Picos Original Riders

Picos Original Riders
Highlights of 2010

Last of the Picos Riders - to Rome Alone!

Our first two charity rides were a huge success - raising over £20,000 for the South East Cancer Help Centre.

The Centre does a fantastic job of supporting patients and carers at the most difficult times of their lives. They make a real difference and you could help them in their work by contributing to our fundraising. Donations can be made via JustGiving.comhttps://www.justgiving.com/Tom-Vaz/ or directly into the Centre. For more details of the Centre and their work see their website at http://www.sechc.org.uk/

After 3 years of rest it seemed time to dust off the old muscles, bones and sinews and do one more spectacular ride in aid of this fabulous charity.

This time I will travel alone for 25 days, mainly following the ancient pilgrimage route to Rome, the Via Francigene, covering a distance of around 1,400 miles.

The route travels through Newhaven - Dieppe - Paris before I eventually reach the Via Francigene in Eastern France. From then on it is pretty simple apart from having to cross the Alps without an elephant!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Day 25 Bracciano to Rome

A short, fast ride of 29 miles and I reached Rome in triumph with the blast of trumpets and the roars of the crowd in my ears. Sadly I may have imagined all that - it was probably the sound of car horns and the revving of motorbikes.

One moment I couldn't see Rome and the next I was in the noise and bustle of the traffic near Nero's Tomb.  Dual carriageways and heavy traffic are all part of the scenery to me now so it was only when a motorcycle came close enough to touch my elbow that I worried.

Italians complaining about someone else's bad driving! 😁
See, I'm a good boy sitting at a red light 😆
 Following the River Tiber on a dual carriageway. 
That's NOT St Peter's
Now THAT'S St Peter's Basilica - Rome at last after 25 days and 1284 miles.

This is my final blog entry and I really hope you have enjoyed the show. If anyone wants to take over the mantle of the Picos Riders then please get in touch. I'll recommend a good psychiatrist and something to rub on your bottom during the lonely saddle sore evenings.

Day 24 San Lorenzo Nuovo to Bracciano

Helped by a great salad and a bottle of beer plus the kind help of two very decent Norwegian hosts, I almost recovered from yesterday's excitement overnight.

I had a very hearty breakfast before spending 40 minutes on the phone to someone in a call Centre sorting out a hotel booking in Rome. I need to make sure that there's safe storage for my bike!

Today proves to be even hotter and my hosts warn me to carry plenty of water as there is quite a climb to the first stage of my journey - the papal fortress at Montefiascone.

Not huge nor steep but up and up 300m. The road surface is really appalling and the cars are uncomfortably close as I weave around the worst pot holes.

This church marks the 100km from Rome. There is a fancy placque but my phone decides not to store that picture.

When the road reaches the top of the pass I realise that the papal fortress and basilica are even higher up but on a different road.

The view from the Peregrino's Tower at the very peak is spectacular. I can back to where I began today and I can also see the SS2 shimmering on its way towards Rome. The shimmer is not gold it's a heat haze. The sight plus the altitude and something else make me feel a bit nauseous. The something else is a tummy bug which has plagued me for a couple of weeks now.

After an attempt at this thingy for lunch I have up and headed off hitting 35 mph going down the hill to the shimmering SR2 and there you could feel the heat rising in waves off the tarmac. Not great but at least I was flying now.

Eventually the SR2 merged with the SR675 which skirts Vitero courtesy of a fast, smooth dual carriageway. Even I manage to do 20 mph going along it.

Eventually I start my second climb of the day and the old tummy trouble gives me gyp and I'm running into a cafe. At least I can get a coke and some fresh, cold water.

At the top of the second climb I have the same grief but this time there is no cafe just hazelnut trees and bushes which allow me to save my blushes yet again.

Part of the way through I fly down another spectacular castle with houses literally hanging onto a cliff but I'm going too fast to stop. The next town at the bottom of the valley, Sutri, though is worth stopping for because it has an amphitheatre as well as tombs cut into the tufa alongside the road!

The final climb takes me away from the SR2 and towards Lake Bracciano. At the top of the climb I get excited because I can finally see Rome in the far distance.

