first day’s ride

Today  (18th August) was the first proper riding day of the tour. Geoff didn’t join us on the ride because KLM decided to keep his bike a little longer than they ought to have done.

Richard had planned a 100km ride with about 1400 VMs.  A nice gentle start one would think.  not.  Here is Richard, looking relaxed at the top of the first climb.


George, for those of you who don’t know, is the South African Masters Champion for  cross country mountain bike. He will be attending the world champs in France in early September.  I figured as he was riding a mountain bike, it would slow him down to a followable pace. I figured wrong.

We dodged the beachfront traffic for about 20kms, and then at Sestri Levante we headed up into the hills , the first climb was consistent, and not to steep. The views of the forest and down to the sparkling sea were  simply beautiful, and with the exception of the odd nutty driver, traffic free.

Near the top through the village of Castello  it got very very steep.

The descent was rather bumpy, and George was grinning at the bottom. It was a perfect descent for a mountain bike, but for a road bike it was a tad rough. We eventually got back the beach at Levanto.


We  began to climb what was in theory the final big climb of the day.  George and Richard battled for honours to the top, and I plodded a long at my 13 km/h. Just near the top a white van and a Smart collided, George and Richard saw the accident, no one was hurt, but it made us take the winding descent a little more cautiously.

Now we were hungry, but the only place open was an overpriced under-served spot on the beach at Deiva Marina. Pasta that was only memorable by its price. Richard took a swim.


We then started what we thought would be a  quick 20 km spin along the beach road back to  Chiavara but we reached a tunnel that prohibited bike use. The friendly locals pointed us to another route, so off we went.

We climbed, and climbed, and climbed, up a beautiful gorge, under the autostrata and then up, up to the top of  the Passo del Bracco.  An extra beast of a climb that we hadn’t planned for.

Never mind. George and Richard waited for me at the top, and then we descended  the the SS1, the old Roman Via Aurelia back to Sestri Levante. Lovely road, in excellent condition. I managed to keep Richard and George in sight as we zig zagged down the hill. Awesome views of the azure blue sea, small villages with big churches too numerous to mention.

We then raced the vespas and the cars back along the beach road.

So, day one 115 kms, average Hr 132, max  HR 179, ascent 210o, total Kcals. 4178.


Checking out Portofino


Our first day in Italy involved quite a lot admin and preparation, so we just went for a short spin to test out the bikes. We headed down the coast from Rapello, where we were staying, to Portofino.  We stayed in a super hotel, Villa Luisa. Friendly and helpful staff.

Richard planned a route that involved us climbing up some goat trails.  But when we got to Portofino, we popped up the hill to Hotel Splendido, which is indeed splendid. We spent a small fortune on a cup of coffee and a juice.


Here I am.


Some lovely flowers, and a monster yacht in the  harbour.


The coast road to Portfolio is very pretty


The beaches are rather full.


Geoff arrived in the evening, he flew from Cape Town, via Scippol, to Milan, then via train to Chiavara. Our base for the next 3 days. Alas, his bike didnt arrive. We had a few beers and a pizza at the local pizzeria. George instructed Richard on the combustible properties of Sambuca.

A soundtrack for climbing

I don’t normally ride with music,  because I’m either talking to mates or worried about traffic. However, I make an exception for very big climbsl . I’m just thinking what my soundtrack will be on monster big climb day on our alpine tour, it includes the ominous sounding Colle dei Morti..  Suggestions welcome.




154kms and 4325 meters of climbing on day 6 ouch.


For photos of the climb and the area head over here.


I’m thinking something like this.

Bob Marley and the Wailers Zimbabwe

White stripes Seven Nation Army

Violent Femmes blister in the sun

Bowie Ground Control to Major Tom

Talking heads Road to nowhere

Puccini Nesse Dorma

Seeed  Aufstehen

James sit down

Mafikizolo Kwela

Libertines cant stand me now

Long Blondes round the hairpin

Juluka Scatterlings of Africa

Bright blue Window on the world

Robin Auld. Beautiful day

Toten Hosen Zehn Kleine Jägermeister

Yello  the race

Johannes Kerkorrel Ossewa

Gary Moore Over the Hills and Far Away

The Clash Should I stay or should I go?

Ngobo Ngobo Fine Young Man

eVoid Taximan

Futureheads Hounds of love.

Kaiser Chiefs  I predict a riot

the Killers Somebody told me

Franz Ferdinand This Fire

The view Dance into the night

Pigeon Detectives Stop and Go

Chumbawamba TubThumping

Toy Dolls Nellie the Elephant



It is a big hill, so I’ll need a few more tunes.

