<![CDATA[Lost! again 2016 - LoSt! Blog]]>Tue, 28 Jun 2016 15:20:43 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[... and another thing!]]>Tue, 28 Jun 2016 12:00:55 GMThttp://lostagain2016.com/lost-blog/-and-another-thingPicture
We have all agreed to drop a blog into the site once we have had the opportunity to reflect on the week of cycling through Italy and France.  Simon was first off the mark and has already posted his reflections below – thank you for your kind words Simon, they genuinely mean a lot to me.
Where to start though?  I suppose its worth going back to the beginning for me.  A couple of years ago, it was decided that we would “go for it again” and sought out a location in southern Italy starting with “Lo” to allow us to stick with the LoSt! theme.  All set to go until I managed to twist my knee again, tear a meniscus and have an operation a month or so before the planned departure in 2015.  I stepped aside and then the team decided to defer the trip by a year – not asked for but much appreciated really.
In the summer of 2015, after an early morning run on the annual family jaunt to La Manga in Spain in July, I then received a text from my neighbour John asking me to join him and Joe in Lanzarote in 2016 to do an Ironman.  Initial response was “Er, no.  Too busy, football team to coach, kids to ferry around, work to do, hair to wash, grass to cut etc etc”.  5 minutes later, and realising that the date of the event was 21 May 2016, the day before my 50th, I had parted with my €500 entry fee and the deed was done.

It only took me until October to tell Lizzie what I’d done.  When I did come clean, she was pleased that my confession was Ironman rather than affair related! My devious plan had worked.
All I had to do now was get fit enough to do an Ironman in May and follow that up with a 1,500km cycle less than 3 weeks later in June.  Dodgy calves aside and a day by day “intermediate” Ironman plan in place, I somehow made it.  A big thank you to Lizzie and the kids for bearing with me over the long winter months of getting up at 5.30/6am to train in the rain, wind, cold and occasional snow. 
I was a bundle of laughs and “great” (mostly sober) company from October to May.  In bed most nights before the kids and, in my spare time, becoming somewhat obsessive about kit, training, diet, travel arrangements, route maps for LoSt!, pulling together web sites, starting a blog and at the same time running a football team (btw we lost the league on the last day of the season and lost in the Regional Cup final – my fault as was away most of the last month of the season having a mid life crisis) and trying to keep the day job on the track.  I know I am a grumpy old git at the best of times but things were now getting extreme!

​All of this is in the past now … its done!  The Ironman was completed (although I fear there is some unfinished business there) and LoSt! has been survived.
LoSt! was much tougher than any of us had imagined (see the rubber ring that awaited my return to the office).  My route planning added around 10-15 miles per day more than the last trip.  Doesn’t sound much but at our speed that was an extra hour each day.  Add to that the traumas of punctures (too many to list), terrible roads in the south of Italy and horrific weather at some stages on all but one of the days, and before you know it each day became a 12+ hour marathon.  Late arrivals at hotels, late showers and late dinners (and of course too much wine), followed by another early start the next day started to take its toll along the way.
Nonetheless, not one person uttered the inevitable words of “I can’t go on”.  We had “I’m happy to go on”, “we need to go on”, “shall we go on?” and even “Go on England!” in San Remo – but nobody uttered the fabled “I can’t go on”.  This is a group of likely lads who somehow ground it out and managed to get through the toughest of weeks with a creditable lack of complaints.
Don’t get me wrong, we all had our moments but what goes on tour stays on tour and when all was said and done we kissed and made up in our own special ways.  It takes a special group of people to be able to do that when you are tired and emotional.
Thank you to Simon the organiser – he likes to lead from the front in spirit if not always on the bike.  Congratulations to Rory – a tour virgin who joined the group for the first few days and acted beyond his years – the lay-byes of Perugia completed his education. Marc, his dry wit and his sense of humour always on hand to lighten the mood and his quiet persistence inspirational.  James leading from the front and always there with a helping hand (literally) for those in need.  Giles, eager to please, honest in his efforts and always keen to push himself to the next level (I loved our post puncture catch up ride together) – a great addition to the team.  Finally, Colin whose culinary efforts surpassed themselves again and without whose map reading skills and driving we couldn’t have even started or completed the trip – we are eternally grateful for insurance.
