just a smidgen

Borgo San Felice ~ Part I


Let take the train from Florence, Italy and head deep into the Classic Chianti region of Tuscany near Siena.

A short drive from the train station and we tumbled into a little village that is now the Borgo San Felice Relais & Chateau. This was our home away from home and one short week’s holiday that turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. We were the very fortunate guests of the Gold Medal Plates crew.. With Juno Award Winner Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo), Canadian Hero General Rick Hillier, Olympic Medallists Marnie McBean and Chandra Crawford and Hockey Legend and Battle of the Blades Star Russ Courtnall. Special guests were singer-songwriter, Barney Bentall and fiddler Anne Lindsay!

So many people from across Canada participated in raising funds for Olympic athletes and we all arrived at Borgo San Felice together for a chance to meet music legends and Olympians, drink copious bottles of wine and indulge in Italian food.

Miraculously we didn’t gain any weight, here’s why…

The Gold Medal Plates trip offered cycling every morning, with groups ranging from “Espresso” (read: fast), Cappuccino (medium) and then Latte (slow/beginner). The celebrities all rode.. and you can imagine how fit they were { even the musicians! } and most were in Espresso. Sometimes they rode with us just to be hospitable, which was very cool!  Cappuccino seemed like the logical choice, after all I’ve been weight lifting and cycling weekly and I knew how to clip my shoes into the pedals. { Plus they said that our group would stop in local villages for coffee.. hello.. did someone say coffee?? }

I was so lucky to be riding in the Cappuccino group with violinist Anne Lindsay..

Here we are before our cycling adventures…

I’m 8th from the left in a black top.

Well, the first two days were grueling and I wondered why I’d bothered training at all. But then an awesome cyclist with the Gipo Team rode beside me and taught me some important techniques for road biking (shifting, hill climbing, downhill turns, etc) that I would never have learned in Spin Class.. I paid close attention…

Ahhh… so that’s how it’s done:) I was starting to smile more in this photo..

The morning of the third and most challenging ride to Mount Montalcino arrived and I was in a panic because I had struggled so much on the first two rides. Should I take the support van up to the top? I had them check my brakes because I just knew something was amiss, but they were fine. At the very last second I pressed down to check my tire pressure.. yup.. both were only about 85%  inflated! Riding on those wheels was like slogging through mud!

That’s Smidge near the front of the pack now 😀

I’ve got to tell you, I was more than elated to realize it wasn’t just “me”. Tires fully pumped I sprinted to the middle of my group with upset riders wondering how the “slow” girl got ahead of them, lol!

Smidge says you CAN have your cake and cycle too!

I never would be fast enough to travel with the Espresso group, { who cares, they didn’t get to stop for coffee!! } but I did end up completing the long 75 km ride.. up to the top of Mount Montalcino.. { and then down.. and then up, up and up some more.. on a never-ending ride } until we finally reached a Vineyard. Along the way we’d stop and they’d tell us about the road ahead.

See the keener doing lunges and stretching.. well, that’s not me!
Smidge was scanning the crowd to see who brought the snack:)


 I was happy to see this sign..

The last stretch.. well, almost the last stretch, there were a few more hills and km before the vineyard.

Once we reached our destination, we were literally hosed down and soon seated with a glass of wine and a beautiful picnic celebration for having made it!  There were serious moments of doubt and many riders finished the ride in the support van, but my buddy coached me all the way up through the rain and wind. My highlight.. when the bus went by and my friends from the back of our Cappuccino group were were chanting my name and cheering me on as I went by. I was the underdog, I couldn’t let my group down!!

First beer.. then wine.. (that’s me on the left end front slumped over)..

We mostly had spectacular sunny days and the scenery was incredible. Italy is definitely the perfect biking terrain because there are a number of different roads with rolling hills of various levels of difficulty that connect all of the small towns in a (sometimes confusing) network.

Here’s our team from Gippo!

 I’m not sure what is going on in this photo… perhaps it is customary to pray when finishing a ride in Italy?

Ahhhh.. I see…

Canmore Cross-Country Gold Medal Winner Chandra and her sister Rosanna Crawford from Canmore

My buddy Jim Cuddy.. I passed him once.. when he was stopped, lol!

Marnie.. yeah, there was no getting past her, even if you were faster:D

Ingo, fearless leader for the Gippo guide group.. able to leap in front of speeding bikes and stop traffic with a single hand…
and a really intense stare!

Barney Bentall and his wife Kath were also in top cycling form..

And my husband, Dave in the Espresso group { high speeds, hairpin turns, yeah, not for me! }

I had to pull him up a few hills though { hee hee } !

My new friend from Vancouver.. Cindy!! She is a ski racer.. and so also in the Espresso group!

This was a typical Tuscan hill.. the road to Mount Montalcino was much steeper.


I think that’s all for now.. I’ll be back in a few days with Artichokes.. prepared two ways.. one that would be pretty special for a Father’s Day Brunch…

And maybe a concert or two.. and an Italian al fresco dinner under the stars and with the stars.. family style!

Until then…





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