Luke GJ takes you on holiday to the Dolomites with a rag-tag bunch of Orwellians. Here is his day by day diary of his adventures up hill and down dale.
Would his Patellar Tendons live to tell the tale? Spoiler Alert: Barely.
It’s another monster report, with a Podcast for those without the time to read.

 

Podcast - Breeze Shooting ⤬ Luke GJ

As this is a monster report, 11,600 words, I recorded a Podcast/Audiobook of this report. The Intro and Outro are 11/10 Cringe. You can listen to it in your Podcast Client, 1.2x speed is good for my Connaught Brogue.

The direct link is:  BS⤬LGJ #002 Dolomites 2018, and you can click your podcast client from there.

 

The Day I Was An Underappreciated Mumble Rap DJ

After a full three hours of sleep my alarm went off. In truth, I was awake long before it. It was 03:00. I checked WhatsApp to see what the Dolomites Class of 2018 were up to. Panic Stations! The taxi driver notified us that he had cancelled, at 02:00. It wasn’t as cut-and-dried as "I'm not coming", but I don’t have the full story, I could get the story, but then I’d have to type it out.

 

My usual 3AM ideas involve Kebabs and Very Low Standards. Today, was the brightest 3AM idea of my life, I put my Drivers License into my hand luggage, in case I was needed to rent a car.

 

I stupidly booked the Green Car Park at Dublin Airport. I had a bad experience the last time I was in Green, where I was left waiting outside the Terminal at 12AM for an hour, when I arrived back from Poland in October 2015. There was another man at the bus shelter with me that day and he ate the bus driver’s head off. Dublin Airport Car Parks are like a Roulette Table, just put it all on Red.

 

I perched my car atop the sharp stones in the Green Car Park and then cured my carelessness on the meandering bus ride to T1. What I saved in parking fees, I would likely be spending on new tyres. Do they do GP4000s for cars?

 

My five pre-security Hash Browns didn’t set off the scanners. The vanguard of our sortie convened at a restaurant after Security. Barry was sleep deprived, Lucy likewise. Helen was pretty mellow. Aisling was stressed about the taxi situation. Dawn was approaching and Ann was getting increasingly chirpy. Our gang made the intrepid trek to the Ryanair gates, to seek our remaining trio in the Forward-Operating-Base at Gate 105. Aisling’s speed at walking surprised me. I remarked as much and forecasted that she has set out at too hard a pace. My exact quote of “peaking too early” was redirect back at me be the bantering bogey-on-my-six, Ann, who’s Avian-like Circadian Rhythm had progressed to Cock-Crowing.

 

I greeted Fiona, who when last I saw her, had braved the Monsoon after the Vodafone Comedy Festival. The clean-shaven Darragh was looking fresh-faced. Alan was proud of his efficient packing, he had only two carry-on bags. Pride comes before a fall, would our Alan remain upright this week?

 

I sat beside another Orwellian on the plane, she was going skiing ...in August, on the Matterhorn. Which, according to SkiMatterhorn.com has “excellent skiing and snowboarding 356 days a year, blah, blah, blah something about 4,000m of altitude”. I got a cumulative ninety-minutes of sleep on the plane. I woke just in time as we soared over a cloudless Swiss Alps. This was magical. To see the power of Glacial Erosion.

 

The sights of the lakeside cities of Lugano and Como were amazing (look them up on Google Maps and save yourself a €440 flight). They would make a really cool setting for a James Bond opening action sequence. Maybe there’s a chase scene in Lugano, they get into boat, some bullet dodging and it climaxes in a few slaps being thrown outside Mario’s Takeaway inside the Italian border. I’ll write the rest of this screenplay in a Starbucks in Autumn over a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I look much more pretentious in Autumn anyway, as I’m usually about 35% Scarfs at that time of year.

 

Darragh and I were on "Handbag Duty" whilst the Cars were being Rented.

 

We landed on time, the music played, no one clapped. After evaluating our transport options, renting two cars was the most ideal option. I didn’t want to be in the front seat, as I wanted to sleep. Alas Captain Alan James Tiberius Hickey appointed me to the post of Navigation Officer. We had one or two sketchy moments, but we gelled better than Colin McRae and Nicky Grist. Medical Officer O’Neill joined our Mötley Crüe, as well as Sleepy Horan and Bookworm Horan.

 

The other vehicle was commandeered by Captain O’Sullivan, Arm Rest Supervisor Connolly, Science Officer Duggan and, due to budget cuts, Medical/Navigation Officer Soden.

 

We headed westbound on the A4 from Bergamo to fair Verona. Aisling was super excited to visit Verona. The Shakespeare Travel Guide failed to mention that tensions between the Capulets and Montagues were escalating again after a shipment of Buffalo Mozzarella went missing. It’s a central plot in my upcoming screenplay “Romeo and Juliet: Resurrected”.

 

On our entrance onto the A4 motorway, we didn’t get a Toll ticket from the entrance barrier. A ticket just didn’t come out of the machine, but the barrier went up. After we got off the A4, our lack of a Toll Ticket saw us receive a bill for €64. Alan had a bit of banter with the guy over the intercom. The unrelenting Alan got the moral victory, as the guy opened the barrier after giving us a receipt for the €64 fine. I said I would sort this mess out. And after saying so, I had to take on this responsibility. My binge watching of Jordan Peterson lectures on YouTube (I has a prior engagement for his sold-out 3Arena appearance in mid-July 2018, his October 2018 Olympia appearance is also Sold-Out), have given me a sense of pressure to take on and solve meaningful tasks. Deriving meaning, reflecting upon and applying changes to your life from the speeches by Jordan Peterson isn’t for the snowflakes.

 

Along the A4, Alan requested me to perform my Disk Jockey duties. I whipped out my trusty Aux Cable and opened Spotify to my downloaded music. I opened my DJ Set with four XXXTentacion tunes; Moonlight, the remedy for a broken heart, SAD! and Everybody Dies In Their Nightmares. I recounted to my car mates the “Tragedy of XXXTentacion the Talented”, taken from us too young. Surprisingly, Aisling was au fiat with this lyrical genius and even had some knowledge of Tekashi 6ix9ine. After a few seconds of the fourth tune, Captain Alan requested that I play something better. I skipped past Migos and 6ix9ine to Childish Gambino. He got a few chuckles from the verses of “Freaks and Geeks”. Still scorned that not everyone on the planet like Mumble Rap, I played more trad music, like The Kinks, Deaf Havana and Bush. Seeing that Post Malone was next up, I switched playlist to the one I use for Zwifting, The Rock Workout. This helped Alan to concentrate more on his avoidance of the compensation-seeking driving of the natives. After our second food stop, I returned to my esteemed position, to discover that DJing now fell under the remit of the Captain. I started to sulk and plot revenge. Hell hath no fury like a Mumble Rap DJ de-Auxed.

