By Clara Hughes
Today Ally and I set out for another bicycle adventure in Italy. After studying the Strava map from yesterday’s ride I felt pretty confident I knew the route to improve upon our surprisingly fun outing. I had it all planned and got a little cocky I think because after only 5 minutes I had us going the wrong way with no way over the train tracks. Which was precisely when we met our knight in shining armor, Luigo. Well, maybe he wasn’t really a knight and his cycling kit was bright red not shining steel, but our man Luigi did certainly come to the rescue.
He flipped a u-turn and started speaking to us in Italian. We told him we didn’t understand. I tried spanish, then french but no luck. Luigi was true green-red and white Italian. He kept talking and motioned a ‘come with me’ sign. Ally and I agreed it might be fun and thus, Luigi, a complete stranger and fellow cyclist became our tour guide for the day.
First stop was the castle. There’s an entry fee into the grounds of the magnificent castle in the middle of the city we stay in Italy for these few days. Luigi was convinced visitors such as us two girls should be exempt of paying. He really wanted us to see his castle. We waited as he asked everyone and anyone to let us in. In Italian. At least we think that’s what he was doing.
He was pretty disappointed being denied but soon lit up as we cruised up through the small city into the hills to the north. He took us up and over the climb we could not for the life of us figure out how to get to the day before and all along rambled and smiled in Italian. I had intervals to do and could hear Luigi’s heartrate monitor beeping profusely when the pace went high. I have to admit feeling a little worried as our buddy was at least in his 60′s, but damn strong. Thoughts of a doctor saying ‘don’t go too hard this beeping is to tell you to slow down!’ ran through my head.
Up and over the pass we went saying Ciao to all the cyclists we passed. Another older man rode with us and attacked. I went with him on the flat/downhill section and it appeared he was giving all he was worth to drop me. Not sure because he also did not speak english like Luigi but the body language was there. I pulled through when he slowed to continue and interval and am sure he thought I was trying to drop him.
And so the ride went. At one point Luigi, towards the end of the ride, really needed a break and was trying to convince us in Italian that we all really needed a coke, and I managed to explain I still had ’4×1′ intervals to do uphill….’ He motioned to a restaurant and signalled he’d be waiting for us after the intervals.
And off I went hammering again, with Ally cruising at her chosen pace behind. Finally I turned around and started to descend back down to Ally then Luigi. Which was a few switchbacks when I not only found Ally…and Luigi…..but 3 other boys riding with Ally up the hill! Ally, yes, of course Ally would be riding with a group of guys escorting her up the hill. She had the biggest grin on her face and I had to laugh. They all turned around and we all went to the restaurant to have a coke/coffee/take some photos stop.
Too fun. Only in Italy. Yes, only in this land where people LOVE to ride they just LOVE LOVE LOVE to ride their bikes and are oh so passionate for the sport. These guys made our day in Italy. We laughed so much because of the random sincere kindness of strangers.
Apparently, as well, Luigi, all 65 years of him, was quite disappointed to discover I was happily married. Ally said he was crushed. Poor guy. I guess he likes big strong girls haha….
And, after all this, we did stop at the castle with our crew of Italian men, and they did let us in to take a peek.
All in a day on the bikes in Italy. Gotta love this country!