We arrived last night at dusk, pieced our bikes together from their boxes and hard cases, and devoured primi, secondi and dessert plates—pasta with oil and garlic, roasted pork and pannacotta—before passing out jet-lagged with exhaustion, hoping to get maximum sleep before our 6 a.m. departure.
Today we rode the seventh stage of the 2010 Giro Donne, Como to Albese.
On the bikes, we wove through early morning traffic in Como, closely following our Renault rental car with the videographer jammed into the back, hatchback hanging open. The four other riders, Jane McInnes, Eryn Nolan, Sarah Cary and Collyn Ahart, live in the U.K. They ride and train and race together. I am the new kid in town, not a racer, and today I rode in a pack with the other girls for 120km, learning how to train and ride with a group, and riding handlebar to handlebar with women I had just met.
Lake Como is beautiful, but the car and truck traffic is intense.
In 1984, there was a Tour de France for women, called the Tour Féminin. Organizers had a hard time getting sponsorship, and the Tour de France forced the race to change its name. In 2004, the race was cancelled. In 2005 and 2006, it returned but was shorter—five stages, not 15. In 2009, it was cancelled again.
It's not as widely known as the Tour de France or perhaps even its sister spinoff, but the Giro Donne started back in 1988. It follows many of the stages of the Giro de Italia, though often for half the distance that the men's race covers.
After a gentle cruise along the lake with a stop for espresso, we follow this stage up 3,000 feet over eight and a half miles. In the lakeside town of Bellagio we cycled through narrow cobbled streets and a destination wedding before a steep climb to visit the Madonna del Ghisallo, patron saint of cyclists, and the cycling museum named after her. The road was perfectly smooth tarmack. In threatening weather, we finish the day with a fast downhill.
Our schedule is that of a classic Grand Tour: long rides, sometimes equally long shuttles to the next stage. We leave at 6 or 7 in the morning, and we often don't get to our hotel until 8, 9, or 10 p.m.
One down, five to go.
Today's stats: 75 miles, 7,100 feet of climbing, 67 degrees.