I have finally joined a cycling club in Milan. Big wow, what's so special about that? Some might say! Well actually, it has been a bit of journey to reach this stage. To those of you in the UK who just turn up at the various organised bike rides from CTC or British Cycling with your bike and a spare inner tube - even those who fill out a form and pay £30 to join a cycling and get their BC membership for the insurance: count yourself lucky at how easy it is to get out on your bike and get out on a club run! The amount of red tape one goes through in Italy to do the same thing, is almost eye-watering!
For me to join a club I had to provide my name, address and pay my membership - fair enough. But then I had to provide my codice fiscale and inside leg measurements: undergo a 70euro-physical examination - after waiting for the club to put in a request for me to have the medical, then waiting for my licence finally to be sent to me by the club.
To Italian and French readers they're probably thinking - "what's the fuss about?" But for readers back home in the UK this is a very strange concept for us.
So, here I am, a member of the Cassinis Cycling Team, in Milan. It's quite an active club, and the great thing is there are lots of women riders. There always seems to be something planned - be it different club runs, people taking part in cyclosportives and randonnees, or other social (non-cycling gatherings).
A couple of weekends ago, while Higg was on a visit to Milan we joined the riders for the spring pedalata sociale.
It was quite an early start for us, as we had to get to Sedrina, near Bergamo by 9.30am. That involved us catching a train from Milan at around 7.30am. On our arrival we had a choice of 3 routes to choose from. I felt a little self conscious arriving on my old heavy bike which was weighed down even more by a rack and my rucksack. Everyone else there seemed to be on lean mean machines in their club kit, and they zoomed up the false flat quite effortlessly. Very soon the main group left us behind as they proceeded to do the 120km route, while we did the short route. We decided to opt for the group following the short course - a 50km-route that involved around 800m of climbing. Given that we also had to ride to and from the train station, that meant that by the end of the morning we would have done 80km of cycling - which wasn't too shabby!
Luckily for me, I only had to deal with one hill - a 13km climb up the Forcella di Bura - which wasn't too steep. The rest of the ride was mainly downhill or flat. For a first ride, that was fine for me, since I had been quite apprehensive about how I would cope with the level. I was just keen to ride within myself, not bonk and enjoy the morning - which is what I did!
Getting involved in a cycling club can be a bit of a pallava, but on the basis of what I've experienced so far, I'd say it's worth it. :-)