Last Sunday i rode my second gran fondo from Fiesole to Fiesole, 105K. It was supposed to be something like this.
It turned out to be more like this.
And think that the day before the race I arrived in Florence and it was about 35°, a temperature substantially higher than what I had in Switzerland. On Sunday morning at the start of the race it is still sunny, but all the riders of the pack have checked the weather forecast and know it is going to rain. Except me.
I start the race on the back of the peloton and since there are more than 500 participants in the first few km I get stuck in the traffic. Things look good when I start the first climb from Le Cure to Fiesole, rolling up with my pace and passing many riders.
On the long descent to Vicchio I manage to stay with a relatively large bunch and then on the second ascent of the day, the steep climb to Cima San Cresci, I leave the bunch behind together with a friendly chap who has pretty much the same pace as I do. We even find some time to joke on the way up. When we arrive on top of the climb I stop to wait while he drinks and eats at in the feeding zone: this way we can go down together on what is supposed to be a very technical descent. I have always considered myself a pretty bad rider when it comes to going down, but this time I surprise myself. Me and the friendly chap go down like rockets and by the time we finish the descent we have a large group of riders in sight, only a few hundred meters ahead. We give it all in, strong and hard, and we manage to catch up. It turns out to be a really massive group of about 50 riders, with 40 km of flat terrain ahead before the next ascent. It all looks good, then and there: when you are going on a flat terrain, staying in a group means you save 90% of your energy. That moment I remember thinking ‘conditions are ideal, this couldn’t get any better‘. In fact it can’t; but it can get worse: it starts raining, and it is not rain really, it is a proper storm. A few minutes after we pass from this road, a tree collapses. The picture below was taken by a local newspaper.
What comes next is probably the most stressful hour of my 2016 thus far. With the roads inundated, riders start falling on the ground. The water does not only come on me from above: it also squashes in my face and in my eyes because the contact with the wheels of the riders ahead. I see extremely little and am I riding on a very slippery road surrounded by other cyclists at something like 45km/hour. In those long minutes I think of all the things that can go wrong: I might crash, I might slip, I might be taken down by another rider, I might loose my contact lenses, I might also ruin my mobile phone that is drowning in a pocket full of water. This is probably the most stressful thought of all. It is not the idea of loosing the phone that bugs me much, it’s more the GPS in it and the record of all the fast km that I have done until there. Anyways. I do not want to stop, and I continue.
So does the rain too. The storm stays with us until the end. But when we arrive to Sieci we know the most stressful part is over, because we have to climb up again. On a ascent the water is less annoying for a rider, because you go slower so there is less of a squash in your face and in your eyes. The ascent from Sieci to Olmo is long and steep and my large group explodes. Some riders loose pace, some others go up faster than I do. I stay pretty much in the middle; and then on the descent from Olmo to Firenze I gain terrain, coming down very fast again. This time it is mainly the fact that I know the roads extremely well and I am taking some risks, in spite of the wet surface. In the last ascent to Fiesole I feel I am completely wrecked because of the water coming into my bones. I arrive on top with a time of 3 hours and 12 minutes with an average speed of 29KM/hour and something like 150th.
Three days later I still haven’t fully recovered from the fatigue.
Two years ago a bunch of desperate pilgrims climbed up the hill of Fiesole to watch the world cycling championship under pouring rain. The group was led by Giallu and myself; it included Anna and Jonas – Dani was also there, but he wisely decided to leave after half an hour because he was soaked down to the bones. It was a memorable ride, for good or for worse. I still remember a picture I took that day. Let me tell you something about the misery of it. The man looking aguishly at me is a friend of Giallu, the great cycling lover and excellent writer Il Poeta. The man behind Poeta, peacefully eating his sandwich and drinking grappa in a yellow submariner’s coat is Giallu himself. No matter how bad the thunderstorm was, he sat there, enjoyed, and eventually got drunk together with grumpy Jonas.
Many things have changed since that cold and rainy day of September 2013. The world cycling championship is now Richmond, Virginia. Jonas and Anna have left Florence. And the weather around here seems to have gotten much better. So today Giallu and I commemorated the glorious past (a more complete photo gallery from that unforgettable period of my life is here) by going for a ride up and around Fiesole.
