The Mechanic and I have just returned from Italy, having spent a wonderful week cycling in the Emilia Romagna region on the Adriatic Coast. We stayed at a cycling friendly hotel in Riccione a few miles south of Rimini, called Hotel Dory.
At this time of year the hotel is full of cyclists, and rides are organised daily, led by experienced guides. Each day they propose three cycle groups, called Cappuccino Light, Cappuccino and Cappuccino Super, which as their names suggest increase in distance, speed and challenging climbs respectively. All three groups initially set out on a similar course for the first hour, so if you found that you had been overly ambitious in assessing your ability, you could stop and wait to be picked up by the group behind. I didn’t ask what would happen if you were in the last Cappuccino Light group and found yourself being dropped. No doubt a van would be summoned…the broom wagon!
Every evening the following day’s rides were pinned up in Reception with details of the distance, elevation and average speed expected. It was interesting to watch my fellow cyclists study them intently, to gauge how difficult the next ride would be, and subtly measure their capability against the other cyclists potentially in their group. I was no exception to this evening ritual, the first two days I signed up to the Cappuccino group, silently noting that only one other woman was in the group, but also seeing that a few of the chaps were a bit older and ‘bigger’- I hoped that I would keep up. The rides were challenging, and pushed me (not literally, however that would have been nice) to cycle faster than usual, it was a great experience but not fun to be the last on each descent – I’m fearful, not helped by being on a hire bike and finding the brakes hard to reach.
The third day was titled ‘The Grand Tour’ day, longer routes; 100 to 120Kms, with two or three big climbs. Whilst everyone was checking the gradients of the ascents, I paradoxically was analysing every km of the descents, trying to work out how steep they would be, not something I’d ever considered when cycling at home. I waited until after dinner to choose my group, my mind yo-yoing between ‘should I stay with the Cappuccino boys, but what if I can’t keep up, how humiliating’, and ‘I am on holiday, it won’t hurt me to join the slower group and enjoy the ride’. I checked the board and was quietly relieved to see that my lovely fellow female cyclist was changing group, so that decided it for me, I joined Cappuccino Light.
(I think it was also a relief to the Mechanic as he would not have to worry about me careering out of control down some mountainside trying to keep up).
The Grand Tour was an amazing day, it was enjoyable to be in my comfort zone, and secretly very satisfying to be one of the first up the climbs. I also enjoyed riding with a group, realising its quite a skill to cycle steadily and mindful of the people in front and behind. I learnt a lot from Ricardo, our guide, just by watching how he used his gears, and maintained a constant rhythm. I voiced to him my concern about descending, he immediately gave me confidence by encouraging me to follow his line, and brake less! I had such faith in him, I didn’t question it and followed, gaining speed, my heart rate going up. There is a fine line between frightened and exhilaration… I think I found it the latter, or certainly did in reflection.
I stayed in the same group for the rest of the week, I was able to enjoy the reward of hill-top panoramic views and cappuccino stops without being concerned about the descent back to base.
Thank you Ricardo.
Note. Hotel Dory exceeded all my expectations, so often when I’m away, I find the Mechanic and I discussing ‘wouldn’t it be good if…’, but at Hotel Dory absolutely everything had been thought of, we found ourselves constantly saying ‘ isn’t it great that…’
..’bananas and foil wrapped sandwiches are available to take out’.
..’our laundry is done every evening’.
..’the food is so delicious…they source locally…and offer such variety’.
..’there is plenty to do for non-cycling partners’.
..’there is wine tasting and beer tasting’.
..’our host has invited us for a bbq at his house’.
..’they share all their photos of the week’.
The list is endless.