bit puzzling.

Also, because we’re so close to Carrara there’s lots of marble – some of the sidewalks are actually made of it!

After a very early night and a good quiet sleep we were up early again.  Wanting a cappuccino we walked north this time along the Lido, eventually asking a policeman where a cafe might be found.  

Following his directions we shortly were seated outside a very nice, and increasingly busy cafe at one end of a large plaza.

Across from the plaza were more sculptures, and a lovely long pier that was very well made with stainless steel handrails – quite impressive.

There was a fellow playing the harp partway down – I think I even recognized the song he was playing which was something Italian and classical that I don’t know the name of.  

The beach here looks excellent – very wide and flat with fine white sand.

For a few hours in the late morning most of the riders were doing re-con of the course, then the police motos and photo motos took their turns.

The first racer left around 2:00 – it’s a straight north ride for almost 7 km, then a hairpin turn and back south to the finish, so each rider passes us twice, once in each direction.  I got the Cav…

…a heli – what??  They’re alway sneaking into my shots…

…someone coming from the beach who didn’t care at all about the race…

…Alaphilippe…

As some of the riders finished they slowly rode back to their hotels – sometimes on the race road and sometime on the sidewalk.  At one point I looked up and coming towards me was Richie Porte!  I waved and smiled (not having time to take a photo) and he smiled back and said ‘Hi’! – almost the highlight of my day.  I also got Ganna…

…Evenepoel…

…and Pogacar…

A very fine day of race watching, followed by another very early night.

To Italy and Strade Bianche

Flights over weren’t too bad and passing security in Munich wasn’t a problem.  Both at my initial checkin at home and the guy at Munich airport were initially a little perplexed by my having two covid vaccine certificates – one from home last May and the other from France/EU in September.  In the end, perhaps because I had a swab test prior to leaving home it was all ok.

The only slight hitch was after I’d arrived in Rome as I waited an hour and a half for Colin to pick me up – I was starting to wonder if all was ok when I checked my ipad and saw I’d missed a facetime call from him.

Apparently I’d arrived at a different terminal than any of my previous trips – I was waiting outside terminal 1 while Colin was parked outside terminal 3.  The difference, I believe, is because my final flight from Munich was on Air Dolomitie, rather than Lufthansa, thus a different terminal.  In any case we finally connected and I was transported to Papiano.

The next morning we drove up to Pila, where our hair cutter now is – we found his new place no problem and both got cuts.  His space is brand new and looks very nice – we hope he does well.  Pila is larger than I expected, and looks like a lovely and prosperous town.

We met Janet and John in the bar later in the afternoon for a quick drink – so nice to see them again and get caught up.  The scaffolding has come down on both the bell tower and the apartment building below us.  For some reason the bell in the tower isn’t ringing yet, and the scaffolding has now been moved to the house right next to us.  We’re kind of happy we’re not going to be around while the rest of the construction is happening.

We got going early enough on Friday morning to stop for a quick cappuccino at the bar before hitting the road towards Siena.  We stopped at the same spot we’d watched the Strade Bianche from in 2020 – although that year it was held in August rather than early March because of the covid.

This time rather than sweltering in the heat we were near freezing.  We lost the water in the early morning because of the cold so had to do dishes, etc. with our bottled water.

No matter – we were in a beautiful place and awaiting our first race of the year – nothing to complain about.

Race day was mostly sunny, but very windy and cold.  I put on a double layer of pants, merino wool sweater, Icelandic wool hat, gloves – the whole shebang.  

We had a delicious chicken stir-fry with mushrooms and green beans for lunch while we waited for the race to arrive.

Several fans congregated at the side of our campervan as it cut the wind for them – I did the same until we saw the helis in the near distance and I finally relocated just a bit down the hill.

We had heard on the live feed that there had been some crashes but Alaphilippe and Pogacar were both at the front of the first bunch to pass.

We watched the end of the race on Colin’s phone – Pogacar won in very convincing fashion – he’s so amazing!

Shortly after the race had passed we returned to Asciano and the nice aire they have.  We partially filled up with water and had a very early night.  Once again it got very cold and we lost all of the water in the early morning.

Back to the Pap

Since returning to Papiano we’ve had a pretty quiet time.  We went on a bike ride a few days after getting here, but it’s the last one we’ll do together as Colin’s road bike – with the skinny tires – doesn’t do well at all on the terrible roads.

I’ve gone on several solo rides to some of my favourite places – Olmeto, Spina, Compignano, Mercatello, etc.  The weather’s been generally nice and sunny, but at times the wind has been rather fierce.

I’ve also gone a little further up the road to the east and into the hills that way – as far as the small town of Castelleone that I haven’t been to before.

