Fat Lad At The Back


    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_22


    I could have been kinder when selecting Andy's tour name. But you know me now. I was never going to pass up the opportunity to allow my imagination to run riot to name a 6 foot tall and skinny pallid ginger haired freckled Irish man in Italy. I could have added big nosed but in Italy his hooter is de rigueur and the sign of Man.
    Allow me to introduce Carlo Papini the owner of our bicycle shop. What a top bloke. When we arrived at lunchtime to drop off our bikes, he had his wife, children and mother there to greet and thank us for our business. Along with his cleaned out beige Lancia City Car to give us a lift to the airport lest we missed our flight, even though he repeatedly emphasised how I had had his kecks off with the hire price of the bikes and that he was loosing money on the deal (€70 each for 4 days).

    His tourist chart of prices supported his argument: Carbon Road Bike - €50 per day.

    Another reason why G man should buy an iphone, I was able to remind Carlo of the price we agreed in writing only 4 weeks ago. Even then he made a last ditch effort and punched 3 x €80 in to the card machine.
    “Oh No Carlo. Don't let us fall out now, after all we have been through together! You want to see us next year don't you?!”
    He agreed and punched in €210 and we remained friends.



    Tbf we had been through a lot together in the 4 days. As soon as my Cervelo steed hit the mountains coming in to Castelnuovo de Garfagnana a spoke snapped. G Man’s Parkpre's handlebar tape had come away and we managed to put it back together with the beige surgical tape from the first aid bag we brought. Although this served a purpose it didn't do much for the aesthetics of his bike.
    Lest any readers are disappointed by the fact that we had a first aid kit and that maybe we were actually adult enough to be responsible, don't get too giddy. True to form it was crap and may just have coped if one of us got stung by a nettle, or a wasp.
    Andy had had a wasp in his helmet on our training run the Saturday before we came and it had stung him twice, so we were alive to that particular risk. Gotta say, seeing him flap around frantically slapping his helmet like Rob on an Amsterdam's putana's culo is not the most unfunny sight I have beheld. Yelping in pain. Go back to aforesaid Putana for analogy. So the spoke broke and I emailed Carlo, who drove up the following evening to drop us a new wheel and a roll of bar tape off. A cynic would say he was scared of losing our business on that particular bike. I say he was God.
    We left the broken wheel by the front door of our house. Next to the drying gussets of our cycle shorts from the ride the day before from Pisa. He exclaimed repeatedly how beautiful my father's village is and how it was a pleasure to have driven around the area for an evening. It gives you readers a better picture in your mind's eye of just how beautiful it is, if a Tuscana cyclist compliments your stomping ground. It also reminds Rob and I how lucky we are to have our Martino and his ancestors.


    4. MR LONG:
    When we walked into Carlo’s shop on Wednesday morning he looked at Rob and I and scrunched his nose up and was clearly thinking ‘why have you two shortarses asked for a 56 frame bike!’ Then he saw the traffic cone of G Man's head come into view behind us. Ahhhhh! Mr Long! He exclaimed. Nodding his head at us and understanding everything. MR LONG? GHINGER?


    Since I last checked, somebody must have sneaked in to my bed and shaved an inch off my feet. I would have sworn on everything I hold dear I was 5’ 9” (except my children's health as that is too precious to ever gamble with. You don't believe me then I ain't that bothered to put their lives on the table to persuade you). Last week I had Sylvia in the office measure me for Carlo's bike fitting service. No matter how many times I changed my stance or how many times I told her to change her technique I was definitely 5’8”. For days my confidence took a kick in the goolies. My self esteem recovered however when Rob pointed out a very silver silver lining. My **** to Height ratio was now a less embarassing stat than before. I will take that spoonful of sugar to make that medicine of hard life go down easier.


    We smashed our target cycling stats to pieces, and had nothing more to prove to ourselves, let alone any would be charity giver, hoping we would fail so they didn't have to back up their promise of hard cash. Rob and G Man can always look me straight in the retinas knowing until the last breath leaves my body, that they have my upmost Bro fist-punching-heart-man-hug-respect-love. So to celebrate we went out ‘on the piss’, eating pizza on a rooftop terazza at 2am and drinking Nastro Azurro whilst gossiping about the locals was much more important than what time we had to set off for the plane in the morning.


    It was a particularly stressful morning as we were preparing to return to the UK or at least as much as we could be stressed. Ok. Maybe across the 3 of us it was a bit stressful. We got ready, packed our bags and tidied the house as best 3 blokes can and trundled to the train station. G Man was extremely anxious, preparing his culo for scrutiny at the airport and I realised that the lazy Italians only work half days on Saturdays, so the trains we thought would run, we're not running. We needed to get to the airport and I was becoming a little concerned.
    The train we needed no longer came to our station, so we lost 30 minutes and instead caught the Pullman coach to the nearest train station on the line to Lucca. Another 40 minutes lost. On the train to Lucca the guard confirmed that the next connecting train from Lucca to Pisa arrived after our plane departed.
    G Man experienced a moment of clarity. He suggested I contact Carlo and warn him we may arrive to drop off our bikes after. Being Italian he would have ordinarily closed doors at 12:50 and gone for his siesta. No problem Paolo. I will wait for you. I told him how we must rush to the airport as the gate closed at 130pm. No problem Paolo. I will be your taxi.
    G Man’s anxiety levels were now off the scale, what with his acting classes playing out in his head at passport control.
    Me? As tour leader I was feeling less than responsible and wondering if maybe I should have been stricter.
    Rob? He was totally not arsed.


