Ciao Darren

Photo: Villaggio del Pescatore (Fisherman’s village) was our base for the Randonnée del Carso, 16th October 2022.

Grief is such a personal thing. We all deal with in different ways. A month ago I lost my younger brother to depression. It’s been particularly hard to deal with as our father also took his own life forty two years ago. Father and son lost to the same disease.

Whilst in the USA to help support my sister in law, two nephews and niece I felt I had to keep it together for them. On return to Italy I felt numb. Waves of grief.

I’d previously decided that my audax season was over for another year. Something inside me suggested that one more randonnée in honour of my brother would be a good thing to do. A day on the bike to think about him.

After surviving cancer in 2003 he’d ridden the 200 mile course of the Pan Mass Challenge a couple of times to raise money for the Daner-Faber Cancer Institute, so whilst not an audaxer, he’d had some long distance riding experience. The 200km Randonnée del Carso near Trieste seemed a fitting tribute.

I knew a few of the riders but I had no plan as to who, if anyone, I would ride with. I ended up in a group of four for the first loop. They were strong riders. We took turns on the front without having to discuss it. This was great therapy. Whilst on the front I had to concentrate on leading. Whilst following I could let my mind wander a little. This worked until the first climb when I was exposed as the weakest link but I was more than happy to climb on my own.

Towards the end of the first loop a short stop the the foot of the Sacrario Militare di Redipuglia. Time to think about the 100,000 Italian soldiers from World War One buried there.

Back at the start control for lunch I told the others to go ahead as the biggest climb of the day was to come and they were all stronger than me. Two did, but Lorenzo Brunello, who I’d met that morning, decided to ride with me. It was a joy to ride with him as we swapped turns on the front. It was so good to ride with such a considerate rider. He had no idea about what was going on in my head.

I confess to having a moment when we were riding the crest around the back of Trieste when we saw a sign for a village called COL. COL, but no DAR (as my sister in law sometimes called Darren).

The fast descent into the sun blessed Trieste was exhilarating, followed by the coast road back to the finish. Thanks to the others and a pre-occupied mind I got round with plenty of time to spare.

I bought Lorenzo a beer to thank him. A gentleman rider who had no idea just how much he helped me that day.

A big thank you to everyone from the Alabarda Bike Team for the organisation, great route and for booking such good weather!

The solo 6km back to where we were staying was very emotional but writing this down has been helpful. Cathartic.

Ciao fratello, ciao Darren.


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