above: photo by Bruno Ferraro. Bruno is a very accomplished
ultra rider as well. Showing the camaraderie so apparent in the
community he was not riding this event but was helping as support
and photographer. On the last day Robbie and I surprised everyone
with our super early start, and poor Bruno had to get up equally
early to take pictures of us as we descended into the ferry. Thank
Sicily was beautiful; it was lovely and hot - and I like
climbing - so today was going to be a good day; If you had offered
me double the climbing but a guarantee of sun I would have bitten
your hand off...
However the problem with Sicily on a Sunday is literally nothing
is open (thats no exageration); no shops or bars, nor any petrol
stations and I was getting very low on water and had no food. The
donuts on the ferry were many hours ago. This began to bite me, I
started feeling very sluggish and my Garmin was not making sense; I
could not remember what colour road I was meant to follow - was it
yellow lines or purple ones? - and I kept getting lost in tiny
villages that had 12 side roads, meaning it was hard to get the
right one on the map. Progress was agonisingly slow. There was also
a diversion we had to follow and the instructions made no sense to
me; basically everything that required thinking was difficult.
I was getting really annoyed now - I just wanted to cycle 200km
in a straight line. I did not mind cycling for 16hrs; but why did I
have to think or make decisions? Why was everything so complicated?
Why were the roads so small and why did all the villages look the
same? Why was it so hard to read the Garmin as the sun reflected
off its screen? Why was everything so DIFFICULT??
My wife is diabetic, and I have seen first hand what it's like
when someone goes really low. Its quite frightening to watch, and I
felt the warning signs myself; my fingers and lips were tingling
and I felt lightheaded.
I would not see food or water for another 5 hours... all my
glycogen had gone and I was purely going through fat reserves now.
But in hindsight that's why I wanted to do this event; I wanted to
put myself out of my comfort zone - and that was certainly the case
I remember going through this amazing valley and I was basically
spinning squares and totally depleted; but I was conscious enough
to realise that here and now was why I had signed up for this. I
wanted to call my wife but she worries enough about me (so much so
that every night I would send her exceptionally positive
"loving it here, Italy is beautiful. weather is
"course is a piece of piss, I am smashing it"
"Am having SO MUCH FUN!!"
I realised if I called her in my current state she would likely
send the Italian Army out to rescue me. So I called Ashley (who was
my partner in Portugal and he had been giving me wonderful support
So I was on this 17km climb at 3% and on my phone to Ash:
"Bazza!! How are you mate? Looking good. Keep it
"Fucked... Totally fucked...."
"You are doing great; Robbie is only 20km ahead of you, you
will catch him on Etna"
"Mate; I am fucked"
"Almost there; you are on second to last climb. 1050km done
and only 50km to go. Almost done now"
"Did I mention I am fucked?"
Not quite sure what I was expecting Ash to do; but it was great
to hear his voice and to remind me that eventually it would be
I was fine on straight roads; but every time I had a simple
junction to navigate or a choice of small roads to take I would
inevitably get it wrong; take a wrong turn and have to double back
again - I was haemorrhaging time, but more annoyingly I was wasting
daylight; I wanted to do as little riding as possible in the dark
and the cold. Because people could watch me online I was also
conscious this performance collapse was not a private affair! Every
time I took a wrong turn and double backed on myself it would show
up on the map; my incompetence was for all to see!
It's amazing how your mindset changes; after hours of moaning
about not getting food or water I then accepted it and resigned
myself to cycling to Etna in this state.
Miraculously in a tiny remote village up a hill there was a
chocolate/pastry shop open, which was the first signs of
civilisation in hours. I got the owners young daughter to fill up
my water bottles and then drank 1.5 litres in a oner in front of
their horrified faces. I then asked her to fill them up again. She
actually said "Mamma mia!" to me - it was all very surreal. I then
proceeded to spend €30 on chocolate and cannoli - quite an
achievement given how cheap everything is. I ate 4 cannoli there
and then and got them to pack 4 more to go. I had gone from zero
calories to 2000 calories of pure sugar and I was buzzing.
The guy packed them in a lovely box and even wrapped it with a
ribbon. Alas as soon as I was outside I simply folded the box in
half and rammed it into my saddlebag. Ironically I then forgot all
about my food stash; and managed to carry all four up Mt Etna
without even touching them - and they are quite heavy!