Five bikes dismantled into huge rigid bags with the aid (ie 98% input) of Jonny Cheetam, ex-pro mountain biker and our support driver/mechanic/directeur sportif for the trip ahead.
5am departure, and our expedition-level trip to the airport necessitates not a people carrier, not a minibus, but a full-on 30-seater coach. For Lilja and Valdis this is the happiest event of recent years. “Are we going to Stansted?” Terrible disappointment when I reveal we’re just making the 10-minute ride to Heathrow. Driver is Italian. “Sardinia? You will meet Berlusconi!” Oh, hooray.
Early introduction to Italian bureaucracy at the airport. Alitalia staff decide I need to pay the excess baggage tariff for our bikes at three different desks, and then compose me a handwritten receipt for each at ruminative length. Two flights and four hours later there are whoops of amazement when we disembark in glorious sun at the tiny Sardinian airport of Alghero, and find all our bike bags circling the carousel.
Stuff them into the Jonny-piloted minibus and with the use of no less than four satnavs and six brains take an hour to make the 6km journey to our hotel: the accommodation wing of Alghero Rugby Club, with a view of the knee-high brown-grass pitch. But a wonderful cedar-shaded beach full of Sunday locals is right on our doorstep, and we get our wheels in the surf before sundown… Tim Moore