Thursday, April 26, 2012

Water Sports and Festivals... Enjoying the Last Few Days In My "Second Home".

Tuesday began as another rainy morning in Garda! I was booked in to do one of the Garda on Bike tours, but the weather put an end to that... I suppose when they book guided tours, they do it for fun, not for training, and I guess most "normal" people wouldn't think it was fun hollering down trails in the rain (how wrong they are), but I had some good contingency plans if it was raining again, so I wasn't at a loose end! After breakfast, I armed myself with some bike cleaning gear and lube and headed out to the bike storage area to give the Ninja some love. The hotel here is really well equipped for bikes with a storage area that has a servicing stand, a wash bay and heaps of cool bike porn photos and maps all over the wall... It really is the ultimate "man cave" (for want of a better expression). I cleaned up the Ninja, including some very comprehensive chain love, did a short core workout in my hotel room, and then headed off for a nice thick hot chocolate and a lazy lunch.

The rain looked like it had well and truly set in, and then at about 2pm, it just stopped... And the sun came out (very much like Sunday!). I hadn't really fuelled myself during the day in preparation for a ride again, and to be honest, my legs felt a bit tired, but I was pretty determined to put this lovely afternoon to good use, so I headed down to the "beach" (spiaggia) and rented a kayak for a couple of hours. It's been years since I kayaked (possibly six or more!) so my first few strokes felt a bit foreign, then as I set out onto the lake, it all seemed to come back (just like riding a bike! Haha!) and before I knew it, I was sitting in the middle of the lake alone. It was uncanny how peaceful it was there, so far from other people, other sounds and civilisation in general, but still viewing it all from afar. It wasn't unlike standing atop a mountain after climbing it on your bike. It was amazing to be sitting on the water surrounded by all these mountains I had been climbing on my bike all week, their snow-capped peaks reflecting off the glassy lake which seemed to lay these huge monsters out in front of me, flat, like two-dimensional objects that I could glide straight over. It was kinda symbolic. I liked how serene it felt.

As I floated back in to the shore, I became very aware of how sore my back and arms will likely be tomorrow... My legs are so much more efficient as a mode of transport than my arms! It was mid afternoon and I now felt like spinning the legs out. I remembered the other day, Matheo had pointed out what was apparently the "best" ice cream shop in the area (that's a pretty serious claim to make), so I jumped on the Ninja to go and find me some gelato (at the same time as having an active recovery... Genius!). Maui Gelateria was a little further than I had remembered, out in the Sarca valley in a small town named Dro. The ride out there was a very flat 12.5km (probably the only flat 12km in the whole of Garda!) with a pretty stiff head wind... At least I was earning my gelato... The peaks around the valley were coated in a fresh dump of snow, which looked to be quite low (maybe even as low as 1000m). Matheo was so right... It was the best gelato I have ever had (especially the cherry flavour!) and well worth the ride out there. I then rode the 12.5km back to Torbole with a tail wind and finished my day with tired arms, tired legs, and a very happy belly!

Wednesday I awoke to the sun coming in through the shutters for the first time in a number of days. I headed down to breakfast and to the excellent news that Lara had managed to line me up some accommodation for the weekend at the hotel next door, so I could stay for the Bike Festival!!! YAY! What was even better was that I was still welcome at Santoni for the weekend for my breakfast and to use the facilities like bike storage etc. They've been excellent here at Hotel Santoni. They have really looked after me and they are so bike-focused. It's so nice to be able to rock up at the desk with a map and say to someone "hey, what do you think of this route?" and then they make suggestions as to where the best riding is (amnd I am yt to be disappointed with any of their recommendations!). After brekky, I hit the road with the Ninja and headed up the other side of the lake, up towards Altissimo. I haven't ridden up this side yet, and it was quite a treat to check out the views from the other side of the lake.

The climb was relatively steep, pretty relentless and mainly on sealed road except for the last couple of kilometers to the trail head. I was a little annoyed at myself that, having come in on a different road than expected just above Torbole, I thought I knew better and didn't bother checking the map, which resulted in me descending 150m, then finding out I had to climb it again! Oh well, good training, I guess! The town has been getting quite busy the last couple of days with the bike festival coming up on the weekend, and there were quite a few shuttle buses that passed me as I was climbing the road up to Dos Roverie... It's a bit strange not having the whole place to myself anymore! I finally arrived at the start of my descent on trail 6, which I had been told is a real blast. The first section was fast and flowy and put a pretty big grin on my face.

Matheo had told me to keep an eye out for a "big rock at a switchback" that I needed to climb up onto to see some good views. As I clambered up onto this rock, I was treated to views that stretched past Tremalzo and showed the snow-capped Dolimites range. A spectacular sight indeed! As I was climbing down from the rock, another couple of riders came along. I thought I would be doing them a favour by pointing out the view from my little spot, then discovered they were locals... Embarrassing! Lovely people though! I then headed off down the trail with parting words along the lines of "see you somewhere on the trail"... They must have been picking their way down the descent pretty carefully because I didn't see them again, despite my incessant need to take photos...

Desceding trail 6 was so much fun! It was technical enough to be challenging and interesting, but had good enoughn lines that you could blast along pretty quickly. I think the most difficult thing I found was concentrating on the trail when these spectacular views kept popping up in front of me... I mean, seriously, how am I meant to concentrate on nailing a steep, loose, technical switchback with this in front of me (and this is literally taken from the switchback)..........

I think this would have to be one of my favourite trails that I have ridden here so far. I was so disappointed to arrive in Navene at the end of the descent, after which I had to ride the lakeside road back to Torbole. The road has a number of tunnels, including one that is 2km long, and I was feeling very ill-prepared without a rear red light on my bike. Tunnels are bloody scary on your bike when you are sharing them with cars. It doesn't matter how small a car is, they all sound like busses or semitrailers coming up behind you in a tunnel... My heart was jumping out of my chest riding through there. I felt like a sitting duck.

Safely back in town, I hit up some lunch and visited the bike shop as the clouds began to roll in. This place is so much different with people everywhere, and you can feel the buzz of the Bike Festival building... There are signs going up, and roll-in ramps being built. The Cube team are staying at the hotel I am at and have all their support vehicles and the like here. It really is pretty cool. Looking forward to the weekend... I'm racing Sunday, and Saturday night, might even try my legs at a pump track eliminator contest. I'll be sad to leave this place at the end of the weekend... I feel like I've found a second home.

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