from Cumbria
to Umbria by bike

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  by Allan Nelson & Konrad Orlowski 

Day 1 - Monday May 10th

day 2 >

Pisa to San CascianoPisa to San Casciano  (114 kms)

We rose at about 8:15am and had breakfast of cake, honey, coffee and orange juice, finally leaving at around 10am, after fixing a broken pannier strap in Sergio's workshop.  I use the term workshop loosely here.  To me a workshop is a shed in the garden, or a corner of your garage.  Sergio's workshop is the size of a small factory!

Sergio had kindly agreed to ride with us to Pontederra, taking us on some of the quieter roads.  First call though was to the SAECO-CANNONDALE cycling team headquarters in Pisa, where he had arranged to pick up some team posters (the one where they look like they're at the 'Last Supper', with Mario Cipollini as 'you know who').  In a rash moment, Sergio had mentioned on the Internet that he could get hold of these.  I believe he was inundated with requests ;-)  As we arrived, one of the team trucks rolled in.  A nice set of bikes on display, and bottled water by the palette load.  Sergio mentioned that lots of famous cyclists came from the area (Cipollini,Bartoli, Tafi etc).  So, with his rucksack full of posters, we followed Sergio in the direction of Pontedera via the foothills of Monte Serra.  We recognised Buti as we passed through, and he took us on a nice detour which used the widest cycle track I've come across.  This was basically a road with a cycle painted in the middle of it.  Not the 'half-a-yard in with the drains' we seem to get over here.   Sergio did warn us to take care, incase anyone was taking a shortcut!   Certainly there does seem to be a slightly blasé attitude to this sort of thing.   We came to some red traffic lights, Sergio slowed down, but then carried on through.  I asked him why we hadn't stopped and his reply was that it was safer to continue than to stop.

Sergio left us at Pontedera outside his 'mechanics' bike shop.  He'd told the chap where we were going, and the mention of Vallombrosa and Consuma raised an eyebrow and caused some merriment.  We were to see why the very next day!  After some excellent panini's of tuna and tomato, we headed off for San Miniato.  We took a different route into the town this year, and either the climb wasn't as steep or I was fitter (I like to think the latter).  We walked up to Frederick II's tower, but unfortunately it was closed.  However, there are still great views from it's base.  On one side the built up valley we'd ridden through with Pontedera in the distance, and on the other, rolling hills with hardly a house in sight.   It really does mark an end to the urban sprawl.

The day was heating up nicely now (24c), as we headed out for Castelfiorentino.  Not far from San Miniato there's a steepish descent, and as I was about halfway down a spoke broke in my back wheel.  Now you can guess which side of the wheel the spoke broke on - yes, that's right, the block side.   Do spokes ever break on the other side?  I've never seen one.  It's a bit like dropping buttered toast.  It always lands butter side down.  Anyhow, I whipped the block off, replaced the spoke, re-tensioned the wheel as best I could and within 20 minutes, we were back on our way.  Konrad was most impressed.

Incidentally, if you are ever in need of a bike shop in the Castelfiorentino area, I can recommend the following...

Cicli Ancilotti ( of Paolo Ancilotti)
50051 Castelfiorentino
Via S. Antonio, 57
Tel. 0571 631007

We passed through Castelfiorentino and headed uphill to Montespertoli. This climb was what I'd call 'stiff', and went on a bit (about 15kms).   At Montespertoli we turned off and dropped down to Baccaiano, then up to Montagnana, down to Cerbaia and finally, a real slog up to San Casciano.  This bit was bloody steep in places.  Six hard kilometres, and we were both glad to reach the top.

We had a walk around the town looking for hotels, but ended up coming back to the Hotel Mary which is on a sharp bend just as you enter the town proper.  A double room there, with breakfast, cost us L100,000.   Before going out for a meal, I had a last tweak at the back wheel, and though I say it myself, it was damn near perfect.  That night we had a great meal in the Restaurant Nelo. Bruschetta, Rabbit & Pasta and Lemon tart, all washed down with half a litre of red wine each and a cappuccino.  That cost us L30,000 each, which was well worth it.   Walked back to the hotel, and we were in bed for 10:30pm, pretty shattered.

sunflrbt.gif (1265 bytes) Roads fairly busy in places around Pontederra and Castelfiorentino.
sunflrbt.gif (1265 bytes) Last 15-20km were very hard.

day 2 >