Giro di Muscoli – Stage 1 Arnhem – the Hague, 177km

Photo: Covid may have won the battle when we had to postpone the Giro di Muscoli from June to September but the GdM won the war by going ahead. One of the few charity sporting events to take place in 2020.

“O.03 is the magic number”. Anything over .9 was dubious, anything over 1.1 was positive. I was clear of Covid, in fact my blood test revealed I’ve never had it. This gave us the all clear to drive the next day to the Netherlands to complete Stages 1 – 3 of the Giro, then return to Italy to complete the challenge.

We arrived on Friday night so we could spend some special time with Gerben and Jeanne. Thanks to Covid, there were no hugs or kisses, but we did mangae a few drinks and quite a few laughs. It was hard to see Gerben worse than the last time we saw him. As too was watching Jeanne look after him. The strain on them both is immense, but their love shines through.

The Giro di Muscoli is raising funds for patients with Motor Neurone Disease in the UK, The Netherlands and Italy: https://www.girodimuscoli.com

Here is my story of the Giro, one blog entry per Stage

Stage 1 Arnhem – Hook of Holland – The Hague, Saturday 12th Sep

I was supposed to ride from London to Harwich to get the ferry to the Hook of Holland on Saturday 6th June. Due to quarantine requirements in the UK we found ourselves at the Dutch Olympic training facility in Papendal. I say we because my fantastic wife Jan, who has put so much into the GdM, is with me. It’s just the two of us. Not quite the send off in London we anticipated, but after three years of planning the Giro was underway.

Instead, I would ride the reverse of Stage 2 to recce the route, then I’ll ride it back to Arnhem again tomorrow.

Over breakfast I hoped I saw an omen in the coffee cup. I was hoping that the ride would be ‘Easy Peasy’:

Some of my fantastic club mates from Islington Cycling Club (ICC) had signed up to do a revised Stage 1 from London to Maldon and back. Sally Field, the CEO of the Motor Neurone Disease Association ran to the start to see them off, accompanied by Pam Fry and Richard White from the Association.

We’ve been to The Netherlands many times but this was my first experience of riding here. It’s amazing. Good quality cycle paths everywhere.

It took me some time to adjust to the fact that at many junctions cyclists have priority. I was hesitant at first but soon got used to cars stopping whilst I crossed the road.

The ride out of Arnhem was beautiful. Riding next to one of the landing zones for Allied paratroopers of operation Market Garden (17th – 25th September 1944) I stopped to pay my respects to those who faught and died for us.

The ride to Utrecht was fabulous. Perfect paths, beautiful scenery and a fast pace. Including all the stops (a lot of social media work to do during a charity ride) and wrong turns, it took me two hours to complete the 53km to the Science Park in Utrecht, the start location for Stage 2B tomorrow.

On leaving Utrecht I came up behind a mother and two young children on their bikes. The two girls were bouncing up and down on their saddles. The mother decided to do the same. How could I resist? The girls giggled as a middle aged many bounced up down on his saddle as he past them. Such simple pleasures.

That was the end of my fun though. After Utrecht the route took me up onto a dyke and onto the “Dutch Mountain”. As The Netherlands is so flat, Dutch riders have their own mountain to climb. The wind. From Utrecht to The Hook of Holland, it was a 100km into the wind. It’s great to ride the dykes but there is no protection whatsover. It was relentless. My pace dropped as I passed several groups of riders with a look on their face that said “Why are you riding into the wind when you can ride really fast with the wind like us?”

It proved to be a hard, non stop four and a half hours. I do hope the wind direction doesn’t change for tomorrow’s stage in the opposite direction. A 160km tail wind would be nice.

I rode past the Stena Line ferry that I should have been getting off of on Sunday morning. At least I had made it to ‘The Hook’.

I hadn’t eaten anything during those four and half hours battling the wind so I thought I deserved a snack and a drink. A soft drink. Whilst in the café another rider sat on the next table and we got chatting. He was a fellow Brit. After enquiring what I was up to he went onto the UK JustGiving page and made a donation. My last blog entry was called The Kindness of Stangers. Yet another example of such kindness. Thank you Harley.

I asked Wahoo on my phone to plot me a route to our hotel in The Hague. Up it popped on the bike unit. It did a great job taking me along cycle paths for the whole route. With the wind behind me I was flying along at 35km an hour with very little effort. A shame it was only 19km.

Let’s hope tomorrow’s ride is wind assisted and “Easy Peeze”.

Stage stats: 1 Stage; 177km; 371m climbing; 6,625 calories burnt

£ donations (GiftAid please if you can): https://justgiving.com/fundraising/girodimuscoli

€ donations: https://www.girodimuscoli.com/actie/colin-fisher

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