Tuesday, August 10, 2010

..and we're back.. Eurotrip Day 7 part 2

Sorry loyal fan for the delay in part two.  My excuses in order are apathy, distraction, heat wave, something better to do and something else I forgot.

So, upon rejoining SS38 headed north from Grosio,   buoyed by the notion of my own wee getaway sticks heaving my ass up the badass Mortirolo I churned on up towards Sondalo where as mentioned in previous post I made a stop at a grocery store and picked up a few thousand calories.
1.5litres of sugary lemon drink, a chocolate milk thingy, a few bananas, two apples, an appoximation of a  strudel and a couple other intriguing looking pasteries.
Lunch on  the lawn outside.  it was fine.  (no cappuccino though)
Two bananas and an apple where reserved for 'on route'.

About halfway to Valdisotto I was gifted an extra little climb courtesy of road construction and a detour straight up the adjacent mountain.    It started like this;
18% right off the hop.  Killer.

Which was entirely unnecessary.   I won't say unwelcome because in retrospect it just added to the mentalness of the days overall numbers and without this detour the days elevation may even have totaled something less than 15,000ft. so it's a good thing for that detour.  It'd be a shame to come all this way and not cross the 15k ft threshold in a days ride.  no sir, that just wouldn't do.

Rolling through and on up to Bormio I stopped for my second official lunch of the day.  A big german black bread & sausage sandwich with heaps of senf, a pair of large apfelsaftschorle's and a cappuccino.   Magic.
Restored to an appropriate level of caffeination the map and clock were consulted.   It was still early and the Passo dello Stelvio was only a stiff 21km away so I quickly consulted with myself and agreed with myself that 21k was no biggie.
only the second highest sealed surface pass in the Alps. What could go wrong?

The first 5km went well.  A spirited pace was on offer courtesy of a brief rest, calories and caffeine.  (my sweet angel of amphetamine)  Kilometers 5 through 12 were pretty good also but the pace started to wane and by km12 was reduced to my usual plodding.  A banana disappeared.  The sugary lemon drink was going quickly.
From 12 though 17 the going started to get tough.  The getaway sticks didn't have much left.   The supply of sugary lemon drink was getting low.   (I'd left Bormio with three bottles. Two lemon, one water)
Some stops were made for picture making.    ..and bewildered wonderment at what the hell I thought I was doing.

Kilometers 17 through 21 are a bit fuzzy.  I don't remember much.  Not too many photos were taken. What that means is that my awareness was being directed inward as my personal universe started to collapse.  I recall remembering the apple in my jersey and positively attacking it and sucking on the core afterward.  I remembered also a mars bar and made like a woochipper on that too.   Besides those memories I don't have much to say about the last 5k other than it was really tough.  It did pitch up a bit more but the challenge was just that yours truly was coming apart and was held together by having no awareness of any other option other than to go forward.
But, of course I did manage to drag my ass up to the top whereupon official lunch no.3 was had.   And, I don't remember anything at all about it other than it was a largish sandwich of some sort washed down with two large Cokes and more cappuccinos.
Of course I snapped a few photos here for evidence, bought a dashing Stelvio jersey, and headed back to down a couple km to join up with the Umbrail pass back into Switzerland.

Umbrail was stunning.  The road itself was beautiful and not just because I was pointed down for the first time of the day.

Part of the Umbrail is unpaved.  It's a strange thing. The top is paved, the bottom is paved but the middle not. No matter though. The dirt surface is smoother than tarmac.  When I arrived in the little town at the bottom I secured a room at the Hotel Crusch Alba. (White Cross Hotel) an old almost castle type dwelling which has been in the hostess's family for seven generations.  The building itself is much much older, something in the neighborhood of the late 12th century if I remember correctly.   wacky.

My original route plan was to start the day in Bormio climb Stelvio from the Bormio side, backtrack a few km peel north down the Umbrail, Swiss side to Val Mustair ride around Piz Chavalatcsh and climb Stelvio again from the Prato side.  The Prato side is the super dramatic side with 48 switches all stacked like a great huge lightening bolt that would make Zeus envious.   But, alas that side of the pass was still closed when I arrived in Bormio.   This factored heavy into my decision to continue up Stelvio today rather than stay in Bormio.
So, while I've got Stelvio in the books, the bucket list demands the Prato side climb so that with the Gavia, Susten, Nufenen, Oberalp, Maloja and a few more jewels justify a return trip.

