La Dolce Vita
There comes a point on a climb when even the fittest, best prepared cyclist looks up the road in front, watches the gradient kick up again and mentally gulps at the challenge ahead. When your breathing is laboured, your legs are starting to hurt and there’s a little figure mentally sitting on your shoulder suggesting that it’s too hard, it would be very easy to just give up and stop pedalling.
This hardly sounds like living la dolce vita does it! But the truism about “getting out what you put in” can be applied by the bucket load to cycling. By gritting your teeth a little and continuing to pedal (even if you only aim for the next corner), the benefits of getting to the top under your own steam are incredible. OK, so it might hurt on the way up, but as you crest over the summit and see the mind blowing view in front of you, the extra pain you put your legs through will have pushed your fitness and stamina up a notch or two and will make that second plate of pasta con pesto even easier than normal to say “si” to that evening.
As I looked up the hairpinned climb in front of me, the gradient seemed to be increasing by the second. I caught occasional glimpses of subsequent bends up above me, just visible through the dense chestnut tree foliage. The demon on my shoulder was suggesting I should stop and take a rest, but I did my best to ignore it and instead, reached down, selected a lower gear and put my foot on the accelerator a little harder. Accelerator I hear you say? Oh, didn’t I mention I was driving up the climb rather than riding up it?
Although I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden a huge amount in this area since I started to work there back in 2000, this time (sadly) I was driving rather than pedalling my way around our new Pisa to Cinque Terre circuit. Next to me sat a bunch of camera kit, a laptop, maps and other necessary gumpf, none of which would have fitted in a cycling jersey pocket!
Even if I was only driving, the buzz from reaching the top (or more accurately the buzz from looking at the following descent, which I will definitely be back to ride in the summer) was impressive. Standing at the bar in a tiny café at the base of the descent supping an expertly poured Espresso Macchiato, the buzz of having found the perfect route for another day in the new trip’s itinerary was almost as good as if I had actually been riding.
Not bad for a day in the office. Definitely a little slice of la dolce vita. And, the best bit was my legs weren’t hurting!