As a reflection, I’m not sure how the above goes.  I do know however that the impact of shared experiences like this are difficult to explain to those watching (or reading) from the outside.  They are just that though, shared experiences that provide the launch pad for whatever comes next in life.
What I really hope though is that in completing an Ironman and the LoSt! trip and, at the same time, having reached the magic 50 number, my kids don’t think of me as an old (and grumpy) duffer and that Lizzie is glad that the “great Keith” that she once knew hasn’t really disappeared for ever.
Most importantly, however, it has been fantastic to get the opportunity to make a small contribution to the success of the amazing #Wellchild charity that we have been supporting as part of our efforts.  Thank you all for your beyond generous pledges through our JustGiving site or directly to the team.
Until the next time!

<![CDATA[final reflections.....]]>Mon, 27 Jun 2016 15:14:34 GMThttp://lostagain2016.com/lost-blog/final-reflectionsoh boy, what a trip!  just over a week and a half ago we finished our LoSt! trip.  It oddly seems an age ago!  

My body seems to have recovered and my legs feel good as i've been back to the gym and have found running particularly strong (for me, but i am pretty slow!).  i have resisted all temptation to get back on a bike, spinning or otherwise.  There are some sensitive parts of my body though only my hands will get a mention.  I have carpel tunnel syndrome and my hands are ridiculously numb, prickly and tender.  I did have this on the first trip and it can take about 2 months to resolve itself - heigh ho!  I played 9 holes of golf at the weekend and I couldn't even grip the club with the ball firing in all sorts of (mainly the wrong) direction.  I wish i had been stronger on the climbs but i suspect, on reflection i paid the price for not being able to train my legs too hard with a torn meniscus. I felt fit otherwise from an endurance perspective.  

My trip stand out memories -
  • having Rory, my son, on the trip for the first 3 and a half days was brilliant.  He was strong on the bike and, if I say it myself, did himself and me proud on and off the bike.;
  • I also had four generations of family members on the trip with Colin, our lead support and my senior cousin, James, my nephew and Rory.  That was special;
  • The daily thunderstorms were testing to say the least;
  • Day 3 included climbs of 10k, 11k and 15k.  It is the hardest and, combined with all the mechanical issues we had that day, the longest day on a bike ever!  It was however probably our best day of team work;  
  • The beauty of the scenery was to be beholden, across the hills of Italy from Chieti on the east coast to La Savona on the west coast - stunning; 
  • teamwork, support and comradeship - it was hard at times as you have many hours just trundling away.  It can be mentally very tough if you're a sensitive, emotional old bugg@ like me but the support and encouragement from all the team was amazing.  Keith particularly is the most generously, selfless spirited man i know when it comes to team - i thank you;
  • As Keith said below, over a 15 day period (the two charity trips) James, Marc, Keith and I have cycled from London, through France, along the French coast into Italy, across Italy and down to one of its southernmost points. Ludicrous!; and
  • Finally, we are highly likely, with the support of all the incredibly generous people that committed funds via justgiving, to raise the £40,000 we set out to raise.  That is an unbelievably satisfying and rewarding feeling.  We thank all of you for making the whole trip hugely worthwhile.

Maybe see you again in 3/4 years time......!

<![CDATA[ Day 8 – 17 June, Eze to St Tropez 67 miles/107 km – or actually nearer 75 miles …  how did that happen? ]]>Sun, 19 Jun 2016 12:14:40 GMThttp://lostagain2016.com/lost-blog/-day-8-17-june-eze-to-st-tropez-67-miles107-km-or-actually-nearer-75-miles-how-did-that-happen
Finding it difficult to sleep again, Keith awoke early and decided to get up and get going with the catching up of the blog.  A couple of days behind again and so much to tell!  5.30am and coffee was a necessity as he got underway.
Beautiful morning and amazing views welcomed the final day – a short burst, or so we thought, into St Tropez.
Simon and Giles appeared at 6.30am for a race in the pool!? Simon won, Simon cheated, Giles created a comedy moment of his own (much to Simon’s amusement) in the short infinity pool, Simon admitted ultimate defeat.  Simon and Giles then had their own coffees and sat down to draft more of the blog.
