Day 3 - Pienza to Orbetello. 156 km
The opportunity to onboard a ''proper'' breakfast was too good to pass up. So rather than a 6-7 am start as had occurred the previous two days we luxuriated in the comfort of a full blown hotel breakfast at 7.30 am. Lucca had pre-empted our thoughts of an early start and when we vacated our rooms the bikes were all lined up outside in the hotel courtyard and ready to be packed. Some service that.
Leaving Pienza behind us we were immediately struck by views of the stunning Tuscan countryside and a fantastic view of Pienza itself. The first 10-15 km were on compact gravel and the hills were still there. At least it was cooler than the previous two days. Although that was to change as the day wore on.
Lucca the hotel proprietor was kept busy in the early hours of the morning ensuring the bikes were out and ready to go. 5 star service again.
Looking back up to Pienza and the road we had just careered down.
Truly iconic Tuscan countryside view. Much of the early morning section of the ride on day 3 afforded us similar views.
Much of the early riding hours were spent on either tarmac or compact gravel which then turned to a rough 4WD track mid morning. The morning sector also included a couple of river crossings either over a concrete ford or by wading across the stream in ankle deep water. Having learnt the lessons from the second day there was a definite hesitancy from Nick W-W to engage with the streams in anything other than walking mode.
Toady's ride would include a climb up to the highest point of the entire ride. A small village called Radicofani at an elevation of 2,559 ft. So it wasn't a surprise when the road deviated from a lovely piece of slightly upward sloping tarmac to a very rough and rock strewn 4WD track of immeasurable gradient that would remain that way for the next 3-4 km. By this stage the sun was out in force and the water bottles were being emptied quicker than my energy levels. Needless to say the first sight of a small cafe at the entrance to the village and at the peak of the climb was a welcome one. We sat and marvelled at our achievement of conquering the climb and sat there replenishing fluids. At one point a young fellow female rider entered the bar to have her water bottles filled and appeared moments later clutching two overflowing bottles. Somewhat enthused by her experience I took our 4 bottles into the bar to ask the owner the same question. The response I received was slightly different to hers. I was politely informed by the barman that there was a fountain about 100 meters up the main cobblestone street and I should go there to fill our bottles. Reverse sexism at its best.
Radicofani bar at the top of an unrelenting and punishing climb
From Radicofani it was a short freewheel down a stretch of tarmac road before we were directed onto a steep downward sloping gravel farmers track. Now here was a recurring dilemma of the entire ride. The lack of free kilometres. You struggle almightily to get to the top of a steep gravel track concentrating to avoid rocks so as to ensure you maintain momentum. Summit, and then descend the same track concentrating almightily to stay alive. Travelling at speed down a loose gravel track there isn't a lot of wiggle room for error. Get your line wrong or misjudge a corner and you will be over quicker than its taken me to type these 22 words. In Spain, Nick had shown a proficiency to descend down whatever surface a whole lot quicker than me. On this ride, and having taken a fall on the first day whilst descending ,my hesitancy was greater than his and my skill and courage also lower than his. Suffice to say at the end of any long stretch of steep gravel track he was some way ahead of me. This sector being no different.
Eventually the route flattened out and rejoined a tarmac road where we picked up speed and spent some time exchanging places with another couple as we took it in turns to draft behind each other into a headwind of considerable strength. The smooth road led down into a gorge and a 4-5 km stretch was done at some speed with sweeping corners and no traffic. Probably the best descent of the entire ride. As we rounded one of the last corners the village of Sorano came into sight. Some sight it was too. A medieval village that would've lent itself well to appearing in the ''Game of Thrones '' series. Set into the side of a verdant valley and seemingly carved out of the rock face it was a breathtaking view.
Sorano. The picture tells it all.
Sorano part II. Note the satellite discs all painted a terracotta colour. I think if I lived here I'd be rebellious and want to paint my house white. Or any colour other than mud brown.
Too beautiful to pass by and with the midday sun now in full show we decided to stop in Sorano and enjoy a leisurely lunch of fresh salads and pasta outside in the main square and under the umbrella's of a lovely restaurant. Having started with a lovely breakfast, imbibed a mid morning coffee in Radicofani and now enjoying a delightful lunch Nick W-W commented that pre-race he had hoped/imagined that every day was going to be like this. If only.
Having descended into Sorano we knew it was a climb out of the valley and that didn't take too long to eventuate. Almost instantly after leaving our lunch table we had a long road climb out onto a plateau and then we were thrust down into another gorge and the town of Pitigliano. A village very similar to Sorano in every sense. The approach to the summit of the village was along a very narrow, steep dirt track that seemingly passed by several catacombs. At one point we were forced to dismount due to the steepness of the track and the fact that the route took us up several long series of steps into the heart of the village.
The off road approach to Pitigliano. Steep and unrelenting.
If a steep track didn't get you off your bike the emergence of a long series of steps most certainly did.
Leaving Pitigliano. Sister village to Sorano in every sense.
Leaving Pitigliano there was more gravel tracks and then a relatively short climb to the last major village of the ride. Capalbio. Whether to give us an overview of the village or to add a few more kilometres to the route the organisers had us do a lap around the outside of the village before throwing us down the last treacherous piece of steep gravel track. So steep and treacherous there was in fact a sign that pictured a cyclist tipping over their front handlebars.
I was hanging on for dear life as I rode the brakes to slow myself down and attempted to keep my teeth in tact as I shuddered down the hill.
Capalbio. Being the last village and last major climb we celebrated with a gelato and can of coke and enjoyed the view for a few moments.
From Capalbio we could see the Mediterranean and the route took us directly to the coast. I say directly. However there were still a few detours along grass covered tracks and rock strewn paths and short but steep climbs before we hit the flat terrain of the coastline.
Still a challenge to follow the track though we were but 10km from the finish line.
As we hit the coastline the route swept around a large lagoon along a tree root strewn track that did little wonders to my back and then it was onto a causeway and eastward for the final 2 km to the finish line in the heart of Orbetello. Arriving at 7.05 pm .
The final 2 km. A causeway to the town of Orbetello
Views from the causeway with 1km to go
Finishers of the 2022 Tuscany Trail
Box ticked. Itch scratched.
750 km last year in "Badlands". 300 km along the South / North Downs way and now 450 km along the Tuscany Trail. Over 1,500 km of hard riding on unforgiving terrain and not a single technical or mechanical failure nor a puncture. MASON bikes build them to last.
Now to get back the start line (some 130 km north of the finish) and pick up the car. That little episode and thoughts, thanks and statistics in my post to follow.