Wednesday, 8 March 2023

52 Cycling Voices - 35: Kimberly Coats

No one has been more invested in promoting African cycle racing than Kimberly Coats. I first spoke to her back in 2021 as part of a series I did on influential women in cycling

Along with her partner Jock Boyer, Kimberly Coats have worked to support and build up cycling in Africa. Initially the focus was on Rwanda, though they have since branched out and work with riders from various parts of Africa. 

At Rwanda they have a centre where aspiring cycle racers can go on training camps as part of their journey to becoming a professional cycle racer. As well as that they assist riders in obtaining visas to go to Europe to live as a professional cycle racer. This has been one of the biggest hurdles that African riders have to overcome once they have received an offer to race for a team in Europe.

I spoke to Kimberly about how she got into this and why a woman from a comfortable environment in the United States would devote so much time to this project.


Kimberly Coates, fifty something-years-old

From: Kansas, USA

Lives: Savery, Wyoming, USA

Occupation: Chief Executive Officer, Team Africa Rising

I lived in Rwanda for eight years. I spent about 10 months in Kenya and worked for World Bicycle Relief for a little bit as their interim country director. But most of my time was in Rwanda. 

It was a mid-life crisis that took me there. I was working in Las Vegas, where I am from, as a Business Development manager for Cisco foods, a large food distribution company. It was a great job, with all these amazing perks and I made a lot of money. But I hated every minute of it! I had written in my journal of 2008 that I wanted to do something that combined my love of cycling, travel, and I wanted to help people. 

Then I read an article in Outside magazine, written by Jason Gay, and he talked about Project Rwanda and Team Rwanda, and when I read it I went "oh my gosh". That changed the trajectory of my life. And I remember, I was riding with a friend of mine, and I’m like dude I wrote this in my journal and now I've read this article, and it’s like God is speaking directly to me or something. He's saying "You’ve gotta go!" And I’m like, "I’ve gotta go!" So I tracked down Tom Ritchey who put me in touch with his business development guy, and we talked a couple of times. And he asked, "Have you ever thought about going to Rwanda?" And I’m like, "No, where is it?" Within two months of that conversation I’d quit my job, got on a plane, and I'd landed in Rwanda. 

And I was only supposed to stay three months, but that turned into eight years. So when I got there the team was operating under the non-profit organisation Project Rwanda, which provided cargo bikes to coffee farmers. It was founded by Tom and couple of his friends. Jock Boyer was running the team and it was starting to do well. So my business mind kicked in and I was like, "Hey dude we’ve gotta spin the team off. We’ve gotta do our own non-profit because we can’t raise enough money for the team if Tom doesn't want to run a team. So we formed our own non-profit. We started raising money and probably for the first four years we were always two months away from folding and going home. It was just hand to mouth. 

Then we got a large grant in 2013/2014 from the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation. That changed everything and we were able to invest and started doing really well. We got a new compound in Rwanda which the Government facilitated, which was awesome. President Kigame has really been behind the project, and the Ministry of Sport was also supportive. We essentially brought all the skill, knowledge, know-how and funding for most of it, and then they met us half-way by providing us with a place to do it in the northern part of the country.

We were centred on developing professional cyclists and the national team. Jock  had been in Rwanda since 2006, and found some good talent, including Adrien Nyonshuti. Jock talked to Douglas Ryder who had a continental team in South Africa called MTN-Energade at the time, and asked if he could take Adrien, and another rider, Nathan Byukusenge onto his team. Nathan ended up coming home pretty early, but Adrien stayed and raced for Team Dimension Data. He raced in the 2012 London Olympics, and was the first black African to ever finish an Olympic mountain bike race. And he also did the 2016 Rio Olympics road race. He is the only Rwandan to have done two separate cycling events in two Olympics. Adrien retired in 2017, and he is the most famous rider out of Rwanda. He still works in cycling.

Adrien, along with his cousin, Hubert, set up an academy in his home town, Rwamagana, to develop junior cyclists. We got them set up with some smart trainers, and Zwift gave us a bunch of memberships so that kids can race virtually and be identified. So we’re finding some young kids that are pretty amazing.

Because Rwanda had been so successful, other countries were asking if we could help them. We have been working with Benin, Sierra Leone, Togo, and other federations, depending on if there’s corruption or not. We only work with groups that will meet us half-way and put in the commitment themselves, whether it’s in time or small amounts of money. 