A much later start today (9.30am) and an expectation to get there by 1pm had us all fiddling around, rebuilding bikes (from last night’s fog incident), and checking directions.  Breakfast surpassed itself (not quite last night dinner) and set us up for the morning.
Keith posted the blog, was all set to go when a miserable looking Simon announced that we had miscalculated and the day was nearer to 80 miles.  One large climb in the middle over to Frejus and it was looking more like a 3.30pm-4pm finish!!!
We’d better “have it away” then (as James would say).  Gloves were off (literally) today as we needed to get rid of the white hands!  It is becoming more obvious that our razor sharp cyclists’ tan lines might look good on a bike but look ridiculous in any other setting.
On the road and immediately into a 10km downhill section that took us all the way down to the coast and through Nice.  Amazing speed and fantastic views.  Another big city and lots of accidents waiting to happen.  Having managed to “successfully” navigate our way around the big city without ending up on a motorway, we headed along the coast to Antibes where we decided to stop at the beach for a mid-morning coffee at the beach
Not before Keith, James and Giles managed to hitch onto the back of a train of cyclists for a few miles travelling at around 23-24mph.  Great fun but in the end too much for the tired legs to keep going with.
Tried to contact Colin but he wasn’t responding.  Tried a few more times before deciding to head on our way through Cannes to a proposed lunchtime pit stop at Frejus around about 50 miles into the day.  Once again slightly worried that we may have lost him along the way.
30 miles in and all of a sudden the climbing started again.  The road kept rising for around 10 miles.  Keith’s mother-in-law often cites the old Irish proverb “may the road rise up to meet you, and the wind always be at your back” – not today it didn’t.  Unfortunately, we were climbing into the first force 10 gale of the week. The new Head of Weather (Marc) was already getting some abuse as whilst a gentle breeze from the Med would have been welcome, this was not on the plan.
Keith was busted – lack of sleep had finally caught up!  Reminded of Rule #5, we all ploughed on and arranged for Colin to drive back from Frejus to feed us at the top of the climb.
Duly fed, watered and raring to go, we headed down the mountain. One 10 mile descent into Frejus at an average 25mph and we all had big smiles on our faces.  The adrenaline was pumping now and we only had another 20 miles or so until the port front at St Tropez beckoned.
One of the hottest days so far and probably it turned out, surprisingly, to be one of the toughest, we muscled our way along the front in the wind via the seaside towns of St Maxime (we could now see St Tropez in the distance) and past Port Grimaud where we were staying tonight, we now knew that we had done it. 
There was a feeling of the last day of the Tour de France where the day becomes a procession and the leaders drink champagne along the way on their bikes.  Whilst the champagne would have to wait, the realisation that it was done, hit quite hard and all sorts of emotions flood through the consciousness.
We arrived at our spiritual home of St Tropez and cycled straight up to our favourite bar on the port front where we spent our last night back in 2012 when we cycled from London to St Tropez.  Hugs all round, beers were ordered and a magnum of rose brought to the table.  We called our loved ones, chatted about our trip, watched the world go by and savoured the moment.  A special hour or two where you have the opportunity to actually just enjoy it.
A 1,600km trip that was tougher this time due to all of the adversities we had to overcome and the longer daily distances we had to endure.  Punctures, tyre repairs, rain, wind, collapsed tunnels and reroutes, early mornings, arrivals in the dark after long days etc etc.  I could go on but all in all we are satisfied.
Its been a tough shift but, once again, we have strengthened pre-existing bonds of friendship and created new friendships through shared experiences that never translate properly unless you were there. 
Most importantly, for a second time we have had the opportunity to support our chosen charities #WellChild and Assert and are privileged to have had the opportunity to do so whilst at the same time achieving something on a personal basis that will impact us all in different ways but that we should all be proud of.
Over a couple of trips now, we have now connected London and Locorotondo in a way that I doubt has ever been done before.  Over 3,000km of adventures to remember for some of us.  The beginning of more adventures for all of us.

<![CDATA[Technical issues]]>Sat, 18 Jun 2016 08:54:39 GMThttp://lostagain2016.com/lost-blog/technical-issuesIf you are looking for the Day 7 blog, it has slotted itself in before Days 5 and 6.  No idea why!