When I finally reach my overnight stop I can see that I've picked a real winner. Right on the lake's shore, with a balcony and window overlooking the lake it is idyllic. What's more it has a very decent restaurant so no salad tonight!

Another 60 miles today but that means that tomorrow I will finally reach Rome.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Day 23 Siena to San Lorenzo Nuovo

This is the real Day 23, I got carried away last night! Just for a change I thought I'd write the blog as the day progressed so you can plan your own cycling trip to Tuscany...
After weaving my way through the narrow streets of Siena I was on the SR2 and just a few minutes later Siena was a distant blur but a lasting memory.

The SR2 is a cyclist's dream. Smooth surface with lovely curves following the contours of the land. So far no climbs as they have even had the sense to go AROUND the castle on the hill. Even with my luggage in cruising at 17 mph!

10.45am As I sit in a lovely cafe in Buonconvento,  nursing my cappuccino in the shade it seems to me that Tuscany has more than its fair share of these quaint villages. I've been blessed with choice when it comes to a coffee stop.

11.15am Well what happened to the world during my coffee break? It was going so well but shortly after rejoining the SR2 the temperature started climbing and so did the road! Gasping for breath up a long drag, in blazing heat and desperate for some cool shade I finally reached a tunnel where I stood with my legs shaking for 5 minutes. Warm water is not the tastiest stuff but I guess it hydrates and it's all I have in my bottles. I promise myself a long cold drink in an air conditioned room later...

12.05pm Another couple of miles down the road I reached a petrol station where I found a vending machine and despite its obviously venerable age, I managed to buy a can of Coke - not air conditioned but al fresco! My bike hugs the machine in relief!

1pm After some calmer cycling I spy lunch in yet another delightful Tuscan town - San Quirico d'Orcia.
Lovely church 
Lovely alleys 
Stunning castle/turrets/fortifications 
Somewhere cool to eat 
Good stop for macaroni with tomatoes and veg!
2.45pm Time for another drink before the long climbs up to San Lorenzo Nuovo. I've just met a group of scouts walking from Rome to Siena 200km in this heat! Mind you they are sitting in the shade but it's still 30C even there!

5.15pm Finally climb over the brow of the hill to see Lake Bolsena ahead. Looks nice but I'm too knackered and dehydrated to stop and take pictures.

5.30pm Having cycled 67 miles I arrive at Casa Reminiscenza Farmhouse B&B to be told dinner is chicken. Nearest restaurant is a 5mile round trip. Oh well I can always drink the wine and go to bed early...

19.15 Great news chef can do me a salad with boiled eggs and cheese. I have a beer to celebrate. Not a good idea on an empty stomach.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Day 22 San Gimignano to Siena

Ah fabulous Siena, beautiful, bustling and full of bloody tourists shouting in the streets and getting in the way of the photographs that I'm taking in order to bore the pants off of the few friends I have left (and you of course if you haven't already found a better story on Facebook).

I left my comfy bed in San Gimignano with great reluctance this morning and after a decent breakfast I got on the bike and wandered into town to see what all the fuss is about.

San Gimignano is lost in the medieval past and the narrow streets and tall buildings make you want to duck everytime a window opens in anticipation of a chamberpot emptying on your head.

Fortunately the plumbing is modern and so are the prices so of course, being a cheap skate, I hopped it.

A short trip to Siena a mere 29 miles across scenic country, grapes, olives, churches, castles you get the picture. Unfortunately the road went up to the gates of the castles instead of giving them a wide berth. It meant that a normally lazy person had no choice but to go up every hill in the way to Siena.

Nice going down of course but then another castle loomed and the pedalling became more frantic as I muttered, "I've seen enough bloody castles today!".

Of course Siena is on top of a hill, in fact I mean several hills. But what an amazing city!  Walls, towers, arches, narrow alleyways, basilicas, ancient university, stunning dome and cathedral in fact everything you could imagine for a fascinating historical city, plus of course billions of tourists!

The city is big enough for the tourists to be part of the scenery and boy is there something to admire and photograph around every corner.

I wished that I had brought the Nikon with me today - then remembering all the hills maybe not!