John Murphy’s Trip to Tuscany

In September our traveling cyclist, John Murphy, made the journey to Italy to enjoy the pleasure of cycling in the Tuscany region.

You will have to ask John what inspired him to do this, the challenge of the ride or the local food and wine.  He sent us several emails describing his experiences.  John wrote. . .

 

 

 

Tuscany Day One

Greetings from Pievescola, Italy.  We are staying at the Relais La Suvera (pictured below) which like everything else of note in Tuscany seems to sit at the top of an agonizingly slow climb.  Today was supposed to be our “warm up” ride.  We rode 24 miles with a 1,600 foot elevation gain.  It felt like a lot more miles because it was warm and humid.  If this is the warm up ride, I can only imagine what lies ahead.  I am, however, looking forward to a wonderful Tuscan dinner and some of the local wine.  The roads here are in excellent condition and are lightly travelled.  This would all be heavenly if they would just do something about the hills.  I am looking forward to wins by the Eagles and Phillies later today to ease my burden tomorrow.  Ciao.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Days Two and Three in Tuscany

We have completed our third day in Tuscany.  Yesterday, we rode approximately 40 miles with a 2,700 foot elevation gain.

A 20 degree climb

This may not sound like a lot but when the inclines stretch for several miles under a hot sun with high humidity,  it is.  We have three rings on our bikes but even the smallest ring often does not feel small enough.  We do not do a lot of “granny gear’
riding on Team Evesham and it is rather unsettling to be creeping up a long hill at 6 or 7 miles per hour for 40 or 50 minutes.  Our ride took us to the famous walled town of Monteriggioni followed by a hefty climb to Castellina in Chianti, a fortified hamlet with a picturesque castle and a unique arcaded street.    Lunch consisted of two slices of Italian pizza which only modestly resembles our local pies.

Today, the temperatures reached 94 degrees and most of us opted for somewhat shorter routes.  We did approximately 26 miles today with a 2,200 foot elevation gain.  Our ride included a four to five mile uphill to Badia a Coltibuono where we were treated to a private tour and olive oil tasting.  Owned by the same family since 1810, this medieval abbey is now a private estate producing gourmet olive oils and Chianti wine.  After a lunch at the abbey, we had a long downhill that took us to Ceramiche Rampini, a great place to purchase ceramics hand-painted in the Renaissance tradition.  Several items are on their way back to southern New Jersey as I write.

 

 

 

 

 

More challenges lie ahead tomorrow.  The roads are all in excellent condition and the drivers are remarkably accommodating and courteous to cyclists.  Needless to say, the food is fabulous and the wine flows.  More reports will follow.  Take good care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Ride in Tuscany

I completed my riding yesterday with a 44 mile run that featured an elevation gain of 3,445 feet.      I left the Castello di Velona and began with a 1.5 mile descent with a ten per cent grade.  I then began a long, slow ascent of approximately 3.7 miles to the small village of Poggio Rosa.  I estimate the grade ranged from 3 to 7 per cent but it was unending.  Because I left the hotel first and was moving along nicely, the support van never caught up to me.  At one point on my first climb, I saw it pull up and stop about 200 feet below me on the winding road.   However, there was no way I wanted to turn around and cover the same ground again.  I labored on.

I then set my sights on the ancient town of Pienza which was the long time home of Pope Pius II and the place where many of the scenes in the English Patient were filmed.  Pienza sits high on a mountain and the slow climb up to the town covered approximately 3 miles with grades ranging from 3 to 9 per cent in a bright sun with temperatures approaching 90 degrees.  My climbing strength improved with each day on the tour and I was able to keep my heart rate between 135 and 145 on most of climbs yesterday.  I finally arrived in town at 11 a.m. with no other rider in sight and virtually out of water.  I don’t highly recommend riding ahead of the support van but I knew this would be my last ride and I wanted to go out with a flourish.  Pictures of Pienza are attached.

 

I left Pienza at noon and climbed through the small village of San Quirico.  I then began a descent and in the midst of a gear change from the third to the second ring threw my chain which wrapped itself in knots around my pedal.  I was unable to untangle the chain and had to call the van for assistance.  After the necessary adjustments, I continued on to Torrenieri and proceeded towards the mountain village of Montalcino.  The climb to Montalcino took approximately 4.7 miles with grades ranging from 3 to 10 per cent.  It was a slow climb with no shade and mid-afternoon temperatures now exceeding 90 degrees.  I finally reached the village and took a short break for a Gelatto.  I then completed the day with a six mile descent back to the Castelllo di Velona.  All in all, it was quite an experience.  I am happy to report that my fitness and strength improved with each passing day here.  We are taking a bus up to Florence later this morning.  I am taking the train to Rome where I will be meeting some friends for dinner tonight.  I fly back to Philadelphia on Monday.  See you all soon.  I hope you have enjoyed the pictures.

 

In Rome

I am leaving for Philadelphia tomorrow morning.  Here are some assorted pictures from Rome that include the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain and the Vatican.  There comes a time in every trip that it is time to come home.  That time is now.  Living out of a suitcase does grow old and there is a lot to be said about returning to one’s routine.  I hope the ride went well this morning.  I very much look forward to returning to the team and the riders I know.  See you very soon.