Helen Findlay

My adventures in Middle Europe and The Colonies. This blog contains my own views and opinions and does not represent those of my employers, or any other organisation with which I am involved. Remember, just because it isn't Singletrackworld, doesn't mean it isn't shite !

Sunday, July 10, 2005


Just back from a brilliant 10 days in the Dolomites in northern Italy. Was away with a group from the Edinburgh Road Club, me, Andrew Sinclair, Niall Macdonald, Denise Lamond and Richard Garret, and joined for a few days by Hazel Sutherland and Cliff White who were bike touring. Also shared the odd glass of wine with Jackie Reid and her brother and friends who were there to do the Marathona.

It was a pretty gruelling trip over, drive through to Prestwick, flight to Bergamo, then collect rental cars and drive up to San Cassiano. Niall's workmate had assured us that "it's only a couple of hours drive" For Michael Schumacher maybe. Major schoolgirl error at Europcar when I realised I had carefully taken my driving licence out of my wallet the day before. Was about to start crying when Andrew stepped in and put it on his licence. Advice from the Europcar dude: "if you get stopped by Caribinieri you lost your licence in the hotel, OK ?"

I had drawn the short straw and was driving by myself, and after a small detour in the direction of Rome, and eventually got on the road up to the Dolomites. This was a traumatic drive, it was a dark and stormy night, with the scenery lit up dramatically every so often by fork lightning. Seemed to drive constantly uphill. At one point the rain got so heavy I had to pull over for a while, I couldn't see more than 5 metres and due to the switchbacks strongly suspected there was a 200 metre drop at the side of the road. I was right. Made the hotel by 1.30 in the morning, luckily the advance party had sorted out my room key and rang me to give directions.

A few days to acclimitise and it was the main event of the holiday, the Marathona dles Dolomites on sunday 3rd, a Grand Fondo type event with 3 routes, 50k, 110k and 147k. As opposed to the Grand Fondue events with Ham, Cheese and Steak. After much eating of pasta and a 10pm curfew the night before, we set off down to the start line at 5.30 am.

The race itself wasn't at all what I expected. I had seen the profile and knew I would be spending the entire day either climbing or descending, but had thought there would be some kind of atmosphere, a camararderie in adversity or something. 8000 people out on the road and it was deadly silent, as everybody slogged up the climbs or tore down the descents. Jackie Reid passed me on the second climb. After 55k had taken me three hours, and Jackie was the only person I had spoken to the boredom set in, and I decided I wasn't enjoying it enough to justify the physical toll of riding the full 147, which would have taken around 7-8 hours. So I wimped out and decided to do the 110k. Enjoyed myself much more after that, stopped to look at the awesome scenery and decided I was going to say hello to all the girls I passed. This was not as easy as you might think, as Italian blokes are quite small and German women don't shave their legs. Luckily our names were on our numbers which gave a bit more of a clue. Got a few replies, mostly not in English but it helped pass the time.

Headed down to Belluno on the monday and spent the rest of the week in a villa in a wee village called Castion and 1965. The villa had everything you needed, but none of it had been updated in 40 years. Did some road rides, sunbathed, shopped, chatted, ate lots, watched the Tour de France on the tele, perfect holiday.

Returned to a lovely sunny weekend in Edinburgh. Back to work tomorrow, but only for another 7 days, so I might just cope !