For instance, we have been doing a mechanics training course in Sierra Leone in April, and Park Tool set up some tool kit for us at a really good price. We raised enough money for 22 tool kits, and we sent them to Sierra Leone, and the guy in Sierra Leone, Karim, set up the class. We had 22 mechanic trainees, half of which are women, who went through the mechanics training. Karim Kamara actually sets women up in their own shops as mechanics and they end up having real businesses so then they can support themselves.

We did a mechanics course in Benin, and the woman who was there, Chantal, is also a bike racer – one of the best in the country. When she went through the mechanics course she just got so emotional and said, "I can fix my own bike now, I can take care of my own bike." Previously, when she went to a mechanics - who were invariably male - there was always an issue. She would get kicked to the back of the queue, or be charged more than men. There are all sorts of difficulties for women in Africa.

Women's cycling is a tough business anyway – even in the Western world. But in Africa, there are all the cultural barriers that we have to overcome when getting women onto bikes. To get a woman out of Africa, whatever country it is, is very difficult. It may be slightly easier for a white woman in South Africa.  For example, I was at a race in Eritrea and the woman who worked for the federation used to race and said it was really hard for her. When she started racing, her parents were very upset because they said she would no longer be a virgin because she was doing cycle racing. For somebody like me, who grew up in America, this does not even compute.

One of the most famous female cyclists out of Rwanda is Jeanne D'Arc Girubuntu. She was the first Rwandan woman to do the UCI World Championships, and finished the road race in 2015 in Richmond, Virginia, which was a huge feat. She was 21 at the time and believed that she could only race until she was 24 because she'd have to get married and have children.  When I told her about Kristin Armstrong who was in 40s, a wife, a mother, and had won a gold medal at the Olympics she was astonished. 

Canyon-SRAM Generation, a women's continental team signed a couple of African women racers onto the team. Valentine Nzayisenga from Rwanda managed to get a visa to race in Europe, but her team-mate Fatima Deborah Conteh was not able to get one. We worked for months and months and spent thousands helping Deborah get a visa. But the German embassy denied her application The authorities required her to be earning around 3500 euros a month. Not many women cyclists make that much money.

She couldn't really go in on a tourist visa because it's only 90 days. Once she leaves the country she can't go back in for another 90 days, so that blows the season. It's sad, but this is life in African cycling across the board.

There is also Eyeru Tesfoam Gebru from Ethiopia. She spent three years racing at the UCI in Aigle and she’s strong. She mostly worked as a domestique, but she has won a couple of most combative jerseys during her time in Europe, but she was caught up in the war in Tigray. She went to Addis Ababa and with a friend, we tried to get her to come out to France. But Covid made things difficult. It's tough because she's an amazing rider, and there are a lot of Ethiopian women who could race at the pro level, but there are many obstacles make it difficult for them to get to Europe. 

There are good people around Africa doing some amazing things to develop cycling. We’re all working together in our own way, helping where we can, pooling resources. But ultimately, I think the UCI and especially the Confederation of African Cycling could do more of this kind of work, especially for women. There's no women’s race scene on the continent, outside of South Africa. There are local races in some countries like South Africa and Rwanda, but other than that there’s really nothing. 

But we continue to get riders on the smart trainers and we are making some progress with helping riders. Covid threw us a curved ball, but it was actually a positive thing because it made us rethink how we could do things. There is just so much talent throughout the entire African continent still to be tapped. 






Other Cycling Voices













Thursday, 2 March 2023

Bella Italia by bike: Bergamo to Como


On the road again to Lecco

After my ride from Bergamo to Lecco yesterday, I was all set to do the longer ride up to Como via Madonna del Ghisallo. It was going to be a long day as the plan was to get to Como, go for a swim along the way, and then on my arrival at Como I would catch the train to Milan where I would return the bike to the hire shop.

Having done the Bergamo-Lecco section of the ride yesterday, I felt comfortable as I had an idea what the terrain would be like, and I knew it wouldn't be particularly onerous - at least the first section.

Riding through the suburbs of Bergamo I came across a new cycle path that I hadn't previously seen, and was curious to take it, hoping that this would take me towards the road to Lecco. It did go towards Lecco, but was along a main road.  

Initially the main road had a cycle path on it, which I had hoped would lead me all the way to Lecco - fat chance. Lecco was a good 25 miles away, so it was wishful thinking that the path would continue for that distance. In fact as I wondered to myself how long the path would last for, my question was answered when it came to an abrupt end on the city limits of Bergamo.