    When we arrived at Lucca station we needed a cab to be there waiting for us, otherwise Rob, Conno and I would be staying in Italy for another week. But we needed a large people carrier cab coz it had also to accommodate our 3 bikes.
    We came out of the station and saw a mini people carrier. Trumpeting from the heavens. Hallelujah!
    The greatest trick of the devil was convincing Man he does not exist.
    Hi. Pisa airport.
    Great.  We have 3 bikes?
    Oh no, no, no, no.
    It was the only cab in the piazza. Siesta time was right upon us.
    Why not?
    No room. No room. No room.
    But you can fold down one of the back seats.
    No, no, no, no, no.
    Come on? We are late for a plane! We will miss our plane!
    No, no, no, no.
    Can you ring one of your mates.
    Yes. [But made no effort - No, no, no, no.]
    I took hold of the situation by talking the universal language of green.
    We will pay you an extra €50!
    No, no, no, no.
    You're kidding me! I have a booking! Perleaze!
    As if! G Man was at breaking point and needed an outlet for his anxiety and was about to go all Old Trafford on this Italian ass. The poor man, but, believe in the Lord and he shall appear. Alexander sang from heaven. Rob held Conno back from panning in Beelzebub's face and pointed behind us.

    Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

    There, driving towards us was Marco in his Ford Transit minitaxi.
    No problem boys! Come on. You are worried you may miss your flight. I will get you there. No problem. Relax my friends. You have nothing to worry about.

    There may have been times when I have struggled to accept that God exists - On Tuesday 26.7.16 you ask Paolo Martini does God exist and I call you a mug, with all due respect. On Saturday 31.7.16, you ask Paolo Martini and you get a different answer.


    i. Gianluca - Member of Cycling Club Garfagnano.
    Whilst cycling from Lucca to Castelnuovo on Wednesday, Rob was ahead and was unwittingly powering in to a 1 km tunnel that turned in to a dual carriageway inside.
    I was 20 yards behind him on the slip road when I had a sudden sense of dread in my gut. Conno a further 20 yards behind me had picked up a puncture and was shouting STOOOOP. I heard a panicked shout from below me. Stoooop!!!!! I looked down to my left and saw Gianluca frantically waving shouting Stop! No! Danger! I screamed up to Rob STOOOOOP! He could not have heard me. He did. He looked behind and saw me cutting my throat with my finger and Conno now at a stop and 75 yards behind and thank God, he came to a halt 10 yards from the tunnel entrance.
    As the 3 of us walked down tight against the road barriers of the slip road to meet Gianluca and thank him, a juggernaut powered past, not more than a foot away from us and blowing his horn in annoyance at the idiot cyclists on the slip road. It was so loud it made your heart jump out of your body. I know, I know! Had Conno not got his puncture, had Gianluca not been directly below me and not shouted, you would be listening to the tragic story on the National News of the British cyclist who got splattered inside the tunnel by the juggernaut. I know.
    ii. The coach driver who gave us a free ride home when we were lost and nearly broken.
    iii. The transit van driving taxi man at Lucca train station.
    iv. Carlo Papini.
    v. The laughing waitress.
    vi. Paolo. The dad of the son we climbed up to Passo Dello Radici with on Thursday.
    vii. Federico. The son of the dad we climbed up to Passo dello Radici with on Thursday.Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_21

    The exact same faces looking back at you. How could Federico do that climb on a full suspension mountain bike with flat pedals? Not possible. And 5 miles after Casone, when the gradient had increased to a sphincter tightening average of 13% he rode beside me wanting to know about us and our exploits. A young boy of 22, having the breath and more impressively the self confidence and social graces to enter a dialogue with a pigeon speaking 2nd generation Italian. I was broken, my legs gone and Conno and Rob were 10 yards ahead, then 15, then 20, then 30. But as I concentrated on his questions and thought even harder on my replies I stopped thinking about the ferocious burn in my legs. As we joined them he rode off to join his dad ahead of us and they waved us goodbye.
    viii. Hans from Germany. Who joined us for those few miles after Casone before we met Paolo and Federico. Hans was pot bellied and celebrating his 62nd birthday. His present? His wife waiting at the top of Passo dello Radici in their motorhome so he could ride the classic and bucket list giro to Passo Dello Radici. Seeing Hans churning out the revolutions up the ever increasing gradients empowered us 3 jokers for cyclists.
    ix. Franco. Cycling club member of Club Alpi Apuani. At 55 years old, handsome and rugged, with less than 15% bodyfat, bronzato and gleaming white team kit completto, and a wonderfully warm smile, he rode with us for 20 kms or so, showing us the way to Massa train station on our last night of cycling. I forgot to add this route to my Stava stats. When he asked where we had ridden from that day he pushed out his bottom lip, nodded his head and pronounced “Che Bello Giro! Bravo! Siete Forte!”. He knew the road well. No doubt having ridden it all his life. I told him we were hungover on beer, Grappa, Limoncello and Sambucca and a 2am finish. He was impressed. As proud as punch I told him how that day we rode the giro to Passo Dello Radicci. “Porca Miseria!!!” he exclaimed Which loosely translates as **** ME!!! He looked us up and down “Una BELLA vacanza!” His respect for us was palpable. By the way, I told him, we carried on and climbed the next mountain to Abetone. Roughly translated he replied **** OFF, YOU ARE KIDDING! GET! NO WAY! YOU 3 ARE **** LUNATICS.