 

From Verona we set a snail-pace north along the A22 as we joined the holidayers. Helen was participating in some very welcome backseat driving, and her phone was rerouting us to side roads that would see us emerge ahead of the traffic. Some of the side roads were parallel to the A22 and we could look to the right and see the carpark.

 

View from the car on Passo Gardinier

 

We drove up the Passo Gardinier and got to see some awesome scenery. In the village of Calfosch, the drivers were aggressively pulling out from the parking spaces. I remarked that it was a wonder that these people sired children “with all the pulling-out they do”.

 

Six hours after leaving Bergamo, we arrived in Badia, our base for the week. The Hotel Melodia del Bosco was fantastic. We dropped off our bags and went to the bike shop to pick up our steeds. We had send our measurements, saddle height, setback and reach well in advance and the bikes were well set up. The Basso bikes came with 34-30t low gears and the KTM bikes had lovely 34-32t. I was on #TeamKtm2018. Unfortunately, my bike came with a flexy Selle Italia saddle. The hard noses, where the rails meet, of such saddles are very uncomfortable.

 

We cycled our bikes back to the Hotel. The climb up to the hotel was not exactly fun, and would be less fun after a hard ride. The hotel had a lock-up to store all the guest’s bikes. The lock-up was equipped with a full suite of tools, lubes and pumps. It also had a hose for washing dirty bikes.

 

At dinner, the Pinot Grigio took the edge off the hard day. We could relax, we had triumphed in the face of adversity. We were joined by, friend of the club, Conor Moran. Our waitress, for the week, Elizabeth was good craic. We got a route preview from Klaus, to ease our minds. Sleep came easily.

 

Foto del Giorno: Day 0: Saturday August 4th 2018.

 

 

The Day I Saw A Castle That Looked Like A Zelda Tower

The Ride Leaders, Andreas and Marco, would depart out hotel at 09:30. They would use the first day to assess us. My alarm sounded at 07:00. The first day of a cycling holiday takes time to organise everything, especially in hotels where the breakfast can take a long time to consume the required calories. So waking early and avoiding holding everyone else up is a good strategy.

 

The King of Corn Flakes was astride his bike and on the road to Campolongo. I hadn’t been on the bike in two weeks, as Strava gave me a Form Rating of -33. I didn’t want to get sick. I arrived in the Dolomites with Strava saying that I had +16 Form. I soon discovered that I had not trained for the demands of the event. The hills here were a bit too steep for my liking. I had been doing reps of Stocking Lane, when I should’ve been on Kilmashogue Lane.

 

The road surfaces through the villages were shockingly bad. It was worse than what Irish Water did to Athlone, and Athlone dropped the soap in prison repeatedly. The less trafficked roads were much smoother. Ann’s Saddle bag fell off on the rough stuff. Luckily there was a Ginger Retriever hanging off the back of the group. I stopped, picked it up and gave it back to her, 11/10 Good Boy.

 

The group atop the Campolongo.

 

Passo Campolongo, 5.5km at 6%, 315m Elevation Gain

The climb started softly through the village of Corvara. Then it morphed into a series of switchback hairpins at 7% for 2km. The final 3.5km were at 5%. It was 27°C.
Passo Campolongo (da/from Corvara): Strava & VeloViewer.

 

After my fortnight of rest, I took time to get the legs moving. I knew it was going to be a long week and I wasn’t going to blow up on the first climb. I was at the back and the others were riding hard up the hill. Alan, Helen, Darragh and Conor quickly disappeared. The climb was heavily trafficked with cars and vans. Which is weird on a Sunday morning.

 

Lucy climbing the Campolongo.

 

I passed Aisling on the climb, she looked to have the same strategy as me, just ride at our own pace. Ann and Fiona were riding together for a while. Until Ann started to get hold and expand a gap. I passed Fiona, who was hyperventilating. I think I advised her to ease up, or at least I meant to. My next quarry was some of the other cycling groups on the road. I passed them in a lul in the traffic. Ann was pressing on and expanding the gap to me. Lucy and Barry were a bit ahead of me too, but I didn’t catch them. We regrouped at the top. I ensured that I fully crested the hill, in order to get the Strava segment.

 

The descent was super fun. Lots of hairpins. Aisling and Alan zipped down the descent. We refilled our bottles in a village fountain, all the water in this region is drinkable. Ann got a slow puncture on the descent. Marco fixed it for her. The rest of us all rolled to the food stop in the village of Caprile. The village plaza was loosely cobbled. Barry got one of the tiles kicked up into his pedal. No biggie, but such is the life of Barry-Roubaix. After a coffee and a cream cake, Andreas informed us that we were going to tackle a 20km climb. Where would this climb start? Well, just around the corner.

 

Passo Falzarego, 20km at 5.8%, 1,140m Elevation Gain

This climb featured three sections of switchbacks, with two long straights between them. It has some sweet views, initially of the exposed rock of the Dolomites, and higher up it reveals views of the valley. These are good distractions.
Caprile(bivio)-passo Falzarego: Stava & VeloViewer.

 

Marco followed the faster cyclists, who were pushing on. Andreas chilled at the back. The guides were taking lots of photos of us. Aisling was tapping out a steady rhythm. Fiona and I were a little bit ahead. Barry and Lucy were a few hairpins ahead.

 

Poor Fiona, I talked an unholy amount of shite to the girl. I told her about my other screenplay. The one where the Church was channelling the favour of the Cycling Gods to interfere with CycloCross Races. The protagonist would be denied the favour of the Gods, and unable to win races (without God-given talent) to secure prize money to feed his family after a harsh winter. He would go on to expose the Church’s tyranny and corruption. The messages of Jesus, who died on the cross bike for our wins, being lost in the Church’s quest to control the population. I also described a scene to her in which the protagonist would sell his soul at the Sally Gap cross roads to the Devil.

 

Like I said, “Poor Fiona”. Also poor you, dear reader, for being subject to this. And, most importantly, poor me, this kind of garbage literature keeps me awake at night. Will the outlined story be making its way to a Kindle Single anytime soon? Any struggling Novelist, I’ll sell this premise to you for €1M upfront and 10% of the Franchising Rights.

 

Fiona and I stopped at a water troth to refill our bottles. Aisling and Andreas caught up. Fiona dumped a bottle of water over herself to cool her down. Andreas saw this and his eyes went wide. I’m pretty sure he spend the rest of the day in Confession at the local church.

 

The four of us continued. Andreas was telling us about the area. This region had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before World War One. After the end of World War One, Austria gave the province of South Tyrol to Italy to say sorry.

 

The Castle that looked like the Zelda Tower.

 

Away from cycling, I have been slowly playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This region was super similar to vast areas of the game world. The shape of the mountains and Villages, and the Great War that happened 100 years ago. On this climb, I saw a castle. It was just build on a pillar that sprouted from nowhere. This reminded me of a Sheikah Tower in Zelda and also the Eyrie in Game of Thrones.