Numbers for the day; 108km with 4730m vertical.  Thats over 15,500ft.  ..mental.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Eurotrip Day 7 part 1

Big day. Awaking to another brilliant day of just the kind of weather I like.  Hot, Hazy, Humid.  An uncharacteristically early start had me on the road shortly after 9am having watched several riders go by me while I loaded my packs onto the bike out front of the hotel.
(the hotel was right on the main street leading out of town towards Bormio)  It was early Sunday morning and watching a couple small groups ride past in the course of 5min I had visions of stronger, fitter, faster riders blowing past me all day.   I thought, "hey, just like home!"

So, on the bike cruising up the false flat from Tirano towards Bormio; (SS38 from Tirano to Bormio is entirely uphill) I was feeling pretty good enjoying the nice temps and the colour cast of the early day sunlight.  I'd been looking at the map and toying with an idea through the night and with such a great day, I decided I just couldn't ride *past* the mortirolo.   I didn't then, and don't now, know when I'd next get a chance to heave myself at such a (in)famous climb so when I got close to Mazzo di Vallentina I started looking to get close to the hill.  From what I'd read the climb is not obvious, and easily missed as it's so narrow and seems to be not much more than a  driveway between houses.  It wasn't too hard for me to find though. I just followed another cyclist until he disappeared into the trees above me.  At the bottom I stopped to snap a photo, noticed that the cyclist I had followed was about 100 meters into the climb and already out of the saddle rocking the bike slowly under him about. ..yikes!  The profile gives a hint as to why this is considered to be one of the hardest climbs in europe.  Relentless doesn't begin to cover it.
10min into the climb and I'd already stopped twice for not being able to keep up with the energy demands my legs and lungs were making..  I was suffering badly. My cadence was so slow on occasions that the bike practically came to a stop between each pedal stroke before lurching forward  to the next pause.  I probably would have laughed but for the mild anxiety borne of wondering if this was going to get much harder.  I'll not carry on about how hard it was.  If you turn pedals for fun, the chances are you, like most of us, find beauty in suffering so I must be mindful of sounding like it was unpleasant. Quite the contrary. The opportunity for a climb like this is a gift.   ..but it hurts like fuck too.  :)

A lifetime later (about 10-15min) I came to the first numbered switchback.  #26. I figured if they were equally spaced and I kept this pace I'd finish sometime in August.   But, I was starting to feel a little better.  My speed was still I think below 10km/h  but my legs had by now commandeered all the blood and oxygen in my system so my brain didn't have enough resources to formulate complaint.
 It was win-win..

Around this point I had been hit with a few really pitchy sections and while they knocked me back a bit I'd crawled through them, but the view upon clearing the first "official' switchback was nuts.   I think this is perhaps the first 18% part, and while the pic doesn't capture it, it simply looked like a wall to me. The effect of the narrow path and the grade was almost claustrophobic.
Clawing up that section I could hear the tire being torn up by the road.

This is first climb I've ever done that was painted up from being part of a grand tour.  In this case the Giro had passed through a week previous and the paint was fresh.  It was a really special feeling to be climbing past painted 'Ballero vive Pirata for ever', 'presente sempre e coppi' the many fresh signs for Basso, older paint for Bugno and lots more.

By the time I reached the Pantani memorial, I was actually feeling pretty good.   Shortly after I was passed by this gentleman who dieseled past in good form.  I hung on a few length back of him for awhile but he left me handily the next time it got stupid steep.   He was however, waiting for me at the top with a congratulatory 'five on the side' hand slap that was really nice.  He also took the photo of me with the sign.  Regrettably we could not converse as the only language we shared was the bike.  Nevertheless, I count him as a friend.

From the top after a short rest I headed back down the way I came as far as the intersection that would peel north to deliver me to Grosio, a little further up the SS38 from Mazzo di Vallentina.   As brutal as the climb up mortirolo is, you have to go down to appreciate how totally mental it is.  I roached off way more brake pad on that one stretch than two full seasons of riding would do around here.  You absolutely can not let the bike run for more than a few seconds because the acceleration from the grade is freaky. The road is only about 8-12 feet wide and you're doing well to carry mid 20's through the switches, so from exit of turn, off the brakes and in an  instant you're hitting mid 60's and desperate on the brakes to get back down to the 20's to throw it into the switch.  
I absolutely love me a good descent but this was kinda bewildering. Actual brake pump on a road bike.  (wtf!)

Anyway, I rolled back onto the SS38 and headed north buoyed by my having knocked off a biggie climb from my bucket list.  Stopped a grocery store, plowed in a couple thousand calories and carried on up towards Bormio.