    When Rob had come to fix Andy's inner tube on Thursday, he looked puzzled. He could not find the puncture.



    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_23
    The Italian passport control guard was conscientiously checking the passport of the 5th person before Andy. He took the passport offered by the 4th person, studied it, TWICE, and passed it back. He took hold of the 3rd persons passport, read it for 5 seconds, passed it back. He took the 2nd persons passport, checked his computer screen. The 26 year old Italian in the queue before Andy dropped his papers, the guard scorned. Andy looked like he was about to faint, or vault the barrier and make a dash for the plane. The guard took the young mans passport, tapped his computer, looked at the lad, nodded and let him through. Andy moved to the front with tiny baby steps, so clenched were his buttock cheeks. The guard looked at his face, smiled warmly and waved him through declining to take from Andy's quavering hand his passport. As I came to the guard, he checked my passport, chuckled and returned it.Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_24

    Blighty. Here we come.


    Cherish those close to you. Cherish your family. Cherish your friends. Propagate and cultivate those relationships that mean something to you.


    12    : 3 TOOLS:
    I bid my farewells, gave and received man hugs of love and went to find left luggage in the hope of finding my biking tools. I asked the affable chap at the desk if he could find my left luggage and he responded that he would try. He asked me what it was? And then my jaw dropped. I pointed at his hands. He had my three cool tools in his hands. I asked if I could take his photograph because the tale I had to tell must be heard. He laughed and agreed.Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_25




    Well maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who'd out drew ya
    And it's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not someone who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

    Paolo, Rob and Conno are raising money for the Alzheimers Society.IMG_1317

    If you've
    enjoying Paolo's bog you can donate a couple of quid here:

  • Just like riding a bike

    I’ve been walking like John Wayne this week.Chris 4


    People have commented on my distinctive gait – not to be confused with my distinctive gate. Why am I strolling like a cowboy who’s misplaced his chaps? The answer’s simple: I’ve been trying to regain my fitness level.

    It’s amazing how quickly your fitness can go. Have a few weeks out of the saddle and Hey Presto! you’ve no stamina left. To be fair, I’ve a good excuse for not cycling in a while – the birth of my son, Sam. As anyone who has children will know, a new-born baby can take over your life – little things like an exercising regime can go out the window. So it was with cycling. As a result of our new arrival, this Fat Lad is now considerably fatter than he was a few weeks ago. Late nights, no sleep and too much takeaway food have made sure of that.

    Finally this week, as my waistline began to visibly bulge, I decided it was time to get back in the saddle. I’ll be honest with you, it wasn’t easy – hence the John Wayne impression. Hills that I’d whizzed up with ease a few weeks before now seemed to be mini Everests! Even the flat took it out of me. I’m embarrassed to say that my first post-baby ride consisted of more breaks than actual pedalling. There I was in my full Fat Lad kit – including my favourite Bobby Dazzler shirt – being overtaken by kids on bikes with stabilisers. Not a good look.

    The next day I threw myself into the ride again. A longer route this time. Despite my padded shorts I developed the fore-mentioned cowboy’s distinctive stance. Several hours later, when I entered the house, my other half announced that I was walking like I had just filled my nappy. An image far too close to home at the moment to be funny.

    A few days passed without a cycle. My partner enquired why I hadn’t been out on my bike.

    “Feeling a bit tired,” I moaned. “I think I’ll leave it for a bit.”

    She wasn’t impressed.

    “Is that the attitude we’re going to teach our son, eh? If it’s hard, give up?”

    That was all I needed – I was Lycra’d within minutes. It wasn’t long before I was out struggling on the same hills as earlier in the week. They were still hard, but slightly easier than the last time I tried. Fitness is like that. I got back from my ride still walking like John Wayne, but I didn’t care. This was the walk of a man who didn’t give up and that’s important.

    In the years to come I want my son to understand that perseverance is crucial. I want him to come to cycling events and see me, struggling at the back, but not giving up. Who knows, perhaps he’ll be a mini cyclist himself?

                “Hurry up Dad!” he’ll shout, speeding past me. “You look like you’ve filled your nappy.”

                “No, I don’t!” I’ll insist. “I look like John Wayne!”

                “Who’s John Wayne?” Sam will cry.

    And there, in that moment, we see the Fat Lad circle of life.

    Chris McGuire is a writer and FLAB MAMIL. He’s grateful that Lycra can stretch to fit his new (slightly fatter) waistline.  


    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_16

    DAY 3:

    1. LAY IN:

    I had thought about waking us earlier, but had to allow time for my body to recover as best it could and I did feel as if I have been hit by a train, plus I also needed time for the alcohol to drain out. Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_14


    What panoramas we enjoyed, the scenery in the Italian mountains is breathtaking and I still can’t look at this photo without feeling sick and getting a flashback to how I felt when I came around the corner and saw the 750 feet sheer drop at the side of the road. My sphincter tightened like a chicken strokes grip!