 

We got to the top of the climb, which was at Altitude, peaking at 2,183m. We rendezvoused with the crew. I had a can of coke. We had to start making tracks. There were clouds en-route, that we had to outrun. The weather systems here are pretty wack. It’s just roaming clouds that rain over small area and pass on. We had a little bit of climbing to do before the crest. I passed Lucy with a “Getting a taste of your own medicine, Dr. Lucy” and I made a “vvvvvrrrrr” motor sound as I passed Barry.

 

The faster riders chilling on the Falzarego.

 

Our descent was the Passo Valparola. After feeling a few raindrops, we were out of the cloud’s reach. The group were caught behind a camper van on the descent. I sat a long way off the back of the van, as I didn’t want to be caught up in a crash. The van eventually pulled in. Most of our downhill skills were matched. Aisling was very good at descending and easily the fastest of the Women. Ann on the other hand was descending like a granny. Her Basso bike was too long in the Reach for her.

 

We got back to the Hotel. We got some post-ride food and beer. I tried the Ravioli, I got 10 pillows of Ravioli for €10.  I would be getting the “Cyclist’s Pasta” option the next days for €7. Helen got a Pancake. She couldn’t finish it. She offered it around, and I ate it. I was tasty especially with the Raspberry and Blueberry jams that were on the plate. I told the group about my childhood memories of Shrove Tuesdays and Rocky Movies.

 

I chilled in my room and unpacked properly for the rest of the evening until dinner at 19:30. All of the banter, and there was banter, at dinner every evening is unprintable. Even the breakfast banter was risquee.

 

I put my phone on Aeroplane Mode at 22:00 and went to sleep. Darragh messaged me that night to say that Rocky 3 was on channel 3 on the TV. Pancakes and Rocky movies, the stuff that dreams are made of.

 

Foto del Giorno: Day 1: Sunday August 5th 2018.
Strava: Il Doge de les Dolomites Giorno Uno: Campolongo and a 20km climb to Altitude.

 

 

The Day I Practised Chat-up Lines

Darragh choose not to ride today. Conor was going to ride his own route today. A short one, as he was leaving town that next morning and wanted to be ready. Conor and Darragh waited patiently for our arrival back at the hotel.

Alan Hickey was winning the prestigious “First Down to Brekkie” contest. Outside, as our party saddled up for the day’s events, Team KTM 2018’s newest member made her appearance. Ann Horan had a new smaller bike. She switched over from the Basso bike. During our pre-ride banter, Barry commended The King of Corn Flakes on my pointing out of obstacles on the descents. I told Barry that I could do this only because of my core strength and that I had half a six-pack (of abs, not Weissbier).

 

The start of today’s ride was a long descent taking us north of the village. I had to point out the obstacles on the descent now as Barry was the bogey-on-my-six. The new bike was doing the trick for Ann. She was no-longer descending like a Granny, and was now going downhill like a slightly younger Granny. We regrouped at the bottom of the descent. After the road flattened out, we were riding beside this totally awesome setting. There was a really cool stream beside the road and other other side there was a steep bank with trees.

 

The nice stream.

 

Via Plicia, 3.7km at 7%, 269m Elevation Gain

Steep starting 2km at 9% and then it evens off for 1.7km of 4%. There’s a fountain at the top and a coffee shop over the crest.
Via Plicia: Strava & VeloViewer.

 

This wonderful morning was ruined when we took a left turn to climb this steep bank. The guides told us that there was a hard 2km somewhere on this climb, but didn’t tell us where, or how long the climb was. Maybe they did, and I was daydreaming about how similar this area looked to the map in Farming Simulator 2013.

 

The local Dairy Farmers had dropped their milk containers to the main road to be emptied by the Milk Lorry. This was a massive step back in time for me. My Dad used to do this until I was about 6 years old (23 years ago, christ above). Then there was change in the Irish Milking Scene and we got a new milking parlor and my soccer coach, Mike, used to collect our milk directly from the parlor. Then a few years later the wanted bigger lorries and newer parlors and for us to remove some of our front garden. We got out of the Dairy Industry after that.

 

The climbing groups quickly formed. Ann was embarrassed to find herself riding with the slow kids in school. She kept making excuses, “I don’t do well on these back to back days”, “my protein recovery drink, something, something, matrix of carbs”. We kept Lucy in view as we pulled away from Aisling and Fiona. The road surface up here was terrible. It was hard graft getting up this hill and we didn’t know where the “hard 2km” was.

 

Andreas was waiting at the next junction, he said “If you don’t know where to go at the junction, just go up”. We turned onto the nice 4% bit and caught up to the front group lead by Marco. There was a nice fountain we refilled our bottles. The mystery of the missing Hard 2km was uncovered, it was the first 2km the climb.

 

There was a nice 2km of downhill, where there was a cafe. We decided not to stop there, as it the next climb was starting in 50 meters, and it would take awhile to get the legs moving again.

 

Regrouping on the Plicia.

 

Furcia, 5.5km at 8.7%, 420m Elevation Gain

This climb has a decent bit of downhill, which makes the gradient seem easier on paper, but it has a long stretch at 13-15%. There’s a cafe at the top.
Furcia from Str Rara: Strava & VeloViewer.

 

We started the climb and everyone was strung out. Ann was no longer able to keep up with the LukeExpress. I was keeping Lucy in view. I looked back to survey the stragglers and when I looked forward again Lucy had vanished. There was a junction in the road, our road had a downhill and the other road was uphill. I remembered what Andreas had said earlier; “If you don’t know where to go at the junction, just go up”. So I went up the hill, it was a short climb to the next hairpin. I supposed that Lucy had gone up hill and around the hairpin. Ann and Fiona followed me. I called “Lucy”, expecting her to be a hairpin above me, but I didn’t get a reply. We went uphill for 1.5km and then Ann got a phone call. It was Aisling asking where we were. Marco had noticed that there were a few missing ducklings between Lucy and Aisling. We had gone the wrong way.

 

We went back down the climb’s shoddy surface. Ann was up to her old tricks and decided to get another puncture. Marco was fixing it for her. I was standing around like a spare prick and asked if I could ride onwards. Ann wasn’t impressed with my navigation skills, subsequent puncture and my request to abandon her. She tried to put me in the “Bold Corner”, but I would not go quietly. I dropped a Logic-Bomb on her; “You’re a grown-up Ann, you can navigate by yourself, you chose to follow me up the climb, REKT!”. We were in the country of Over-Reactions. When in Rome, and all that. Upon seeing that her puncture was fixed, she lightened up and saw the funny side of our misadventure. I couldn’t tell what Fiona was feeling about the situation and not wanting to be embattled any further, I didn’t ask.