Day 8 will be posted shortly from the road as Giles and Keith head off from a sunny St Tropez to the airport on Saturday (Colin is kindly driving us) whilst Simon, Marc and James head for the beach.  Simon's new beach bag is a belter ...
<![CDATA[Day 7 - 16 June, Savone to Eze, 93 miles/157km]]>Sat, 18 Jun 2016 07:01:49 GMThttp://lostagain2016.com/lost-blog/-day-7-16-june-savone-to-eze-93-miles157km Picture
Keith started the day early getting the blogs up to date and published (having been ably assisted the previous evening over beers by the wider LoSt! team).  He didn't need the sleep anyway and found the mellow tones of Colin's snoring somewhat therapeutic and relaxing.
Comments on Italian Tunnels:
  • We love Italian tunnels - they mean no climbing on the bike
  • We hate Italian tunnels - they are too long, dark and dangerous without lights
  • We dislike Italian tunnels when they are shut and we have to climb around them …
Other than a short climb up to the hotel at the end of the day, today was due to be a relatively comfortable ride along the Italian Med coast and onto the French Riviera.  We all left on our bikes eagerly anticipating the day ahead and the joys of seeing the French Border when we would be able to at last say we have cycled across the whole of Italy from the South East to the North West corner.
Nothing to write home about from an uneventful but truly enjoyable morning riding along the coast in the Meditteranian sunshine.  Following 7 days of rain, the newly appointed Head of Weather (Simon) had done his job and arranged for the blue skies and sunshine.  We stopped at a beachside café in Alassio and enjoyed the mountainous scenery behind us in full yellow bloom over a coffee and a croissant.
We were looking forward to catching up with Colin for lunch but managed to lose him and following 5 or 6 calls to him by our Head of Comms, we were starting to get worried.  So worried were we that we stopped and had lunch without him in a fabulous Italian restaurant.
The afternoon became a race to San Remo to get there by 3pm and to find a café with a TV to watch the England v Wales game.  Head of Weather arranged for the rain to arrive as we headed under cover to watch the game and fully deserved his pastiche.  He received many plaudits and confirmation that his probationary period was at last over.
England's victory gave (some of) us a click of the heels and an extra turn of the wheel as we rolled out the day towards the French border.  One more blocked tunnel and a climb later and we were across the border and into France and the border town of Menton.
We searched all media devices in a vain attempt to find a flat route to the mountain top village of Eze.  Giles' device seemed to find one for us which we naiively and dutifully followed through the pedestrian walkway and then directly onto a steep climb .. Not quite what the doctor ordered.
As we climbed … and climbed … and climbed … and climbed … and climbed up above Monaco into light cloud, beyond the views and into the rain, our Head of Weather was given a disciplinary verbal warning.  His job is on the line.
Before long - actually it did take quite a long time - the terrain was rising and morale was falling faster than the rain.  Time was against us yet again, the light was fading, it was 8.30pm and we were still 4 miles from the hotel.  The fog became a "pea souper" and visibility was down to 15 yards (or being European about it, until Brexit, 13. 326m) and we were struggling to see the inappropriately named sign to the village to Beausoleil.  The irony was not lost on any of us.
We had a huddle (to keep warm) to decide  what we ought to do next.  Firstly, the newly appointed Head of Weather was summarily dismissed from post due to gross incompetence.  Secondly, we decided "we can't go on" due to the inclement weather as to do so would be too dangerous.  Head of Comms had a chat with Colin and asked him to drive back down the road one more time to pick us up and we plan to retrace our steps in the morning.
Giles took his life in his own hands and decided to cycle the last 4 miles so has a lie in in the morning while the rest of us head down the road to complete the task at hand.
Dinner was spectacular and our first fine dining of the trip.  Here's hoping that Head of Weather redeems himself for the final day in St Tropez and on the beach.

<![CDATA[If you're looking for the Day 7 blog ...]]>Fri, 17 Jun 2016 07:07:56 GMThttp://lostagain2016.com/lost-blog/if-youre-looking-for-the-day-7-blogFor some unknown reason the day 7 blog is slotted in before Day 5 and Day 6 below.
Head of Media and IT is unable to resolve this problem but hopes you enjoy the read nonetheless.