To be cont..


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Eurotrip Day 6

So Day 6 I leave the Lakes area and head east toward Stelvio.  My plan was to jump a ferry from Lecco to Colico knocking off around 45km and enjoy my last little taste of the rich and famous lifestyle.      Or the nearest approximation to "rich n' famous" I could make given I was travelling with 2 pair of socks and 1 pair of underwear.  ..but they're wool so it's cool.

anyhoo.  Best laid plans of mice and men, and it turns out that I couldn't get a ferry from Lecco. So I rode to Bellagio and the only ferry that goes to Colico doesn't take bikes so I'm crossing from Bellagio straight across to Varenna and riding up the lake.  Which was really fortunate because it was stunning.  My third day riding around  this lake and I'm still rendered slack jawed at the beauty.  Riding through gallerias, cruising along enjoying it all. It was bliss.
Colico came too soon.

Because from Colico to Tirano was frankly unremarkable.  The road itself was boring like trainer miles.  Dead straight road. Baking hot sun uninspired vistas and false flats.    ..it's probably half nice but I've been spoiled rotten by this point and it seemed pretty bleh to me.  I was however, on the SS38 del Stelvio, and that was cool since this was a Stelvio inspired trip.  I stopped for lunch no.2 in Sondrio and considered stopping for the night there but decided to carry on to Tirano. Again, very good fortune.  Tirano is a lovely little town.  Only a few km from the Swiss border and is also the southern terminus of the Rhaetian railway Bernina express to St Moritz.

Rolling into Tirano I did the by now usual rudderless routine of aimlessly riding around for a bit until I found a hotel.  There was some sketchyness on account of there being a bunch of tour buses in town and the first couple hotels were full but I was directed to the Hotel Stelvio where I got a room for only 39 euro!   The room was tiny.  I mean, cottage loft where only the wee kids sleep tiny.   But for 39 bones it was a steal.

The numbers for this day are pretty light in keeping with the intended recovery of the knee.  Distance 111km with 1270 meters vertical.
A good set up for tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Eurotrip Day 5

Day 5 Has me waking in Lecco on Lake Como.   Worried about the swelling in my knee and pain up my i.t. band.   I rubbed about 2oz. of arnica into it last night, did every stretch I know and woke to thinking 'hey, it doesn't feel too bad'   Then I did a slight squat and thought "fuck.  I might be ending my tour on Lake Como." which was really not part of the program, so I resigned myself to another easy day to hopefully let it settle down.

The upside to that is that Lake Como is beautiful beyond words or pictures.  Nevertheless I'll post some mediocre pics anyway.

Not having planned or thought of anything specific for my unscheduled rest day on Lake Como, I doddled a little at breakfast, considered renting a kayak or racing canoe and getting out on the water for a bit, but in the end I decided to go with what I know and jumped on the bike.  I was just too curious to see if my leg was going to be a problem.   About 15km down the road toward Bellagio I was at the base of one of the climbs to Ghisallo and figured what the hell.  I'll use the climb as a little test, so up I went, and things felt ok.  The climb was beautiful. not too hard but hard enough to slow down the cadence and make me work.  I found that with the slower cadence of climbing I could focus on engaging some lesser developed muscles (glute-meds) and consciously track my knee better and the pain stayed in the background.  Before long I was at Ghisallo and elated that I was there and that my leg didn't feel much worse than when I started.

Ghisallo is incredible.

why wouldn't I be in the same frame as Coppi??

It could be said that every cyclist should  try to make it to Ghisallo.   I'd go so far as to call it a Mecca-esque pilgrimage but that allegory may be a little inappropriate what with the mixing of religions and such..  On that topic I'm not catholic or even religious in any conventional sense but this was awesome.  not awesome like "totally awesome dude!" but awesome like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time.  Like, loss for words, stop the clocks, overwhelming type awe.   I was more than a little shocked at the effect it had on me and more than a little surprising and very encouraged that cycling is embraced enough at least somewhere to have such a large institution as the catholic church bless and dedicate a chapel to cyclists.
..a far far cry from the marginalization of cyclists that is endured in North America.
In all the visit was uplifting, restorative and even emotional.

Fabio Casartellis bike from the fateful crash in 95'

a Who's who of Italian Champions  

Who are you going to be today?

The museum of cycling is located only a couple hundred meters away too and that was totally worth the 2hrs I spent there.  I photographed practically everything in the place from artwork to old tools and every type of ancient shifting mechanism.  I'll probably just dump them into a picassa folder and link it sometime.