 

The next part of the climb was tough. I got a gap on the other three by virtue of being heavier on the rest of the descent. I tried to hold it on the steep 13-15% stretch. Ann reeled me in. She was getting better, after initially struggling. There was a underpass on the bridge and the gradient levelled out before the cafe. The gang were already finished their coffees, Strudels and had visited the bathroom.

 

We were greeted with a cheer. Ann sprinted over to them and started to bash my good name. She had the phone in her hand, ready to e-mail Cartographers Ireland requesting to have me de-Mapped, when I re-dropped the Logic-Bomb about her choosing to follow me. Everyone sided with me (I’m writing the report, so it happened exactly as I described it).

 

I had a Mars bar, a Strudel and an Americano. The barista was very confused when I asked him to put cold water into the coffee, so I could drink it quickly. Ann had spilled the Espresso that she got for Marco. Carrying coffees in cleats is a recipe for Yellow cones. Good, now she was more mad at Isaac Newton for inventing Gravity than she was at me. In truth, yaboi Newton was the main villain of the week.

 

We were rewarded with a very long 20km descent, where we dropped 1,000m in elevation. This descent had a few rolling hills punctuating it. We were on Farm Tracks with Corn Fields all around. The King of Corn Flakes surveyed his domain. There was a Cob of Corn on the road, I said to Ann “I could tell you a joke, but it’ll sound corny here”. It took her about 30 seconds to understand the joke, but she chuckled. Were my faux-paus forgiven?

 

The food stops were nicely spaced on this 90km ride. There was one at 30km and the second was approaching at 60km. I was riding to the left of Barry, I saw Helen and Alan pull into the food stop. I out-sprinted Barry to the food stop. I over celebrated, loudly proclaiming myself to be the “Sultan of Strudel” for all the locals to hear.

We had pasta, Coke and refilled the bottles.

 

Enneberg Pfarre, 12km at 4%, 483m Elevation Gain

A long steady climb, it has one wall at 15%. It brought us back to halfway up the first climb of the day, Via Plicia.
St. Lorenzen - Enneberg Pfarre: Strava & VeloViewer.

 

We were climbing straight away after the Pasta. I was riding beside Lucy now. We had a nice mature conversation about my adventures since I moved to Walkinstown. We looped back on to the easy 4% part of the Via Plicia from earlier in the day. The gang regrouped at the water troth. Someone asked Lucy how she was getting on, she responded with “Luke was telling me his life story”. Hopefully she wouldn’t reveal too much, partly due to Doctor-Patient Confidentiality and partly because I was working on a screenplay “Hamlet 2: Something is Rotten in the Estate of Walkinstown”.

 

Put your hands up if you ate the Onion Rings from Borja and lived to tell the tale to Lucy.

 

We ended up cycling on a Bike Path, that was beside the main road. It started to rain. Due to the localised nature of the rain, it only rained on the Bike Path and not on the Main Road. This brought us to San Martino, the final 9km to Badia was a slog. Andreas was at the front setting a decent pace, I was third wheel. I was suffering because my bladder was full. There was a lot of traffic and I needed to bide my time to pull up beside Andreas to inform him, and others of my intentions. Marco, Alan and Barry all dismounted to wait for their GC Leader (GC = Genghis Cornflakes). Marco paced us back to the leaders. We rode the final climb back to the Hotel at our own pace. The final kick up to the hotel was torture, Passo Melodia del Bosco.

 

We degreased, washed and re-lubed the bikes with the provided equipment. Everything was sorted. I walked around the front of the Hotel to discover that my Super-Domestique, Darragh, had got me a tall Weissbier. I had the cyclist Pasta, a little bit of banter with Conor, Darragh and Alan. I had a shower and used up the last of my Aftersun.

 

The dinner discussions are unprintable. Ann was my favourite holidaymaker, she’s excellent dinner craic. We bid goodbye to Conor. Conor’s final act was to have an eavesdropped upon chat under the Gossip Girl’s Balcony. Conor walked home to his hotel in the rain. He messaged us a few days later to let us know that he was home safe.

 

Foto del Giorno: Day 2: Monday August 6th 2018.
Strava: Il Doge de les Dolomites Secondo Giorno: Furcia and Enneberg.

 

 

The Day I Got Into The Van Of Shame

I could feel that my Patellar was a little niggly towards the end of the ride yesterday. The low cadence of these steep long climbs can inflame my patellars, so I don’t push it on these days. In my preparation for this trip, I’ve been using oil to keep the inflammation down. I had run out a few days ago so the inflammation was creeping back.

 

Today was going to be a hard one. It was going to be the second loop on the Maratona dles Dolomites. It contains the Passo Campolongo, Passo Giau and Passo Falzarego. Seeing as we had already done the Campolongo, Darragh, Aisling and I took the Fast Track option. On my first cycling holiday to Sierra Nevada, we dubbed getting transported some of the route, as “The Van of Shame”. Today it was dubbed “The Van of Fair Play to Ya”.

 

Availing of this strategic option, we saved an hour of riding and 800m of climbing. Ann and Fiona took the day off. They explored up the mountains. I won’t describe what they did, as Daragh and I had similar adventure two days later.

 

We arrived at the top of the Campolongo and awaited the arrival of the Vanguard. Barry bossed the climb and was well ahead of the pack. We had a new guest on today’s spin, Abdul from Saudi Arabia. He was about 25 years old and had a mustache beyond his years. Alan, Helen and Andreas arrived, followed by Lucy and Marco. We had a bit of banter.

 

Helen, Alan and Andreas cresting the Campolongo.

 

We started the decent and a minor climb. The climb was a shock to the legs, heart and lungs. The guys who didn’t take the smart option of the Van were warmed up and climbing wasn’t hard on them. For the first time on the trip, we were riding uphill at a reasonable pace as a group. We passed a group on the climb and then we were passed by a faster group. The differences in paces were massive and the groups were spread out just as fast as they came together.

 

We pulled into a nice hillside cafe. There were two men there from County Down. They were also staying in our Hotel. I didn’t care about humans at this time, I had a mission. I wanted to pet an Italian dog. There was a little Terrier sitting in the shade, under its owner’s chair. After getting permission from the owner, I slowly started reaching out - the dog sniffed my hand and let me pet it. Success, goal achieved. I could now move on with my life.

 

After a coke and a slice of cake, we were back on the road. The group climbed a bit, and then descended a bit and then turned left.

 

The view from the cafe.

 

Passo Giau, 10km at 10%, 898m Elevation

This is a brutal steep climb, just blank it out mentally, set aside an good long hour for it. The Pros can climb it in 33mins. Andreas’s time on his Maratona ride was 48mins.
Passo Giau: Strava & VeloViewer.

