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Day five: the bell’s end

June 15, 2013

We said the 2013 ride would be different. It was. And the last day was the most different of them all, for reasons of remembrance, innovation, pilgrimage and the unstilted exuberance of the music of Culture Club.

Told you it would be different.

Our day began in the dusty mining town of Sondrio. Avoiding the busy main drag, this time deliberately rather than because someone thought they had a better idea with the route, we eased along the valley floor through the villages, light industry and dubious road surfaces that seem to abound the north east of the Lake Como area.

After some fast riding on the flat, we were soon at a nondescript town on the northern tip of the lake. Scant reward for our efforts, but the coffee was strong and cheap.

Then we made our way down the Lungolargo lakeside road through quiet villages, past sweeping views across the water and through a few dodgy tunnels until we reached Varenna, a lovely little village with green and ochre houses working their way up the steep hillside.

And then some LVG innovation: lunch on the quayside and a ferry across the lake to Bellagio. The first LVG kilometres covered not by pedal, and very pleasant it was too.

We arrived at Bellagio, a cute little port, but had other matters to attend to. The very sharp, then flat, then sharp again 10k climb up to the Madonna del Ghisallo, the little chapel of the patron saint of cycling. A true pilgrimage. I knew what the old stuff was like, but there was no substitute for seeing Coppi and Bartali’s machines in the flesh, with gearing that can only make a modern cyclist shudder.

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And a moment of sombre prayer as we offered thought for Nuts, who checked out of this world earlier this year and left us with a motto for this year’s ride shirt that certainly helped me over the past few days when the spirit was sagging: “You’re a long time dead mate”. We left the hallowed LVG bell at the most hallowed of cycling shrines in his memory. Nuts, thanks for all the memories, and rest in peace.

Then a fast followed by steady descent towards Como and the finish line. Already it was over. An epic ride, so many tales, so much beautiful scenery, so much achievement, so many new things and yet so much that stayed utterly the same.

We ate outside the hotel on the terrace, our group on one side and a middle-aged Italian medics’ convention on the other. When The King made his appearance as the quacks took to the dancefloor in front of a cheesy cover band, you could see where that was heading. Amazing images, and the sight of a faux Elvis grinding around amongst confused locals beside the lake to off-key Culture Club was a fitting way to end another bonkers week.

For the LVG this week, every day was indeed like survival.

But survive we did. Big thanks and safe travels to the 2013 riders: Matt, Gabbi, Deptford, JL, Weeman, Hans, Typo, Cap’n Jack, Textbook, Ed, Wardy and Beev. And, as ever, huge gratitude to van man Howie – Ciao-e.

A new bell was blessed and is the ‘safe’ hands of Cap’n Jack for another year. He won a Livestrong cap for being the rider most likely to take things he shouldn’t (even the bike was borrowed this year) and I got a bandana for most improved ‘rider’. Started from a very low base though. Plus Luke in absentia won a stuffed marmot – for the most spectacular crash of the week, committed while not actually riding his bike. Big skills.

Oh and then Textbook got invited to an Italian bunga bunga and pasta party by a very strange man and rolled in at 5am. But more on that another time. Expect many more pictures on Dropbox soon.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 16, 2013 7:08 am

    Well done fellas, a touching end to what looks like an amazing ride. Thanks for taking the time out to remember Nuts in such a special way. It’s very much appreciated, and I’m sure Nuts would have muttered something about you being a bunch of soft bastards in whichever lay-by in the sky he’s currently parked in, and been touched too.

    Little point of order…though open to debate. We have been on a ferry before. Two in fact, both on the first year’s ride. We had the long overnight one from Portsmouth to St Malo (where, having shared a small cabin with Nuts, Village and Kelly I can only now look back with relief that Typo wasn’t there) but perhaps more in keeping with your Como trip, we also crossed the Loire just west of Nantes on a chain-pulled bateau.

    All that said, Les Veloistes Gentils as the name for this amazing group of men wasn’t actually coined until the end of that ride, so one might claim that your trip last week was indeed a first.

    It’s these silly little stories that make LVG so special. Long may it continue.

    Pinny

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