Hello everyone! Its TdF 2015!

Gelati - Sicily

The Tour starts this Saturday, with 10 skinny Australians taking the line. None will sport a number one plate (ie indicating ‘Team Leader’) but many will grasp the opportunity to have their day in the sun, of that you can rest assured.

With the big four contenders lining up - Nibali, Contador, Froome & Quintana, and all in good shape, it SHOULD be a good race. All are proven Grand Tour winners, and should know what it takes. Let’s hope the racing is close, clean and believable, and no idiots get done for doping, ok?

I have a story in the current ‘Bicycling Australia’ if you would like to read an expanded version of the above. We also post daily photos from all our tours on Facebook. Currently we are in the Pyrenees with our TdF Climbs group, and today rode Col d'Aspin and Tourmalet, featuring in Le Tour in two weeks time.

Trailer Tales

We use a bike trailer while running our tours in Europe. It holds 18 bikes and a few bags, but overall is fairly lightweight. We’ve had it for eight years, and consequently was still on its original tyres, until the end of our first Sicilian tour this year, when I noticed one of the tyres was a little out of shape. We were due to catch a ferry out of Catania that night, so still had a few hours up our sleeve to solve the problem. After a little phone searching and following a few signs that sent us the wrong way, we eventually found a ‘gommista’ (tyre specialist). Not the one we were looking for, and one who seemed so specialise in second hand tyres. He quickly found a couple of near new Pirellis, that he was happy to sell to us for 40 euro, fitted. Deal.

An hour later, when I returned, I found I had one near new Pirelli, and an unknown brand of tyre that resembled a ‘Bob Jane All-Rounder’. I questioned the whereabouts of the second Pirelli, but was none the wiser once he’d finished his rapid Sicilian accented response. I looked around the shop, the 2nd Pirelli had vaporised. I had a ferry to catch, tours to run. I paid and left.

NB in the motor trade, ‘Bob Jane All Rounders’ were commonly referred to as ‘out of rounders’.

I thought nothing more of it, until we were scooting across the top of Italy a few weeks later chasing the Giro d’Italia. On the Autoroute between Milano and Torino, travelling in convoy, I felt a vibration in the car. I looked to rear view mirror in time to see the trailer shake violently as a tyre exploded, and ripped off the mudguard. I quickly pulled into the emergency lane, while Franco, travelling behind us, took evasive action to avoid the flying tyre pieces and loose mudguard. We had a spare, so it was quickly fitted and very shortly we were on our way, again. We also retrieved the beat up mudguard.

The next day was Friday, and while the group set off to roll south through the hills of the Barolo region, to a degustation lunch (which I most certaily did not want to miss)I had to find another tyre. Within 5k of the accommodation there was a gommista. Gold! I couldn’t believe my luck. While the destroyed tyre looked impressive, the gommista’s response, once I’d got his attention, was most definitely unimpressive. It was an odd tyre size, which he didn’t have. It was Friday (NB 9.15am), he could do it if I left it, and picked it up on Tuesday. He also spoke rapid Italian, and while I asked him three times to speak slowly, so I could understand, I was ignored. He shrugged his shoulders before turning his back.
Well fuck you.

I was reticent and hesitated before I entered the next workshop, another 15k further on. However the response could not have been more opposite. The young mechanic, busy fitting tyres, dropped everything and ran over when he saw me enter with the damaged wheel. Mumma-mia! Madonna! Che cazzo fai! (what have you done!) he exclaimed, smiling all the while. He looked at me in awe while noting the tyre size, then disappeared - running. He returned with two tyres, and the boss by his side.

The boss gave me the news about the tyres, 50 euro for the two new (directional) tyres. I responded positively. I think it was on about my third syllable that I noticed her mouth turn up at the ends. Her eyes sparkled as I continued, and by the time I’d finished my first sentence I swear her breasts had grown. Her smile expanded as we chatted, and she commented that my Italian was excellent (it’s not). I used my long standing half-joke, that I can speak a lot, but understand nothing. At this she buckled over and had to hold on to a piece of garage furniture to support herself. I mused, if I had the capacity to say something truly funny, would I have to resuscitate her.

We continued to chat as I paid the bill with her leading the conversation. She was forty-ish, attractive, a MILF, or yummy-mummy, if you prefer. About the age of MBW – but by this point of the conversation I was a teenager again, and yet to meet her.

I managed to make a clean escape, planning to return that afternoon for the wheels, which happened uneventfully.

From my apprenticeship as a mechanic in the 70’s, up to this current day, I have spent many years in the motor industry, including running my own business. I couldn’t tell you how many tyres I’ve bought, but this experience will be long remembered as the one, and only time, I have ever been in danger of getting a root out of the transaction.

Beehives, Corleone, Sicily

Cucinare Report:

This was going to be all about offal, or sweetbreads, but I'm going to have to work up to that one.

We're in the land of duck, duck and more duck. And it has been fantastic, from Albertville to Bourg d'Oisans to Philippe's to Katie's (with chef Tom who has taken to the bike with a passion, and dropped 17kg in the last year) and now to Arreau, it's too good to be true. And of course, the salad arrives first in France, excellent!


Top: Gelati, Cefalu, Sicily - by Jess Douglas, with a lil' bit o' work by Norm Douglas
Lower: Beehives, Corleone, Sicily

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An Australian company, Topbike has a fully equipped European base and its own fleet of high quality hire bikes. We specialise in quality cycling tours with small groups and are famous for looking after our clients.

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