In the meantime, the following is a picture of Rory trying to hide from Colin who was taking him back to the airport a few days ago.  ​
<![CDATA[Day 4 – 14 June, Spoleto to Montevarchi, 120 miles ]]>Fri, 17 Jun 2016 05:53:11 GMThttp://lostagain2016.com/lost-blog/day-4-14-june-spoleto-to-montevarchi-120-miles Things we’ve learnt whilst in Italy:
  • #Wellchild is an amazing charity that is worth supporting
  • Pavarotti was born in Lucca
  • Don’t trust the Garmin – every day has been at least 10 miles more than the Garmin predicted – probably partly due to general cocking around by all concerned.Real maps are required at all times.
  • Ponte Rosso is not the same at Ponte Vecchio
  • Coming to Italy and not going to Pisa or Florence (having passed within 10km of each) is an unforgivable crime
  • Climbs are too steep
  • The road surfaces are shocking – sore hands and sore feet
  • Italy has lots of prostitutes
  • Never cycle through a major city in rush hour ever
  • Trains in Italy are free
  • Italian wine is fantastic – haven’t had a bad bottle yet
  • Italians make the best coffee, by a country kilometre
  • 200km a day is far too much for 6 days in a row
  • There is more rain in Italy than we expected
  • The Italian coastline has some horrific terrain for cycling – short 100-200m climbs followed by rapid downhills time and time again. Tough stuff for tired legs
  • Its taken us over 6 days in Italy to actually see our first Ferrari
  • Jumping central reservations on motorways is not advisable
  • Time trialling in a 4.5km tunnel (twice) is not advisable
  • Cycling on motorways is not smart
  • It rains every single day in Italy
Rory went to the airport with Colin leaving us to navigate our way out of Spoleto. Climb early in the day at Foligno and then some “off piste” guidance by the Garmin took us onto the motorway at one stage.  Back off the motorway and managed to avoid going into Perugia.
Most of the day we were off road on really terrible roads.  All feeling sick on too many gels and too many energy drinks.
Spent most of the morning heading for a bike shop near to Perugia to hopefully fix James’ back wheel once and for all (or even to buy a new one) – bike shop near to Lidl just outside Perugia.  After much cross country and climbing, eventually “arrived” at the destination – a small side road in the middle of the countryside.  Google Maps messed up this time and we’ve now added another 10km to the trip!
Gave up, found a pit stop for food, drinks and coffee and headed towards Maggione and Lake Tressimeno.
Climbed over from Maggione to the lake and cycled the length of the lake on before heading north to Arrezzo.  Stopped for the most amazing ice cream
Ice creams at 4pm in the sunshine, pictures by the lake. The world was a beautiful place.  30 minutes later, the world was not so pretty.  Another storm approached and we were wet, cold and miserable within ½ hour.  It all went horribly wrong very quickly.
James’ headed to Arrezzo for another bike shop, we took the more “direct” route.  A tough afternoon later arrived at a super Agri-Tourism stop-over only to find that James and Colin were already there – how did that happen?  Naturally after endless miles in the saddle we arrived too late for supper and were facing the prospect of yet another pizza but the host took pity, opened his wine cellar and laid on feast which only Colin could have bettered. All of us were secretly hoping that Belgium would sneak a win over Italy but probably the best result for us all was the 2-0 Italy win.
Headed to the bunk and vowed to get up early the next morning to plan our day properly , including regular pit stops for food and drink, and meeting points along the way for our intrepid guide, Colin.

<![CDATA[Day 5 – 15 June, Montevarchi to La Spezia, 120 miles]]>Thu, 16 Jun 2016 10:56:59 GMThttp://lostagain2016.com/lost-blog/-day-5-15-june-montevarchi-to-la-spezia-120-miles Picture
We woke up early having made a deliberate decision to map out the ride manually.  We love the dear old Garmin but surely it cannot be 200 kms every day, can it be?
We were given the works for breakfast and set off in good spirits – what could possibly go wrong.
Cycling through the beautiful Chianti hills, the rain was shocking and once again we were cold and miserable.  Poor Giles had another puncture and we admired his inner tube replacement skills from a distance huddled up in the corner cuddling into each other for warmth.  James commented “what I would give for hot food”.