At this point I could have turned right to take the more scenic route through Valbrembo. However, I didn't want to lose time and this main road didn't seem to have much traffic on it. I had seen the roads of  Valbrembo the previous day, so was happy to check out this main road.

Where Valbrembo had narrow country roads up through woodland and past hilltop palazzos, the main road was gently undulating through less spectacular countryside, though still with the odd panoramic views of the Lombardy landscape neutralising the industrial or retail parks in the various settlements. 

Although it was Monday morning and on a main road, traffic was surprisingly light. This was early June though, and many Italians may have still been off work, having taken an extended holiday following the Republic Day public holiday.

Pedalling along the road in the sunshine, I felt relaxed and allowed my mind to wander as I ambled through this part of Italy that was off the tourist path, but was still very pretty. Every so often my reverie would be interrupted by a "Ciao" or "Salve", as an agile club cyclist breezed past me effortlessly full speed ahead. Given how lean they looked I am sure that one or two of these guys were professional riders. In his Bardiani-CSF kit he definitely looked like someone I might have seenn on TV.  

Soon I reached Caprino Bergamasco and got caught up in a traffic jam. After winding my way past the cars and vans I got to the front and found out what the hold-up was - a level crossing. Unsurprisingly right at the head of the queue were motorcyclists and cyclists. 

Given the queue it seemed like the barriers had already been down for several minutes. One train came past, and we all prepared ourselves for the barriers to raise. But nothing. "Ma dai!" (Come on!), the motorcyclist said as he began to lose patience. The cyclist explained that there was probably another train about to pass through. There then ensued a conversation between the cyclist and the motorbiker about how inefficient things are around there. "It's not right to make people wait for 15 minutes for the trains to come through. We have places to get to!"

Plus ├ža change, as they say!

Soon after the level crossing my route reached Cisano Bergamasco where a memorial wall caused me to stop and look at the numerous photographs with messages displayed of people who had died during the Covid pandemic. Some were just posters showing a photo of the person and the information about where their funeral would be taking place. Others were mini tributes and poems dedicated to loved ones. It was sad to see the range of ages of the various people. Some were just in their 20s or 30s. Let's not forget that Italy, and specifically Bergamo, for a time became the epicentre for coronavirus when the disease spread outside of China.

Apart from a mini climb up to Pontida, and a breezy descent to Cisano Bergamasco the road had been gently undulating or flat, and would stay like that until just outside Bellagio, which was fine by me. It was tempting to stop, but I knew I still had a long way ahead of me as I still had not yet reached Lecco, and after Bellagio the ride would become a slog up Ghisallo and an even longer grind in Sormano, before reaching Como.

The run into Lecco was really pleasant and tranquil, considering that there are quite a lot of busy main roads in the vicinity. A cycle path along the lake meant that there was no interaction with any motorised traffic and the route was just shared with other cyclists, walkers and joggers. 


Lecco as seen from the other side of the Y

Once in the centre of Lecco I then picked up the road to take me to the other side of the lake, meaning the inside of the upside down Y-shape of Lake Como so that I could head towards Bellagio. Immediately after crossing the lake my route took me straight into the village of Malgrate, with its delightful Lungomare from where you could admire the view of the sailing boats. Looking across the lake took me back to the recent past, yesterday -  in which I rode through Lecco and continued along a lakeside cycle path on the same side of the Y, to reach a tranquil beach near Pradello.  

From where I was standing, in Malgrate, it was hard to imagine that I was on the other side of this expanse of water less than 24 hours earlier. That's the beauty of visiting Lake Como. Well, enough of my reverie. It was time to push on. Next stop, Bellagio.


Onwards to the blessed Madonna

Shortly after leaving sunny Malgrate I was plunged into a long dark tunnel. That was by far my least favourite part of the ride. Suddenly finding yourself in a practically pitch black, sharing the road with all sorts of vehicles including trucks. There was a strip to the side of the road which made for a de facto cycle path, but the road surface was rough. For this reason I had made sure to carry a light with me, as well as a high-vis jacket. In my experience I have found them to be useful, even essential to feel safe when cycling around Italy. Some tunnels are thankfully only about 500m, but in this area I had two tunnels, each one almost one mile long. By the time I emerged from the second tunnel my heart was pounding as I heaved a big sigh of relief. At least there would be no more tunnels until close to Como. 