From the museum I buzzed down the super tight switches leading to Bellagio where I soaked up the grandeur, sucked back some cappuccinos, and felt very good about things.   The scenery was magnificent, my knee felt fine, the weather could not be improved on and all was well.   I came to the conclusion that having experienced Ghisallo and celebrated in Bellagio that the trip had paid for itself.  Everything from here in was icing.   A couple hours spent strolling around Bellagio between coffees and then back to Lecco to peruse the cafe offerings along the piazza.   A fella could get used to this.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Eurotrip Day 4

Today is a planned easy day.  The whole reason for the marathon rush to get to Monza yesterday was to make an appointment with the good folks, and new friends at Cicli Casati.

By way of backstory, I picked up the Casati Laser I'm riding a few years back from a guy in Kingston.  I knew nothing about the bike other than it was in my price range and size for a used road bike was brazed steel and had a nice mix of Campy Record and Chorus.   Long story short, fell in love with the bike, (the handling  comfort on level that surprised me) did a bit of research on the Casati brand and became intriqued by how little info was available.  So when planning this little tour I figured I'd be near enough to drop by so touched base and made arrangments specific for this day. The previous day was Feste della Republica, a national holiday and many people including those at Casati take vacation that week so the day was firm.

Anyway, I rolled out from the hotel on route to Via di Prampolino when the Casati workshop is.  On route I enjoyed a completely one way conversation with an older gentleman who stopped me to share tales of his cycling exploits, the champions he saw and some pretty grisly details of an accident where he (or someone else I'm not sure) got their index finger and middle finger mangled in the spokes while (I think) changing gears using a cambio corsa shifter.
The conversation is notable for a couple reasons.  One, it pertained to bikes, Two, it illustrates how randomly engaging the Italians can be despite big language barriers, and three,  I don't speak a word of italian and he didn't speak a word of english but nevertheless he got across all those details and more.

So, after a slight delay I rolled into the Cicli Casati courtyard and began an almost 3 hr tour during which time nobody got and real work done but lots of other fun stuff happened.
The first person I met upon rolling in was the patron himself. Gianni Casati.  Gianni doesn't speak much english or wasn't comfortable trying, but that didn't stop him from chattering a bit and making me feel quite welcome before handing me over to Stefania.  Almost all my communication throughout was done through Stefania who was my translator while on site so she got absolutely nothing else done while I was there.  Most of the detailed manufacturing questions were fielded by Luca Casati who, with Stefania translating, walked me through the processes of creating both custom and standard-size hand built bikes.
The frames are either silver brazed steel with or without custom cast Casati lugs, TIG welded aluminum, Titanium, or carbon .

All the frames are hand built in this shop, including the carbon and they do a fair bit of mixing and matching different materials to utilize the inherent properties of the different materials.  A fairly familiar concept.  e.g. carbon fork and rear triangle with aluminum, steel or titanium main triangle but the details of how they do it and the tolerances that they do them to are what set them apart.  Some classic frames are built with catalogue (albeit top shelf) tube sets from Dedaccai or Columbus but many are custom sized and shaped and exclusive to Casati.  A prime example is the Marte. An all carbon rocketship with a custom carbon tubeset from (I think) Dedaccai.  The top tube has a longitudinal 'window' through it.  I honestly don't remember the exact explanation behind the window. I missed some details due to information overload and the verbal tennis match of having manufacturing details bounced via Stefania as intermediary.   ..I really need to learn Italian for my next visit.. 

I also have fewer photos than I'd like for the same reason but it's probably just as well.  I don't guess too many people are as interested in the finer details of manufacturing as I am.  
This is something unique to some of Casati frames.  There is no visible seatpost clamp as it's hidden within the top tube and seat tube joint.  I tried to get a pic of the internal arrangement but Luca asked that that element not be photographed.  Nevertheless, I did see well enough how it works and while I had previously been leery of tightening the same clamp on my own bike, I now have no concerns whatsoever as the design is as robust as any external post clamp arrangement.

This is a layout table where the raw tubes get arranged, measured, marked for cutting and fitted.  Many things said were somewhat indestinct with the language challenges but they saw to it that one thing got across to me for certain.  That the fitting of the tubes was done to ensure complete accuracy and absolutely no gaps before any joining process started.  The number of times I heard this and the intensity that it was relayed made it quite clear to me that this is a extremely important consideration and that they take very very seriously. The initial fit has to be perfect or the bike will not be.
Marte headtube with internal cable routing sleeves.  The sleeves will get buried into the carbon wrap that joins the head and down tubes.