Having plotted a route first thing in the morning, we had arranged to meet with Colin just beyond Lucca, and as if by magic he was there as expected and, as if by telepathy, he had turned up with hot pork ribs and two whole cooked hot chickens, potato croquets and a big bag of M&Ms – heaven!!!
We eventually rolled into the Port of La Spezia (sounds nicer than the container port that it is) after a number of wrong turns and a few testy moments between us on the bike – patience had been running thin as we slogged on wet, late, tired and hungry. 
The hotel did all we needed – supplied cold beer, gave us a good restaurant recommendation (James turned up in camouflage)and provided a warm dry bed, suitably sound-proofed from Colin’s snoring for all but Simon.
The mileage for tomorrow was going to be less, but there were going to be a few bumps in the road we were all led to believe by our route master – Keith.

<![CDATA[Day 6 – 15 June, La Spezia to Savona, 103 miles (170km)]]>Thu, 16 Jun 2016 10:56:34 GMThttp://lostagain2016.com/lost-blog/-day-6-15-june-la-spezia-to-savona-103-miles-170km
Literally took the Gibson/Sale Express later in the day.  It would seem there was a conscious decision to sit on the tails of James and Keith all day if possible.
With over 6,000 ft of climbing, today was a day to remember for all the wrong reasons! Up down, up down, up down all day. Some stunning descents, interrupted by really annoying and sweaty ascents.
The views today over the Med were fabulous, particularly from the high up villages which were naturally incredibly difficult to ascend to. Italy really is a beautiful country with many terrible roads, ‘variable’ drivers but more than anything some very friendly locals.
Having passed some of the most spectacular views and amazing views of the Med, opportunities a plenty to find a small beachside café to settle down our weary bodies for a well-deserved late lunch at around 3pm, Colin set up his bistro at the side of the the motorway in the middle of the main access road to Spezia overlooking a small shanty town set up below the motorway bridge.  The view of the Med (you could just manage to see it on the distant horizon at this stage peeking above the buildings of Genova, just past the cranes and high rise city dwelling) was gone for the time being but the food, once again, was a master class from the ever reliable Colin.
Genova was, today, probably the ‘worst’ city in the world – not somewhere to take your loved ones if you love them. Simon nearly died twice whilst negotiating the city streets, (perhaps we should pay the hit-men more). It was a maze to exit and seemed never-ending to get out of – the route we took had much back tracking along the way. One more day and we will hit the relative calm of French drivers – ha!
Roles of responsibility were today assigned.  These came naturally based on everybody’s natural idiosyncrasies.  Giles is self-appointed Director of Communications – no one talks to Colin (Head of Logistics and petty cash officer), except Giles (which really makes him a PA); James – head of maintenance and top-knot tying; Simon, deputy assistant CTO and also full time lubricant tester; Marc, Chief Technology Officer – has never set up a piece of technology purchased; and finally Keith, Chief Media and internal/external communications – the main protagonist on all local, external and team activities.
Eventually arriving at the hotel, having managed to navigate our way around our next obstacle, a collapsed tunnel on the SS1 route we followed for most of the day, we were there before Colin at around 7pm so grabbed a beer and sat in the bar watching the final minutes of the Romania v Switzerland game.
Colin dully arrived, rooms were duly allocated and we headed down to the Wednesday evening “Party Night” in the hotel on the beach front.  €10 for all you can eat and a free drink – each subsequent drink was €6!  Didn’t stop us though but we eventually fizzled out and were off to bed by midnight all round (Colin slightly earlier having fallen asleep on the sofa at around 10.30pm).
Early kick off tomorrow and a plan to “push through” and get as far along the road as possible by 3pm so we can find a local hostelry to allow us to take in the England v Wales game.  Sounds like we are setting ourselves up for another toughie on the road tomorrow!
We have now broken the back of the trip and have just under 100 miles (160km) tomorrow with a short 50 miles (80 km) to finish on Friday.  Feels like we’re almost there.