    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_15


    IMG_1449We didn't factor in the tunnelsI And I ain't talking British tunnels, like the Wall
    asey tunnel under the Mersey with its poncey wide lanes, painted white walls, full illumination with ventilation fans every 100 meters.

    These tunnels are rough hewn from the rock, large ‘boulders’ jut out to the side of your head and can easily knock you off your bike if you dare get too close to the side.

    Barely wide enough for 2 cars to pass, let alone the huge juggernauts laden with marble slabs. Pitch black, save for the wholly inadequate, intermittent, tiny, dim lights every 30 yards and with a mine of potholes that of course you couldn’t see.  Each one became a chicken run, our sole purpose, just to get through alive!
    4. THE ABYSS:

    The first tunnel was enough to make you not want to do it again. 125m long but as it got dark, it got light again. That was followed by a quick 75m - listen out for lorries and then a sprint to the light. Then we came to the mouth of the top-most tunnel. At 1125m long, it just disappeared into an abyss. Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_13

    Conno, whose bottom was unpredictable from the previous night's drinking, needed some encouragement and thankfully Rob came to the rescue producing his £2.50 Aldi flashing hand torch from his saddle bag. The size of a 50 pence piece and with 0.001 lumens, we had light. Rob The Saviour. Yippee. We will live!  Our preparation is the stuff of legend and so we went for it and individually we prayed to each of our Gods for Mercy.


    Rob mastered the art of the cycling fart. It requires technique, timing and supreme control and serves as a thermal slap to the face to the person tailgating you. Nevertheless, you have to be surreptitious. Rob would slow down a tad so the G Man was inches from his back wheel and then in a snap, he’d raise his ‘culo' and come to a fixed ridged position, torso parallel to the road. The mastery comes from IL TRUMPETO being released at precisely the same moment! Any delay and Conno would see the raised buttocks and takes evasive action.

    Perfectly executed it serves 3 purposes:

    1. Rocket propulsion. In the higher echelons of our sport it is all about fine margins. That extra blast of air in Conno's face gives your bike discernible forward thrust.
    2. Childish satisfaction.
    3. It proved a tremendous motivational tool for the team. When u are really down and nearly out wondering from where you are possibly going to find the energy to cover the distance to the next hair pin IL TRUMPETO followed by “Oh! For ***** sake!!" Makes u properly belly laugh on your bike, your morale lifts and you beat the next 5 kms. Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_12


    We met some wonderful people, the stuff of Tarantino movies and perhaps the subject of a blog on its own. In fact this has been a real theme of our trip. From the waitress who properly got the giggles because I ordered 3 "bears" instead of 3 steaks on the bone. The Canadian couples preparing for their daughters' wedding in Tuscany. I asked for a photo, to which they responded "a group". I chastised them saying I don't know how they do things in Vancouver but we weren't suggesting any ambitious sexual positions and then as I put my arms around them I apologised and told them to prepare for ‘Smell of Man’. And then my favourite. The Old Bloke Guarding the Pier at Forte de Marmi as if his life depended on it. He sprang from nowhere like a bridge troll, to stop us in our tracks. Apoplectic at the thought that we were actually going to cycle on to his pier. Only 5'4. (just a bit smaller than Rob) and about 70 with his beige pants, belted up to just a few inches below his nipples he was getting all Sopranos with the towering 6’ tall G Man. We pulled Andy away and left the geezer to guard his footpath. Respect due, he wasn't backing down. We discussed storming him at full pelt on our bikes, BMX Bandits style but decided we didn't fancy mixing it with him and his palls who would have probably shown up on their mobility scooters.  We gave him some northern hard knock looks and pedalled on, dignity intact.


    Having left the house at 12:30pm instead of 9am we ran out of sun. Despite 40 miles and 5,000 feet Conno was all deflated that we had missed out on the double figure stats of the previous day and the goon was even questioning whether we had earnt  our dinner!

    With the last train long gone, we approached the bus driver at Lucca station. He was just about to leave and confirmed that he WAS going to our town, Castelnuovo Di Garfagnana. Ticket?


    They don't take credit cards, so Rob ran to the ticket booth which of course was shut. We looked at him like 3 lost 6 yr old boys. Then he told his mate to put the bikes in the lock up and us to jump aboard. It was pitch black when we arrived in Castelnuovo Di Garfagnana and we still needed to get to the house, but thankfully, we are not worried as Rob had his light!Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_11


    DAY 2:      Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_9  1. DEAR LORD HELP US:

    33 miles and we had climbed 8,500 feet and 2 mountains. You’d think you’d pray for the descents but in fact, you resent them because you know the pain that's going to follow. We stopped for ice cream in the ski resort of Abettone, knowing that we still had a further 45 miles to do and 3 hours to do them in. Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_5


    Rob has become increasingly concerned with his chaffing. Something about the salt content in his er… shorts! I have no sympathy as he has brought it on himself. At 43 he has never ‘male’ groomed. A troop of gorillas could happily hide 'there' for years without detection. I on the other hand have always partook, not for the hygiene but for the aesthetics and because in the mirror my **** always looks a good couple of inches longer with a short back and sides. Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_2

    3. NO CHANCE:

    Go back to my first script. Rob saying 4,000 feet of climbing on consecutive days was too much to ask. If you would have said to me I could do what I have done, I would tell you NO CHANCE. If you would have said that my bro’, with his maturing derby (male pregnant tummy) could do what he has done, I would have said there’s more likelihood of him stopping a pig, running thro his little Iti bow legs.  If u would have said that Conno could do it, I would have spat Prosecco in your face.

