Sunday, 6 July 2014


Stelvio... and Stelvio Again (that's 88 switchbacks... Alpe d'Huez has 21!)

Stage 4
Total KIlometres: 106
Total Metres of Climbing 3600

This is not Sharky. This blog will be far too witty and funny. A super special day like Stelvio, Smiddy style, deserves super special bloggers.

The honour of writing today's blog has been placed in the very capable hands of Phil D'Angelis, Philippo as he has been tagged this week, and Matty Marshall. Don't worry. Sharky is not AWOL in Europe, just sharing the love. Where was yesterday's blog, you ask? Well, let's fill you in on our adventures over the past two days...

In a Smiddy first, a rest day was included in the Italian Dolomites Smiddy Challenge, and enjoyed yesterday by our shattered crew. Sporting battered bodies and spirits, our riders very professionally put themselves through multiple sets of ice baths before some riders chose to have a sports massage from our guide and Marco 'Pirate' Pantani lookalike, Pippo. This was a particularly traumatic experience for Dr Koala, more accustomed to the hot Australian outback of the eucalyptus tree, who took over an hour to submerge waist-height into the ice bath, such was his agony. Dr Koala was screaming later in the day too as Pippo went to work on his tired limbs in preparation for Stelvio.

But once the ice baths were done, it was time for a walk to the old town of Bormio for some lunch, with pizza on the menu and a gelattisimo conveniently located next door. The crust of Jase's pizza was expertly arranged into a Smiddy smiley face before the crew strolled home to their hotel. Dr Koala again did himself proud. This 45kg whippet of a man ordered two meals, lasagne and a family sized pizza, while balancing the wine list and picking up the dodgy establishment for attempting to screw us on the bill.

We were delighted to be joined at dinner by Arch and Robyn DeAngelis, my parents, who survived a nervous drive through the mountains with the questionable driving skills of Arch, who headed straight to the bar for a nerve settling beer, in true DeAngelis style after reuniting with their two very well-behaved sons (particularly me). It was a relief that I finally had reinforcements to keep Pedro from embarrassing himselfAs those of you reading this blog know - Smiddy is nothing if not a genuine community with strong family values and being able to enjoy some laughs and the Smiddy way with my mum and dad was very special. The group were impressed that Pedro and I wore collared shirts, knowing our parents were arriving, given we didn't bother to make that efforts for Kerri's birthday. An oversight we regret, Le Petite Maine.

The arrival of Arch and Robyn was a great opportunity for me to introduce Milly to my parents. Milly is a waitress at our hotel who I (this is not happily married Matt writing this) promised to introduce my parents to, in order to take our relationship to the next level. Having known Milly (Bella) for 24 hours, I knew this was a bold play, but one I was willing to make... probably given my senses were down a little after another crushing day of dragging myself up the most ludicrious mountains in all of Italy. Sharky will keep you posted about how Bella and I are progressing.

Last night at dinner, Pedro spoke about how mateship and spirit which keeps he, Phil and Marco (who is missing this time around but will soon be again in Smiddy lycra) coming back to Smiddy in addition to their great mates Miki Harris, Tony Smythe Dan Salter. Together these guys have raised well over $50K for Mater Foundation and again lead the fundraising tally this year. A shout out to Miki - who lost his Dad to cancer and has raised over $25K while riding the Pyrenees and Alps - and gave Pedro and me a generous $1K donation last week.

After Pedro spoke, Sharky responded with a heartfelt speech about Adam and how much he would have loved to meet people like everyone in the Smiddy group this week and share the teamwork and comaradie that has been on display all week. As Pedro says, we have spent the week doing 'things you never think are possible, but they are thanks to the mates and spirit of those around you because with Smiddy you never ever think you won't finish'. Sentiments everyone in the Smiddy community will understand.

We know David and Maria Smiddy would have been very proud of the group last night... and even more so today as we tackled Stelvio - one of the world's most feared climbs and for very good reason as we found out - not once, but twice. We will get onto that later, but next, we pen a memo to Smiddy legend, Rowan 'Rowman' Foster, to inform him that there is now a new Alpha Male in Smiddy land. That is assuming, of course, that Rowman was that person - and that is certainly debatable and an argument sure to attract hot debate from supporters of the likes of Stinky Dave, Simon Plummer and Rocky Brocky... but we digress. Anyhow, all that debate is academic now, because we have to introduce 'the perfect man'.

Not since Zoolander hit the big screens has there existed such a ridiculously good looking man. Valentino, our ride guide from Sienna in Tuscany, certainly lives up to this tag. He sent the heart of birthday girl, Kerri Whitney, into a flutter earlier in the week by announcing point-blank over dinner that he had eyes for her. As part of the sales pitch, Valentino went on to explain that, to quote the man affectionately known as 'Valet', 'I am the perfect man'.

Valet, you may be thinking, is certainly not shy, but that's the Italian way. And Valet may have a point. In addition to his boyish good looks, Valet is also arguably the strongest cyclist to have graced a Smiddy peloton - Phil 'Skippy' Anderson and our other A-Listers aside of course. We use the word grace because there's no other way to describe the way Valet, who is the 42nd ranked amateur in Italy, races up the world's toughest climbs while on the phone to his Mama. Yes ladies, Valet is ... it would seem... the perfect man. He loves his Mama. He looks like he is off the set of a Tuscan rom-com, but he's the real deal. Or so it would seem. Valet confessed to us that he has a darker side... but this only served to get more female eyebrows raised with interest.

