Thursday, 26 October 2017

Two Ripper Days of Riding: Days 3 & 4 in Sicily Done and Dusted

Selinunte to Agrigento

Overview: 110 kilometres; 1400 metres of elevation gain

I thought it might be an idea to include an overview map from Strava of Sicily, with our route traced out on it so that people could be oriented as to where we're up to ...


The Story

Today's ride was a great journey, unfortunately marred for our merry band in general and two participants in particular when Geoff Hastings and Roberta Bailey crashed during the course of the day. The good news is that neither seems to have suffered significant injuries and hope to be back on the bike again tomorrow, but more of that later.

Today's forecast was for no rain after some heavy showers overnight and more not long before we headed out for the day. This meant that the roads were rather wet in places, so most of my photos for the day are spotted due to spatters on the lens protector of my Shimano sports camera, which is mounted on the bike.

The skies were clear and the air fresh when we set out but in places there was quite a bit of water on the road ...


Here's a photo of Di cruising along in front ...


We arrived at morning coffee to hear the news that Geoff had crashed. It turns out that he had a bit too much speed on at a sharp right-hand corner and the bike slid out from under him. He turned up in the van just after we got the news. Here he is with wife Wendy, who had decided not to ride today due the the roads being wet and the forecast of significant winds ... 


So, somewhat ironically, Geoff and Wendy spent most of the day in the van together: Wendy unscathed thanks to her decision not to ride, and Geoff a bit sore and sorry. Scans determined that Geoff had no cracked ribs or significant rattling of the brain box. He was rather rueful, calling his accident a "rookie error" but it was something any of us could have had happen to us. There hasn't been any significant rain in any of our three islands for months so the road no doubt was very slippery due to a build up of exhaust emissions. Just a few kilometres per hour can bring a rider undone in those sort of conditions.

Anyway, here's a couple of photos of building around the piazza where our coffee stop was located ...





Everyone was generally in cruise mode, pedalling along relatively leisurely. The wind was predominantly at our backs and it seems that most of us had decided to just be out cruising and enjoying being pushed along. However, there were a couple of long, quick downhill sections and with the wind behind speed could build up rather suddenly. One one of those straights without really trying I got up to 78 kilometres per hour. Luckily, I happened to have my Garmin on the map screen at the time and glanced at it about halfway down the descent and noticed that there was a very sharp right hand turn onto a minor road. I yelled out to Di who was behind me at the time and we both made the turn safely. Unfortunately, this corner caught Chris and Roberta Bailey unawares. Too late, Chris realised he had too much speed on and wasn't going to make the turn. Roberta, who was close behind, clipped his handlebar and came a cropper, landing on her head (Chris somehow managed to stay upright). Roberta lost consciousness momentarily and prudently, as should be the case with any accident of this sort, an ambulance was called for. Our post-lunch ride was a sombre affair, worrying about Roberta's injuries. 
However, before we reached lunch there was some lovely riding through the countryside. Di took this photo of a lovely old bridge now in disrepair and not used as the road has been re-routed ...


Arrival and Dinner

The rest of the ride was very pleasant, largely with a tailwind, and we were very relieved to eventually hear that Roberta escaped serious injury. The quote from Dylan was that she "happened to land in the softest grass in Sicily". When we were told at the briefing that she and Chris would be meeting at our dinner venue. And what a dinner it was! Dylan had "made a late call" to book us into a very high end restaurant overlooking this edifice in the Valle dei Templi, perhaps the largest archeological site in the world ...


The food was fantastic and the venue sublime, but more importantly we were all very happy when Roberta arrived with nothing worse than a very stiff neck - ameliorated a great deal by a glass or two of good Sicilian wine. Thanks must go to Simone for his sterling service in getting the Baileys from the hospital to dinner. As ever, we are all very appreciative of the excellent efforts of our guides who often have problems to deal with after regular hours have finished.

Agrigento to Piazza Armerina

Summary: 110 kilometres; 1900 metres elevation gain


With a substantial bit of climbing on the agenda for today's ride Di thought it would be better if she rode with Sharon and left me to my own devices. The ride included a climb of about fourteen kilometres so that was probably a good idea. I switched on the bike camera when I started the ride. Here are a couple of images that I took early on ...



... and a nice one that Di shared with me ...


I passed by some fields that have been readied for planting ...


... and then the Ride & Seek van went by ...


My stop at morning coffee was short but it took me a while to get out of town because there was a water tanker moving slowly through the narrow streets, holding me and the car in front of me up ...


The roads here in Sicily can change very suddenly from being in quite good repair to being pretty worrying. Something not at the extreme scale but that we are seeing quite a lot of is longitudinal cracking as in the next image where, if you aren't paying attention you could drop a front wheel into ...


I got some photos of two rocky peaks that I thought were quite reasonable ...




... but the one that Di took a little further along was much better ...



There was a tunnel along the way, happily devoid of any traffic ...


A little further up the hill there was an abandoned house that made me wonder about its history, and the dreams and disappointments of its inhabitants ...


Prickly Pear, which is a scourge in Australia, grows prolifically here on the Mediterranean islands we've been traversing. We've seen it all over the place. Last night Marcello told us that we would pass places where it is in fact cultivated deliberately. I didn't notice that, but did pass by what seemed like a wall of the stuff ...


I only stopped for a quick bite at lunch because the headwinds that seemed to present for most of this section were increasing in strength and cooling things off. Exiting the town was a long section of road with huge flagstones ...


Shortly thereafter the battery on my sports camera died so I just kept on rolling until Piazza Armerina came into view. I thought I really out to take a photo so I pulled out the phone and took a snap ...


A last, twisting climb took me up to the southern edge of the town and then it was a descent to our accommodation for the night which is a wonderful villa in the countryside. We've had a marvellous dinner provided by our hosts and everyone is now settled down into their rooms for the night. The really great news is that Geoff is feeling well enough that he thinks he will do the full ride tomorrow, and Roberta plans to do a least a part of the ride - perhaps up to morning coffee. We've got two more days of riding before we arrive in Siracusa, the final destination of our tour. Bring it on!

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