A naive reader might suppose that a successful tour requires only that each rider sustains his inner Mike through good food, the right clothing and not getting [too] lost going from A to B each day. But spare a thought for the bike – two thin wheels, a light frame and a chain – that has to carry a substantial load up and down hills every day. Although usually stalwart and uncomplaining, the Bikes of the Mikes occasionally have a wobble and need to lay down. Literally. Bike punctures, chain problems, broken wheels and worn-out brakes have been some of the Tour events to date, which is why having Lydia, Malcolm & Denese on hand is so helpful to provide cycle triage. Bike maintenance is an ongoing requirement for such a long ride, and the Mikes are now adept at adjusting chainsets, cranks and derailleurs.
After their rest in Venice, the Mikes went silent and the Editor feared the worst. After all, they were riding in a country with the only active volcanoes in Europe, whose national animal was the wolf, and where there were half a million visits to exorcists each year. Mick still had Grims on his tail, Fr Michael might have been gang-pressed into active duty, and there was that matter of the free 24-hour red wine fountain in Caldari di Ortona. The potential for disaster was high.
Readers will be relieved that none of these dangers arose and the team arrived on schedule in Ferrara on Monday (47 miles) and went to Tole on Tuesday (54 miles). They visited the Ferrari circuit and the classic car museum, and had another rainy ride. But no lava, ravenous beasts or ghostly figures in black were encountered.
The LASR asks readers to cast their minds back two days to Saturday (we realise this is difficult on a bank holiday weekend, but please do try). The Four Mikes are riding to Padua and the storm clouds are gathered low. Then the deluge hits, with thunder and lightning and buckets of rain. The Mikes decide to shelter under the safest place in a storm – a big tree. (At this point in the story, the Editor is having strong reservations about their collective judgement, but we digress). Whilst huddling together for warmth, they notice an ostrich walk by. This was followed by an other ostrich, two tortoises, a giraffe, and a couple of wildebeest. Clearly the local zoo had flooded, and soon enough, a harassed-looking hipster guy with an illegible name tag (“N—“) came running out of the woods yelling “You haven’t seen two camels have you?”
Being the Good Samaritans they are, the Mikes helped the Zookeeper round up his animals and herd them back in the zoo enclosure, which oddly enough, seemed to be floating. Mick claims Fr Michael was a natural at all this – particularly with the lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) The Zookeeper offered them a lift (“There is room for two more”) but they politely declined and carried on their ride.
(As related by Mick Claridge, all rights reserved.)
On Friday the Four Mikes crossed from Austria into Italy over Brenner Pass (4,495 ft), on their way to Borgo Valusugano (53 miles). The scenery continued to be beautiful and the weather thankfully dry. As the Mikes are coping well with the long miles, weather conditions, steep climbs and bike repairs, it was clearly time for an additional challenge, and fortunately, Italian motorists are there to oblige. Embracing Mario Andretti’s advice that “if everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough”, the local drivers are ensuring the Mikes keep their wits about them. Although Mike Burton says its is still a calmer experience than cycling the A412.
Readers may recall from an earlier post that Mick Claridge reported seeing an unearthly figure on one of his training rides. It seems that individual – we’ll call him Grims – has taken a shine to our Mick, or to Mick’s cycle. (It is hard to tell which.) During a recent rain-filled climb on the mountain, Mick once again spotted his new friend. This time Grims was close behind him – evidently even a Reaper needs to conserve energy by drafting once in a while. Mick told the LASR:
“I knew he was behind me, I was too scared to look around so I pretended it was Fr Mike! But it was him – it was the Reaper! I could hear his bony feet hitting the pedals. Doesn’t that guy wear shoes I thought?”
Once they crested the hill, Mick lost his companion on the descent. It appears that Reapers, like most sensible cyclists, are not that keen on speeds greater than 40mph. Good to know.
Wednesday brought an end to the perpetual rain of the past few days, and not a minute too soon, as the Four Mikes on Bikes Tour left Germany today for a 51-mile ride to Steinach-am-Brenner in Austria. Mike Burton gave the LASR an update on the day:
Today we saw something that had been severely lacking so far – SUNSHINE !!!
After a slightly cold drizzly start from Garmisch Partenkirken we were soon climbing the 1300 metres up the mountain towards Seefeld. The drizzle was a blessing as the climb was hot work, and it was nice to put away the heavy “waterproof” coats from the last few days.
The suffering of the last few days, out in the cold with no respite and no alternative, made me think about the homeless people we are helping, who have to deal with that sort of thing every day.
As we headed down towards Innsbruck we were now on the South facing side of the mountains, in sunlight rather than shade, hence a luxurious 19C temperature.
The sun meant nice dry roads, so no more tip-toe-ing around slippery corners, we could finally let the bikes loose and make up for the slow 2-3 hour grind up the hill by travelling down at 8-10 times that speed. Top prize goes to Mick at over 52 mph – I could only manage 48.6! Of course we keep brakes and tyres in good order so that such treats are quite safe.
Normally, the Editor rejects all photos that don’t include a member of the Tour, but she is bending this rule for today’s post.
The title above should have included Sundays and Tuesdays, as the Four Mikes on Bikes have been battling some wet and wild weather the past few days. Having reached Donaueschingen Germany (82 mi) on Sunday, they rode 110 miles to Kempten on Monday, and a further 60 miles to Garmisch-Partenkirchen today. All in the rain. Mike Burton reported Monday’s ride as “the hardest day of our lives.” (We have no reports on Tuesday yet, so that statement may no longer hold!) We will let the pictures speak for themselves….
Starting the day’s ride
Last week this was a creek…..
Are we there yet?
Happy (and dry!) in Garmisch-Partenkirchen Germany