I am in Lignano Sabbiadoro. Ever heard of it? Look on a map, midway between Trieste and Venice. Italian seaside, and on the “Mosquito Coast” of Europe. There.
Regular readers will know I’m here for the European Masters Games, of which more anon, but I nearly didn’t get here! Nothing life-threatening, I just came very close to running out of petrol! The nearest fuel stop to last night’s hotel had been closed yesterday. I was confident, but wrongly so, of it being open this morning.
GPS Jane said 40 miles to the next petrol (think mountain area). Trip computer said 35 miles in the tank. I was stuffed if either was wrong. It took the edge right off riding through a simply beautiful Dolomites early autumn morning. I was also in an area I’d never been through before. Rare but true.
After ten miles, the trip computer was confirming I was down to 25 miles fuel. Then I reached the Passo Staulanza. This is no great Alpine pass. Very nice, very twisty. Probably Tour de France Cat 1, just, if you moved it to France. Trouble is, the ascent ate my precious fuel fiercely. My trip computer goes blank with less than 15 miles range left. Rather like a blindfold for the guy facing the firing squad. You can tell this isn’t exactly the first time I’ve run this low. The computer went blank before I reached the top of the pass.
Were you ever any good as a kid with a go kart/soapbox type of thing? I was tops with them, and could make them roll forever on the slightest slope. Might have been those skills, and 40 years riding a motorbike, that saved me, because the downward side of the Passo Staulanza went on for ever. Perfect for coasting in neutral. 40 mph in neutral in places too. The trip computer loved it, of course. Now all I needed was the fuel stop to be open. It was. My tank holds 26 litres. The fill was of 24.5 litres. Close enough for comfort.
So, the European Masters Games. These are the second to be held. I was one of the select who went to the first, in Malmö, Sweden, in 2009, against the wishes of my national federation. They saw no need for another international competition. At least, not if they and their pals weren’t running it. The situation gave rise to a wonderful piece of ambiguity when, after a lot of fuss, and athletes pointing out that they attended EMG as individuals, we were told the federation “would not sanction” athletes going to Malmö. Think about it, and consider the two contrasting meanings of “sanction”. Well, I went anyway, and came home with two gold medals. This time, no fuss, and much more interest amongst my fellow British Masters athletes. Not nearly as much interest as in other countries, though. You might think the largest number of participants here would be from Italy. Wrong – Russia. Presumably because the World Masters in July were in the USA and it’s still off limits to many, or just far cheaper to come here.
These games are unique. Think mini Olympics for competitors over the age of 35. Add in Masters “paralympic” events this time. Take out the nationalism. No anthems, national vests optional, though most wear them. They are open to athletes from all of the world, too something I don’t think is properly promoted yet. The “European” in the title is just where they are being held. I’ve already met some Canadian, Australian and American friends. Track and field athletics is not top dog by a long chalk. In Sweden, handball dominated. Not sure which leads this time. They provide a situation I find myself always wishing the Olympic Games would emulate. And, as in Sweden, these have every sign of being very well organised indeed. Tale a bow, EMG.
I race tomorrow. I’m glad things kept on running, and I got here!