08:00 – The complimentary digestif custom seems rather less appealing in the cold light of a hot morning. Plenty of time to shower out the cobwebs, though, as our surprisingly laid back Rugby Club hotel doesn’t start serving breakfast until 9.
09:30 – Glorious start, inland through dusty, cypress-lined back-roads, bisecting ancient olive groves and peach orchards. Just us and the occasional walnut-faced old farmer on a tractor. Cloudless beating sun, but flat. Team Moore bearing up well in this prologue event.
10:15 – Satnav programmed to favour minor roads, but the odd section of busy tarmac is inevitable. Our first winds steeply uphill and a split in the peloton develops. Valdis – the youngest competitor – sticks close to my back wheel (too close, in fact, and we excitingly make contact on the 45kph descent). Kristjan’s knee hurts. Birna’s hands are puffing up. Lilja shouts: ‘I HATE THIS!’
11.00 – Back on the car-free agricultural tracks. A cool breeze and poking sticks at a dead snake in the road raises almost everyone’s spirits.
12.45 – Into Uri, a silenced hilltop old town that feels as if it’s never seen a tourist, or a bicycle. Widows come out to gawp at us. A bar owner directs us to a side-street restaurant which we have to ourselves, give or take three intense old men and a 60” plasma TV blaring out Serie A highlights. Jolly young waitress offers a traditional Sardinian menu: pasta with salsiccia, followed by a vast mixed grill: “Is cow, is pig, is ‘orse.” No one quite sure which is the first and which the last, but plenty of “mane course” jokes accompany the refuelling process. As do several litres of Coke and acqua con gaz.
The waitress insists on offering all of us a complimentary digestif. Valdis (aged 12) necks half hers before we can stop her. I do the right thing and down the other two children’s before they get a chance to follow suit. This ought to be a terrible mistake, but the after-lunch sun and another mammoth incline efficiently wicks away the badness.
03.00 – Bucolic inclines taking their toll. Lilja goes very quiet and drops back. Birna succumbs to vertigo on a hill that I don’t want to tell her is a pimple compared to the peaks that lie in wait on day 3.
03:40 – The final approach to Sassari is a teeming A-road populated largely by HGVs with a habit of blasting a friendly air-horn greeting as they pass within inches of our left shoulders. This practice reliably causes panic in the peloton. If I could get my heart monitor to work it would be shooting off the scale. Valdis runs over a dead cat on the hard shoulder. The hard shoulder disappears and the road vaults a yawning valley via a precipitous viaduct that brings on The Fear in a narrow majority of riders. So it is that Kristjan and I do battle with Sassari’s nascent rush hour alone, with the females swept up in Jonny’s broom wagon.
05:30 – Sassari is bigger than it looks on the map. The satnav has its moments, but nothing to match yesterday, when it invited us to ride up to the beach and right across the Mediterranean. We get to our downtown hotel with the shadows mercifully lengthening, and the women comparing tan-lines in the lobby. Satnav he say: 26.41km covered in 4hrs 42min of pedalling. Is that faster than walking? Debatable. But the heat and the 573m of accrued ascent still impart a sense of achievement.
06:45 Sense of achievement ebbs away as I wash the family’s shirts, shorts and socks in the bidet. Doing my Tour ride all those years ago I used to take a manly pride in this nightly routine: a hard-riding pro who asks no favours, scrubbing away all his fearsome labours on the road. I find this doesn’t quite sustain itself with the hot padded gussets of four others.
19:45 Never previously heard of Sassari, but it’s a decent find. Appealing haul of grandly dishevelled buildings, malodorous ancient alleys and a huge square lined with bars and gelaterias and thronged with locals doing the early-evening Italian thing of strutting about in well-dressed groups and gesticulating. We later conclude that no sensible person could ever tire of Italian pizza. Back at the hotel, a detailed consultation of Google Maps suggests we’ve actually covered 35.4km. There is much rejoicing.