Anticipation woke me before my alarm. Despite the nearness of the summer solstice it was dark when I got out of bed. My intention was to get a head start on the time zone change that was about to take place. After sneaking around trying not to wake Hottie, I dressed and went for a run as the first strains of light appeared in the east.
After all of the training the words of Tom Petty were in play, “The waiting is the hardest part.” Hottie accurately commented that I seemed nervous. I am a man of action and calmly waiting until it was time to go to the airport was not my style. Everything was already done so I had nothing to do.
Hottie kindly drove me to the airport and ticketing and checking my bike went smoothly. Soon I was among my mates who were equally anxious to get the show on the road.
I found my window seat and waited to see who would be next to me. Soon a large unshaven man who smelled like cheese took the seat.
Unfortunately my headphones were only noise cancelling and not smell cancelling. Alas, we were off and I was glad we were finally underway.
At least my bike was coming with me this time.....
My seat neighbor had a tablet device and his fingers were pounding away at it with such fury I wondered if it was some kind of workout.
As I sat there I could look around and see my teammates. I contemplated how fortunate we all were to have everything align to make this trip happen. In addition to the obvious things such as getting the time off to travel and paying for the trip there are dozens of secondary tasks and circumstances that all have to work out to enable this to happen.
The travel time is miniscule compared to the time needed to train for this. Four to six hour rides on one or both weekend days crimps anyone’s style. Long rides in February and March mean riding in the cold rain. Avoiding divorce is important as is getting enough sleep. Avoiding calories and sick people isn’t easy. Making sure your bike is working properly and that you have the right clothing is mandatory. There just isn’t a lot of margin for error.
Each of us had managed to walk that fine line and recognized the significance of the effort to do so.
After a typically unremarkable meal and forgettable movie I covered my eyes and prayed for slumber. Milking the most of the five inches of recline in coach class and with my noggin leaning on the sidewall I did my best to sleep. For me sleeping on a plane is more like pretending to sleep until it is time to awaken. Flying on a polar route in June meant the sun never set.
I drifted in and out several times until I gathered the courage to check my watch. Would it tell me I had been trying to sleep for twenty minutes or two hours? I took a deep breath and looked. Almost two hours. Score! I got up and walked around to bring some fresh blood into my legs then took in another movie and pretended to sleep again.
AMS Airport Pedal powered phone charging...
We arrived and cleared immigration and the second flight was short and in little time we were on the ground in Munich and I had my bike case in hand.
We embraced Horst like the good friend he is. He said I looked skinny and a greater compliment has never been given. We met Horst’s German friends Lutz, Jens and Arndt who would ride and Uli who would be our support crew.
L-R: Coz, Horst, KB, Uli, Arndt
We loaded the wans (vans) and soon we were heading south toward the Tyrolean Alps. We passed Innsbruck and the Olympic ski jumps. Seeing those in person was intimidating.
Before long our excitement was overtaken by jet lag and one by one we drifted off to sleep as the van rolled along. Tired heads bobbed and in an almost random pattern one person would open his eyes as another tilted his head back, mouth gaping.
We arrived at the hotel and unloaded the wans and had dinner. At dinner Horst described the B Route (the harder of the two routes) for the next day by saying it started with a leg breaker climb that wasn’t very scenic. With Jet lag firmly in place we all opted to do the A Route the next day.
I was rooming with Marco and he shared that he had also dropped some kilos preparing for this trip. We all felt reasonably prepared.
We were watching the weather and hoping for the best. We compared weather apps. The forecast was for rain but as we all know forecast is just a cool word for guess. Those of us with no patience put our bikes together that evening and then crawled into bed. I was in Italy on a trip that was the culmination of six months of training. Despite my excitement, mercifully sleep quickly overtook me.
That night I dreamed I was speaking to a cycling god and asked if I was really ready.