Biking is tiring in a really satisfying way. Hammer all day on a bike and you'll feel fulfilled and ready for food and rest. Driving in a car for four hours after hammering all day is brutal. Packed into the backseat with your teammates, your feet swell and even if you sleep you're not rested.
Like the athletes who do the Giro Donne, we packed into the Renault—with three in the back and two up front, and we drove south into the heat. It was midnight before we got to bed and yet we left the next morning at 7 a.m. to drive another four to five hours to the start of our Stage 4, the 2007 Stage 2, from Ca' Tiepolo di Porto Tolle to Rosolina Mare.
By the time we hit the coast, it was roasting hot and the sun was directly overhead. There was a brief rebellion, and the riders made a run for the rocky shores of the Adriatic for a swim. Southern Italy is having a heat wave and we're in it. It was in the 90s and humid when we got on our bikes, and, as per usual, started to sprint for the camera after about a five minute warm up.
The landscape in the south is totally different than anything we've seen up to this point. It's a heavy agriculture area with olive trees, corn, wheat and fruit growing everywhere.
From the edge of the sea it seemed like we might have a fairly flat ride, but in fact we climbed a gradual grade for many miles before descending the same.
Sick of eating Clif Shots and Torque Bars—the staples of our diet for the last three stages—Eryn and I spotted an apricot tree and stopped to pick up the ground fall. They were succulent and juicy, unlike any apricot I've ever eaten in the U.S. We stuffed our jersey pockets and shared with the rest of the riders at the top of the climb.
The descent was bad—calling it a paved road was really an exaggeration. The speed demons among us were sliding out ripping through broken pavement corners with loose gravel and hopping over massive gaps in the road. The badly paved course turned to dirt unexpectedly and Jane almost went down. Our driver was pedal-to-the-metal rally-car style with two girls riding inches from the bumper and Rob filming from the back while trying to jam himself against the roof of the car so that he wasn't thrown out.
Sarah, Collyn and I reached an intersection at the bottom and there was no sign of the others. We climbed again for nearly an hour before they caught us.
Eryn flatted when the patch on her rear tube melted off in the heat, and I flatted from blistering hot new asphalt.
Many towns have springs that run freely in the central plaza. The town of Bomba did better than that. Next to the central plaza they had installed a fountain that for five cents would dispense a liter of frizzante—essentially seltzer water. The team drank and stashed 20 liters before we left town. It was 99°F—we cut the ride short.
Even in the heat, the Rapha kit was great. The Lightweight Jersey was a lifesaver in the brutal temperatures. With the back vent open and the front unzipped, I was as comfortable as I could be in the furnace of southern Italy. The shorts were so comfortable I never even thought about the fact that I have them on. And Rapha has a guarantee on all of their classic products: wear them for 30 days and if you don't like them they'll refund your purchase, no questions asked. I'll be keeping mine though.
Today's stats: Distance: 27 miles; elevation gain: 2,300 feet; temp: 93°F-99°F; hours driving: 6.