Photo: So Tuscan. The view from our hotel bedroom in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa.
I was amazed, and delighted, when Jan said yes to an invite to join some Pansèr friends on a cycling weekend in Tuscany. It didn’t really go well for her. I do hope it hasn’t put her off for good. I have a feeling it might have.
Jan started with falling off the bike and ended up in hospital. The two events were unrelated and a week apart but all part of the story.
Jan was able to take part as a number of riders hired eBikes. The good news is that eBikes help with the climbs, the bad news is that they are significantly heavier than non eBikes.
Jan learnt this within the first few minutes. Having received an introduction to the bike by the touring company she started circulating the car park to get used to the bike before we set off.
As I was elsewhere putting our luggage in the van I was unaware that Jan had fallen off the original bike within three seconds of starting off. She told the guys the bike was too heavy for her but they insisted she try, so she did. I can imagine the quelling look of ‘I told you so’ she gave them. Falling off is a rite of passage for all cyclists. I had no idea Jan got hers out of the way within seconds.
Despite falling off, Jan managed a smile in the group photo before the ride.
We headed off through the traffic to the first climb of the day. Jan was struggling and falling behind already. After a hundred metres or so the instructor realised the battery wasn’t turned on. Jan was riding a very heavy bike on her first climb completeley unaided. Not a great start.
We did enjoy some stunning views across Florence as our reward.
Then followed more climbing. We started to fall back again. Jan just couldn’t make the bike work for her. We discovered why later, much later.
The first descent of the day was quite steep for a beginner, but Jan managed it well using the brakes all the way down. The second descent was another story. It was a steep narrow lane with high walls either side. The road was appalling. One of the worst roads I have ever descended. We weren’t helped when a car came behind us and we had to stop, pinned against the wall, to let it pass. Jan decided not to remount and pushed the bike to the bottom. We later learnt that some of the experienced riders ahead of us did the same thing, so bad was the road surface it was quite dangerous. Not the best introduction for a novice rider.
The rest of the day was a struggle for Jan. The ride was only 40km but over 800m of climbing. That’s a high percentage. Jan’s legs were fine but her breathing was laboured. We did have some respite over lunch, though Jan refused a tipple. A sign that not all was well.
After lunch we descended at speed – Jan’s confidence and bike control increasing all the time. Then started a series of climbs that really took their toll. Poor Jan struggled on them all. I even suggested to the group that they stop waiting for us and we’d see them at the hotel, but they insisted on waiting. We felt bad about that as the group had been so welcoming to her. Determined to finish, but really not enjoying it, she kept pedalling until we reached the hotel. Most of the other riders headed off for another 30km loop but Jan was done. After a shower at least she managed her version of a recovery drink.
The following day Jan sat in the van with a few others. She was too tired to ride again. We met up in the famous triangular piazza at Greve:
After a long lunch back in Florence we drove home. Not even the prospect of watching her beloved Liverpool on Match of the Day could keep her up. She went straight to bed. She stayed there for most of the week. A fever, coughing, headache, sensitive skin and feeling cold even though her skin was hot. Medicine from the pharmacy seemed to ease the symptoms a little but it persisted. On Saturday a friend, Patti, insisted on calling the Guardia Medica to book her in. We went and they recommended the hospital for a chest x-ray.
We went to the Pronto Soccorso (A&E) in Fano. They use a traffic light system for triage. Red for life threatening down to green. Jan’s condition wasn’t urgent so was classified as white, the fourth level of triage. We prepared ourselves for a long wait as, quite rightly, other people’s needs were far greater than Jan’s. Patti turned up at the hospital to help us which was very kind of her.
After an initial consulation with a doctor, Jan was put on oxygen before her x-ray.
One of the nurses said it was good that Brexit had been delayed as otherwise we would have had to pay for the treatment. She asked why the British were so stupid to vote leave. The hospital in Fano was excellent. Jan was progressed through the system a lot quicker than we expected. Our Italian was good enough to cope with the process, only once did we not understand a question, but otherwise it was fine.
The diagnosis was inflamed lungs but not, fortunately, pneumonia. This explained her struggles on the bike a week before.
Treatment is a course of anti biotics, an inhaler session twice a day, 2 ltrs of water a day (a challenge for a lizard), no driving and no alcohol (an even tougher challenge).
Patti helped us even more by lending us an inhaler system for the week. We had our own guardian angel yesterday. Thank you Patti.
It’s now 13:00 on Easter Sunday. Most of Italy are starting their family Easter meal, which will go on for the rest of the afternoon. The roads are empty. Jan is in bed fast asleep. One of my duties today is to wake her up in time for the Liverpool game against Cardiff.
Jan’s first ride experience really didn’t work out well. Such a shame, especially as we had such a good time over the dinners and lunches. I have a feeling that if I broach the subject of having another go, I might get this response:
Get well soon my love.