If you get a phone call that starts with ...
"" Hey xxxxx I am thinking of doing one of these 'Cycle Tuscany' tours. Do you want to join me? ""
Then you have three options by my estimation
1. Reply... " Sounds wonderful and I look forward to seeing the photos and hearing all about it when you get back". As you reach for another bottle of overpriced Chianti you bought from Dan Murphys liquor wholesalers for about 8 times what it costs in Tuscany. Regardless, you are poolside and the prawns and seafood are on the BBQ and the thought of cycling anywhere seems more remote than a weather station in the southern Atlantic.
2. You reply "Sure. Sounds great. But how about I book a convertible Fiat 500 and follow you".
3. You reply "Fantastic idea !!!" .... You momentarily think that perhaps you ought to enrol in a few spin classes at the local Fitness First ... but then decide to wing it. After all, it can't be that hard. It's not like Tuscany has mountains.
Take it from me.... DO NOT ENGAGE WITH OPTION 3.
Tuscan feuding families, way back when, all decided to build their villages atop a hill. Makes complete sense according to 'The Art of War' bible written by the Chinese philosopher Tzu. What those feudal Tuscany didn't take into consideration is your unsuspecting cyclist who hundreds of years later would have to climb each of those hills.
Don't get me wrong. Tuscany is lovely. From an air-conditioned car or convertible. Given the amount of touring motorcyclists who went by me today it would seem Tuscany looks pretty good sitting atop 900 horsepower as well.
The last 130 km of this ride through the "rolling hills of Tuscany" has been by a very long margin the toughest 130 km of the ENTIRE 1,860 km I have cycled thus far.
Compounding the issue is that arriving at any historic Tuscan town you will have to encounter 400 million tourists. And this is only June 2 !!!! So forget the solitude idea or any idea of a quaint town with hidden gems to explore.
Also compounding the issue is that azure, cloudless Italian sky. Again. great in a car but not so on a bike in June when by lunchtime the road surface is hotter than a hot thing and there is no shade to be had.
Suffice to say I did manage to make an excuse to stop and take some pictures which always seemed like a good excuse.
P.s.. I discovered today that there is ZERO refreshment value in drinking warmed water from your cycle water bottle at 3pm in the afternoon half way up another particularly long "Tuscan Hill" when the ambient air temperature is 35 degrees c. ZERO.
P.p.s over the course of the last 4 weeks of riding I have had cause on occasion to sweat a bit. After the last few days what I can say is this .... sweat, that has been infused with sun cream dripping into your eyes ranks right up there with snorting wasabi (I did that once for a $2 dare ... 2 Aussie dollars no less too ! ) and / or forgetting to wash your hands BEFORE you go to the toilet after eating a Tabasco and chilli-laden Taco. Uh-huh, it stings like no-one's business.
Numbers for the day
1 - Number of truck drivers I gave the bird to and shouted out ""%^#* #%^** you *^%** *^*%* %#** "" after they thought it would be a good laugh to pull on their horn the very moment they passed me going up a long hill.
1 - the number of wasps that flew into my helmet and got stuck between scalp and plastic. Rather than do the relaxed breathing thing and try to figure out how he was going to get out he just decided his game was up and he may as well get as many stings out as possible. Yup. That was a lot of fun too. Especially at almost the same time some sweat dropped into my eyes. And I was going up another hill.
14,765 - number of touring motorbike riders that went past me either way.
4,765,345 - number of tourists in Siena and San Gimignano combined.
N.b and that doesn't include children under the age of 10.
3,890,476 - number of selfies being taken that I witnessed in Siena and San Gimignano. Excluding me of course. OK OK ... I took two.
4 - number of km out of 104 covered on the day that were flat.
2.45 - number of minutes between putting my gear in the room and heading for the pool.
Photos of the day
Given there were 45 tourist buses stopped here I figured the view must be good ....
San Gimignano - Famous for its towers in case the lack of decent zoom on my iPhone in the previous photo didn't alert you to it ....
After 1,860 km of riding, I am voting this coffee and cornetto in San Gimignano THE BEST yet!
They hold the Palio horse race around this Siena square every year. It's an impressive sight. The square that is, I haven't seen the Palio yet ....
Not so impressive. Who would've thought it was a good idea to adorn the front garden of your beautiful Tuscan villa with a dozen fake flamingoes ....
I LOVE a really really long hill in 400 degrees C. Especially when it's been preceded by 367 other hills ....
Iconic Tuscan view ....
The view from the pool wasn't too shabby either ....