There was a festa at the bar a few days after we arrived and it was very well attended.  We couldn’t believe how much food there was – 4 or 5 courses, including pasta al ragu, and more than one meat dish.  It was so nice to see everyone again, and we had some good conversation with John and Janet, as well as Afka (the Dutch lady).

Last Friday we finally took a short drive to Spello where we had lunch.

It’s a lovely little town with very scenic lanes, lots of artisanal shops, and many restaurants to choose from.

It looks like it might be a bit touristy at another time of year but wasn’t too bad at the end of October.

There is still work being done on both the bell tower and the ‘apartment’ building below us.  They’ve begun removing the scaffolding from the bell tower but it isn’t likely to be in use again until near Christmas.  The apartment will take a lot longer – the government is spending almost 1 million euros to fix the damage from the 2016 earthquake, and they’ve completely gutted it.

I’ve been practising making pies – not dessert ones, but meat ones.  Colin had seen a recipe in a magazine when we were still in France and the first one I tried was steak and mushroom.  It turned out pretty well, so I moved on to chicken pie – I roasted a whole chicken first, then peeled the meat off and made the pie – another success.  The last experiment was salmon and leek – I’m rather pleased with the results!

There was another festa at the bar this past Sunday – Monday was a holiday here so no problem to have a slightly late evening.  This one was more low-key, with pork buns rather than a sit-down dinner, but again nice to mingle with the locals.

I’ve spent hours in the last few days trying to sort out paperwork, etc for my journey home.  Air Canada sent some info on Friday and since then I’ve been very busy.  First I had to schedule a ‘molecular covid test’, which I had this morning.  It was the one involving a very long swab poked way up the nose, although I must say it wasn’t quite as bad as the one I had in France in the summer.

Then I had to fill out a very long thing online for entry to Canada and it failed time after time.  I finally gave up today and downloaded an app that actually worked.  Hopefully they’ll let me pass with no problem – I would hate to be stuck in Toronto for 14 days!

We had our neighbour Angelo over for lunch today – he’s a very nice person and we had a lovely visit.  Chairman Meow is his cat…

Il Lombardia – Race of the Falling Leaves

We got going to Selvino nice and early so there was no chance of getting caught behind a road closure.  The drive up the twenty hairpins was a bit hairy at times but the number of amateurs going up wasn’t too bad.  The road crew we’d seen the other day had done a pretty good job, and we couldn’t see too many bad spots on the surface.

We settled on a parking lot a very short walk from the main road through the town that was part of the route.

Taking the dogs with us on a walk to get a coffee we noticed that a great many of the locals also had dogs – every one of which Henry barked at if he saw them.

We returned later to the same cafe/restaurant for lunch, which was very nice and had wonderful views back towards Orezzo and beyond.

After lunch we settled the dogs back in the car and got ready for the race.  On the way to the spot we’d chosen to watch from we passed an Israel Startup Nation team car and I immediately went over to them.  I told them I was Canadian and showed them the flag on my backpack, as well as the bidon I use that is the old Israel Cycling Academy one.

I said that Michael Woods (Canadian!) rocks and they said ‘maybe it will be him today’.  They then gave me a new ISN bidon and I was happy!

As usual we knew when the first rider was approaching…

…and it was Pogacar!..

…all alone in front, with a local Italian rider not far behind…

…and then a group of eight that included world champion Julian Alaphilippe, Vuelta a Espana winner Primoz Roglic, former world champion Alejandro Valverde, and – Michael Woods!

I was shocked at how fast they were all going – they had just finished the last of several very difficult climbs just over 20 km from the end of a very long race and they literally whizzed by us.

A few minutes later another small group arrived that included Daniel Martin, who is retiring from pro cycling at the end of this race – we’ll be sad to see him go…

After the last rider had passed we scooped another bidon – this one from Bahrain, whose car had parked very near us.  They had a bunch of bidons ready to hand out but since we’re so close to the finish they weren’t going to be needed so several fans got lucky.  We then headed back to the bar/restaurant and saw the last few minutes on their large tv.

The locals were all, of course, cheering for the rider from Bergamo so I was rather subdued in cheering when Pogacar sprinted for the win.  To be honest I also would have been happy if Masnada had won instead.

Another wonderful il Lombardia – one of our favourite races.  One thing that we discussed at length later was the behaviour of the eight ‘chasers’ – it seemed that rather than try to catch Pogacar and Masnada and have a 10-man sprint for the win they were content to play catty-mousey and ride for third – kind of disappointing.  Other than that, though, it was a thrilling race through some of the most beautiful countryside around.