One of several tube mitering stations where the tubes are shaped to fit bottom bracket, head tube, each other, etc.

This is their fitup jig where the joining magic happens.  another one is behind it set back to back.

And this.  This is the icing. This is the first time I really went "wow".
This is the digital inspection table where the frames are checked to ensure that all the steps up to this point have been successful in making sure the alignment perfect.

Interesting story behind this instrument too.  It was apparently the first one of it's kind.  The company that made it for Casati has since made a couple dozen others for other builders but Casati has the first one made.  Serial no. 001 as it where.  A bit ahead of the curve on the QC front and an impressive dedication to quality.  That focus on accuracy was something that was emphasized at every step of the process.
The layout has to be perfect so that alignment can be perfect and the bike will be stable.
The tube mitering and fitting has to be perfect so the alignment can be perfect and the bike will be stable
The joining (braze, weld, epoxy) has to be perfect so the alignment can be perfect and the bike will be stable
and so on.
By the time we got to the alignment table it almost didn't surprise me that they had the first pneumatic workholding digital readout table of it's kind.

So that was the manufacturing process tour in  nutshell.

Some other fun bits.
The rack of tears.
Owners bikes that have been sent back because of crashes.  Ranging from one with a dented top tube that Luca didn't seem to think would be a big issue for the bike to one with a crack right through the carbon top tube where Luca just shook his head and indicated in simple mime language that this one wasn't going to see anymore miles..

I got to spend some time on this baby too.  Getting fitted up for a a little 'upgrade'.  This was a fun experience.  Everybody sat quietly in a line of chairs watching me pedal. Occasionally Gianni would get up to adjust my posture this way or that.  Pushing my elbows in and down, relax my shoulders, flatten my lower back  etc. it would seem there's not much I actually do correctly. He drew imaginary plumb lines through various parts of me, issued instructions to Luca who would make corrections to the adjustable bike and after 15min or so he just gave a nod of approval and walked off.  The old boy was pleased and the fit was complete.  So for my frame upgrade I will need a new stem and all will be good.

I then spent a short while with Stefania sorting shipping and payment details during which time Luca kept disappearing and reappearing with more swag.  Gloves, hat, bottles.  nice touches.  I dig swag.

By then I'd been there well over 2hrs and was feeling concerned about knocking such a huge hole in their day.  Stefania invited me to join them for lunch but it was past noon now and I wanted to make it to Menaggio for evening.   As it turns out I should have stayed.  When finally I departed equipped with directions and a map to Madonna dei Ghisallo,  personal mobile numbers should I have want of assistance during my travels I got going to realize that the nagging dull pain in my knee that I'd felt towards the end of the previous day was feeling really a bit more sharpish and worrysome.   Consequently I ended up only making it to Lecco which is only 55km as a cautionary measure for the knee.   55k.  I totally could have stayed with the folks at Casati for awhile longer.   All the more reason to go back.

For lugged frames Casati has custom lugs cast for them.
The rack of hotness.

Luca holding the  90th anniversary edition Linea Oro.
While I was talking to Luca a couple of the NGC Perrel-Casati  squad (Lampre U23 development team) rolled in for some mechanical tweaking. I got this shot of Gianni passing along some of his wisdom.   Casati has long sponsored amateaur road racing and  past sponsored riders include Gianni Bugno who rode on Casati frames for several years.  One of Bugnos Casati bikes is in the cycling museum at Ghisallo.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Eurotrip Day 3

Day 3 I woke up inside a cloud. Literally and figuratively.  The combination of Jet lag and Jimmy legs has played hell with sleep patterns so rather than a sleep pattern, I have a sleep chaos.  The upside is I wasn't planning to do any arithmetic today so being sleep deprived shouldn't be a huge issue.

The forecast (looking out window)  looked a bit grim with light rain and 5 degrees so it was kit up time.

Not much "warm up" riding out from Hospental. The first climbing portion of the day started literally at the front step of Gasthaus Schafli and continued to the top of St Gotthard pass.  I was told that the old road would be still closed with several meters of snow pack to remove but when I reached the 'y' intersection to veer off it looked ok to me and the choice between a reasonably busy asphalt road and an abandoned cobble road was an easy one.  Especially considering the foggy conditions that I was riding in.  While I was somewhat fearfull that I would climb for several km only to hit a wall of snow and have to return I'd also noticed on the map that the old road and new road crisscross a few times so figured it wouldn't be a big deal to jump over should need be. Luckily it wasn't necessary and I rode the old cobble climb through dense fog and  cold drizzle/snow all the way to the top!  The old road was however still closed on the south side but I was thankfull to have had a peaceful isolated climb.

