Circles within circles

Photo: We spent most of the day with these kind of views.

Sometimes an audax is about the route, sometimes the company. On this occasion, the inaugural La Florence Rando 200km, it was both.

The route included several circles to take in a view, a climb, or a hilltop village.

The route was simply stunning. It’s always a dilemma when on an audax. Do you keep stopping to take photos or just enjoy the views and keep cycling? Mostly we kept cycling, but did stop from time to time for photos.

On the first climb we had to stop and pay homage to Baronto, the patron saint of all Tuscan cyclists.

Having circled round back to Florence we stopped to catch the view across the city.

We were being teased. We’d returned to Florence but still had 59km to go and the biggest climb of the day at 16km long rising to 520m above the city. I enjoyed the climb far more than I expected. Steeper in the first half it eased a little in the second to reward us for our effort and then a fast descent down good roads. That was fun.

It was great to ride again with Gennaro, Pino, Luigi, Gianna and Jana. Our little group included a new face to me, Barbara, bottom right. That’s where the other circles came in.

A great group to ride with.

At the 7am start I was introduced to Barbara by Pino Leone. I wasn’t expecting to speak English at all that day but she was fluent so we chatted right from the off. An Austrian, she explained that she was “really a rower” and new to long distance cycling. I discovered that she had been rescued by Gennaro, Pino and Luigi when she was struggling on a long ride and they had helped her finish. She had travelled from Vienna to Florence just for this Rando to ride with them again. She was a member of their little circle, as was I after the Miglia1001 last year, and now those two circles over lapped. A Viennese Venn diagram.

On the first climb I slowed to keep Barbara company but I was left behind on the descent. She was fearless. “It’s my speciality” she said “I could have gone faster”. Way too fast for me I decided not to try and keep up with her so as to remain upright. One rider, who I didn’t know, wasn’t so fortunate as he lost the bike from under him on a right hander. It was new tarmac, so quite smooth. He was so lucky as he slid across the road to miss the cars coming up the hill. With black stains all down his right side he got back on the bike and carried on.

Several times during the ride the group missed a turn despite shouts of “destra, destra” or “sinistra, sinistra” from the English speaking contingent. Back in Florence for the last time we shouted to turn right but the group carried on. We pedalled slowly but didn’t see them so we finished the last 12km on our own. The two circles were reconnected at the pasta party.

This was the first audax organised by fellow randonneur Donato Agostini and his La Polisportiva Casellina club mates. They did a great job. The route was beautiful with just the right amount of challenging climbs. The QR code controls were really easy and good Tuscan food at halfway and the finish. Complimenti.

Like so may audaxes, I ended the ride with a new friend. Barbara and I hoped to ride together in Slovenia next month but she has a regatta that weekend. That might be a good thing for me as she’ll only get stronger and I won’t be able to keep up with her in the climbs either.

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