Prologue: Trieste airport to Gradisca d’Isonzo

Distance: 17.18 km

Time: 56 minutes

Speed: 18.4 km/h

Ascent: 38 metres

Wordle scores: Captain 4 Stoker 4

Word of the day: “partenza” (par-tens-ah) – departure

The Stoker writes:

This trip is the first time we’ve flown with our tandem. It was boxed up for us for the flight by John and Ruth of the wonderful JD Tandems in Gargrave, and we squeezed it into a hired Ford van yesterday for the drive down to Stansted. That was drama number one: the Ford was some kind of weird reverse Tardis, looked huge, but the bigger of the tandem boxes only just fitted into the boot, even with the front seats pushed forward. The Captain had to drive his stint with his knees under his chin!

An early start this morning, we were in the airport by 5am as advised by the Ryanair staff. They said the airport would be heaving first thing, and it certainly was. It was pretty efficient, though, all checked in, bags and boxes dropped and through security by just after 6am. We boarded on time amongst a crowd of noisy Italians, it was lovely to hear the language again, a little warm-up for the ears. We watched the tandem boxes carefully loaded onto the plane from our seats, the baggage handler even observed John’s ‘this way up’ arrows!

We’d originally planned to head to Udine today, a ride of about 55km. After the long drive yesterday and the early start today, it seemed more sensible not to rush, though. We decided on a prologue instead, just the first 10km of the ride to Udine, stopping at Gradisca d’Isonzo. That’s heading off in completely the wrong direction, of course – almost due north, when even I know that Sicily is definitely to the south! There’s reason for that, though – we really need to give the busy roads around Mestre and Venice a wide berth, and staying well north to achieve that has the added advantage of taking us right through prosecco country!

First, though, to collect the tandem and reassemble it. Trieste airport is pretty quiet and tiny, and our boxes appeared very promptly on the baggage carousel, almost before we’d been stamped in at passport control. We scoffed a quick focaccia, changed into our lycra and wheeled everything out to car park 2, where the very helpful people at the Friulli Veneto Giulia tourist information had told us we could recycle all the cardboard that had protected the tandem on the flight. They were right! It was a bit grotty, but just what we needed, and we soon had everything looking tandem-shaped again. Now for drama number two: the tyres. They’d had to be deflated for the flight – you don’t want them exploding at 37000 feet! We would normally use highly efficient CO2 canisters to re inflate, but of course you can’t carry those on a plane either! So man and woman power it was. Or… wasn’t! We just couldn’t get the pump to read more than about 30psi, when we would normally ride at nearer 100psi, especially when fully laden. A nearby bike shop looked like the best option, but could we ride there at 30psi? A quick test ride in the car park proved we really couldn’t. Plan B then: the Captain grabbed both wheels and hopped in a taxi to the bike shop. A quick inflate and a taxi back, and we were raring to go. Just needed to put on the front pann….. OH NO!!!! Drama number three, and this time it’s a big one. We’ve forgotten the front pannier rack…

Right. What to do? The obvious plan was to dangle the front panniers from the rear handlebars whilst we rode to a bike shop in nearby Monfalcone, to see if they had one.

Bike shop one? Nope. But they suggested another, nearby. Bike shop two? Again, very friendly and helpful, but no racks. Italian cyclists don’t often tour, so it wasn’t massively surprising, but time was passing and no solution presenting itself! Another recommendation, again just around the corner. Bike shop three. Deep breath. “Hmmm”, says the proprietor. And then a stream of Italian about ordering one, which would arrive tomorrow at 10:30! Hurrah, that would work. We faffed around for a bit trying to find an acceptable local hotel, but they all looked a bit grim, so we elected to ride to Gradisca d’Isonzo anyway. It was about 11km, a good shakedown of the bike and the legs, actually, all of which are feeling good. And it didn’t rain, even though it looked like it might. And the hotel is lovely!

So tomorrow we’ll have to ride back south to Monfalcone, which is the wrong direction (except it’s really the right one for Sicily) and then come back north to rejoin our original route.

Feels good to be on the road, even though it’s been a slightly trying day. Ryanair was faultless. The baggage handling was excellent. And there’s gnocchi with sage and butter on the restaurant’s menu tonight!

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