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Day 24 Fornovo Di Taro to Berceto

DONATE DONATE DONATE .... 107 km and £875 to go until BOTH targets are reached! WHOOP!

If you have already donated, thank you so much. If you haven't and would like to there

is still time and it will be a real incentive to help me get up that final hill!

Here is a handy link:- https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/thelaeman I suspected today was going to be tough from the moment I looked at the Via Francigena route way back when and hence only plotted to do about 35km. I was right. It WAS tough, especially under an Italian spring sun with little to no wind and cloudless skies. It was 29 km straight up and the climbing started as soon as I left the hotel. By the conclusion of the day my average speed was lower than that day when I conquered the Swiss Alps. So although today was shorter in distance by some 8km than the Swiss Alps day it had a steeper average gradient. Clear as mud? Good.

Someone best hope that colour fades real quick. Not sure about the lions either ....

In the 1,400 km I have travelled since living home I have not come across a single person doing the Via Francigena by bike. That was until today. Like London buses you don't see one for ages then they come in threes. First up was Uwe (Pronounced Ooo-vay). From a town near Heidelberg in Germany he had ridden into Switzerland near Basel, picked up the Via Francigena near Lausanne and was on his way to meet his wife in Rome. Transpires Uwe was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour two years ago and was given three months to live. Refusing to let it slow him down he had the necessary operation and chemo/radio and decided to make the most of every day. Last year he rode from home in Germany and did the Compostela di Santiago pilgrim route across France and Spain. Total ride length from home in Germany to Atlantic? A mere 2,400 km. Now he is doing this ride. Full of life and laughs he was good company for the kms we rode together and his story is truly inspirational. I wish him every success on this and all his journeys.

No sooner had Uwe and I parted than I ran into Enzo and his two friends. They are from Italy with Enzo living in Rome and his two buddies from the north. Together they had decided to meet up and to train it to Aosta then climb the Italian side of the Great St. Bernard pass that I had done last week from the Swiss side. Like me they discovered they about 3 km from the top they could no go further and so started their Via Francigena route there and plan to finish in Rome. Meet Enzo and his buddies ....

Lo' and behold no sooner had we parted ways and I had plonked myself down in an armchair of a mid-mountain trattoria than a middle aged couple from Italy, and complete with panniers pulled up. They didn't stop for a chat or photo and looked all very serious in his/her matching bikes and Lycra gear. However given the amount of gear they were carrying and heading in the same direction as me my assumption was that they too are Via Francigena pilgrims.

A welcome respite from the day of climbing ....

So, 1,400 km and not a single other pilgrim rider and today 6 of them in 3 groups. You couldn't have scripted it. I rode past a memorial that had Enzo Ferrari's name emblazoned on it and it got me wondering what the fuss was about. Transpires that way back when, he made his debut as a professional car driver in the 1917 Parma to Berceto hill climb. That would be the very climb I was doing today. Albeit me obviously a little slower. In fact I was going so slowly at one stage a snake overtook me!

Thought of the day "That's the way to do it" After seeing three men roll up at the mid mountain trattoria on their own touring motor bikes with touring panniers. They had a coffee, a sandwich, fired up their bikes and were gone. Probably doing what I had just done but in about 1/100th the time.

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