Saturday 30th July|
A very early start. My alarm went off at 3:30am, jerking me out of sleep with a curse – I rarely use an alarm these days, and it took me a moment to work out why I was being woken up in the middle of the night! Still, no traffic on the roads meant a fast easy run to Luton airport, where I meet Tim and Tom (who, coming from Birmingham, had had an even earlier start at 2:30) and James. By the time we got on the plane, Matt and Alex had also arrived, leaving our team just two short – Matthew and Shannon would be meeting us in Italy. Our 6:30 flight to Milan was half an hour late leaving, but no worries, we had all day to get to Bolzano…… All the bikes arrived safely, and eventually we had our three hire cars sorted out – almost went pear shaped for James and I when our reservation hadn’t been transferred from Rome (where we had originally intended to fly to for the race in Umbria), but fortunately they found us a vehicle, a little bus-like Opel Agila, but as long as the bike boxes would fit inside (they did) we were happy. We set off in convoy, with Alex leading, but although Matt was initially behind us, he quickly disappeared…. Thankfully he found us at the first services, having had a slight diversion. Time for lunch – even Italian service station food is really good, though being a bit of a (well organised) cheapskate, I’d brought sandwiches from home….. Back onto the Autostrada, and a clear run through to Verona, followed by a slight backtrack, before picking up the route to Bolzano. Where it all started to go a bit wrong – we were travelling on the busiest holiday in Italy, and the traffic was horrendous. Stop-start, crawl, stop. I was getting sleepy part way along, so James and I used the next stop to swap drivers. But eventually we made it, though Alex had got separated in the traffic. Some messing about and getting lost later, and we finally all found the signing on for the race. First problem – they only take cash and the nearby machine wasn’t working…. We managed to scrape together the required 900Euro for the six of us, leaving us pretty much broke, got registered, and headed to the supermarket to stock up on supplies – another non-functioning ATM, but okay with plastic inside. Time was getting on by now, and we had to try and find our accommodation, which was a chalet Matt had booked on the internet, about 30km away up the mountain. With nothing resembling a decent map between us, and confusing Italian/German signposts (being so close to the Austrian border, German is very commonly spoken and all the signs are bilingual), we took several wrong turns before finally getting on the correct road and climbing up the pass on a very tight twisty road. A little too tight for a very tired Matt, who lost concentration and smashed his door mirror on a protruding sign. Whoops. But my mistake could have been worse – when we stopped to confer at the summit of the pass, I reversed into Alex’s open door (couldn’t see out the back ‘cos of the bikes); luckily it wasn’t fully open or I would have ripped it off! By now it was getting towards 8pm, and we were all very tired and stressed. We decided that the chalet was going to be too far away and too long a drive to do every day for a week, and decided to try and just find somewhere nearer Bolzano for the night, then worry about the rest of the week later. We drove back down to a promising looking village, and after asking at about ten places, finally found some with rooms free – James and I at one B&B, the other four at the other. We just had enough cash left to pay….. Matt and Shannon were getting near Bolzano now too, so we called them to let them know to find their own place too. 9pm, and although we had food, we had nowhere to cook. The village had a Festa on though, so we walked down the steep hill to the centre and found a cracking pizzeria which handily took plastic, and feasted on pasta and pizza, sitting outside on a warm, slight muggy night. It had been roasting all day actually – up to 38 degrees according to the car thermometer, toasty! I put my bike together before bed, but even after a cool shower it was hard to sleep – the heat was combined with a loud rock band at the Festa to make it difficult. Ah well.