Day 1

Stra to Mantua

Distance:

81 miles (113 total) / 131 km (181 total)

Elevation gain:

1,955 feet (2,175 total) / 596 m (663 total)

Route

Ok, this is tough. Joking and bravado aside this is tough. People that know me prepare yourselves: I was wrong, and I admit it. I thought this daily rate was relatively easy to achieve and we could do it quicker. Thankfully Steve knew better and we’re doing it over 20 days. We trained hard, really hard, for this trip but nothing could have prepared us for what we encountered yesterday

My right elbow is an issue, but it is feeling stronger each day, but the main problem is the heat. We set off early when it was a ‘cool’ 28°c, the middle of the day was mid 30′s. Climbing with panniers was sapping our energy fast. We only had 1 climb to do, and the gradients weren’t that steep so we weren’t daunted by it. When we were almost at the summit we discovered the road had had a landslip and was closed, we wouldn’t have been able to walk around the construction works let alone take bikes. We asked a passing local for directions (losing 10 man points was the least of our worries!) and set off on a detour. It started ok but soon became too rocky to ride on, this was mountain bike territory. We walked down a fair way, losing a lot of the work we’d put in, and then luckily found another path. It went up, then up, and up again. For only the second time ever I pushed my bike up a hill, only the last part, but pushed nonetheless, gutted!

When back on the road we had a long descent to rest on before hitting the flat open roads where we aimed to make up lost time. All was going well until a snapped a spoke in my rear wheel (on the drive side and we didn’t have enough tools to fix it ourselves). We thought luck was against us again and limped on to try and find a town to get it fixed. As luck would have it we were only a couple of miles from Cologna Veneta where, after asking several locals, managed to find the only bike shop in the area. He didn’t open until 3:30, but by the time we found the shop we only had 5 minutes to wait. The bike was fixed! We couldn’t have found a better mechanic, helpful, quick and cheap! We could finally get back on track and so we continued.

Our only problem now was water, or the lack of it. Our route kept us away from larger towns where possible to avoid traffic, but that also kept us away from shops. Running almost empty we found a corner shop at the right time and replenished all our bottles and carried on. We got to the hotel just after 7 where they couldn’t have been more helpful, secure parking for the bikes, free wifi and I was even given an ice pack for my elbow. By the time we’d showered, changed and found somewhere to eat it was bedtime. I’m writing this on Tuesday morning at 4am. We want to get away early today, getting to our next destination, 90 miles away, needs to be done out of the heat as much as possible. Hopefully today will be incident free!

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