Today we had a day ride around the area. Everywhere we went we saw signs proclaiming the roads would be closed on the 17th, 18th, and/or 19th for the Tour de France. The Col de la Madeleine was on the docket for this year and we rode that, and another stage would finish in La Rosière, just above us. The next one would start in Bourg Saint Maurice just below.
M. had joined our group just recently in Livigno, but had extensive experience riding Alpine roads and had already proven himself active in leading rides with some variations separately from the main group. Today he promised to lead anyone who wanted to come on the “officially” planned route for today, but was interested in obeying the speed limits in town areas and straight sections. This sounded good to me. The local police had already proven themselves active the day before, and the trip thus far was expensive enough as it was without speeding fines added in.
Regardless of those restrictions, we spent the day riding like hell up and down passes, with a few motorways thrown in for good measure. We took a couple of coffee breaks in between.
There were eight bikes in all, two of which were two-up, not including this Harley, which was in our larger group but not with us today after the first break.
I hadn’t come on this trip with any plans to prove myself as a rider, and most of the time I needed to stay with Päivi who wasn’t able to keep up with the group’s pace, but I do consider myself able to ride to some extent. I had to work and sweat at it, but I kept up today. My hat was off to the two-up’ers and one guy who’d rented a Triumph T120 Bonneville after he’d crashed his MV Agusta Turismo Veloce. (A tragedy for that beauty to have been laid down.) I was really having to concentrate, but the few times when I’d fallen behind while waiting for a gap to pass a car, I noticed it wasn’t taking me long to catch back up.
The end of the day came after almost 300 kilometers, and we all tanked up in the town below our hotel. (The group tended to get places a little outside of the main drags, which was nice.) I was one of the last to fill, but ended up being second behind M. when we left. His bike: a BMW S1000 XR — adventure tourer like mine, but with a sport orientation: quick shifter, slipper clutch, 160 horsepower on tap. Me, an Aprilia Caponord 1200 with side bags mounted, giving up 35 horsepower while collecting probably a good 30 kg in weight. No shifting aids or Bosch cornering ABS, but active suspension and a beating heart of Italian soul. We started heading up the pass and I stayed with him. At some point I realized he was going maybe a touch faster than we had during the day, and a little later I noticed the guy behind me and everyone else were gone.
Now I was like, “No way is he going to lose me.” We had about 15 kilometers with a mix of hairpins and smoothed right angles. Occasional traffic coming down, but not much going up. I leaned it low on the turns, pulling my feet in to keep them from scraping outside the Ape’s short pegs, and poured on the gas coming out. I could have used that slipper clutch more than once on late downshifts. A couple of times I started to fall back, but reeled it back in, relying on seeing ahead of time where he was braking. Finally we were getting towards the end and I was back a couple hundred yards when he passed a car. It took me a bit of time to find the chance to get past it myself, and just like that I’d lost contact.
I don’t know how much I missed him by because he went for a bit past the hotel before coming in, but I’d already parked up, lifted my bike onto the center stand, taken off my helmet and gloves, and was getting ready to oil my chain before the next bike arrived. M. rolled back in a little later while we were having our beers and mentioned that he had cranked it up a bit since he wasn’t expecting any police on the way up here at the end of the day. I complimented him on his bike, but he said it was heavy and slow compared to his previous one. Which was? An S1000 RR — BMW’s superbike. Be that as it may, the 1000 XR is still a hell of a machine. And me? I’m 75% of the time a mellow rider and had the least Alps experience out of anyone in the group. But, the Caponord!