    But, we did do it.

    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_1

    Here are the Strava Stats:

     81.4 miles.

    7.25 hrs in the saddle.

    6,637 calories burned.

    16,344 feet climbed!!!

     Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_3


    As Conno said, it’s pointless trying to describe what we did to people who were not beside us, living the sheer pain.  The first 20 miles was a mountain climb, every turn of the pedal hurt, every single rotation was an effort. For 20 miles. We didn't just climb one mountain, but frickin 2!! And I ain't talking the pathetic hills we call mountains in Blighty.  I am talking proper mountains with ski lifts on the top and everything. Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_4


    After the ascent we did 30 miles, pure downhill clocking up speeds of 40mph. Braking like billio into the corners and frankly crapping ourselves that we we're going to smash in to the stone walls which keep the landslides in check.

    30 non stop minutes of pulling on the brakes takes it toll and at the bottom I felt like I had white finger. I haven’t felt vibrations in my in my left hand like that since I was 16!  Imagine, hurtling down a mountain at break neck speed, never pedalling once, for 30 miles, that’s the same distance as Manchester to Liverpool.

    And then think, to come down you’ve gotta go up.


    I cannot write enough about the love, admiration and respect Rob and I have for the Ghinger Man. What an inspiration he is and boy, can he cycle! The man has rhythm, he climbs like a goat, he’s a natural even though he’s never ridden a big boy racing bike before, let alone with cleats.

    He beats me, hands down and I’ve been riding bikes all my life.

    Let’s talk about his training - 3 weeks. Let me say that again, the man did 3 weeks training for this and is living proof that human beings can achieve ANYTHING when we set our mind to it. Think of all the bullshit excuses you have come up why you couldn’t do something. There are a million reasons why G Man could have said no to Rob and me and lots of them were genuinely good reasons and we would have understood. But no, G Man is more than that, “Life is for living” he said and he grasped it and HE DID IT!

    Next time you think of how difficult something is and you’re about to come up with an excuse, just think of G Man and DO IT!

    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_63 WEEKS I tell you!



    So, to last night and the local bar, owned by Mirko the Memory Man.  A few pints, a bottle of wine (shared), a Limoncello digestivo, some Grappa, another cheeky 1am pint and some 2am Sambucca later and we were ready to boogie woogie all night long. Yes Sir!

    The mention of a beach party at Forte di Marme, being held by the Italian guy who owns QPR was more than appealing. Safe to say it was a good job Mirko’s Mini Cooper S Works does not have 6 seats as undoubtedly he would have driven us and his brother and bezzie along the narrow road (think of the road in the Italian Job and make it smaller) like a crazy motherflipper!


    But I have to say, the fact that Mirko’s phone was full of numbers of local lap dancers and ‘such like’ was off putting to us at all. Honestly! In addition to the fact that I / we object on moral and fidelity grounds, Rob was also keen to point out on Wednesday that despite the giddiness of being away from our wives and sleeping alone for a few days, certain er…… ‘self massage activities’ were absolutely forbidden lest we lose the umff needed the next day to get up the mountain.


    I’ve just been told that UPS has a technical problem and they cannot get Conno’s passport to us until Monday. I will tell Conno tomorrow. What's the point of him worrying about his acting abilities now!?

    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_8

    Paolo, Rob and Conno are raising money for the Alzheimers Society.

    If you're enjoying Paolo's bog you can donate a couple of quid here:



    DAY 1:


    1. Always prepare for a curve ball at the airport, especially when it's 3 blokes who ordinarily have women, organising their every move.


    2. Our first airport mishap was security confiscating my 3 cool tools. Tbf they didn't adopt a ‘computer says no’ attitude and told me they would pop them in lost property and they should be there on our return.


    3. Whatever you do, DON’T take your son’s passport instead of your own.

    Being a ghinger, Conno ordinarily has a pale complexion, however the pallor of his skin was Lil-lets white and his freckles shone out like a million tiny suns. He had brought his 12 yr old son's passport.

    “I've done all that training for nothing.” said Conno.  3 weeks in his garden can hardly be described as ‘all that’, but respect to him!


    4. Realising there wasn't another flight for days, drastic measures were called for. We were 30 feet from passport control, Conno mentioned Midnight Express. To hell with it we thought we were last in the queue and the staff wanted us on the plane. We rapidly put in place a number of diversion tactics. Rob stared at his flip flops, Conno dropped his paperwork on the floor at the last minute and I notified the woman on the desk that a girl had just told us to tell them she had to go for a quick poo, so please could they wait for 5 minutes. Of course the girl had said toilet but I got an uncomfortable laugh out of the attendant!IMG_1304


    5. You could not script 3 more guilty looking geezers. It could have been a cut scene from Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, the looks on our faces were that of slapstick panic / horror. But in no time, we are speeding up the tarmac and Rob was discussing the chances of a Guantamano Bay experience for Conno at Italian passport control.
    Tough decision which of the passport controllers was least conscientious; which queue to go in? Massimo looked particularly not arsed. Dio bless him! He took Conno’s 12 year old son’s passport, checked the photo and the details and then handed it back.IMG_1305


    6. Add that to the list under hopeless preparation.

    Other than my spoke breaking, the ride to my Dad’s house went without incident and it must be said Conno is a demon; a veritable Stephen Roach. Apart from the fact that he was at the back for the whole ride, save the monster climb at the end, where he took all the glory.IMG_1328


    7. After 63 miles and it turns out 5,400 feet of climbing, we arrived home, starving and around 4,726 calories lighter! A quick shower and we got into Dad's Opel Estate with the intention of heading out for supper. It was as dead as a Dodo! No surprise, with dirt an inch thick on the windows, obscuring every view it was clear that the car had been insitu, in the field for the last 12 months.

