Good afternoon Southern Dwellers!
Sorry, it has been quite a few days since we have had access to an internet connection. I've had to swallow my pride, and enter an internet cafe' for the first time in a very long time.
It was with great sadness that we departed the Belvedere Bike Hotel on Saturday. Our stay there was fantastic, I managed to ride 5 out of the possible 6 days we had to ride, haven't counted up how many kilometres ridden or how many metres vertical climbed, but I suspect it will be in the region of about 500km for the week and about 4000 metres vertical.
It seems we lucked out with the weather as well. Saturday, our day of departure, saw torrential rain - perfect conditions for learning how to drive on the wrong side of the road, and how to negotiate Autostrade traffic that seems to think a 130 km-h speed limit is purely a loose advisory.
Saturday we loaded up the hire cars and set off for Monte Terminillo, which was about 350km away, and involved crossing the mountain range that runs NW-SE down Italy like a spine. It was a spectacular drive, including climbing up over a mountain pass that had 6 foot high banks of snow still on the sides of the road.
Our accomodation was 'rustic' - a polite way to say it was a fairly dated ski lodge. At least the bed was comfortable, and the heating worked, some of the time anyway.
Sunday morning, Giro Day, we woke to fresh snow on the ground, sub zero temps, and rain. Great day to spend outside watching cyclists ride up a big bloody steep hill! If we were cold, I can't imagine how the riders were feeling, most of whom were still out in short knicks and jerseys.
The atmosphere surrounding the Giro is something to behold. It wasn't as busy as I thought it would be, but the amount of support and infrastructure for the cycling teams was phenomenal, and the amount of sponsor presence, giveaways, promotions, and merchandise sales was pretty huge as well. Easily there would have been over 20 vans selling merch - from full cycling kits, team clothing and jerseys, right down to plastic clapper hands to cheer on your riders.
We spent the bulk of the afternoon on the side of the road, waiting for riders, and got to see all of our favourites - Cadel, Robbie, Matt Lloyd, Matt Hayman, etc etc. Being the patriotic sort, we had the Aussie flag out and were making all manner of a racket. Got huge smiles out of most of them (especially Robbie, slogging up the climb SCM last), and Matty Hayman chucked us his bidon as a souvineir (I prefer to think it was for that, rather than chucking it at us to shut us the hell up). A great day, and something do you don't get to do often.
Yesterday (Monday) we loaded up the car and are now in Levanzo (part of the Cinque Terre Coast). It is truly spectacular, heaps of photos so far, and too much to see and do!
Hopefully a further update later in the week.