Climbing slowly through a horsefly cloud,
swatting away settlers on my sweat.
Weaving for shadows in the August heat;
the sweet relief of a southside tree.
I glance at my own sunshot image
photographed upon the sizzling road:
me and a swarm of irritants like
demons from my own desire.
Further, and the olive groves concede
to wild scrub and wood.
A sparrowhawk flips over and drops
where the Apennines rise
-as I hairpin back and up, up, again.
Pretoro lies below me now - the shade
of its cliff face alleys a memory.
The road is scribbled with chalk-
Forza Di Luca! Di Luca, the local boy.
I reach Passo Lanciano where I could rest
by the sleeping ski-lifts.
But further revolutions call me,
to turn and grind, creaking to the top.
Beech trees overhang for a mile or so
until I graft through their coolness
to the scree covered slopes
and the last open climb to the summit.
This is Merckx's battleground,
up here on a white track in the baking sun,
on the peak of Italy's spine.
I rest my bike beside the sign,
re-hydrate and through the sparse
air gulp the cascading view,
then turn for the downhill run.
Relishing the divine synergy, I wind,
lean and slide through the hairpins.
I feel the air thicken and the temperature rise
and "vai, vai, vai!"
- this time I'm far too fast for the flies!
Published in "Italian Cycling Journal" www.italiancyclingjournal.blogspot.com
c. Marc Woodward