 

It got stiff very quickly. Helen, Lucy, Darragh and I were riding together for a little while. Aisling was ahead, as she had a tactical quick coffee stop. Normally racing through the feed zone is frowned upon, but it was her turn to pay for the bottle of wine that night, so we reserved judgement.

 

Helen was claiming that she was “going slow”, but her slow was our Full Gas. She soon got bored of waiting around and we were left looking at a dust cloud. Soon after, some foreign lad passed us. Darragh was keen to make a new friend and set off in pursuit. I tried to talk shite to Lucy, but we were both panting from the exertion.

 

We looked up the hairpins and could see Darragh chatting to his new BFF. We looked down the hairpins. We could see a man with a child in his bike trailer. He was gaining on us rapidly. The inevitable happened. He overtook us. We talked to him for a little bit. As he pressed onward, I cheered “Forza Papa, Forza!”. The baby was three months old and was named Chloe. He had to pull in and wait for his wife to catch up. It was the wife’s first bike ride since the birth. Truly a baptism of fire, with Passo Giau as your re-introduction to the road.

 

I was getting stronger than Lucy, her cumulative efforts were catching up to her. Just like Simon Yates in the Giro, there was a mushroom cloud. I pushed on. Lone Ranger Luke was on the hunt. Aisling was next up the road. I could see her on the hairpins above. The catch was made. My next quarry, Darragh was too far up the road to catch.

 

The view from the side of Giau we climbed.

 

My eyes enjoyed the scenery, my legs were not. I broke mentally after a pack of Electric Mountain Bikers whirred passed me. I suddenly realised that I was sweating profusely. I had activated, hitherto unknown, sweat glands on my C8 and T9 Vertebrae. Suffice to say, I was a Sweaty Betty.

 

I had gone too hard since unceremoniously dispatching Lucy. Roles were being reversed, tables turned and Dr. Lucy had written me a prescription for a dose of my own medicine. I looked back on a straight. My eyes saw Lucy, my ears heard Chariots of Fire. I held her off until 2km from the top, where I had a meltdown. Lucy and my will to live were disappearing at equal rates.

 

At the top, we had a bowl of pasta in the restaurant. Aisling had a good chat to Chloe’s parents on her ascent. They also came into the restaurant. The owners and staff were pretty cool, they whipped out a crib and some blankets for the baby. Everyone was watching on, to see would Chloe like the crib. She didn’t, she started crying straight away.

 

Unfortunately the Strava Segment finish line was a few meters after the restaurant, so my time was two hours and forty minutes. The Pro’s KOMs were safe for day. We put on jackets for the descent. Darragh gained the style points that I lost. He put on a biker-looking jacket and I put on Lidl’s finest Fred Jacket in Yellow colourway. The stunning, hard won, views from the top soon disappeared as we descended. There were some tight technical double hairpins. We got to the bottom. I accidentally photobombed a Mountain Biker as he was taking a photo of a Porche.

 

I exploded with heat when we hit a minor climb. My snazzy Fred jacket was not ventilated. I stopped to take it off and everyone passed me out. They all pulled in at a junction. We took another right.

 

Aisling descending Giau.

 

Passo Falzarego, 10km at 5%, 562m Elevation

This is a nice climb. Coming after the Giau makes it much harder than it actually is. It has amazing views of the Dolomites.
Passo Falzarego (da/from Pocol): Strava & VeloViewer.

 

I held Helen’s wheel for a little while, but my chubbiness caught up to me and she was soon out of sight. I took out my phone and put some tunes on loud speaker to keep me company on the climb. We got a light shower of rain on this climb. I pulled over to put my phone inside my Lezine wallet. This is where Lucy caught up to me. We rode together for a little while. These shallow grade climbs are my favourite. So I had soon dropped Lucy and the other two Italian riders that were in our vicinity.

 

My knee was starting to flare up. More worryingly it was sending shooting pains up my IT Band. There was nothing I could do about it. So I just sucked it up and carried on. Screaming internally, wondering what my future held. It was an existential crisis on a similar level to what Patrick Dempsey experiences when looking at Sean Penn.

 

At the top, Alan Hickey was waiting for me. We descended together. Sadly, we were caught behind an English reg car who was going very slow. We teamed up with Barry and Lucy for the run back to the village.

 

The Climb to Spar, 1km at 10%

I got back to the hotel, took a shower and went down to get Cyclist Pasta. Some of our group were there. The two men from County Down was also chilling. I announced my intention to go to the Spar to get Sunscreen and Aftersun. Helen joined my quest. Lucy tagged along for the craic. We met Fiona on the hill. The four of us grinded out the walking up the hill. Luckily I had a belly full of pasta and Weissbier to help me out. Fiona told me that the Spar had a gift shop section too. I was happy because I could also buy a Fridge magnet for my mother’s fridge.

 

I walked around inside for a few minutes and saw the fridge magnet I wanted. It was a cow. It was guarded by the woman at the checkout. I picked up my goods and asked the checkout lady for the magnet. She didn’t want to give it to me, as it was slightly damaged. The cow was missing a horn. She told me to come back tomorrow, but I wasn’t going to walk up the hill again. I firmly asked her for the magnet, she relented and gave me a 50% discount.

 

Outside the shop, I revealed to Helen my Sunscreen, it was SPF20 and it had Bronzer. I copped some guff for being so vain, but I was trying to live my best life. A few meters down the road, I saw a fiver on the ground. I picked it up discreetly, just like my mother showed me on the mean streets of Tuam.

 

We got back to the hotel. I put a tremendous amount of work into my knees and IT Band, but I was fighting a losing battle. At dinner, I had potatoes for my main course, with a side of Bronzer banter.

 

Foto del Giorno: Day 3: Tuesday August 7th 2018.
Strava: Il Doge de les Dolomites Giorno Tre: Djouce. Did I forget to start Strava, or did I get into the Van of Shame?

 

 

The Day I Won A Passive-Aggressive Bike Race

Today was the first loop of the Maratona. Seeing that tomorrow was very hard, Darragh and Alan took the day off. They decided to drive and take the chairlift to the War Museum. How did that work out for them? It was all well and good, until they decided to hike back down from the peak. Four hours later, looking worse than Robin Williams in Jumanji, they arrived.

 

Those of us who weren’t such risk takers decided to ride the Sellaronda route. It consists of the Passo Gardena, Passo Stella, Passo Pordoi and Passo Campolongo, with a descent back to Badia.

 

Passo Gardena, 8.4km at 7%, 548m Elevation

This climb is a little steep in the beginning and again for a kilometer before the top. Other than that it’s a bit of craic.
Gardena da Corvara: Strava & VeloViewer.

 

A short ride to the next village, Corvara, and we were climbing. Barry and Marco took off first. Helen was in second. Lucy, Ann, Fiona and I tapped out a very slow rhythm. Aisling was hanging out with Andreas at the back. Lucy tried to get a bit of a gap on us, but my team of domestiques reeled her back in.