It was the first Tuscan ride for my new flamboyant road bicycle. It was also the first time since I moved to Florence I managed to wake up on a Sunday morning at 7AM.
Last week Dani invited me and some other friends – including Ola and Liz: you still remember? – for the harvesting of Sangiovese wine grapes. We have been working real hard.
We were taken onboard by a small organic estate founded by husband and wife, Enzo and Claire, back in 2000. Nestled in the hills of Fiesole and facing south/south-west, the property sits in some of the most beautiful countryside just outside Florence, amidst hills sprinkled with medieval bell towers and castle ruins. The name of the estate is Poggio La Noce: they have a website and there is also a nice, 2-minute video that you can watch here.
So there is one thing in particular from my 2014 resolutions I really wanted to do and have not managed yet: the half marathon. Only problem: there is no chance of finding a half marathon anywhere near here at this point of the year. So I have decided I will go for the only run possible, which turned out to be a bit harder than a half-marathon.
The Firenze – Fiesole – Firenze run is 16.5K, with a 370 elevation gain that makes it is a real tough uphill race. It is on the 14th of December, five days from today. Not much time for proper preparation. BUT! this shall be done! I found five brave volunteers who will run with me: Ludvig, Pauline, Niels, Martin, Giallu. Everything considered, my (our?) target is to finish it. To nail it in less than one hour forty-five would be nice.
When I first decided to start a PhD many graduate students warned me of the sadness of a life of lonely research. Doctoral students are often thought to be left alone in a somehow depressing menage a trois with their thesis and their supervisor. This is certainly the image you get if you ever read PhD comics. The doctorate, many people think, is a very lonely activity.
This was never my case. In fact the kind of environment I found in Fiesole is nothing like that. As our Head of Department told us upon our arrival last year, research is a very social endeavor. True that: academic ideas are rarely the result of one’s own thinking; what really inspires them, what helps your thinking to evolve and to become more coherent is the result of interaction and engagement with other people’s thought. So you can understand why Mariana sent me this quote from Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition:
“(…) under the sky of ideas the philosopher not only finds the true essence of everything that is, but also himself, in the dialogue between “me and myself” (…). To be in solitude means to be with one’s self, and thinking, though it may be the most solitary of all activities, is never altogether without a partner and without company.”
This is what I like about being here. Working in the same rooms with my fellows, going out for lunch with them, spending hours talking about our ideas and projects in front of a coffee: being here is generally about being in good company. And yes, I suppose it is this kind of interaction that makes my research a joyful activity. This, and the mutual agreement never to talk about our research and our own work when we go out in the evening. Because every now and then we really don’t mind too much beclouding our sky of ideas with the earthly pleasures of the flesh.
Back in the days there was a method, in my photography. Now the method is all gone. I took about twenty-twentyfive completely random pictures in my first two florentinian months. It is not easy, but if you can read through them you will learn a lot about yellow submarines, storms, spectacular falls, my attraction for the Germans, and much more.
The two pictures taken from the university are not mine, but Rosie‘s – who doesn’t even know me. I hope she won’t mind.
Un post sul ciclismo, ma anche sulla drammatica situazione dei proprietari si biciclette a Firenze, giusti o ingiusti che siano, ricchi o poveri, guitti o biscazzieri.
Ciao Lò, questo mi scrive il poeta della bici: alle 7.15 da piazza Edison andiamo a 3-400 metri dalla vetta, ho visto l’angolo perfetto per passare la giornata. tv, pubblico caldo, caffè gratis dalla casa vicina e ampia visuale sul tratto duro della salita. dopol’ultimo passaggio fuga in cima per il maxischermo! tanta gente ci raggiunge nell’arco della mattina, fammi sapere che fai te! (comunque i posti si trovano sempre, ci si pigia e basta)
Lorenzo: Ok. Vengo con Anna Katherina, Jonas, e forse una coppia di cari amici romani/torinesi.
Gianluca: Avevo letto Anna Karenina. Peraltro i russi non corrono,dato che hanno rubato loro tutte e 12 le biciclette.