Italy in a day
Italy in a day
Cycling from Munich to Italy in one day. While Listening to Stereolab
This year I achieved one of my long cherished dreams and cycled all the way from Munich to Italy in a day. I started in Munich at 7:30 and made it to Brennero (Italian side of the Brenner Pass) at 7pm that same evening. 180 km 2000 metres elevation.
I’m so full of ideas, and this is the big one. (Stereolab –‘ into outaspace’)
Italy in a day. I must have thought about Italy in a day hundreds of times in the last five years, since I first traversed the Brenner pass. Staring out of office windows and contemplating whether it could be done. Maybe with my lightest bike I could do it. After all that first 100k up to Achensee is really a doddle. Just one long gentle climb. Then I’d just have to get through the long stretch along the Inn that seems to never end as you wait for the colourful tower-blocks of Innsbruck to finally come into view. If I could make it there by late afternoon, surely the excitement alone would carry me up that ascent to Brenner by nightfall?
It is unquestionably a bit pointless to spend time cycling hard on your own. Not raising money for charity or having time to look at stuff or be sociable or really even making yourself healthier (I don’t believe this kind of excessive endurance sport is actually good for you. I often feel a bit ill by the end of it). I guess I do it because I need to move on. This idea has occupied my imagination for too long. I need closure. Actually I did really enjoy the first day. I felt strong, efficient and triumphant; powering away on my special machine.
Also, I enjoyed the likes I received for my victory post on Facebook. Over 50 likes may be small beer to some, but for me it was a personal best! Also, I really enjoyed the beer I drank in Italy at the end of the day and the cigarette I smoked. Looking back, I could have left it there. It was all downhill – in enjoyment terms also – from there on. One or two days cycling on your own is probably enough. Four without any kind of night out is too much.
Besides, my enjoyment was really hampered on day two by the Föhn. Normally such a friendly force, blowing sunny weather across the Alps, it was an absolute killer to spend a day cycling into. The wind was so strong that it blew a half full bottle of water off a picnic table. Imagine that in your face all day. This destroyed any hopes of making Verona by nightfall (I only got as far as Trento) and actually exhausted me much more thoroughly than the first day. I don’t think my body really recovered for the rest of the cycle.
Cycling in Italy
The upside of quitting on day two and taking the train to Bologne was that I skipped the vast majority of one of Europe’s most tedious landscapes: the plains of Lombardy. Most cyclists think they like it flat, but come here and you’ll find out pretty quick that total flatness is one of the hardest endurance tests of all. Featurelessness is a mental killer and while there are a whole chain of beautiful little cites there, the countryside of Lombardy is the most tedious I have ever cycled through.
The day over the Appenines is a goody I have to admit. I’d actually written down the name of the road Id taken from Bologne to Prato the last time and it was just as rewarding second time around. The SS325 is a perfect route to get over the mountain range. 3 hours fairly gently up and 1 and a half down the other side.
Wizzing down the mountain chicanes in the blazing sunshine, moving your body weight around and taking the racing line, pushing the limits of how fast you dare take the corner, overtaking cautious motorists, listening to Stereolab on your headphones, looking up and catching glimpses of Tuscany stretched out before you and doing this for over an hour – this is really better than a lot of other things in hedonism terms.
But once you’re there Tuscany is not the cycling paradise you’d been hoping for. Actually its bloody hard work. Unless you stick to the valley A roads, which are mostly unpleasantly full of traffic, you’re condemned to a never-ending series of ascents and descents that makes a day climbing even the highest Alpine peak look easy.
Into Outa Space (Stereolab)
My bike is the coolest. A really top end steel racing frame from the 80s (The Holdsworth Professional. All 531 tubing. 25.5 inches.) fitted up with modern bits and bobs. Most important of which are the brake leaver gear shifters which I find make a big difference in terms of not losing power and energy when changing gear, and the carbon fiber saddle which really is much more comfortable than anything else I’ve tried (and cost as much as I originally paid for the frame).
I love to look down at the front forks as they bobble their way over the roads and tracks. The bike is eating up so much ground and yet it rarely feels like hard work. The frame is a stiff short wheel base with none of the power wasted, yet super comfortable at the same time. There is an invincibility about the set up of me on that bike. I feel like I can really go places fast. It’s a bit like a space ship. I can be sitting in a sunny central square of some quiet little outpost of the galaxy somewhere, enjoying an ice cream perhaps, then hop back on my magic machine and its warp drive onto the next stop. I don’t really worry about not making it in time. On that bike I always get there.
Somebody to inspire my dying fire (stereolab ‘the black arts’)
Stereolabs’ Emporer Tomato Ketchup was one of the first albums I ever bought. I took it away with me on holiday to Greece and loved it. Since then I’ve never heard a better sunshiney holiday sound. I could listen to it all day, and indeed did on this cycle. What sort of music is it? Anglo French electro hippie? – Its sounds exotic and modern and optimistic and the lyrics are pretty smart. I don’t really get tired of it.
And they’ve churned out a lot of music. Get the right youtube mix and you’ve got hours and hours of the stuff to listen too.