Dan ‘The Flying Chickpea’ Scheiner has returned from his four month trip in Europe, where he rode his bike and then rode it some more. He enjoyed the scenery, travelled around, pinned on the odd race number and no doubt learnt a little about himself and why it is always better to drink from a tap. In this post, Dan has given us a brief wrap up of his travels where he has tried to include as many as adventures as possible in as little amount of space, he has also filled it up with plenty of photos. Read his travel report, be amawzed by some great photos and start planning your own adventure.
Standing on the edge of a plank with travel bags, set to plunge into the unknown.
Four bags of cycling gear are about to shape the twists and turns, ups and downs, and pattern in-between, of a dive.
34 hours after these toes kiss the plank goodbye they contact an odd, flat, largely dull landscape. Belgium, best known for its beer, frit, chocolate and cheese.
On the surface, this vegan couldn’t be further from home, but hidden in the rolling rural hills these legs discover an intricate web of asphalt, cobbles and dirt, overlaid with the world’s most popular amateur racing scene, heaven.
After a first week in Gent, without any pre-planning I find myself at the ‘ChainStay’, a haven for serious cyclists in the heart of Flanders.
Housemates and I are free, getting to races is easy.
Lazy mornings, cold summer evenings cobbling or racing, off to the Nacht Winkel (night shop), loading bottle cages with ice cream, riding home on a forest trail with mounds of soupy mud, and a 60m long, 2m high dark tunnel, inhabited by Goblins!
Riding in Belgium is different . . .
With Magellan leading the way, Focus has covered 80 kilometres, but we’re just 10kms ‘as the crow flies’ from home?
Cruising alongside the Canal on a smooth bike lane, a prompt cue commands a sharp right. Quite suddenly Focus is in the midst of vast open farmland, chased by an invisible tailwind. Stringing it out, riding next to a protruding wall of sunflowers, spinach and potatoes.
Kilometres roll by, tastebuds transmit ‘grit’. Faint image of a forested hill appears ahead “left turn in 200m”. Snip the grass apex and hit a set of famed cobbles, Focus going wild! Still in the big ring carrying speed, I tip my helmet to the local cobblers.
Coming off cobbles, body vibrating at super high frequency, blood rushing to most distant cells, life is intense!
Magellan signals an approaching 500m left turn. Body and bike follow a good arc, then straighten into an abrupt stonewall! Cadence dwindles to 50, offended arms scream and rebel, but legs are very happy, turning solid circles, producing power! Cresting this Pattenburg beast an image of Cancellara driving over the top with a desperate Sagan in his wake appears in the mind-stream. A flick into the big ring and we surge forward with a delusive long-range attack!
Suffered today on the road, off the bike. En route from Belgium to Epernay (Northern France), funnelled through Paris, with 50kgs of oddly shaped baggage.
Paris presents a familiar feeling – the start of a Belgium Kermis: excited to be here, by the journey unfolding, and the finish line (Epernay), not knowing what’s inside this baguette.
Not so tasty, when two skinny arms confront a 25 minute self-propelled station transfer, without Magellan!
Perched at the top of three flights of steps, we (eventually) glimpse the departure station, dwelling below. Passers-by rugged-up in coats and scarfs. Rider an agitated red ball of sweat, with a dangerous urge to ditch baggage!
Restrained, we negotiate the domino steps in two sittings. I recline on an unsympathetic station seat with my crew settled around me. Focus wills me to my feet, buy a ticket, our journey continues . . .
Dark clouds overhead . . .
Yesterday Focus and rider left carbon and skin on Epernay road in our first Sportif. Dear Focus is completely buggered, rider half buggered.
Today, after sleepless night, right arm moves with pain, shoulder is raw, elbow and knee heavily bruised.
Due to catch a train to Les Alps – home for the next month – tomorrow, can’t lift a cigar!
Call Focus/Cervelo dealer in Les Alps to organise a new bike. No interest in giving a discount to a rag-tag traveller.
The sun appears . . .
Didier, an EcoCyclo team member, offers a Manly rider a mattress in his attic in Epernay.
Didier also offers to take Manly rider’s four bags to Les Alps (where he’s racing on the weekend), allowing half-buggered Manly rider to Train with the freedom of a small backpack.
Sydney Cervelo/Focus rep is mates with his opposite number in Les Alps. Fixed Wheel arrange for Manly rider to get a Cervelo S3 at an affordable price.
Bring on the alps!
Today I take a point off the Alps, making it Alps 3 : Dan 1.
The sky is clear as S3 hits a short (10km) steep (8-12%) climb, hard. The road snakes up a valley crowded by two towering peaks, onto a plateau. There it gives birth to two small trails. S3 gets christened on off-caber technical single track leading to a glacial waterfall.