<![CDATA[Day 3 - Chieti to Spoleto, 12 June, 126 miles (a little more for some of us)]]>Tue, 14 Jun 2016 05:16:07 GMThttp://lostagain2016.com/lost-blog/day-3-chieti-to-spoleto-12-june-126-miles-a-little-more-for-some-of-us
​Keith described this day as follows in the original profile of the trip:
“Really tough day! Gradual rise throughout the day of over 4000 ft from sea level.  Reasonably flat terrain but looks like it will be a relentless grind.”  
James’ description of “a relentless grind” was “more like a punch in the privates from Tyson with several thousand litres of water thrown in”. Others questioned Keith’s map reading capabilities in their usual subtle way.
What a day! SAVAGE! Over 200 km with 1 broken spoke, 6 punctures, and 1 monsoon rain storm to deal with. Fortunately, Simon was cool, calm and collected……. well …….. now, on to the next.  Sad to see Rory leave at the end of his trip (Best Young Rider).
“Maaaateeeee”, really tough day today, everything has happened that could have. Unfortunately, no ladies to look at on route, however we will be back next year just to commemorate the time.... All in all however, the ‘prologue’ and first three days have been eventful to say the least!
Catalogue of issues and key events in order as follows.
Rory had first puncture of day after 15 mins.
5 mins later, James' spoke broke. Wheel unstable and now buckled, all bike shops shut as is a Sunday, and no back brakes for the duration of the day due to the buckled wheel.  Bear in mind two 1long and fast descents (after big climbs) to come.
Simon lost the will to live for 30km and whilst barely able to carry on was "happy" to do so.   This all happened during the first of the big climbs of the day c12km. 
Weather quite pleasant so far.
Lunch somewhat delayed due to all the mishaps. Eventually stopped at L'Aquilla for a major meal and refuelling.  Colin’s lunchtime efforts hit the mark and we were ready to go again.
Immediately started the pm with another 12km climb in the middle of the monsoon of all monsoons. Never seen rain like it but we somehow got to the top and descended for another 20km in the biblical conditions.
Colin was in a rush to get to the hotel due to the inclement weather (!) and tooted merrily as he drove by with a jaunty wave.  We all appreciated this gesture through the wall of rain. Glad we all came so well prepared for the weather!
The multiple coffee, brandy, ice creams, coke, chocolate, EPO, blood doping and team excretions at Antrodoco made everything better and we set off again in more horrific weather on the final 80km of our 210km day at 4.30pm.  Should be there by 7pm.
Only one wrong turn to go!  It wasn’t the best though as we watched Simon and Giles disappear down a 4.5km tunnel only to have to come back at the other end when they realised their mistake.  A 10km time trail and just the additional miles in the legs required on top of a 210km day! They were really happy to see us when they got back!
Within an hour, Giles chose to have a puncture. A further 200m down the road, he had another puncture.
All going well we should be there by around 8.00pm ... 400m later another puncture.  Oh FFS!
We decided to divide and conquer.  3 of us went ahead (James, Rory and Marc) to get to the hotel before it got dark and the rest (Keith, Simon and Giles) stayed behind to wait for Colin to come back with a new tyre!  Waited for a while and then decided to just replace Gile’s inner tube and give it a go regardless of the tyre condition.  Okay, looks like we’re on our way now - fingers crossed.
When Colin did arrive back, he provided well needed sustenance before sending us on our way again.  K, S and G made it a whole 2 miles down the road and then another puncture – Keith this time.
In the meantime, the advance party also had another puncture!  Rory’s last of the trip as he goes home tomorrow.
Not one puncture on the last LoSt! trip in 2012 and now we’ve had one on Day 1 (Simon), none on Day 2, and on Day 3, Rory had 2 punctures, Giles had 3 and Keith had 1!  7 so far in 3 days!
We have all made it in one piece, 3 of us in the dark, after the mother of all climbs.  Much worse than expected but the kind of character building, team bonding experience that makes for memories to talk about once the trip is but a distant memory.
The team is very proud of it achievement today and rightly so.  The most difficult days cycling that most of us have ever had and given all of the things that went wrong on the day, we arrived around 12.5 hours after leaving the hotel and are now sitting here eating our first course and reminiscing about the days exploits in a local Italian (funnily enough) restaurant at 10.49pm.  Carb loading for tomorrow!
A great day and a memory for Rory, our departing team member (school on Tuesday!), to take home with him and a shared experience to remember.