Stopover and handy place for a dip on the way to Bellagio

Arriving on a stretch of road where all the traffic from the tunnel had magically disappeared was the perfect antidote. My road to Bellagio was peaceful and generally flat as it wound around the mountainous inner triangular area of Lake Como. At this point along the provincial 583 road I was right next to the lake shore, and there were laybys and parking areas where it was possible to stop and walk onto the shore, or even take a swim. A number of motorcyclists had had this idea, and I must admit it was a very tempting proposition to do the same. But I had had in mind to treat myself to a swim and a drink at Faggeto Lario, a designated Lido area and bar within Lake Como. So I pressed on, just stopping to make use of the water fountains at certain points along the way, which was very useful given how hot the day was.

Just outside Belllagio, the road began to climb. This is a town, known as the jewel of Lake Como is a place I have been to on numerous occasions and I can say with authority, that it is beautiful and worth a visit. However, I was pushed for time and I knew that if I went there I would be lured into hanging out in the town for quite a while. So I just continued along my way and followed the sign for Erba and Magreglio, and immediately entered into climbing territory. 

Madonna del Ghisallo: 9.4km; ave gradient 6%; max gradient 14.7%; altitude: 758m

I was all set for around 10km of climbing to reach the chapel that honours cyclists, and the adjacent museum. The Madonna del Ghisallo climb is always full of cyclists. At any time of any day riders can be found cresting this climb, all at various speeds, though most going faster than I! As I get older I feel myself struggling more and more with the opening kilometres, which are not far off 10%. The first time I cycled up this climb I took it easy, finding just the opening section, then the last part a little tough. There is a mid-section through woodland which where the road levels off. However, on this day I still found it hard-going. There wasn't any section where I felt I could relax, apart from a part about 6km in when the road went downhill and it's easy to mistake this section for being the summit. What kept me going during the ride were the spectacular views of Lake Como and the mountains behind it. I never tire of this view. There is really nothing like it.

Lake Como seen from the Ghisallo climb

Once at the summit, a couple of guys who had passed me on the way gave me a clap a cheery "Bravo". Although there weren't loads of people there, with it being a Monday afternoon, I still ended up spending a long time having lunch, taking photos and chatting to other riders. There was an American guy on a mountain bike who had taken some time out from riding the trails to ride up the iconic climb. Coming from Colorado he was no stranger to spectacular landscapes or hills. With his sinewy legs he had ridden up the trails within the Lariano triangle and up some of the peaks, and was due to ride more. I have walked and done a trail running race in this area in the past, and I know that the Lariano triangle has some tough trails. But I guess a rider from Colorado he will have felt at home up there.

I also chatted to a couple of French guys who were bike packing from Bergamo to Milan that day, but would be continuing to their home in Lyon by bicycle. Finally, a woman admiring the view had ridden up from Erba - literally down the road from where we were. It was funny to see a local person admiring the view in the same way as we were, when it's something that she could see almost every day. But then again, I still marvel at the views from Box Hill, Surrey, or from the Puddledock side of Toys Hill, Kent, even though they are comparatively local to where I live.   

Between having my lunch, taking photos, chatting to other riders and paying a quick trip to the museum and gift shop and chatting to the shop assistant there, I ended up spending over an hour at the Ghisallo summit. So much for only wanting to do a quick stopover in order to gain time! Meeting those different people was worth it though.

Madonna del Ghisallo Chapel

Struggle up Sormano

After my extended lunchtime break came the lovely descent followed by a sharp right-hand turn up the switchbacks to reach Sormano village. I could tell I was not feeling so fit because the hairpins felt like hard work even though the last time I was there, probably in 2018, it didn't feel like that much of an effort.

Then came the decision point at the fork, I could take the left-hand road down into beautiful woodland and then be met by the terrible Muro di Sormano. Or I could continue on the same road on a circuitous route along a gentle five-mile drag, the Colma di Sormano, to reach the same point at the summit car park and restaurant. This was a no-brainer; the Colma for me. It was not necessarily an easy ride up to the Colma di Sormano, but it was a darn sight easier than the alternative. At least this was rideable. I did try the Muro once a few years ago, and after almost bursting my quads then relinquishing and walking up the one-mile climb I said "never again"!

