It's hard to imagine a worse start. If you've read Into Thin Air Jon Krakauer's account of a disastrous Everest climb then you'll have a sense of it. I'm writing this sitting on the bus having all been forced to abandon after 50km. Climbed up from Lake Baccaccia but rain turned to sleet, and than heavy settling snow. Climbed past abandoned and crashed cars, and started to really worry about safety. Summited at only 300m but too dangerous to descend, and walked and scooted down in a blizzard.
By now everybody was spread out. Former Argentinian and Italian rugby international Diego Dominguez had joined for one day - in trainers and fingerless gloves - but despite borrowing kit got the serious shakes and a restaurant owner took pity on him. Still there as I write. Simon 'Headless' Hunter ruthlessly observed 'that's why the Argentinians will never win the rugby world cup'.
At the food stop a local farmer took pity on the entire group, and we holed up, wrapped in silver emergency blankets. By now the only priority was a headcount, and finding people, including a group that was missing in action. After a couple of hours we got everybody together in a cafe in Sutri, and another hour later the last two were found.
Paul Kimmage said he had only ridden one day like it. Amazingly in the '89 Giro, starting in a heatwave in Sicily, and hitting a blizzard in the Dolomites. In June! While we could just about climb, descending was horrific. The entire bike caked in snow.
While dissappointing it was a decision we had to take. The next climb was up to 800m and with snow falling there was no chance of avoiding a repeat performance. If we were ever in doubt about the enormity of the task, or the effect of the weather, we weren't now. This could have upgraded us to Stalingrad.
It didn't look good in Rome. We held at the Stadio Flaminio for an hour while the snow eased, did the photos on the pitch, then barrelled out of Rome in a scarily brilliant police convoy. All shouting, hooting and waving, but seemed to work.
We all live to ride another day. Just. www.dallagliocycleslam.com