Sunday, October 14th, was the Giro di Lago di Garda with Eros Poli. For a variety of reasons I couldn't get a lift (we live without a car) to the starting point in Calmasino. I was up at 5:30 a.m. in order to have a calm breakfast and departed from the historic center of Verona at 6:30 a.m. It was so quiet and peaceful as the city was a couple of hours away from coming to life. The ride in darkness was uneventful and I arrived at the Hotel Veronello at 7:50 a.m. after an easy spin with, thankfully, the wind to my back. With a ride start at 8:30 a.m. I had time for an espresso and to say hello to some of the friends I've made on the France cycling trips.
By 8:30 a.m. things were getting fairly chaotic. This ride in the Spring had 40 riders. Eros was expecting about 50 riders. However, the "passaparola" (word of mouth) must have been working overtime as 106 riders showed up (including 5 women). That's a very large group for some narrow roads, and in particular, to go through the small tunnels on the west coast of the lake. Eros made announcements regarding ride conduct regarding no more than two riders abreast and maintaining absolute silence in the tunnels so you can listen for any problems as you can't see (whoa!!!). Having done the ride in the Spring I knew what to expect, and it is freaky in some of the tunnels as the lighting ranges from well lit to NO LIGHTING.
We departed at 8:35 a.m. and rode into Lazise, and from there we started our clockwise ride around the lake. It was about 12 degrees C and very overcast; the weather forecast had called for partly sunny. I was glad I had a windbreaker on.
When we reached Salo the roads were very wet but we had missed the rain. Riding at 40 km/h, 25 mph, on wet roads with a large group means it's time to be really paying attention. As we left Salo we had the first accident of the day. I'm not sure what happened but a gentleman went over the handlebars. His ride was finished, broken collarbone.
As we started through a long series of tunnels at the northwest end of the lake the group became split into multiple smaller groups. I was in a middle group and we somehow missed the turnoff where there was going to be a panini (small sandwichs) break. So, with everyone that had been ahead of having turned off it put us at the front of the ride.
As I said, some of the tunnels are very well lit, some are marginal, and there is one that has no lighting whatsoever. My personal strategy for dealing with the latter works like this: I slow up waiting for a car(s) to appear in the distance behind me. Then I time my approach to the tunnel so that I arrive in front of them. As I get to the entrance of the tunnel I move to the center and block them. Car must use their headlights so as they are forced to drive behind me they light the way. Crazy, right?
Arriving at Riva di Garda, at the northern most point of the lake, we found that a few riders were actually ahead of us, and a few others pulled in behind us shortly. We filled up with water, a few of us had more espresso, and then we had a discussion whether to continue ahead or wait for the main group that was at the panini stop. The consensus was to continue at it was chilly and we didn't want to cool down. This group comprised about 20 riders.
By time we started heading south along the eastern shore of the lake it was pretty evident that the guys at the front of the group were some kind of monster strong types driving hard into a strong headwind. Five of us fell back and we rode at our own pace which was pretty decent. Over the next 10-15 km we picked up riders that had been dropped one by one from the strong group in front. That brought our group to about 10 riders.
We caught up with the strong group near Malcesine as they had been stopped and ticketed for not riding single file. So, we were 20 again and the pace was more manageable all the way to Lazise and back to the hotel. We arrived at 1:50 p.m.
The main group, with Eros, arrived about 25 minutes later. Eros looked fairly stressed. No wonder. One of the women had crashed (possible broken collarbone) in one of the tunnels and several riders had been taken down. His group had also been stopped and ticketed through Malcesine for not riding single file.
About 40 of us that had signed up for the after rider buffet at the Hotel Veronello enjoyed a very good late lunch, including Bardolino red and Custoza white wines, and some excellent deserts. A great way to finish the day.
I was tired, more mentally than physically, from the day so I was very grateful when Eros offered to give me a ride home.
Photos: the Hotel Veronello where we started our ride with Lake Garda in the distance; a representation of the lake which is eleven miles across at its widest point and 50 miles long