Along the way, I was passed by a few local riders who said a friendly "Ciao" as they ambled up the road. One guy rode alongside me for about half a mile, chatting. I warned him that I was too tired to go any faster, but he said he didn't mind. "So why didn't you go up the Muro di Sormano?" I asked out of curiosity. "The Muro?" he said, like I had asked him a totally absurd question. "No one goes up there. It's crazy! You think you are taking a three-kilometre short cut but you end up spending half-an-hour to get up there. It's not worth it. I want to enjoy my ride." So I was glad to know I wasn't taking the wimp-out option. Eventually, he rode on saying he'd be waiting for me at the top. "Okay," I said, thinking that he had just said that to be polite.

Meanwhile, I pressed on at my own snail pace in the heat, feeling more comfortable about riding slowly and not slowing anyone down. I had forgotten how much of a climb the Colma is. It actually climbs noticeably. In fact, the Colma di Sormano is nearer to 10km, with a gradient of 7%, with sections at almost 9%. That makes it comparable to the Ghisallo climb in effort, and at an altitude of 1,116m, is significantly higher than the summit chapel in Magreglio.  

Eventually I reached the summit, from where a car park provided spectacular views over the Pian del Tivano and the various peaks of the so-called Triangolo Lariano, the terrain within the upside down Y-shaped Lake Como.

Colma di Sormano: 9.5km; ave gradient 6.7%; max gradient 13%; altitude 1116m

Surprisingly I found the cycling buddy who had passed me, in the car park. I can't believe he really had waited for me at the top. I imagine he'd probably had a three-course at the restaurant to kill time while waiting for me. 

"Gee, I'm knackered," I said to him. Thankfully it is downhill now," 

"Well, I guess you're not used to it if you are from London." 

He had a point. Mind you, I can't say I'm used to all the hills in London either! When I told him that I had started from Bergamo and was headed for Como he was very impressed. "Brava!" he said. Then we parted company as he was returning to his base back down in Sormano, while I pushed on in the opposite direction.


Breezing back down to Lake Como

The descent to Nesso was amazing, though a little scary, given the tight hairpins that appeared to be practically stacked on top of one another in parts. Thankfully, there were not many cars on the descent that would make me go uncomfortably slow on the narrow and twisty roads, and make overtaking difficult. Once again, the views were amazing, especially as Lake Como came back into view. 

Finally, I was back on the SP583 lakeside road back to Como. Time was marching on and it became a race against the clock, as I wanted to get the train straight from the Como Lago station down to Milan-Cadorna, which was just a short ride from the bike hire shop. Those trains were only one every half-hour, so I wanted to get one promptly in order to arrive in Milan before the shop closed.

Still, I wanted to enjoy my time in this beautiful part of the world, which I had not been able to visit for the last couple of years. So at Faggetto Lario I took the very steep road down to the lake shore to check out the lido and bar. Even if I only had a 10-minute dip, it would have been bliss. On my arrival, the place looked a bit of a disappointment. There was a Lido, there was a bar, and there were sun-loungers too, giving a beautiful close-up view of Lake Como and the mountains shrouding it's clear rippling water. But there was pop music - the kind I am not keen on - and folks that reminded me of Brits abroad. They weren't Brits though, they were Italian. At least all that cavorting behaviour on the beach is not restricted to folks from Blighty! Anyway, I was in a rush and I judged that it was not worth me changing into swimwear. So I just turned round and bust a gut riding back up the 15% gradient hairpins to pick up the main road, and enjoy a brisk lakeside ride back to Como.

Another thing that hadn't changed from back home was the traffic. Como, being a popular place attracts hordes of visitors including those travelling in by car, and the approach roads into the town centre always end up being chock-a-block. So from the tranquil start that I had had from Bergamo in the morning, I was faced with all the late afternoon chaos on the streets of Como. Using my London cyclist skills I managed to weave around the cars and reach Como Lago train station, just in time to board the 1646 train to Milan-Cadorna station. It's a pity there had been no time to stroll around Como, or get a gelato, but no worries. I've done that in Como many times before, and there will be many more times to do so, I'm sure.

Darsena Waterfront, Milan

Once I dropped off the bicycle, I enjoyed a nostalgic stroll around Central Milan, and a gelato plus anti-pasti on the Darsena Waterfront. With 108km and 1800m of climbing on the clock, I think these treats were well-deserved. 

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Bella Italia by Bike: Bergamo to Lecco

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Ciao Felice Gimondi

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Bella Italia by bike: Bergamo to Lecco

Many years ago I lived in Milan, and would regularly catch the train out of town to ride in the more scenic areas outside of this industrial metropole in Italy. One of my favourite areas was Como. The train  would take me right up to the shores of Lake Como. Then from there I could ride up the steep road to Civiglio and Brunate, or go further out to Bellagio and then to Magreglio, via the famous Madonna del Ghisallo climb. The challenging 10km uphill roads are rewarded by beautiful views over Lake Como and the Italian Alps in the distance, as well as a warm welcome from fellow cyclists at the cycling museum and the chapel.