Valet spent a year in Australia and is well aware of our habit to make fun of those we are very fond of, so let's just point out a couple of other flaws in Romeo's make-up, like his navigational skills. Valet endeared himself to Sharky by doing his very own Sharky short-cut days ago, saved by two local teenagers and a mum walking her toddler in a stroller before getting us back on track. Valet is also not so good at maths. The last thing you want to hear 21km into your second grind up Stelvio in one day is an Italian accent saying 'no, not 5, you have almost 10 to go'. It was five. The difference, in Stelvio language, is another hour of climbing so we were lucky Valet got his adding up wrong on this occasion. We have also caught him on numerous occasions pacing up and down hotel hallways, and circling back down the mountain, in search of one of our riders. It is no wonder the team has taken to singing 'That's Amore' with some degree of skill.

Okay, on to today's mammoth day, one Sharky has labelled among his favourite ever Smiddy days. It was one that would again take our group to breaking point.

A beautiful sunny morning greeted us for the climb that many have dreamed or had nightmares about for months, the famous Stelvio. For the Smiddy peloton, this was just one of the two faces of Stelvio we would be tackling today. so the first climb of the day was one that was greated with great trepidation... the fact we had the previous day off, no one was sure how there bodies would react. the side of stelvio we attacked first was a 25km ride and peaked at 2758 meters above sea level and had an average gradient of 7.1% and let us tell you, it fully lived up to its notoriety.... the climb began quite normally but as we ascended through the clouds we were greated with 40 switchbacks... all climbing in frnt of us. it was daunting to look up and see what were about to take on, and almost a little overwhelming because of how exhausted we already were. as the rocks and grass turned to snow, we knew this would be a defining climb. as the bars and shops at the top of stelivio came into sight there was a huge releif, howveer its the last 3km of these climbs thats the toughest. as we got to the top, the temperature probably hovered around 5 degrees celsiis and warm kits and the sanctuary of the car was sought.

The reward for conquering Stelvio the first time around came in the form of a stunning descent down the valley into Switzerland. We pulled up into the little town of .... for some lunch and the local specialty of Weiner Schnitzel was ordered by most of the team. Jase was so excited about his schnitzel that he proceeded to pour 30 toothpicks onto his meal. This was an early sign that Jase was starting to falter and fatigue was setting in, so we hatched a plan to bring him undone.

As is Smiddy tradition, we attempt to get into the mind of the group's strongest rider. Such was the case with operation 'Banana' today as we sought to give Jase the fright of his life. The plan was this. On the word banana - Pedro and Matt were to distrcat Jase as Sharky raced off into the distance at the beginning of our second climb. Sharky would, of course, then hid in the bushes - leaving Jase to chase the imaginary Shark for 25km of gruelling uphill riding. Unfortunately, the plan was thwarted before it began - as Jase and Ingo raced off the mark and left us floundering with noting but dust and no use for code name Banana. Luckily, we have a different plan for tomorrow. Sleep tight, Jase. On a serious note, Jase has served his Cycd Cycling Club proudly, following in the tradition of JJ in the alps last year, of having to acclimatise himself to the Smiddy way - where good times roll more freely than Strava segments. He is also one of our top fundraisers and is sure to return for another Smiddy adventure we are sure.

And so we took on Stelvio for a second time in one day. This is madness for professional cyclists, and our guide Pippo still cannot understand why these unfit, non-cyclist looking Australians choose to take on such a 'ridiculato' (a new word we have termed) itinerary. Pippo commented at lunch, in Italian accent,' thisa is whata tour groupsa normallya doa... enjoy the sun. Enjoy the lunch. Just do somea riding'. Dear old Pippo, from his times navigating across the Sahara desert on motorcross bikes, he should know. As our readers know, a Smiddy peloton could never be accused of not having a go, and so we said goodbye to Switzerland and ventured back across the border through a valley of wonderful descent, to await our destiny for a second time.

Knowing what was about to happen, another 25km and 2100 metres of climbing through 48 switchbacks, Pedro muttered the words that would ring in some of our riders' ears for the next 3 hours of brutal switchback after 44,43,42,41 (you get the drift) switchbacks. Cometh the hour, Cometh the Man. And so, for the next 3 hours, Pedro dug deep even after his habit of sucking a gel every 2.5km styarted to catch up with him. A shout out to tour guide Will, who was a total pro on these winding roads, passing water bottles and snacks to our riders so we could continue to race (at 4km an hour) up the mountain to the growing scent of the Bratwurst stall that stood at the summit of Passo Stelvio. But this trip is not just about the men, but also the women, and Kerri again did herself and the Tri-Alliance club she represents. She may be little, but Kerri is made of the right stuff, and we know she will be back in a Smiddy peloton in the near future. Not far behind her was Sharkietta.

Sharkietta is our favourite new Italian word. It means female Shark. Alyssa has done herself proud during her first Smiddy event - smashing past $4K in her fundraising and completing every single metre of climbing to date. Even more impressive given the lack of concern displayed by Sharky at times, who has let his fiance fend for herself while he smashes up the climbs. Not too bad for a Yank. To make it more impressive, Alyssa doesn't even get to enjoy all the descents, but has graduated from white belt to yellow this week with some impressive downhill skills.

Ingo again came to the fore today with his Deutch enabling us to successfully order 10 giant schnitzels and two huge bowls of fries. Sharky was so impressed with Switzerland he fell asleep at lunch, woken to eat his spaghetti bol, which managed to actually grow by the time he finished it with a huge bowl of pasta and fries left for our lovely hosts to clean up.

Tomorrow, a climb that will dwarf all others awaits for our final day in the saddle. It is named Mortirolo... and promises more pain even then Tre Cime di Laravado (He Who Should Not Be Named for Harry Potter fans).

We will finish by concluding that today, during one of those two epic Stelvio climbs, that magical moment happened that every Smiddy rider knows ... when your jersey bursts to life and begins to represent the mates, memories and supporters that have made another Smiddy event such a life-affirming experience.

Over and out. Phillippo and Matty.

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