    Rob thought his Salford van hire experience was sufficient that once the car was on the road he’d be able to bump start it, so for an hour, the three of us pushed and pushed the ‘tank’ out of the wet field, in our flip flops.

    What an effort and then, Rob managed to steer the car into a tree, tbf he was going backwards and it actually turned out to be a good thing because otherwise the car would have dropped into the ditch 30 feet below. It all seemed a good and sensible idea at the time.

    We were wondering how we were going to move the car so our cousin could get past in the morning to drive to work and so I rang a pal who popped round with some jump leads. Undoubtably we should have started with this idea in the first place but all my blood was in my legs, not my brain. As I popped the bonnet I saw that somebody had disengaged the battery. This is the finest bit of car mechanics I have ever produced and a couple of minutes later we were mobile and on our way to dinner and the biggest steaks you could wish for.


    8."Make sure that plonker does not drive my car” my Dad said. “It has no insurance, no MOT and no brakes.” By my calculations that's about 12 penalty points.
    Unlawful taking of a motor-vehicle, maybe a three month prison sentence? And also the slightest possibility of drink-driving on the way home. But, who drove? And were they drunk?IMG_1318


    Paolo, Rob and Conno are raising money for The Alzheimers Society.

    You can donate here:






    Paolo Martini, Brother Roberto Martini and lifelong best friend Andrew (Conno) Connolly are currently cycling the mountains of northern Tuscany for 4 days in aid of the Alzheimers Society.

    Follow their hilarious antics (which are mostly, nothing to do with cycling) here!


    Combined age - 138 years

    Combined ‘overweight’ - 5 stones

    Combined training regime - 9 weeks.

    Conno was only told about it 3 weeks ago.

    Conno has never ridden a road bike or worn cycling shoes with cleats before.

    Over the 4 days the three amigos plan to ride 255 miles and climb over 21,000 feet.


    21,000 feet is 6,000 feet more than Mont Blanc, 500 feet more than Mount Kilimanjaro and  8,000 feet short of the summit of Everest.


    Rob: (the serious cyclist of the group)

    "Are u mad? They're crazy horse shoe figures them! Go to north wales and do a 4000 ft ride which is enough to turn ur d*ck & b*lls inside out, then think about doubling it, then think about doing it again the very next day. I don’t think that’s happening”


    “I’ve contacted Easyjet for a refund on my flights.”


    “To be fair to Rob we did climb 4,000 feet last Sunday over the Horse Shoe pass near Llangollen and he has a point! My gonads are still like chestnuts. Little chestnuts.”

    Still not impressed, read on.  They 3 reckon they will be drunk on wine and Peroni for at least 2/5ths of the route. So please give generously.


    Sponsored by; Uber Taxis Italia. ItaliaRail. AnalCare.co.uk



    First, just watch this video for 2 minutes and you will get a feel of what we are trying to achieve. 


    Just £5 will do.

    The lads on the video are ex pro’s, as skinny as flip and are cycling with support. Rob, Conno and I only have each others backsides to keep us inspired and motivated.

    And just think, we’re doing this ride NOW as you're reading this. 

    Useful facts:

    This is one of THE classic all Italian mountain rides

    San Pelligrino is at the top of my Dad’s mountain

    There is a saint in a glass coffin which is very nice to see

    It is 16 miles all up hill from my Dad’s house

    After San Pelligrino we have a further 69 miles to cycle

    10 of those miles are uphill

    Yesterday we cycled from Pisa to my Dad’s house, which is 56 miles and nearly 4,000 feet climb. That’s 400 feet higher than Mt Snowdon. 

    In truth we don’t think doing the San Pelligrino will be the biggest challenge. We think that will come tomorrow when we wake up at 6:30 am and have to get back on our bikes and ride up and over the L'uomo Morto Alpi Apuane. I dread to think how my body will feel when my mobile telephone alarm goes off. 

    Check it out on the net. This climb is1,000 feet higher and10 miles longer (86 miles) than San Pelligrino. Half way is the exclusive resort of Forte Dei Marme and we will be able to se my Dad’s house across the valley. 

    We have selected this route because we take in the quarry of Carrara, from where Michelangelo selected his marble for David, undoubtedly the most famous sculpture in the history of mankind. We’ll be in the saddle for 10 hours and we may run out of daylight so we reserve the right to catch the train home or as near to home as we can get. 

    On Saturday we’re back on our bikes for the ride back to Pisa, another 56 miles and perversely yet another 2,000 feet of climbing. How unfair is that?!

