Just like the end of every April, a traditional bike festival took place in the Italian town of Riva del Garda that included a ninety-kilometre long bike marathon in which racers climbed more than 4,000 metres. Such an ideal opportunity to enjoy a bit of suffering on my bike and to discover this famous mountain bike destination was enough for us to set out towards Lago di Garda last Thursday. Yeah, MODO girls also want to push themselves ;-)
Friday: In the Name of the Festival. The gates of the festival opened symbolically on Friday morning, and the aisles between the exhibitors' tents were packed with people in no time. The beautiful setting - a lake surrounded by the peaks of the Dolomites - makes this festival something very special. It takes place directly on the banks of the lake, close to the picturesque centre of Riva del Garda. For me, it’s the very first experience with any kind of bike/sports festival, and perhaps thanks to the location and setting, I can say that I could have never hoped for a better premiere. The exhibition grounds are not too large, however, to visit all the tents, but to take a look at all the interesting things there takes a great deal of time, and if you start testing the bicycles, you’re sure to have something to do for the whole weekend. Full of experiences and impressions, I hit the trail to spin my legs slightly before Saturday's race.
Saturday: Purgatory through marathon or there is no bad weather, just bad clothes An alarm at five in the morning, quick breakfast, get everything ready... The thermometer indicates 7 °C but the weather is sunny and 15 °C is forecast for the day, so I put on a short top and bottom, and take arm warmers just in case. You know, just for the moments before I get warm in the first climb... The start is at 7:30 at Riva, and the first rather steep climb that is roughly 10 kilometres long starts shortly after the town ends. I keep to my own tempo, well, the climb will be fairly long after all. After a while, I feel rather hot under the sun, so I take off the arm warmers and started to ponder about suffering through the day in this badly blistering sun. And a few kilometres further, having swung over the top and ridden the first few metres of the first and equally long descent back to the valley, I realized how terribly mistaken I had been. I feel incredibly cold two minutes into the descent, and estimate the temperature to be about 2 °C. Now it dawned on me why most people were either wearing long sleeves, had a jacket packed in their back pocket, or even had a rucksack. And it gets even worse five minutes after that: I lost feeling in my fingers, and when I rode onto a meadow with frozen grass, I realized that I DO have a serious problem Infernal suffering marks the subsequent ten minutes, and I only pray that the guys are there at the bottom of the hill with our van, waiting. Yes, they’re there. After de-frosting in the sun for twenty minutes, and being persuaded to sit back on the saddle, I eventually carry on with the race. Unfortunately, my motivation slump keeps on deepening, and the lingering cold is so unbearable that I quit the race about halfway through it. Despite being disappointed and having this unpleasant experience, I know that I will be back here next year... only with a few more pieces of clothing.
Sunday and Monday: Trails Wherever You Look The disappointment brought by Saturday is forgotten, the weather decided to remain superb, and so me and the boys decided to explore the local cycling paths and trails a bit more. And there is much to choose from! Whichever direction you take, you can be sure to find long, very long ascents (now I understand the local passion for e-bikes!), breathtaking views, and amazing rocky trails leading back down to the lake. A day and a half is not a big deal if you consider the vast network of local paths and trails, but we enjoy every moment on our bikes to the fullest and spend the whole Sunday and Monday morning riding trails in the vicinity of Monte Baldo. We pack our things in the afternoon on Monday and head back home in the pouring rain (yes, the weather came out well for us). I only can conclude by saying that Italy did not leave us disappointed, and that we are coming back next year at the latest, as the local ambience, nature and Italian hospitality are really worth it!