I’m planning to post photos, links etc in a shameless imitation of Will’s excellent cycling blog, cycling challenge. I’ll try and get maps, heart data. photos  and so on all mashed up.

Polar Rocks

The battery in my polar s725, after 4 years of sturdy service decided to expire, 4 days before our trip into the Alps. I posted it off to the service centre, with a note pleading for speedy service but  thinking there would be no chance it would be back in time for the tour.

It came back today, fully serviced with a new type of  heart rate belt.


Thanks Polar.

Markets, Coffee and Software


From Tonx.

Quote below is from Sarah Britten’s South African Weekly Mail blog, Gondwanaland.  She is discussing Australia and Starbucks.

The news last week that Starbucks was to close 61 of its Australian stores with immediate effect — leaving just 23 stores in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane — was greeted with considerable interest beyond the business pages. The American interloper taught a lesson about what it takes to succeed in the land down under: this was more than just a business story, it was about Australian resistance to global hegemony.

Or was it?

What is striking about the Starbucks story is how it reveals the ways in which Australia’s post-World War II wave of immigration has affected its sense of national self. Australians didn’t take to Starbucks, the reasoning goes, because they already know more about coffee real coffee — than any American could ever teach them.

One Melbourne journalist wrote:

“With its trademarked frappuccinos and smorgasbord of syrup flavours, the day Starbucks came to Lygon Street was like Scientologists setting up in Vatican City. Sacrilegious.”

Similar things happen in HR software too. Biggish “global” players sometimes come into markets like Australia thinking they are the Bees’ Knees, to quote Kath and Kim.  Australians speak English, how hard could it be?

The global player soon finds out that there are local vendors offering neat technology but with the more valuable feature of  local market understanding. 

In the long run, global vendors only succeed if can help meet local needs. Offering a system in English simply isn’t enough.  

For Gartner Clients I explore this in more detail in this report Global Talent Management Isn’t Just Global (G00159366), 22-JUL-2008 

Gran Fondo Pinarello

Apologies on the delayed posting…

This was  a brilliant event.


The ride was super. Weather not too hot, and it didn’t rain.  Mark and I took it slowly, our goal was just to finish.  The winners podium had already been dismantled by the time we rolled in.  We also had an unplanned detour when we followed the wrong sign. It added an extra few kms to the ride, but we weren’t really counting.




Highlight was  Passo San Boldo. It was built by the Austrian Army in the first world war. Each hairpin is actually a tunnel, cool and refreshing.  This should be a standard feature. 


(photos from Hermann)

The last hill of the day, Montello was relatively short, but steep in parts, because it was at the end of the day, it felt much worse that it should have done.  We then  had a lovely descent and spin into back into Treviso. I sucked on the slipstream of a much fitter cyclist, but he didn’t seem to mind.

I would have taken more pics, but the N95 battery is weaker than even my legs.

Thanks to the chaps from london dynamos for organising our hotel, and for the fine company. Mark, thanks for organizing it. Next year Norway!

Listening to my inner voice.
The day before the race, while driving to the Frankfurt-Hahn airport (which, incidentally,  is nearer to Paris than Frankfurt), a little voice in my head said, “you have left something important behind!” 

I pulled over and sure enough, no cycling shoes.   So I got on the phone to Mark, who was already in Treviso. He was able to nip into the Pinarello shop, and pick me out a new pair of Sidis. I knew my size, so I left the colour choice up to him and the Australian shop assistant.


They fit like a glove. These are possibly the most sparkly shoes ever made. I am visible for miles.  They are also light and the soles are ultra stiff carbon.  Gorgeous OTT Italian design. 

I also needed new pedals, as no-one had my old cleat design in stock.  The pedals are the Look Keo, carbon with titanium axles, again shaving grammes off the bike, but I could be better served by eating more salad.

My new wheels budget is now blown.

The flight back was a nightmare. 12 hour delay. Slept on the floor in the airport. Ryanair when it works is great, when it doesn’t it is grim. I also had a moment of security theatre with my tiny CO2 canister.  roughly 3000 cyclists passed through Treviso airport, I’d guess 80% of them with CO2 pumps.  Anyway, my CO is staying in Italy. You can breathe easy air travel is safer now.

Treviso is well worth a visit. Even if you don’t go into the Pinarello shop.  For cyclists though, it is almost a shrine. Better than the Apple store.  Excellent high end stuff and great service. I even got to see the original Giovanni Pinarello himself.  A global brand, but a family business. 3 Generations of the family working in the shop.

We also managed an afternoon in Venice. Yes it is beautiful. Yes it is crowded.

The ride was a good wake up for me in terms of fitness. I need to shed a couple of pounds and do some nasty intervals training if I’m to cope with  the Alpine excursion

  More about that route in another post.


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