    So come on guys. Support me. and if you know anybody that has got a few quid forward them this link



    By Chris McGuire

    Chris close up

    We’re a funny lot, us larger cyclists. We really are: 

    “You pay more attention to that bike than you do to me,” said my partner, I forget her name.

    “That’s not true!”

    Some days it probably is, but I wouldn’t say that to “What’s-her-name”.

    I’ve had some really good reactions to the 1st of the blogs I put up here for Fat Lad At The Back. People seem really interested in my diabetes and how cycling has helped with my fitness, which is something I’ll go into more detail about at a later date.

    Others have said that I don’t look like a ‘ballet dancing hippo’ – much. I’m sure there’s a compliment in there somewhere. I’m currently struggling to find it. You’ll be disappointed to hear that Fat Lad currently have no plans to create tutus in my size, so those who’ve asked for photos will just have to wait.

    I’ve had some great rides this week, despite the weather. There was a short period where I thought I should get myself a job at the Met Office – which is only just down the road from where I live in Devon. Every time I left the house in my FLAB gear the heavens opened. My Bobby Dazzler jersey, I’m happy to announce, does not go transparent when drenched. Good for me, bad for any planned Fat Lad wet T-shirt competitions.

    Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been wetter than I have on the last couple of rides. It makes me think FLAB should market their clothes as swimwear too.

    Thankfully, my preferred cycle route passes a great cycling café. Along with being purveyors of great coffee and cake the good people in this establishment don’t seem to mind drenched Fat Lads in Lycra massive leaving giant pools of rainwater all over the establishment. For this I shall be forever grateful.

    Seriously, there was a period during my last ride, as I waited in the café for the rain to stop, that I considered ditching my pride and joy bike. Instead I Googled ‘How do you build an Ark?’ Thankfully, the rain had stopped before any animals arrived, two by two or otherwise.

    As I killed time in the café, it struck me that many cyclists preferred this environment to being out on a bike. I’ll be honest, that’s certainly been true for me at times. I’d love to know the statistics around MAMIL café use. Do cyclists spend more time in Lycra riding bikes or drinking lattes? If the former is more popular, perhaps an extra bib could be added to bib shorts – to deal with splashes for foam from vigiourous coffee drinking. Just a thought – I don’t think it’ll be the way I earn a fortune. Let me know though, if you do spend inordinate amounts of time drinking coffee in your cycling gear – or it this just a myth? One thing I can say for certain is I’ve never sat in a café dressed like a ballet dancing hippo, drinking a cappuccino. Personally, I don’t really see hippos as big coffee drinkers - unlike cyclists.

    Hope you all have good rides in the coming days, despite the weather. If you do end up soaked to the skin, here’s my tip dry your bike before you dry yourself. There’s very little chance that you, unlike the cycle, will go rusty.

    PS: Dry yourself too, you don’t want to catch a cold!

    Chris McGuire is a writer and FLAB MAMIL. He has the World’s most patient girlfriend and a very clean bike.  

  • Kendal’s Top Tips to Getting On Your bike and Staying Motivated

    Cake – need I say more article-0-14FA374C000005DC-973_634x467

    A good helmet – for obvious reasons

    A goal – be it 10 miles, 100 miles or more. It’s your goal! And you should take great pride when you achieve it. Fat Lad At the Back's next Sportive is on 2nd October and has distances of 25, 50 and 75 miles – check that out. Falling that the British Cycling site has s comprehensive list of all Sportives up and down the country. Booking on a Sportive generally means you have mechanical back up and feed stops, so lots of piece of mind, but please confirm before you book.

    Some friends – check out British Cycling or even Facebook for social rides and groups and even your local cycling club for people to ride with. Don’t be scared, I’m yet to meet a cyclist that bites!

    Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com - 03/05/2014 Cycling Yorkshire - Fat Lad at The Back copyright picture - Simon Wilkinson - simon@swpix.com

    A tracking app on your smart phone – ignore the speed to begin with, that’s not important, but watch your miles add up! When you’ve been going a while you can then see how much you’ve improved too!

    A full water bottle – cos we all sweat and need to keep ourselves hydrated

    Padded shorts!!! - Might feel like you’re wearing a nappy to start with, but believe me then seats are hard. Give your bum and seat chance to mould them selves to each other though. It does take perseverance I’m afraid. Funny-Elephants-21

    Gear - And when you’ve got the bug, you can reward yourself with some sexy stylish kit. You know where this is going don’t you? ;-) I do love Fat Lad At the Back’s kit! It's good quality as well as good sizes. There is no need to feel like an elephant in a wet suit (it took me 6 fat wobbling months to discover them sadly)

    Oh, if you get out on your bike, set yourself a goal or even have your own tips for getting out on your bike, please comment below. I’m just a Fat Lass who likes taking her own picture, I’m by no means an expert.

    Share your pictures on Facebook too! I’d love to know how you get on!!

    Kudos for you in advance,


     womens_pink_cycling_jersey_Fat Lass At The Back

  • The Beginning - Kendal Briggs

    11960279_10156027273150504_6953329738244869180_nRecently, Kendal posted on Facebook a photo of herself at the top of her first Col in the French Alps, we had such a great response to the shot, we invited Kendal to blog about her  cycling experience.

    I was with the response I got on Facebook from my picture. People used words like inspirational and many said it was the kick up the bum they needed to get out on their bikes and pedal away some miles.

