Cannondale sent @gofastergaby and @mansell85 on assignment to test the Synapse SE on the roads and strade bianche of the rolling Tuscan hills. We were delighted to be part of the project. Here's their report from the weekend.
It’s so easy to let the weekends drift by, a local ride, coffee and brunch, a lazy Sunday and it’s gone. But how about giving into the plans you spend the week creating whilst your sat on your lunch break daydreaming of adventures on foreign shores ?
I often make a million plans in my mind of what’s possible, where I would love to pedal off to and all the local treats I want to taste. How about jumping on the Friday flight to Pisa and cycling 400km with one set of kit and a credit card? Dipping into the Strade Bianche course, a bit of l'Eroica and a detour south up Mt Amiata, Tuscany’s volcano. Why not?
We jumped on that Friday afternoon flight in search of the sun, some climbing and a decent cappuccino.
After touching down in Pisa airport we found a sunny corner to tuck ourselves behind whilst we pieced our bikes back together. We then changed out of denim and wool jumpers and into bib shorts, lightweight jerseys and mid-calf socks. You can leave your bike bag in left luggage at Pisa airport for a small fee reducing all faff and allowing you to ride straight out of the arrivals gate.
Our route started in Siena, so we cruised to the station and did the two hour train ride, starting our route in the famous Il Campo, the central piazza.
We rolled straight out of the city walls into the rolling Tuscan countryside. It was late afternoon and you could feel the warmth of the day's sun and witness the work day coming to an end for the locals. Friends meeting at the local gelatarias, couples strolling hand in hand and others pedalling bike by bike, chatting along the dusty roads.
We rode 40kms out to where a gravel road tapered off and left the last few houses behind. This was a very magical place, totally secluded with no amenities, off grid where the evening’s entertainment was taking the time to sit and watch the sunset, followed by getting the fire going with a glass of wine and a pack of cards.
The following day, oblivious to dawn, we unlatched the heavy shutters to reveal total bliss. A panorama of colour and light with beauty in every detail. With no breakfast supplies we gathered our few things and hit the road. Just 5kms to the nearest small town along a narrow gravel road, awakening the legs with short steep climbs, then concentration and focus down fast descents.
Reaching the town, we stood at the counter of a café, we cheers cappuccinos with the locals and decide to have a second order of the cream filled pastries. We need the fuel as today's route takes us south and up Mt Amiata, a volcano watching over Tuscany, a giant in a rolling landscape and a reminder that nature is alive.
As we wind our way up the mountain the dusty white roads turn to pine forested switchbacks. Then we reach the snowline, it’s a brief stop at the top as everything is closed between seasons except one small bar filled with locals, passing the time before the summer begins. We have a very thick, rich hot chocolate – just what we needed, then layered up ready for a swoopy descent.
That night we stayed in an agrotourismo, an Italian farm stay. A place where you are part of the family, you eat from their land and arrive to the warmest of welcomes. We replenished our weary legs with fresh ricotta, lamb stew, pasta and Grappa.
The next day rain clouds hung over us threateningly, but thankfully never amounting to much. We spent the day passing through the Val d'Orcia gravel roads took us through the dense vegetation of vineyards, olive groves, cypresses, beech and chestnut trees. Interrupted only by hilltop towns where locals were going about enjoying the tranquillity of a Sunday.
The afternoon knows what the morning never expected. Our afternoon took us to San Quirico d’Orcia where we would while away the evening, with music served as a side dish to our pizza in the square.
The last day was swiftly upon us and it was glorious. We rejoin the white roads of the Strade Bianche. The profile looked deceivingly flat under the shadow of Mt Amiata. As we crest and descend we spot deer bounding through the fields, farmers herding their flocks and we stop and take photo after photo as we are stunned by the view around each corner. But no adventure is complete without the unexpected, we dismount as we encounter a pack of wild dogs and again as we hit a steep muddy track.
The ride draws to a close as we re-enter Siena’s city walls, covered in the sweat of 400km, Tuscan dust, weary legs, golden tan lines and grinning faces.
As we bask, raising a beer to this gorgeous country we let our minds drift.