 

Following Fiona on the lower slopes of the Gardinier.

 

The pace was way too slow for this nice climb. I thought there was only 5km to the top, there was actually 6.5km. I took off and dropped the girls. They were probably talking about Tea Parties in my absence. I didn’t care, as I was going hard up the hill. I reeled in two groups on the climb, they didn’t know that we were racing, but I make the racing rules, and we were. I saw Helen a long way ahead, she was my next marker.

 

There were construction traffic lights on the climb, they were red with a queue of cars waiting. I was going so hard that at the traffic lights my head just started rolling around on my neck as I recovered by hyperventilating slightly less. The lights turned green. I observed my prey restarting with all the blissful unawareness of a Gazelle. She was walking on the tracks, not looking back at the oncoming LukeExpress. I caught up to her, she said “Hi Lukey, are you trying to race me?”  I wheezed “No”. Internally, yes we were racing. Too long had she reigned unchecked and it was my job to take her down a peg or two;)
 

Over the top, she clapped my on the back. I don’t like being touched by losers, loseritis is contagious. Marco, said “You have power today!!”. We waited with Barry and Marco for the rest of the slow-coaches.

 

The descent was cold and technical.

 

Passo Stella, 5.3km at 7%, 366m Elevation

A bit of a hard start, but the gradient is fairly constant on the way up. You can see the top from a very long way off.
Passo Sella: Strava & VeloViewer.

 

I had blown my lights on the Gardena. Nothing batner related happened on this climb, as I was riding by myself. I was just tipping along and enjoying the views. After exercising my internal demons on the Gardena, I felt free.

 

Ann’s strategic rest day was now paying dividends. She told gathered journalists that she was “Riding well, she could keep up with Helen”. And she repeated the story a few minutes later when I arrived.

 

At the top, we could see The Marmolada, a large glacier. We took some Selfies with it. We had food. We were lucky that we got the two men serving us in the restaurant. Those who arrived later got a scowling auld biddy.

 

I opted to just bring arm warmers for the descending. The Fred Jacket was left in the hotel. It was getting nippy at the top. Arm Warmers were donned and descents were downed. We saw Abdul, from yesterday, on the descent. He must’ve been doing the Sellaronda the wrong way round.

 

The Marmolada as seen from Passo Stella.

 

Passo Pordoi, 6.5km at 7%, 452m Elevation

It starts out kinda forested, but after some hairpins it gets above the tree line to altitude and beyond for more hairpins. It peaks at 2200m.
Bivio Sella / Passo Pordoi: Strava & VeloViewer.

 

At the bottom of the Passo Pordoi, I removed the Arm Warmers. I noticed that I was close to Barry, who was riding at a conservative pace. Barry had exclusively been taking selfies on climbs with Lucy. As I approached him, Jaws Theme Music playing in my mind, he said “Let’s take a selfie”. I responded “I’m not Lucy”.

 

I took the selfie with Barry, and I felt special. We talked about stuff. I didn’t ask him about his Malin2Mizen cycle or Iveragh 200, as I was sure he sick of telling people. It turns out that Barry is in the e-commerce space too and that his company was using my company’s product. We had some Barry Banter, Patent Pending. Then he out-sprinted me at the top of the climb. I didn’t mind tho, I let the kid have the win.

 

The group upon the Pordoi.

 

We took a bunch of photos at the top as it was really pretty. A magnificently long windy decent later and we were headed for home. I ripped it down this descent. Aisling was beating me on a few descents this week, but there was a long straight and I sat on the top tube. I shot by both her and Helen. My progress was halted by a slow driver. It was an English reg car. As a cyclist on the continent, that yellow reg place set off alarm bells. I didn’t want to lose a finger, like my close personal friend John Degenkolb, so I stayed well clear.

 

Passo Campolongo, 4km at 7%, 272m Elevation

We descended this side on the first day. The ascent was stiff. I cannot imagine doing the Maratona, as after this loop, you still have the harder loop with, the stuff of kneecap’s nightmares, Passo Giau.
Passo Campolongo (from Arabba): Strava & VeloViewer.

 

I was no longer the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Helen-dropping machine that I was at the top of the day. I was chugging at the back. Myself and Aisling grinded up the Campolongo. We talked about Women’s Cycling Bib Short designs. This climb was zero fun.

 

The descent of the Camplongo, back to Badia, was a very different story. My post-Boulder Biscuit Binge Bulk was working in my favour now. I ripped past everyone except Marco. We almost got wrecked by a car that didn’t know where it was going.

 

We basically lived on the Campolongo.

 

We got back to the hotel. Darragh and Alan were waiting our return. Their trials and tribulations had made me not want to hike, ever. I got back to my room and started work on my Patellar tendon. I knew it was not in good shape and that my cycling was done.

 

I texted my boss to ask him if I could Expense the trip because I gave Barry the e-commerce sell on our company’s history. He responded with emojis. You didn’t have to be an Egyptologist to know that those pictures meant “Snowball, Chance, Hell”. I closed the SAP Concur browser tab that I had pre-opened in anticipation of a “Yes”.

 

Barry, who made me feel special by taking a selfie, crushed me. He uploaded lots of selfies with all kinds of people. I forgot about this when Elizabeth, our waitress, showed us a really cool rainbow. I took some photos and ate the most wonderful jacketed baby potatoes with herbs.

 

Klaus told us about the next day’s riding. It was going to be super tough. Even with the option of double shortening the ride with two Van of Shame trips, I knew my Patellar wouldn’t hold out. I didn’t want to come back from yet another cycling trip, a cripple.

 

Foto del Giorno: Day 4: Wednesday August 8th 2018.
Strava: Il Doge de les Dolomites Giorno Quattro: Sellaronda.

 

The Day I Discovered Chips Were A Pizza Topping

Dr. Lucy wouldn’t write me a Sick Note. So I went to the vet and he diagnosed me with a “Sore Paw”. Sore Paw was contagious. Alan had DOMS in his thighs from the four hour walk down hill the previous day. Darragh was REKT, sore hips and knees.

 

I got up early to have Breakfast Banter with my fellow holidaymakers. Helen, Fiona and Aisling were talking about how men and women differ with temperment on long endeavours. They reckoned that Men would go out hard on the climbs and get it over with quickly, where as Women would be more patient. I couldn’t disagree, as it was exactly what I did the previous day (when I dropped Helen, when she couldn’t hold my wheel, re-read the Passo Gardena section to remind yourselves of my greatness).

 

Those who conquered Treschnies.

 

Marco, the guide, was dispatched to lead a Mountain Biker Group. Our group had a new guide, Andrea. He would drive the Van of Shame to and from a point of the route. The crew were going on a hard ride, nearly 3,000m of climbing. There was a hard 3km at 12%. It was the feared Treschneis, which passes by a rock formation that looks like three chimneys. Honestly we could’ve stayed in Dublin, cycled up Howth and looked at Poolbeg and had a Starbucks, nothing like a straightforward Cold Brew Latte with Almond Milk, a shot of Caramel, stirred 17 times anti-clockwise by a One-Eyed Shaolin Monk.