    I was very touched, but you have to know, I am nothing special! I’m just like every other FLAB following the Fat Lad At The Back page and wearing the kit. What I do on a bike is not fast and I think the only thing that makes it remotely pretty is the lovely FLAB kit!

    I’m delighted to have been invited to Blog for FLAB and thought I’d start with how I started my cycling journey. If one person gets out on their bike as a result then I’ll be incredibly proud! But an idea had been put in my head. So I borrowed a bike. I borrowed some kit (I swear I looked like a bright orange version of the Michelin Man!) I put on a borrowed helmet and off I cycled to a local café popular with cyclists.

    It was one pleasant April day. I was in my favourite place, curled up on the sofa… I probably had a bar of chocolate to hand too. A couple of friends were taking part in a 100 mile Sportive at the very end of August. 100 miles?! 100 miles of sweating, saddle sore, leg aching miles!? No way. Frankly I’d rather stick pins in my eyes!

    But an idea had been put in my head. So I borrowed a bike. I borrowed some kit (I swear I looked like a bright orange version of the Michelin Man!) I put on a borrowed helmet and off I cycled to a local café popular with cyclists.

    That ride was 13 miles - 6.5 miles each way. 13, completely flat, windless, traffic free miles. Well I was like a spoilt child. I whined and I moaned and when I got back I thought I’d died. I didn’t think my legs would carry me, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to sit down again, and my face was beetroot red and covered in sweat. It was not an attractive look!100 miles was never going to happen.

    But what about 60? 60 miles in 4 months was achievable wasn’t it?

    So, after one 13 mile ride that I was convinced took me to deaths door I went online and booked myself on the shorter route of this Sportive at the end of August.

    I was committed to it now!

    The training was hard, really hard, until I found a lovely bunch of Lasses through British Cycling. Lads and Lasses check them out, they have rides for all abilities, rides you can take your kids on, rides you can have cake on, rides with pub stops, but most importantly rides with other like minded people. Cycling is such a social hobby, and cycling in a group makes you much more likely to be seen by those pesky cars too!

    So if arrange to meet the girls (I had some responsibility to them to turn up that way) and little by little, plenty of coffee and cake, and even more gossip the miles started to tick away. And you know I even started to enjoy it!!!

    13417707_10157022849320504_2851687168352298045_nThat August I completed my 60 miles. I think there was a lot of stubbornness and determination on there but I did it. And that feeling of crossing the line and seeing 60 miles on my cycle tracking app was indescribable! I’d done it. I’d chuffing done it.

    The only problem was the big hole I now I had… I’d nothing to aim for now, I needed a new challenge – there was born London to Paris a year later, and I completed that to

    So just over 2 years on from that day laid on the sofa. I’m still a Fat Lass. I’m still slow. I take good selfies by it’s still not pretty.But I’m out there and doing it. If I can do it, anyone can. I genuinely mean that.

  • Everyone Loves A Tri-er

    By Richard Bye, Founding Fat Lad

    Head Shot Richard Bye Fat Lad At The Back3

    The Triathlon season is upon us and I remember my first!

    I had set myself the challenge several months earlier as part of a focused effort to get fit and lose the extra stones I had been collecting since my twenties.

    The training was tough and I found the swimming pretty lousy, but the most worrying part of all was my clothing dilemma.

    I envied the svelte lads, clad in skin tight Lycra, transitioning with ease from pool to bike and bike to run and wondered, what on earth I was going to wear.

    There’s not much choice at a 46” chest so after much research I had ordered a XXXL short and top ensemble in blue. It was the largest size I could find and I was optimistic from the size chart and photographs on the website!


    My hopes were quickly dashed when it arrived and I held up the tiny clothes against my 6’3” body. Shameless hilarity ensued from my wife and children, as I wriggled into the shorts, which un-stretched, were no wider than one of my thighs. Once on, they left nothing to the imagination and the extra inches from my waistline bulged over the waistband like a cake overflowing its baking tin.

    The top was even worse and I was hot, sweating and flustered by the time I had got it on. The hemline refused to stay put and rolled its self up to my lower ribs, exposing two decades of over indulgence and denial. My cleavage on the other hand had been so effectively enhanced by the shrink wrapped Lycra, I was now an enviable D cup and even my wife had to concede, it was impressive!

    This was serious! The Triathlon was challenge enough, without having to undertake it dressed like an extra from the Rocky Horror Show. I needed a fat lad tri suit and if I needed one, that meant other fat lads needed one too. It needed to be generously cut with proper sized arm and leg holes, as well as practical and technical and it needed to have a long zip at the front so that you didn’t have to be Harry Houdini to get in and out of it.

    Try-Tri-Suit-Fat-Lad-At-The-Back-300x300The Fat Lad And Fat Lass At The Back Try Tri suits are all that and more. There are few more ridiculous outfits available to a sporting FLAB than a triathlon suit, but all things told, I think ours are very flattering pieces of kit. Designed especially for Fat Lads and Fat Lasses, they're available in black, which we have found to be a particularly FLAB friendly colour.

    The Try Suit has been tested by me and other Fat Lads in the pool, on the road and on the bike, with some great feedback and some unconfirmed reports that it may actually make you go faster – Either way, it won’t leave you looking like a badly packed sausage and that can only be a good thing for all concerned.


81-90 of 93