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Sportive blog: Madeleine's Italian adventure

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Published: 16 October 2013
Blogger: Madeleine Iafrate

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I hope you’ve had a good summer holiday. If you’re lucky, you might have a super understanding family or partner who has accepted the fact that you’d be a nicer person the rest of the year if they let you go on a little tour of say, the alps with your bike. But, if you’re super lucky, like me, your family can be persuaded into driving a van around a foreign country as support!

For those of you who have noticed that I have an unusual surname, it’s because my great granddad moved to England from a small village in Italy. It was imperative that we visited the place where “all the Iafrates are from”, and my uncle Marcus had planned an epic trail through central Italy.

Surprisingly for me, it seems that not all the mountains in Italy are at the top. Day two in particular, looked tough, as the route profile just ascended solidly for 60 km, clocking up about 2,500m vertical height with no rest!

Practice for such a climb came on day one however, as I got my first European hairpin style climb out of the way. I’d learnt early on that any signage beginning in ‘Monte’ was bad news for the legs.

On dreaded day two I predictably bonked, so I had my strawberry cheesecake energy gel and being a responsible adult I pocketed the wrapper. The flies liked this alot, spurring me to try and go the extra bit faster to leave them behind!

The next couple of days were very pretty thanks to Marcus’ talent for directing the route through the most scenic national parks I have ever seen and we were very lucky that the sun wasn’t too hot!

That’s because I was initially worried about getting horrific tan lines (I am my mother’s daughter after all), but I barely even got a tan thanks to the routine slathering of factor 30. I missed out on the ride through Rome because after three days of challenging cycling I fancied the broom wagon for a day instead of 160 km.

On day two I would have to ascend solidly for 60 km, clocking up 2500m with no rest! Practice for such a climb came on day one however, as I got my first European hairpin style climb out of the way. I’d learnt early on that any signage beginning in ‘Monte’ was bad news for the legs.

The last day’s cycling was a tricky route because we had to get out of Rome on some pretty rough and busy roads. I can safely say that I did not enjoy the first half an hour, but you take the rough with the good when road cycling! We met our wonderful van support team for a coffee on a busy road and called it a day after 100k to go and rest at a yoga retreat for our last night – not quite the same as the youth hostels I’ve become used to on club trips!

There’s so much more to be said for cycling in Italy – the gradients were much easier yet longer climbs, and some of the roads are stunningly quiet because of new roads replacing the ‘old’ ones, but for some reason we barely saw any cyclists! In fact, I think there were more prostitutes than cyclists in particular places.

There’s also so much thanks that needs to go out to our loving families who put up with moving from hotel to hotel each day in a sweaty van dragging around our spare bike parts… If you have someone who loves you enough to do this, you should count your lucky stars! Or at least buy them dinner and/or flowers… (I know my mum will like this bit when she reads it)!

Madeleine will be back on Wednesday October 30, where she’ll be talking about her first experience using British Cycling’s Sportive Training Plans.

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