 

I had a second brekkie with Darragh. We went up a pair of chairlifts to a church on top of a hill. I hadn’t been on a Chairlift since skiing in Ischgl almost six years prior. I needed a minute to calm down and deal with the vertigo. In between the two chairlift rides, there was a cool children’s playground that had a Gold Sifting setup. Had Darragh not been there, I would’ve featured on the next season of Discovery’s Gold Rush.

 

The view from the Church on the hill.

 

The church at the top was cool. There was a violinist playing in there. We had a coffee and took some photos. The views were fantastic. As we were about to depart, there was a concert taking place outside the church. The violinist was joined by a Cello. Darragh and I were in, the would be, Mosh Pit.

 

There were a few Mountain Bikers bringing their bikes up on the Chairlifts. They were going to ride down the hill. We took the chairlift down. We played a game witht the other chairlift people, seeing who would wave back.

 

We walked around looking for a Pizzeria. We settled on a place that we would come back to when we were hungry. We walked down to the hotel and back up the hill to the Pizzeria. We were seated and left for ten minutes. The waiter came back and saw that we were intent on ordering Pizzas. His oven didn’t start until five o’clock in the afternoon. I was so Hangry, but I kept a lid on my temper. This is Italy and you don’t know who is in the Mafia, so resisting the urge to flip out on people is playing it safe. I honestly don’t want to be a StickyBottle Clickbait Title, “You won’t believe which Irish cyclist sleeps with the fishes”.

 

We trudged to the bottom of the hill. I remembered that there was a Pizzeria in the village. It was open and it had a beautiful sign “Non-Stop Pizza 12:00 - 23:00”. My choices are limited as real men shoot selfies and not animals. There was a pizza with olives, which I wasn’t hungry enough to eat, and another option with cherry tomatoes. I turned the page and saw the children’s pizza that had chips as a topping. I had an Ace Ventura moment of realisation, “Finkle is Einhorn, Einhorn is Finkle, Chips are a Pizza Topping, I found Captain Winkie”. Sorry for the spoilers for a movie a quarter of a century old.

 

My first Pizza in over a month.

 

I ordered the Cherry Tomato Pizza and requested the additional topping of Chips. It arrived, this creation was to the Pizza industry what the GHD was to the hair straightener industry. I decided early that I would not cut the chips when cutting the pizza. I didn’t even notice what Darragh was eating. I’m not doing the versatility of this Pizza justice. I could eat it flat, or with a fork or like a Calzone. A triple threat. My pizza was Stephen Roche 1987, Darragh’s pizza was Nico Roche 2018. It was my second pizza since Helen invited me on the trip and it was amazing!

 

I went back to my room with a Greg Lemond sized belly on me. I took a few deep breaths before making the phone call to sort out our toll. I had the iPad out in front of me with the Google Maps location of the Entrance Toll Plaza. I built up this conversation in my head, they would intentionally speak in Italian, so we would have to pay full price. Much to my surprize, the lady spoke perfect English and quickly sorted out our query. I felt really good inside, I was fulfilling my promise to sort out the toll. The price to pay had been reduced from €64 to €5, good times.

 

I went down to the Post Office to pay the toll. It was closed and I got caught in a thunderstorm, bad times. The fact that I had not yet completed my task of paying the toll, would eat away at me inside. My thoughts went to the guys who were cycling. Hopefully they would remain dry and safe.

 

The Rain Storm that I got trapped in.

 

Darragh and I agreed to meet in the Wellness Area of the Hotel. We wanted to try out the Whirlpool Baths. They were essentially mini-jacuzzis. It was amazing. Afterwards Darragh left. I used the Steam Room and Sauna. I was about to leave when Ann and Aisling came in. A couple of days ago, Ann hypothesised at dinner, that she wanted to study the effects of two people in the Whirlpool. She started a whirlpool bath for herself, and I wanted another go. So I offered to be her lab partner. It was a bit of fun, we studied various aspects of the sciences. In the end it was Archimedes who disproved Ann’s theory of half price Whirlpool baths. The recently re-coronated King of Pizzas had displaced too much water and the jets were splashing water everywhere.

 

The results of our experiment were were a hot topic among the other scientists at the dinner table. Darragh pointed out that I spent nearly three hours in the Wellness Area. Although I couldn’t sit around and chat. I had my alarm set for 21:00 CEST. The SuperCross Cup Series Entries for CycloCross were going live at 20:00 BST. Getting an entry to the B-Race is tough and you need to move fast. Aisling was making friends with the German people beside us, when I had to rudely interrupt them, to make a break to the WiFi Coverage of the lobby.

 

I had a few Gin and Tonics and chit-chatted with Fiona. She was thinking four conversation moves ahead and actively steered the conversation away from anything that I could write a screenplay about. The others talked about the tough day of cycling, but I had as much interest as Richie Porte has in discussing Tour de France stage ten (he keeps crashing out on stage nine).

 

Foto del Giorno: Day 5: Thursday August 8th 2018.

 

The Day I Was Led Up The Garden Path

There was a high chance of rain this morning. The cycling plan was for a short 50km spin. My patellar tendon was still a little niggly. Andreas was leading spin. Only four people were brave enough to face the rain; Helen, Alan, Aisling and Fiona. Helen and Aisling had ridden every day. Helen rode all the kilometers, whereas Aisling took a few strategic trips in the Van.

 

Klaus, the hotel owner, was due to ride with the group. Alas, upon seeing that the group was only four, he decided against it. It was a bit sad, as he had really warmed up to the group.

 

Those that braved the possible Rain.

 

Ann was intent on going to a hike. She asked me. I initially said “Yer having a laugh.” I had to get down to the Post Office before it closed at high noon. Klaus told us that there was a lake 30 minutes away. I agreed to come along on Ann’s Expedition. Expecting rain, I brought my Hydra jacket. I tied it up into a Messenger Bag and put a bottle of water in the pocket. Expecting that it was just a little walk up to a lake, I equipped my Converse low tops. Ann was decked out in a pair of platform shoes and an orange school bag.

 

It was extremely humid and sweat was running off us within five minutes. We hiked up and followed the signs for “Lago”. We happened across a shitty hut and I estimated that it would fetch €500pcm on the rental market in Dublin. We had good banter and talked about some serious life issues. It was good. Ann is alright.....for a Kerry person.

 

I told her that she needed a #Goals picture. The pose is just a girl sitting on a rock. We took a classic #Goals picture, the model was perched upon a rock and there was a village in the background.

 

Ann's #Goals Picture.

