Tuesday, 1 July 2014


As regular readers of this blog will be aware, for the past two years, the team at Smiling for Smiddy and the Mater Foundation, have run an international cycling tour to Europe. The Pyrenees and the Alp's have been successfully ticked off the bucket list and now we find ourselves in the mighty Italian Dolomites. Our four guides for the trip, Will, Ingo, Pippo and Valentino you will get to know intimately through these blogs over the next six days, but for now, all that needs to be said is that after spending just one day with these fine lads I am thinking we are in for an adventurous time! Smiddy has teamed up with Flight Centre Active Travel for this journey and our guides are thanks to the great relationship with have with FCAT.

The riders I will get to as the days tick over but once again the D'Angelis boys from Sydney have joined in for their third successive Smiddy tour to Europe. Phil and Peter were sharing a few stories from their experiences over the past two years last night over dinner and a few vino's. They are entertaining as always and once again provided the first newsworthy item for this blog by sleeping in at the Hotel in Milan for their 8am pickup by our guides. The big absence and sorely missed, is their big brother Marc, who had to skip this tour due to his lovely wife Margaret having their fourth child recently. But the show must go on and I can guarantee that with just two D'Angelis boys on tour we will still see plenty of blog action from the lads...

To get to our destination today was a beautiful three hour drive through the valley where we were dwarfed by the hulk of the Dolomite mountain ranges and the hundreds of vineyards that had the group salivating on either side of us. After an adventurous drive into and out of our designated stop to the Decathlon sporting store to stock up on goodies we arrived at our first overnight stay in the famous Italian Ski Resort of Santa Christina. From there it was a quick check in at Hotel Maciaconi, assemble our bikes and off on our first test ride of the tour. Our guides had mapped out a so called easy ride for us to stretch the legs and make sure the bikes had survived the international flights intact. It was when we started the climb back to our accommodation that the group quickly cottoned on that we must take whatever our guides say with a grain of salt. To get home we conquered the following: A 10 to 14% three kilometre climb, a great descent back down to the main road, another ten or so kilometres of gradual climbing, peak hour traffic that made Sydney look good, several sections of gravel on their so called 'Sharky Short Cut' back to the Hotel, a cow trail and a hill climb up a loose gravel track that peaked out at 13% gradient and a leisurely stroll through the local markets where the street was shut down to traffic after six-pm. All up in just a hilly equivalent to a Brisbane River Loop of 35 kilometres we managed to climb 926 metres! We could not have been happier!

I introduced the group to their first huddle of the trip, who for many of the riders, had never experienced a Smiddy huddle before, but I know the newbies will quickly warm to the fact that it is one of the most integral parts of any Smiddy journey.

So to finish this first blog just four highlights and eye openers from our first day on the road.

1. At the Hotel we were staying in at Milan the group was given a rude wake up call never to let your guard down no matter where in the world you may find yourself. While paying the hotel bill Matt had his backpack nearly stolen, and I say nearly because, if not for the fact that Matt looked up and noticed his backpack missing and then watched it walk out the door by two guys clearly trying to hide it under their jacket down by their side, he would have been minus his Australian passport plus many other valuables inside his pack. Matt took off and grabbed it off them and they pretended that they had picked up the wrong bag but were as guilty as sin as they hightailed it out of the hotel super quick. It all happened so fast and was quite upsetting. We reported it to hotel staff, who of course did nothing but Matt was pleased as that was one commission they would not receive for the day!

2. Jason White is one of our Smiddy riders who was meant to do last years ride of the French Alps, but due to a nasty accident with a car was forced to withdraw. He was gutted back then and we all felt for him. Well I am pleased to say that he is well and truly in elite athlete shape and sporting a grin from ear to ear. He was beside himself with excitement all day today and not happy that three days had passed without his beloved stead being inserted between his legs. A huge welcome to you Jase. Lap it up big fella!

3. Last mention of the day has to go to one of our two ladies on board in Kerri Whitney, who not only is a female version of Alberto Contador in climbing ability and looks according to Dr Koala, who's comment of "only from behind and I took a photo", put him deeper into the quicksand, and don't worry you will hear more on the great Doctor in future blogs, but Kerri also has the distinct pleasure of experiencing the first recorded fall of the tour. A minor off as it was but the bike was down and I and many others witnessed it so it counts.

4. A huge thank you to Will for organising not only a feast fit for a king for dinner tonight but for looking after the two girl riders, Alyssa and Kerri, who are on gluten free diets. No one left the restaurant hungry tonight and that included me who normally goes searching for some cereal after dinner as a top up.

Okay that's enough for the day, get ready for a great journey as the group winds it way mainly up hill, over the next six days of 700 kilometres and over 20,000 metres of vertical pain!



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