Universal Language: Food. Water. Bikes. Life.

There I was. Sitting at the bike shop waiting to go on my first Italian ride of 2014. I have a feeling I have to get used to sitting and waiting here, followed by rapid language and dramatic gestures. There was a farmer’s market in front, where I could buy camo shorts, fresh octopus, or local produce. But this is my first official day in Italy, and I was at the bike shop, sitting and waiting. I felt like a lawn ornament as customers came into the shop. I mustered a “ciao” now and then, and if I was feeling frisky, I would say “Buongiorno!” This would often trigger a rapid fire list of questions and greetings, and I would have to direct them to the shop owner, and also team owner.  I think more people began frequenting the shop this morning if only to catch a glimpse of the latest arrival of an American cyclist in a small Italian town. So much for blending in.

Soon, **insert name here**, came into the shop to take me on a ride. I was sent on my way desperately trying to tuck into the draft of a tall Italian man on a flawless Pinarello. He said he was on 100k but wouldn’t mind taking me on a circuit. Motorpacing wasn’t on my agenda but as the miles ticked away, it was stay with him or be lost in Italy. Which I guess wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. He tried the few English words he knew, like “left” and “right”. Except he kept getting them confused. He would call out “right” and I would get ready to sweep out into the turn, as he would suddenly take a sharp left turn in front of me. There were several near collides. Luckily we both spoke bikes.

Then the sprints came. Apparently, there were sprint signs I wasn’t aware of. They didn’t exist on the road, but inside his head. Pedal, pedal, BAM SPRINT. I would claw my way back on, not knowing when my ride leader would attack me again. He dangled an energy gel in front of me and asked if I was too tired to follow. Out of nowhere he attacked again. I said why!? He gleefully responded, “gioco d’armore”. For the love of the game. He told me that I would sprint too if I wanted to enjoy myself. He said he was really enjoying himself. I thought he might be on to something here. And for the love of it, I sprinted to nowhere. He was right. There was something enjoyable about a sudden burst expressing a zest for life.

Thankfully the last surge ended me right back where we started. Food. Water. Bikes. Life.

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