 

I kept saying to Ann, that I could not hear running water. We hadn’t seen a sign for “Lago” for a very long time. Ann was pressing onwards regardless. She got really excited when she saw that there was a steep narrow part of the trail, with a rope to hold onto. I was markedly less enthusiastic. We navigated this steep part of the trail and it briefly flattened out.

 

The next part was a near vertical incline where I had to use my hands to get up. I was only thinking about how I was going to get down from here. Then I looked down and freaked out. We were very high. I also freaked out when I looked up at how high the cliffs above us were. I literally froze solid and started whimpering. I could only look at the rock in front of my face. Ann looked back at this shuddering mess. I huffed “Ann, can we please turn around, there’s no lake, there’s no lake.” She said “fine” and skipped down past me.

 

I had to pull myself together. I needed to man up as I needed to pay the toll. I edged off the incline that I was glued to. I needed to assert my dominance over this mountain. I held the rope on the way down with a white knuckle grip.

 

The rain was so local that it missed us, but it rained on the lower part of the trail. My Converse were not getting any purchase on the loose stony descent. Ann was skipping down the hill. If Sean Kelly was commentating her life, he'd say she’s “going down hill at a real fast rate” and probably something about “making the calculation” and “Alehandro Vaaal-verrrr-de”. I was descending like Bambi on Ice. Whilst waiting for me, Ann stopped to talk to the other hikers. They knew nothing about any lake. They looked at me, like I would look at a Fred. I explained that it was my first hike, hence the Converse. Legends will be told of the greatest hiker to scale the mountain in a pair of Cons and a rain jacket-turn Messenger Bag.

 

My knees were getting extremely tired and sore from this downhill craic. I had visions of being crippled with DOMS all day tomorrow. Crippled in a tightly packed car. Crippled standing in a Ryanair self-check-in area with the computer illiterate. Crippled standing in security with people causing delays. Requesting a mobility scooter on the inevitably long walk to the Ryanair gates. Crippled on the bus from the gate to the plane. In too much pain to sleep on the plane. Consequently, falling asleep at the wheel of my car on the drive back to Galway for my cousin’s kid’s christening.

 

Who knew that saying that a lake was 30 mins away could cause such damage in another part of the world? StickyBottle already counting clicks on “You won’t believe which Prominent Irish Cycling Podcaster’s career went off the rails …literally!

 

We reached the bottom of the hill. The rain hadn’t touched the hotel. After the three hour hike, I had a quick shower. I was cutting it close to get to the post office. I made it just in time to fill in a form. I am the Bobby Fisher of filling in forms, I intentionally wrote slow, so the Post Office worker would get bored and fill it in for me. I learned this technique when my mother tried to make me help her with the dinner. Nothing like botching peeling a few potatoes to have you back playing Driver 2 on PS One quicksmart.

 

There was only one thing that could cap this achievement of paying a toll fine. Pizza with Chips! When I made my order, the waitress said “Just like yesterday!” Darragh and Ann shared a salad and pizza.

 

Alan and Aisling arrived back from their cycle. They, Lucy and Barry joined us at the Pizzeria. Alan trusted my judgement and had chips on his pizza. His life was now divided in two parts, pre-chips on pizza and his new glorious future full of possibilities. Would Alan go on to invent Sweet Potato Fries on Pizza?

 

At dinner, one of the options was little octopi. It was disgusting. They had the heads still on and everyone was jiggling them. We said our goodbyes to the staff, in particular our waitress, Elizabeth.

 

We paid Klaus and I sipped down a few Gin and Tonics.

 

Foto del Giorno: Day 6: Friday August 9th 2018.

 

Our last supper.

 

The Day I Couldn’t Trust A Fart

We’re really getting to the bottom of this report now. My eyes shot open at 05:00. I had a cramp in my stomach. I curled into a ball to alleviate it. This only exacerbated my condition. I leaped up and skipped into the bathroom. I was very scared. I had a long six hours in the car ahead. I went back to sleep, but I was back in the bathroom at 06:00 and 07:00. During my 07:00 visit, Helen knocked at the door and tried to ring my phone, she thought I was still asleep, so she asked the reception to call my room phone. Little did Helen know, I was very much awake.

 

The only upside was that I didn’t have DOMS from my hike.

 

At breakfast, I explained my bad stomach situation to my gathered audience. Barry was driving Lucy, Darragh and Fiona back to the Airport. They left at 07:00. Our car was going to leave at 08:00. I took my last bathroom visit at 07:45. No sooner had I sat in the car, but I had the urge again. I spent most of the first hour just closing my eyes and clenching my butt cheeks. It was going to be a long drive to the airport!

 

The drive was long and the other drivers were scary. I didn’t envy Alan’s driving. Helen was reading her book, Aisling was having naps and Ann was using my Travel Pillow to sleep for the almost the entire journey. We paid €21 for the toll.

 

Settled Stomach, Awaiting Spagbol.

 

Team Barry decided to go to old town Bergamo to eat. Team Alan, aided by Navigational Officer Potter followed in pursuit. We topped up the car with gas and went to eat. The square was really nice. A Shiba Inu (the dog that made the Doge meme) appeared. He was super hot, so he jumped up on the fountain and put his paws in. I jogged over and took a photo of him. I also might’ve said “Many Hot, Much Scorchio, Doge must be Cool, Wow”. This was the meme of my early-twenties. My stomach had dried up, or was empty. I had my first Italian Spaghetti and Gelato.

 

Bergamo old town.

 

The Airport was busy. We passed the security queue, it was looooong. The Ryanair queue moved at a decent pace. I helped Helen with the process as she was struggling with the scanner. I made the executive decision to add the Security Fast Pass to my Boarding Pass. It was well worth the €5.50. I got through the otherside and met with Darragh, who had left the restaurant in the square about 30 minutes before us. Lucy, Barry and Fiona were also coming through security. I picked up my customary bottle of Brandy for my mother, and a pack of sweets for the guys in the office.

 

The flight back home was nice, I slept for some of it. I played some Zelda too, as I need to save Hyrule from Calamity Ganon. After a nice yellow curry and passing some sad-looking Galway bound coaches (they lost the Hurling All-Ireland to Dublin, or something I’m not a bandwagon fan) I was back at home. I walked my dogs, went to the christening and drove back to Dublin.

 

Foto del Giorno: Day 7: Saturday August 10th 2018.

 

It somehow took me a month to write this Illiad. I had a really nice time on this trip. The climbs were steeper than I would’ve liked. The group was great with a wide array of Banter tolerances to suit everyone’s mood.

 

Read More of Luke’s Trips: Sierra Nevada 2015 | Los Angeles 2017 | Nice 2017 | Boulder 2018.

GCN Video: GCN recorded a video of the Maratona, it covered many of the same places that we were, watch it here: GCN Rides The Maratona | Sprinter Vs Climber

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