There’s an email from Scott with the new training program, brutal.
Etched in memory: bewildered looks from shopping housewives as Manly rider hunts in isles for green food; odd tastes unexpectedly creeping out of home-made meals; dishwashing, cleaning and laundry.
Bags are packed, journey continues.
Belgium is cycling heaven, but the Alps are home to this light frame.
10kms of steep climbing . . . crusty dishes and heavy bags dissolve into the void. Snow capped peaks, silent majestic partners. Cheeky alpine birds, encouraging wolf whistles. Deed pedalling, rhythmic breathing, no thoughts, expansion. The treat of life!
Falling gradient demands a blended sense of space, time, movement, intuition, and big balls! Narrow road, jagged granite cliff reflecting morning sun, cold downhill speed, thrill, perfect concentration.
Bring on the Dolomites!
Airbnb booking leads to magnificent old building in the heart of Trento, Italy. Proud marble pillars, summer-cool marble floors, a web of doors on a top floor, one opens to a rider’s den, others open to rooms filled with valuable collected art and artefacts from a by-gone age.
Four days living in a distant era, listening to old Parisian records, absorbing 360 rooftop views of an old cultured city, walking cobbled streets, dancing on S3 pedals up steep grades to the tune of a sweet, soft, summer breeze.
And then there were two (Manly riders).
Nick parks the small rented car outside a coffee shop in a village above Lake Garda. Tea, coffee, scones, decanted riding gear, and we’re gone.
Magellan? Unnecessary, the new arrival’s sense of direction is better than any migrating bird. Ride plan? We simply go with team leader’s strong appetite for icy water, steep grades, and need to be challenged.
Mountain lakes ✔ Steep grades ✔
Team leader’s interest is piqued as wide road turns to muddy farm lane. S3 struggles with earth, for traction. I mentally prepare for wrestling with grizzlies.
Clouds thunder, heavens open.
Despite team leader’s reluctance, we re-trace our steps, take shelter, find a nearby hotel and settle into Brazil’s quarterfinal.
Morning sunshine, clear skies.
Battled hot, humid 20km climbs, 8-12% grades.
Rain-swept, freezing descents.
Two drenched rats scamper home, buggered, satisfied, no time or need for football.
Extra horsepower arriving tomorrow . . .
I give the old goat a tour of the lowlands.
Irrepressible Nick goes Stelvio scouting, rides 145kms, climbs 5565m, solo!
Triple Stelvio, a story in itself (posted on this site).
Boiling in Bolzano, 4 days.
To cool down the old man and I (to the bewilderment of locals) swim in, drink from, the local river. Big mistake!
Old man and I drive to Trento in a Fiat Panda.
Left hand drive. . .
All puffed up for Chary Gaul Sportif.
Time Trial yesterday. Dug deep into the core, suffered like a dog, windy course, couple of small bergs, no TT equipment, and a strange belly . . . Utterly wasted, joint 4th in 19-34 age-group.
Today my stomach cramps like an oyster bathed in lemon juice. (Later learn that the river water we drank so freely in Bolzano is heavily polluted.)
Head out for a ride, turn back after an hour, struggle to make it home.
Stomach still seeking attention. No chance of racing today.
Pack Panda: 2 bikes; 2 boxes of food; 3 adults – Mum arrived yesterday; 4 wheels; a heap of suitcases. Houdini would have been embarrassed.
Drive 2.5hrs to Corvara, a ski resort high in the Dolomites.
Check into a hotel, what’s that.
Road bikes recover.
500m from hotel a cable car reaches for the sky pausing on a 2400m plateau threaded with mountain biking trails.
Perfect, reckless, super fun, altitude training.
First time on mountain bikes. Single suspension, 20kgs, built to last. Hardcore single-track downhill. Don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re doing it!
Turn’s out the old man’s not an old goat, but a cat. Flung, tossed, catapulted, shot, thrown, pitched, into the air . . . whatever the means, the old man lands on his feet, I have no idea how, but no better entertainment.
Battered, buggered, sauna, steam, plunge pool, hot water bed, local pasta, Corvara magic.
9 days of hard work on the bike in Bolzano, dream conditions.
A flat valley a few kilometres wide, blooming with apples, grapes, plums and birds, stretches from Trento to Merano passing an equidistant Bolzano. Bold martian Dolomites, dramatic raw beauty, outrageously steep, rise out of the valley. A swift river overlooked by bike lanes flows through the valley. And lots off piste paths for those who have time on their hands.
“Summertime, and the living is easy . . .”
This rider’s European Summer closes on that high note.
Four months have disappeared. Tomorrow I head back to Sydney, deeply appreciative of an incredible adventure, more worldly, a little wiser, stronger on the bike.