Oh my, what a day! Today very nearly broke me. I actually wanted it to break me, because at least then the torture would stop. Somehow I’m still here. I got through it. Things were going well until I got stopped by the police and was told bicycles weren’t allowed on the main road I was on. This was fine, as there was a secondary road generally running parallel to the busy main road, but I was left with the impression that I would have to ride secondary roads all the way to Sestriere. In reality, the main road on which bicycles were not allowed only continued for a little while. I wasted some precious time chasing secondary roads much further than I needed to, and the chase led me into some incredibly steep climbs that sapped my energy, ones from which I had to backtrack when I hit dead-ends. Once back on the main road for good, I faced a mountain climb that never let up. The thing that made the day a monumental challenge was a headwind that was blowing down the valley. At times I could only manage 5kph and I now know what it feels like to have snow blasted into your eyes. I might need to consider getting goggles!
Another thing that made the day challenging was that I knew there were people waiting for me. The couple that were at dinner the night before last had police friends in Sestriere, and the police friends had said they would meet me just out of town and escort me in. The police said they would wait for me at Borgata from 3pm. As the day wore on I knew I wouldn’t make it there in time. I got a message out that I wouldn’t be there until 4.30pm. This turned out to be a bad estimation and at 5.40pm I was still making my way there. By this time it was dark. I didn’t have any way of contacting the police, so I messaged Marco to say where I was, which was about 3km from Borgata. I assume he got word to the police because a few minutes later an officer turned up to act as my escort. I apologised profusely about my slowness before proceeding to follow him at a snail’s pace.
It was probably a good thing I had someone to follow as it meant I pushed myself way harder than I otherwise would have. If I was on my own I would have succumbed to my utter exhaustion and probably pushed my bike with frequent breaks. Not wanting to hold the policeman up any more than I already had, I nearly cried as I pushed my body to its absolute limit. The gradient was difficult, as was the road surface, which was covered in ice. My wheels kept slipping and at one point my bike completely came out from under me. I hit the ground hard. I didn’t want to get up.
Miraculously, we reached our destination. In the course of the day I had gone from an elevation of 300m to an elevation of 2,035 metres. The air temperature was so cold that my water bottle froze solid halfway through the day, which meant I had no drinking water. But all of that was suddenly behind me. I felt a bit cool as I followed the flashing lights though town while the townspeople (here on their ski holiday) looked on. The destination was a ski resort. Sestriere hosted the Winter Olympics Games in 2006 and the Olympic Village that housed the athletes has been turned into a fancy resort. Incredibly, the police had booked me a room. The policeman escorting me into town simply led me to the front of the resort, told me they were expecting me inside, and then left. I must have looked a little crazy when I wheeled up to the main doors with my bicycle and limped my way in to the main desk. I told the girl that I think the police have booked a room for me. I sensed her disbelief, but she looked up my name nonetheless. I think we both got a shock when she said that yes, it looks as if the police have indeed booked a room. She proceeded to hand over some swipe cards and told me where I could it. I was amazed to discover that the room is a mini apartment. I was even more amazed to discover that the room included access to a sumptuous buffet dinner. What a great end to a difficult ride!
I feel too tired to go out, but I’m going to anyway. It turns out that the girl I met in Villafranca just so happens to be in Sestriere too. She had planned a ski trip here with her friends and had learned during the day (from our mutual friends in Villafranca) that I was headed there on the bike. It was just as I arrived at Olympic resort that I learned she was in town. I have just returned to my room from dinner to smash out this diary entry and tidy up my things in readiness for a ride tomorrow. When I’m done I will head out to join her and her friends at a bar.
|Distance ridden today||87.42km|
|Average cycling speed||10.7kph|
|Total distance ridden||29,328km|