The return of Lieutenant Dan
The post-Giro ‘boot camp’ is fast becoming yet another tradition on the ever-rollicking ride that is Beardy’s Caravan.
Its purpose is simple. After chasing a grand tour, it is often hard to find your cycling form again - having spent the best part of three weeks sitting in a car and existing on a gastronomically-volatile diet of grissini, pasta, pizza and beer. And so we ride.
This year I wanted to try something different. After being inspired by the Dolomites stage of the Giro, not to mention missing last year’s rest day ride due to heavy snow, this is where we would stand and fight our expanding waistlines.
I booked an alpine apartment in Ortisei for the Stuntman and myself, before reaching out to Speedy (aka Lieutenant Dan). Dan has been living in Berlin since I saw him last (he was my trusty sidekick for the 2016 Tour de France Caravan). A man of few words (at least for this literary device), his response to my invitation spoke volumes. “That sounds amazinggggggggnnnghh”.
So began the 2017 edition of what we are affectionately now calling ‘Boot de Boot’.
Sword and stitch-up
After 3 weeks of foot-to-the-floor, white-knuckle, non-stop action chasing the Giro d’Italia, we hadn’t done much in the way of route planning for our little sojourn. Fortunately, our accommodation was near the base of Passo Gardena, meaning a simple up-and-back would net a satisfying 1000m of the vertical stuff, in just over 40km.
Our first ride up Passo Gardena, in the pouring rain, exposed our grissini-leaden legs - as the Lieutenant put the Stuntman and myself to the sword. It was such a comprehensive thrashing that he spent most of the climb pulling wheelies, as we suffered in his dust.
In better news, the sun broke through the clouds as we reached the summit, providing ideal conditions for some Dolomites magic. Before us was a beautiful, wet, black ribbon of road, draped gently onto the valley, and framed by the mighty surrounding mountains. We drank it all in like a robust Chianti.
The hangover, however, was swift and severe. The route from the village to our accommodation was only one kilometre long, yet boasted an incline of between 10-17% along its entirety. Known affectionately by the locals as ‘Mini Mortirolo’, on account of the extreme gradient, we soon gave it a new name - the ‘stitch-up’. With no other way home, it awaited us after each ride, when we were most vulnerable, and ensured that our legs were properly ruined.
Cloudy, with a chance of spicy meatballs
Rain became a common denominator for many of our Dolomites rides. Whatever we would sweat out on the climb seemed to be soaked up by the sun-kissed clouds, which would then close in and promptly refund our hard-earned deposits on the descent. I don’t think any of us had descended so many wet roads. My brake pads disappeared faster than a pack of grissini on tour.
Occasionally our luck would change, offering icy alpine springs to refill our bidons, and clear, dry descents on the other side.
Despite needing to constantly dry our shoes and wring out our bikes, the rain did little to dampen our spirits. Each night we refuelled on huge bowls of Speedy's special spicy pasta sauce (hit him up for the recipe) and cooled our burning mouths on delicious Thüringer and Tirolean beers.
Dominating the dojo
With each day, Stuntman Mike and I grew stronger, slowly chipping away at the Lieutenant's advantage. At every summit I would embrace my inner Mr. Miyagi and remind Danielsan that, soon, we would catch flies with our chopsticks, amongst other similarly-intimidating proverbs. Unfortunately, it did little to stem the flow of sound beatings, as he took each and every polka dot in a dominating display of friendly competition.
Still, it sure was nice to ride with a bunch of best mates from Sydney on the other side of the world. It is going to be difficult to top this with next year’s Boot de Boot. Luckily, I have already started planning...
In the meantime, you can purchase images from this Boot de Boot, as well as the Giro Caravan, at my print store. You know, for a bit of Beardy on your wall ;)