Everything I believed about cycling is true. It hurts, it's silly and it's not for me.
Today was supposed to be a gentle induction day so we could get used to our bikes, the heat, the company and the language barrier. Instead we chose a baptism of fire. In hindsight, as I write this from what I suppose we could call a restaurant, we should maybe have prepared better. By we, I mean I.
On arrival at Cagliari airport we had to unpack and then rebuild our bikes. Billy, tour leader and bike aficionado won this race, followed closely by Harry (chief photographer and semi-pro at bikes) and Luke (also knows his way about a bicycle). The wooden spoon was hotly contested between Tom (should have done better) and myself. No prizes for guessing who lost.
Bikes together, panniers packed, helmets (and in some cases bandanas) on we were ready to go. Once we had worked out where we were going.
As it turned out the only roads leading out of the airport, unsurprisingly, were motorways. Unsure whether cycling was legal on motorways in Sardinia we decided there was only one way to find out. Ask someone? No no. Cycle until we are told to stop (no one knew the Italian for stop anyway).
Our highly professional and colourfully dressed team confidently cycled out of the automatic airport doors, turned right towards the motorway, and stopped. Harry had fallen off. He claims it was because his chain broke. He lied.
The first 200 meters was negotiated so well by everyone we stopped again. Tom had a puncture. Billy fixed Tom's puncture, Luke helped, Harry took some photos and I watched.
Problems solved and spirits still high as the sun that beat over head we managed a whole hour and 14km's without issue. One of these 14km's was a long uphill incline which, despite warranting a half time break was ultimately smashed by Billy, Harry and Luke. Tom was trying to work out some of his gears while battling a tent fighting for freedom from his panniers and so provided me some competition for the second wooden spoon of the day. He was no match though and I comfortably retained my spoon. Tortoise > Hair.
Gravity dictates that what goes up must come down, hills are no exception to this rule and so after our sweaty incline we were treated to a long, smooth, gentle decline. Having crested the hill firmly in last place this was a great chance to gather some ground on the others and, as I had a speedometer on the bike see how fast it went. Not a great idea. Half way down the hill with 35mph showing on the speedo my front wheel began to violently wobble. Apparently the protocol here is to not panic, not break and let it right itself. Guess what I did...
A wise man (Jeremy Clarkson) once said that it is not going fast that is the issue, it's rapidly slowing down, that's the problem. How right he was. My wheel went from under me and I bounced, bottom first, in to the verge. A very kind Italian man asked me if I was alright using the universal scuba diving sign of touching his index finger to his thumb, raising his eyebrows and shouting "OK?".
"Oui, merci" I replied.
As the only man with a kit Harry was in charge of first aid. He tended to the hand and shoulder wounds beautifully but insisted I be the one to rub cream on my bum.
That was, thankfully, the final issue of the day and we managed the final 18 miles to where we'd been aiming with the wind running through our helmets and first signs of sun burn creeping in.
Snacks (bananas and sweets) and drinks (lucozade and water) purchased from the town supermarket we flirted again with what may or may not have been legal in Sardinia and camped outside someones garden wall. Just to be safe I took the hit and marked our territory near the tents.
Onwards and upwards for what can only be a better day 2...