It's been a while since I was last in this area, so as part of my return to travelling following the extended coronavirus restrictions I went on a long weekend to Bergamo and hired a road bike to do a few rides. Partly motivated by nostalgia, and partly by a wish to see if I'd still got it even in my advancing age, I did an extended ride from Bergamo to Como via the Madonna del Ghisallo climb.

The first part of my challenge involved doing a "test ride" the day before the big ride, from Bergamo to Lecco. My ride started from the centre of Bergamo, where I cycled through the historic part of the city, though not up through the Citta Alta (Upper Town) and along cycle paths and quiet residential streets to pick up the road towards Lecco. 

Monte Bastia and Val Brembo

Rather than take the main SS342 road I chose the inland route through a few hills. In that nearby area was the area of Monte Bastia with its woodland trails and hilltop churches, monasteries and castles. I wasn't about to do any hiking, but if I had decided to do so, it would have made for a pleasant, albeit fat-burning afternoon. On this Sunday afternoon there were a number of leisure cyclists and club riders riding up and down the climbs in this area known as Valbrembo (named after the local river, the Brembo) and it seemed that the popular climb to do was the climb up to the Madonna del Bosco church. There was no cycling museum at the top of this climb, but there were still some spectacular views of the nearby mountain range.

After a fast descent to the river, and then a climb through Brembate to reach the main road near Pontida. This road was still very scenic, and was quite relaxing to be on given the lack of traffic. I assume a lot of locals were still enjoying an extended Sunday pranzo.  

After Cisano Bergamasco my route took me onto a minor road to Calolziocorte, and once again I was treated to more nice views. To my right were the mountains that separated me from Bergamo, such as the Val Imagna and the Val Brembilla, and the rocky outcrops at the side of the road were the only parts of these mountains that I got to see. 

To my left I managed to get glimpses of lakes in the distance. Lecco sits on the eastern arm of Lake Como, which is fed by the river Adda. Along its course are other lakes that never get talked about, but are equally beautiful and worth stopping at - Lago di Olginate and Lago di Garlate. The latter was the one I experienced when I dropped down from the road to take a cycle path that went right along the water. There are a few campsites along this section and areas to just pitch up and have a picnic. 

Ciclopista Lecco-Abbadia

As I had my swimming kit in my rucksack, I was keen to find a good place to have a dip. To be fair, this was a reasonable area to stop, especially as there were lots of folks also messing about on the water - swimming or paddleboarding. However, I was keen to get further into Lecco and find a place with a bit more wow factor. Maybe I was being greedy - after all, I was already on Lake Como - what else did I want?? 

In any case, I continued along the path and later reached central Lecco where I found myself mingling with countless daytrippers, picnickers, joggers, folks on motorcycles, and unsurprisingly, end-to-end traffic along the main drag. 

Fortunately for me, I was able to ride along what appeared to be a recently constructed segregated cycle path (known as the Ciclopista Abbadia-Lecco) that ran right along the lake. After following this for a couple of miles I reached Pradello beach and that's where I stopped.

Pradello beach

This is probably one of the best kept secrets along Lake Como, as the beach, set in from a bay and down some steps from the cycle path and road, wasn't crowded despite the hot day. The water was as clear as in a swimming pool, and there was a bar nearby too. We were just surrounded by towering rocks from the Lecco hinterland, and the vastness of the lake, which seemed like an ocean!

I locked my bike to a nearby tree and got changed to get in a swim in the fresh, cooling water, before lounging and reading my book. A one-hour stopover was enough for me, before I upped sticks to ride to Lecco train station and head back to Bergamo. I must say this was perfect timing, as the sky suddenly turned black and as the train pulled out of Lecco the heavens opened!

When I alighted from the train at Bergamo the rain was coming to a stop and within half-an-hour the sun had returned, and I was ready to go out and join the locals for a passeggiata around the historic Citta Alta with its 16th century defence walls and its various medieval churches and monuments.  

View of Bergamo from the Citta Alta

My ride had been just what I needed - something more spectacular than my usual rides back home, with a couple of hills, but nothing too strenuous. I was looking forward to doing this and going further the following day. 

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Beautiful ride around Bergamo

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