At the top I froze my ass off in the few minutes it took to take a few photos and had once again to duck into the restaurant souvenir shop to warm up for a few.
Pulling on wind cover gloves I started the descent down the new road. Again the strong buffeting wind kept things interesting for the first part of the descent, but once down to the bottom of the steep section the wind levelled off, the temps warmed up and I got to enjoy a couple hours of continuous descent!
Airolo from halfway down Gotthard.

From 3 degrees and drizzle/snow with frozen bit, it was 2.5hrs later and I had lunch in Biasca under a palm tree to get shelter from the 28 degreees and hot sun!

From Biasca the road continues down to Bellinzona (Hotel California) where I had some navagational issues.  I could not leave Bellinzona because the only road out of town to Lugano becomes a SuperStrada with bikes forbidden and following the bike route signs takes a ~8k loop back to exactly where I started.  I did this loop 2 and a half times thinking I'd missed a turn, or sign, or something before giving up and imploring strangers for assistance with my challenge.   The problem is I only speak a little german, and Bellinzona is in the Italian part of Switzerland.
I was helpless.
..and coming apart with the frustration of my 'groundhog day' loops of the town.  At this point (2:30ish) I was about 110km into the day had arrived in Bellinzona at 85km a couple hours ago and had another 100km to go to Monza if things went well.
It was also stinking hot, I was still wearing my long sleeve wool base layer overheading a bit and I was losing my shit.
Nevertheless, one kind soul  took up the challenge and the problem was not merely expressing the requirement, but that the bloody town is almost impossible to leave towards Lugano without driving on either the Superstrada or the Autostrada to get to the Monte Cenari road which is what I needed to do..
Still, he stuck with me and my problem and with a crude map and some enthusiastic hand waving directions assistance from various passer by's he devised a route through neighboring villages, a Migros supermarket parking lot, up a one way road in an industrial park and finally several km later to a point where I could rejoin the Monte Cenari road I that needed.  it was a bit fucked up but it worked.
That guy has got karma coming in spades.

Me with my back to Bellinzona (bout halfway up Mount Cenari finally).

The most of the rest of the ride went pretty damn well considering.   I full out hammered it all the way to Monza, flying through towns, getting lucky with navigation and thanking the velo gods for round-abouts that permit you to hold you speed through intersections.  and hold speed I did.  I blazed through a few towns during rush hours and while I'm normally pretty tame / respectful /orderly in traffic, I ripped through traffic in Mendrisio, Chiasso, Como, and a half dozen towns I barely remember splitting lanes, running up the yellow line, hopping curbs to sidewalk when gaps closed, (yeah, bunny hopping a loaded road bike..total wack) it was madness.  I was astonished I didn't crash or shred a tire during the several impromptu curb grinds..  (front wheel curb grinds on a road bike. another first)
Thankfully the traffic jams subsided when I got away from the lakes area and despite using all my nine lives I'd made really great time.  It was however, getting dark at this point and while I was only about 5-10km from Monza in a suburb called Seregno, it was again nearly impossible (so it seemed) to get there without the AutoStrada.   but, it did happen after another lost hour or so doing loops to nowhere and I finally rolled into Monza at 9pm with 210km and 8.5hrs ride time for the day.  Oddly I was feeling pretty strong still (and elated). 210km is my personal one day record and I finished feeling pretty good.   weird.

And the evening was splendid.  I found a great room for a decent price at the Royal Falcon, the Concierge recommended a fantastic restaurant where I had the highlight meal of the trip which started with a bacon salad!!  I was thinking bacon bits or shavings or something and because my base layer looked like this:

I figured I could use the salt..

But the salad didn't have bacon bits or shavings. It had bacon steaks. great huge hunks of bacon on parmigiana shavings on a bed of arugula.  It looked like this;

Best salad I've ever had.  Incredible.  I thought of Big Ring naturally because of the bacon and was sorry he wasn't there to share this.
 ..not that I'd have shared it at all, but he could have ordered his own and that would've been cool.
Salad was followed by huge bowl of homemade pasta and then a Lavazza cappuccino brilliantly prepared.

yep, I was really happy to be in Italy.
Numbers for the day 210km, ~8.5hrs @ 26.something average.  A big day on all fronts.