Friday, September 14, 2007

MS Global 2007 -- Parting Thoughts and Pics

I'm back stateside and MS Global 2007 has come to a close. I can't believe it's over already, and like last year, am experiencing some withdrawals. MS Global really is a family, and after spending such a physically and emotionally intense week with all of them in the beautiful surroundings of the Italian Dolomites, it's bittersweet to return home and settle back into normal life.

Since the internet connections in Italy were so slow, I didn't always upload all the pictures I would have liked to, so I've selected some more to share here and wrap things up. They're from stages 1 through 4 -- since I did my stage 5 and 6 posts from stateside, I loaded all those pics. So, here's a final few glimpses into the faces and places of MS Global 2007 from my perspective.

A cafe on Ronde Sella, the first climb on that freezing Stage 1.
I can't say enough about the staff that supported us -- they're amazing. This is Nilas (Denmark), a soigneur, offering various Clif products at the top of Ronde Sella.
Because we were in the Dolomites, we rode by and through many ski resorts -- world class ones, from what I hear. This was a sign at one of them, indicating they like cyclists, too!
A couple maps of a couple of those ski resorts.
The first night, Deirdre gave Karen and Patti the assignment of wishing Jim and Vivian Turner (California alumni) a happy wedding anniversary, complete with bride and groom hats.
This pink pig, reportedly named "Bacon," was spotted in the bed of a certain ride leader in Canazei. You gotta keep warm somehow.
The hotel in Canazei -- Hotel Astoria.
Headed toward Passo Pellegrino, Jack Irving (Ft. Collins) does some stretching. He is the one I rode to the top of Passo Fedaia with, and one of the rookies I feel honored to call new friend.
More new friends: Mike (San Francisco and the "bell guy") and Tammy (Ft. Collins and my roommate) pose with me at the top of Passo San Pellegrino.
Posing with the man himself, Tyler Hamilton, at a village during the descent from San Pellegrino. No matter your strengths, Ty is incredibly supportive of all the riders on Global, and makes everyone feel a part of something bigger and special.
I didn't say much about these (didn't want to scare my mom while I was still in Italy), but we went through a lot of tunnels. Some were lit better than others, and we had little blinky bike lights to make us visible to cars. Most were fun, though a few on the descent from Stelvio were pretty scary, as they were pitch black and had tight corners in them. This one was on the way to Passo Fedaia on Stage 2.
A friend from MS Global 2006, Michael Moniez (France) who works for Merck Serono in Geneva. This is at the top of the Fedaia.
On the night Pat and I crowned the birthday royal family, we inadvertantly forgot Ahmad, one of our ride leaders from Denver, whose birthday is also in September. Here, we let him wear Karen's crown as consolation, but, as you can see, he's still 'dissin' us.
Christine, one of our soigneurs who is from Spain, always brings cards to MS Global, and initiates a variety of card games in the bars after dinner. This is a shot from a particularly lively game of "Bullshit" on the last night in Canazei. Oh, and I also haven't mentioned Margaret, who is in the foreground here. She is an American living in Italy who works for Thompson Tours, the company who organized the route and lodging for us along the way. She fit in quite well with the Global crowd, and did a fantastic job. We're pretty sure she won't ever enjoy tours with any other groups again....Once you've gone Global, you really can't go back.
I had trouble sleeping the entire week -- jet lag, I guess -- and our last morning in Canazei, I decided to quit fighting it. I simply got out of bed a few hours before everyone else, and took a walk around the village. These are a few of the things I saw.
The sunrise was spectacular.
Just moments prior to taking this picture, there had been an old Italian woman sipping her morning coffee on the top balcony. I really wanted to take her picture, but figured that was a bit much, so waited until my trip back by when she had gone inside.
I thought this road sign would have been fitting in the bar the night before...
On our lightest day when we rode from Canazei to our next hotel in Bolzano, we had cappuccino on the descent from Passo Costalunga. Since that tends to be a Global theme, I thought this artsy shot there was appropriate.
At the same cappuccino stop, our man Jimmy D. made quite an impression on the Italian waitress...
And leaving that same stop, soigneur Nilas (Denmark) made sure we knew which way to turn.
The first night in Bolzano, we went out into the streets for a festival. In this Austrian- and German-influenced part of Italy, this is apparently a pre-Oktoberfest celebration introducing many new beers. Ride leader Erik Schmidt (California) stepped a bit out of character and did an Italian Stallion impression on our way.
More new friends: Kelly and Tom from Denver, at our hotel in Bolzano the morning we took our group photo.
Of course, we weren't the only cyclists in the Dolomites. On Passo Palade (Stage 4) at our lunch stop, we saw this gentleman. We tried to convince our ride leaders to wear similarly cut shorts, but they would have none of it.
Though not a flattering pic of me (my face temporarily stuck this way after seeing shorts guy above), I wanted to post a shot of Christine, the soigneur from Spain who got me back on the bike last year after I had back spasms. This year, she also worked on my back after a few rides, though I luckily didn't have any spasms.
This is Bill Hamilton, Tyler's dad, cresting the top of Passo Palade. He is 67 years young, started riding at 60, and did ALL the climbs with us. He has committed to doing MS Global as long as he can get on his bike. Quite an inspiration.
This was at the top of Passo Mendola...I have no idea if it truly has anything to do with the game of golf, but since my dad is an avid golfer, thought I'd include it.
A few of our ride leaders -- Tyler, Jon, and Erik -- figuring out how to get us to Bolzano from the top of Passo Mendola. The ride leaders really do a terrific job, and do a ton of hard work for us.

If you've been looking at photos of me carefully, you've noticed that I have a bandage on my right hand when riding and a brace when not riding. Back in June, I tore or pulled some ligaments in my right thumb on a stuck tailgate when I was moving to Colorado, and after weeks and weeks of pain and swelling that wouldn't go down, finally saw a doc a few weeks before MS Global. It's almost healed, but was pretty visible here when ride leader Larry accidentally snapped a shot of Michelle and me on Passo Mendola before I was quite ready.
We thought these round menus were pretty cool at the microbrewery we went to in Bolzano. Me and 'lil Hudie pose here with one.
And you remember that big "Happy Rustic" dinner that Patti, Paul, and I shared at the same place? All six of us also shared three big desserts, and Patti poses here with the remains.
On the walk back from dinner that same night, we came across some rather interesting window displays in some shops. Here, a mannequin surrounded by potatoes and beans...huh?!
Can you say "phallic"?...
And, no, we didn't go to a strip club...this was also a mannequin in a display. Hmmmm....
And though I've put this shot up already on another post, I don't want to end with this mannequin, so here's the group again, at dinner in Bormio.
MS Global 2007
Pedalin' for Lisa
472 kilometers / 11,070 meters elevation gained / 11 epic passes
(which converts to)
293 miles / 36,318 feet elevation gained / amazing memories + a really sore back
Even with all the pics and sorry attempts at putting this experience into words, I simply can't express how full my heart is after this week of challenging riding with such terrific people.
It was all for Lisa, Sean, Aidan, and Tanner, and they were all on my heart
each and every kilometer.
MS Global really is a metaphor for what it must be like to live with MS:
new challenges every day, not knowing what is coming next,
feeling doubtful that one has enough strength one moment,
and elated at cresting a peak the next.
Thank you to everyone who coordinates MS Global and makes it possible,
to my new and old Global friends,
and especially to all of you who have donated to make all this possible.
I came home to even more donations, and at last count, have raised $6020.

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