XCRacer - On Tour: Day Six, Nearly Enough Tent Pegs

I am reliably informed that the phrase ‘we nearly have enough tent pegs’ means exactly the same thing as ‘we don’t have enough tent pegs’. However, I am very much a glass half-full kind of person and really prefer the former, it sounds so much more positive. We are only a couple short anyway, I’m sure not enough to compromise the structural integrity of the tent. In the absence of any sort of evidence either way just sheer optimism is usually enough to get around most problems and this is the strategy I have adopted on this occasion, I’m sure it won’t be too windy.

With our campsite nearly finished (or not finished if you are one of the pessimistic nay-sayers) it was time to have lunch and then start wondering where Jon Hobson had got to. He is a thoroughly nice chap and it would be great to have him racing with us, we just had no idea where he was.

The remaining third of Team GB was supposed to have landed in Milan, which is about four hours north of the race track at Finale Ligure, or about an hour and half for an Italian driver, at 1815 on Wednesday. It was now mid afternoon on Thursday and there was still no sign of him. He was however entering onto the spirit of our muddling through and so was travelling with a mobile telephone which doesn’t work abroad.

After a delayed flight he had arrived at Milan to find that the hire company he had booked a car from wouldn’t accept his credit-card and so he had to find another at short notice, at a cost of lots of time and even more Euros.

Having eventually acquired one he then decided to enter into the spirit of Italian driving as well. Going at any speed less than 20 above the prevailing limit will result in a large queue forming behind and lots of people attempting to overtake, whether it appears safe to do so or not. He did mention one particular overtake he did, in proper Italian style, only to find someone else overtaking both him and his overtakee at the same time. 

Due to the delay in getting hold of a hire car he was on the road quite late and so he had an overnight stop before continuing, arriving at the racetrack on Thursday afternoon. He turned up with his hire car nearly intact (or not intact if you insist) Having met an Italian coming the other way on a moped rather quickly and on the wrong side of the carriageway he had little option but to wreck his wing mirror on the railings at the side of the road jumping out of the way. We decided that the hire company probably wouldn’t even notice, none of the Italians ever look at their mirrors anyway.

For more stories of car-related shenanigans you will have to wait for my ‘van incident’ article, Jon wasn’t the only one breaking things. 

He is racing singlespeed for reasons of simplicity and reliability, there is very little which can go wrong on a bike with only one gear, as singlespeeders constantly remind those of us with geared bikes. Carole and I sat and watched him spend an hour or so dismantling and reassembling his dropouts in an attempt to keep his chain tight before the simple and reliable bike was deemed to be working well enough to go for a ride around the course.

After about five minutes it became apparent that the chain was nearly tight enough, which is of course another way of saying that it was not tight enough, and so a quick trailside repair of the simple and reliable bike was carried out before we continued with the lap. 

Most of it was marked out by this stage and Jon professed himself to be impressed with what he saw. I was very pleased to note that I had been practicing everything which was marked out over the last few days, there was nothing unfamiliar to me on the course. They had however removed one of the cliff-top descents and the following climb, nothing too difficult but a nice fast blast along a narrow rocky path which I enjoyed a lot.

The famous corkscrew final descent remained, which is an enormous amount of fun. Jon nearly crashed here (did not crash here) doing exactly what I had done a couple of days previously. There is one particular rock which just invites a little jump, not a big one but it’s just right for it. However, it does mean that you arrive at the point where you really want to be braking about six inches above the ground and no matter how good your tyres are they are going to find it somewhat tricky to get any grip while up in the air. 

There was a final quick check of the bikes, lights, drinks, food and all other related items and then it was dinner and off to bed, the last time we would see one of those for a while.

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