Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day 25- Sarzana to Lucca- 80km

We woke this morning to aching back and shoulder muscles and thorns being rejected by our bodies as they slowly pushed them to the surface. The downside to hiking your bike through 4km of mountain climbing thorn bushes! ;) but other than that we were good to go and happy to see another day of brilliant sunshine greeting us. For the first time in Italy breakfast wasn't included in our stay so we rode 10 meters from our hotel to the nearest cafe for "Italian breakfast". I'm not a big fan of Italian's coffee and a donut or some other sweet. Yuck. I miss French breakfast.

The VF trail out of Sarzana started with what Ben guesses was a 30% incline which lasted for about 1.5km. Jaysus! Talk about a heart starter for the morning! There were a series of those for the start of our day... Steep pinches followed by arse out the back descents. The brakes were searing hot by a few of those! The trail wound it's way over hills between some very pretty villages and kept us away from the freeway which keeps us happy :)

Grimace of pain. Lucky he didn't stack it trying to take the photo.... It was that steep!


Warmed up yet legs?!


Happy days

We had the option today of heading further into the hills or taking the flat coastal route and then joining back up further on. After yesterday's efforts we went for the flat option and headed for Italy's version of beach road! I had not seen many women cyclists in Italy (or France) but it was here that I found them! Cruising along the flat on their ill fitting bikes wearing their ill fitting Lycra with underpants (or even g strings) underneath. I just don't get it. In a country that has such a huge cycling scene there are just no women! Yet in Australia where it's not that popular we have so many comparatively. I was even more suprised in France, where I saw only one female cyclist the entire trip (and will now likely hold every QOM in Northern France once I upload my strava files).

This particular stretch of Italian coastline has been absolutely pillaged. I am sure it was once a spectacular location, what with the beautiful marble mountains behind and the beautiful views. But it is now a wasteland. Literally. Rubbish everywhere. And people come here for their holidays?! It was depressing and disgusting and I couldn't wait to get away and back to the mountains. So Ben and I put the power down and held 30km per hour, passing roadie gangs and heading back to the mountains we love.

Italy's beach road- very popular with cyclists


Holiday at the beach anyone?


Shipping yards right next to the beaches people were paying to get into


One of the private beaches you had to pay to get onto

Getting away from the coast we headed back onto the VF trails, but not for long.... After yesterday we had learnt our lesson, so when some single track turned into mud and vines we turned around the went back to the road. A quick ride on the main road in the traffic got us to Pietrasanta, our lunch stop for the day where we indulged in a 1 1/2 hour lunch with both beer and wine and were happy!

Fun canal track


We got to overtake a Piaggio!!!!





After our luxuriating lunch and with full bellies we had 30km of hills to get us to Lucca! Very smartly we decided not to take the hiking trails and instead followed the well signed car route for the VF! I highly recommend this to other cyclists doing the trail. For this particular section it was spectacular! After a short stint on the main road it took to the back road for a series of awesome climbs and descents. I love the hill climbs in Italy. The ones on the main roads are fantastic. They wind their way up the sides of the mountains with gradients which are easy enough that you can admire the views as you go. So beautiful and such a nice feeling to just push that little bit and get a good sweat going. When the route went to the back roads we were presented with what will go down as one of my all time favourite road rides. This climb was incredible!!! The gradient was a lot steeper, so down to my lowest gear but the road was just amazing! Barely a single lane wide but with the most beautiful sweeping turns you have ever seen, and surrounded by dense green. The climb had me grinning, but the descent had me wooping with excitement! I've never ridden hairpins like that, SOOOO much fun!!! And only one or two cars the entire time!

At the start of the first climb


Just to give you an idea of the gradient, lower road to high road


At the top
Onto the second climb


Amazing views





Riding the gravel into Lucca
The city walls which have been transformed into a cycle way


In Lucca!

We are now in the town of Lucca. Ben and I were here 9 years ago on our very first backpacking trip together in 2005. Wow has it changed since then! Its a beautiful walled city, but it is now overrun with tourists, something which drives me nuts. All the sudden everything is in English, the prices are hiked up and all the authenticity is lost. Why do tourists like this??? I travel to find something different. If you want the same, why not just stay at home. We are pretty good at sniffing places out though, so we found a B&B a little away from the hourdes, had a wine at a local bar with no other tourists, and dinner at a fantastic osteria where the owners didn't speak English. Ahhhhh, bliss. Not to mention I had the best rabbit EVER! And Ben got a nice big piece of roast pork with roast potatoes. We are trying to calorie load him.... He lost a fair bit of weight in France. As did we both, but I can't afford to... He can't... Though he will come home with a pretty mean power to weight ratio ;)

Streets of Lucca


Delicious pork


Rabbit and polenta


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