Lucca Write up

Link to the Lucca Album

As we touched down at Gatwick airport two things became very apparent: The temperature in England was at least ten degrees cooler than in Italy & our coming days would no longer be full of steep switchback ascents. 

I feel it is important to throw in a disclaimer here. Firstly, names may have been changed to protect people’s identity. Secondly, exaggeration and humour may substitute fact (or loss of memory) on more than one occasion!

Having safely arrived in Lucca on Thursday we followed Charlie’s excellent itinerary and rented ‘city bikes’ to tour the town wall. 2.5 miles later and various attempts at amateur stunts / races and we were sat in the sunshine enjoying a suitably chilled beverage. Little did we know the challenge that awaited us the next day.

With a gentle tour of the local hills behind us Friday morning we all set off to climb Pizzorne, a 2,500ft ascent that took 50+ minutes. Sweat, energy gels and various ‘false summits’ later, we reached the top. With my Garmin reading a warm 32 degrees C at the bottom it felt positively chilly as we began our descent some 10 degrees cooler. As with all hills, the down was over so much quicker than the up! 

It would have been rude to have flown into Pisa and not seen the leaning tower. Saturday morning therefore saw a flat ride to Pisa where photos were aplenty; all the while Keith was worried about a man stealing his banana!! – Apparently the area having a few pick pockets. 

Banana(s) intact the ride in the afternoon was led by local bike-shop owner, Paladino. Other locals joined the ride, all sporting immaculate matching clothing and bronzed bodies, both of which should have been a clue to their riding abilities. The next 50 miles and 3,500 feet of climbing would be best described as ‘pacy’. Not only this, the ride had a few unfortunate incidents for VCGH members. Jason won the award for most punctures in a 5 mile stretch, although he managed to retain a smile even when his inner-tube decided to fail for the 3rd time. Chris found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up joining the club road rash hall of fame, whilst Grant unselfishly threw himself purposely onto the tarmac to avoid decapitating Chris. As if this act was not enough, the mechanical failure that resulted meant Grant heroically pedalled the remaining miles with only 2 gears; a few of us were struggling to keep up with a full compliment!

Sunday was planned as a scenic cycle to the beach. Having enjoyed 30+ temperatures it came as rather a shock when the rain began to fall. We arrived at the beach lunch stop wet and 22 miles later arrived home soaked. Did this stop us having a good time? No chance! Keith, who had become designated Strava representative, led a group of 4 on a 10-mile TT, all setting a very competitive time despite atrocious conditions. Collette was snapping at their heels though, with 3 other riders in tow. Residents of Lucca enjoyed various pieces of club kit drying from hotel windows that evening…

Whilst eating that evening Dave proved he was the perfect compere, handing out brilliantly thought up awards - prizes ranging from toilet roll to bubble bath. For anyone not present the mind must boggle at what the awards were for; the fellow restaurant attendees were equally confused! 

Paladino led another ride on Monday afternoon – gazing over the phenomenal views, riding in pleasant sunshine and amongst friends this proved to be the perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable trip. Paladino even managing to take photos for the shop facebook page whilst climbing the steepest of hills we were presented with! As we all reflected over a drink (ok, there were quite a few) that evening we remembered birthday celebrations, good humour and fantastic riding routes, all these things having played a part over the previous few days.

There was a rumour that Charlie was half-Italian, purely on the basis that immaculate kit was worn, even changing at lunchtime!  Nonetheless, the planning, hard work and general good leadership from Charlie ensured the entire trip was perfectly co-ordinated. The only question on everyone’s mind was “can this be an annual trip?”

Elliot Brown
Our man in Italy