Guest contributor Arnoud, from the Netherlands, wrote in last month with "Dreaming of Italy" as he prepares for a return to Lake Garda.
Note to all ICJ readers: tomorrow is the last day for story submissions for the reader contest we are having, see prizes and rules here.
Dreaming of Italy
"It’s January, 2011. I am trying to find last year's form back to achieve new highs. Plans have been made. Now it’s time to work for results. I am in the gym. Sitting on a Schwinn spinning bike. Next to a number of my cycle friends with whom I battle on our local roads on a weekly basis. Every spinning lesson is more or less a battle as well. We always give our best. We do not seem to need any basic training as all training programs ask you to. My legs follow the rythm of the beat. I see my Sidi’s flashing in the mirror in front of me. It’s like hyponosis. While I hear the commands of the instructor to start climbing and to increase the force, my thoughts leave the room. I am back in sunny Italy. Lake Garda. Torbole. Mecki’s is the ideal place to start for me. A morning espresso. Discussing the best climbs to ride that day at the bar. The family treatment.
I see my hands lying on top of my handlebars. Remembering Tim Krabbé and the love for his wrists. Fresh white bar tape. As white as my socks. We are in Italy, so the looks are that important. How different it is in the Netherlands where people still tend to cycle in old shirts and shorts as they were in the ‘80s. An Italian would never leave the house like that. My white Assos shorts, which give my legs an ever better brownish shine, pronounce the muscles I have been training so hard over the past months. I am climbing Passo del Ballino from Riva del Garda. The climb gives you a great view over Lake Garda. While climbing you leave the noise of the touristy lake and you see the town getting smaller and smaller. My legs burn. Even though it’s a “walking” climb, as they call them in Belgium, not all that steep, for me as a non climber normally only cycling on the windy flats, this is already a challenge. Turn after turn. The climb is generally completely in the sun and therefore very hot. Sweat is dripping. On the sunny side of the road. This is on the sunny side of life.
The down hill is in the shadow. A fast ride. Not all that difficult corners. In the town of Fiavé, I turn left in the direction of Balbido. The road goes up again. The next Passo. Looking for a new rythm on the inner ring. My heart is pounding. It’s like the beat of the music I have been training on last winter. I remember the endless spinning sessions. I keep on sipping from my water bottle. We are back in the sun. Not that many corners on this climb. As a result the road is visually only climbing slowly but surely. From the top it’s a fast and sometimes steep down hill to Bolbeno. On the way to a new climb (don’t forget to leave the main road: Preore Ragoli, Stenico). It should not be all that difficult, but the earlier climbs have already taken most of my power from me. A climb with a great gift when you reach the top. The coolness of a waterfall. It’s like opening a door in a spinning room mid winter.
Downhill again. After crossing a bridge, I understand why I was advised to have Knog lights on my bike. We cross a number of tunnels. Better be seen by the others on the road. This is Italy as well. In this downhill they show the number of turns. Great to ride. Arriving at Lago di Cavedine. This is the time to start pushing again. Powering on the big ring. To try to leave the Italian cyclist in my wheel behind. Full power over the smaller climbs. Through a pre-historic scenery.
On a fast downhill towards Dro. You feel the wind starting to blow strongly over the lake as well as the warmth getting back when you get lower and lower. Running through the centres of the smaller towns of Dro and Arco over the cycle roads towards Torbole. Even though my mind says I should reduce my speed a bit, all other cyclists on the road sureley give me the feeling that I am actually in the last 10K of a Giro d’Italia stage. Signs count down every kilometer. Ultimo Chilometro. I see the finish. Mecki’s Bar & Coffee, I know a cool drink is waiting for me. Only two corners to go. Don’t take too much risk. People do crash there frequently. I give my all. Sprinting. I try to beat Mario C. A loud shout makes me wake again. “That’s all for this week. Hope to see you next week again”. Sure I will be back. I have to. I want to relive my dreams again when I visit Lake Garda this spring."
Arnoud added: Over the past years I have frequently visited Lake Garda. I have used Mecki’s Bike & Coffee in Torbole as the staring point of many great rides around the Lake.
Its a great area for cyclists, both road and MTB, of various levels. You can ride both fairly flat as well as find great climbs which often have been the scenery of historic fights during, for example, the Giro d’Italia. Monte Bondone as the best example.
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Share your story. Write a story about your cycling trip, or an aspect of your trip, in Italy. Or, it can be about a granfondo experience, a special encounter, your favorite ride, etc. The period for story submissions for prizes will be January 1-February 15, 2011. Prizes will be awarded on a random basis, stories will not be judged on which is the "best" one. Nevertheless, it should be a good story for the enjoyment of all readers. Photos accompanying the story are most welcome. If you have any questions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See photos of prizes here. Prize donated by:
CycleItalia, specializing in cycling tours in Italy
BicycleGifts.com, the premiere site for gifts and merchandise for cyclists
Enzo’s ButtonHole Chamois Cream,chamois cream for the ultimate protection
FreeBirdVelo, Italian themed T-shirts
Strada Hand Built Wheels, custom wheel building
Velo-Retro, all things retro for cycling
La Gazzetta della Bici, massage oils for cyclists
Albabici, high-end Italian cycling products distributor