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Where next? Anyone heard of Morlupo?

Up to Morlupo, and then back down again, it always seems to be uphill when leaving Rome (well duh, it is on a river!). It is nice living in a city where, from a decent vantage point, you can see mountains, and wonder what it might be like to ride up them. I had the same situation living in Madrid, where the Sierra de Guadarrama would flash its snowy tops throughout winter and spring to remind you that, despite having a great view, gaining altitude is an endeavour that you always do at your own risk. I digress.

We are not talking mountains when we mention Morlupo, merely hills, and rolling countryside. Think the rolling hills of the shire from Lord of the rings, rather than the high pass of the misty mountains. So, I had told Carl, no big climbs today, but if you want, I can take you up a quick pulse raiser near the Olympic stadium? “Of course, sounds good,” came the response.

The road that connects the back of the Stadio Olympio with the area of Camilluccia looks like a mere squiggle on the map, a kilometer of nothing much to be ignored or forgotten. Luckily for cyclists, the municipality also seem to have forgotten it as the road has been closed for months and no one has done any work on it (the worst thing as a cyclist tackling a steep climb is to be passed by impatient motorists (or other cyclists)). As you sweep around the stadium ring road and begin your ascent, you start to realise that you’ve got a workout on your hands. By the first right turn, the gradient is coming up to around 15%, where it stays for another left, right and left turn. With your heart and breathing rate at about maximum, the last 100m to the end becomes a lot longer. And then, pffft, done. A friend of mine describes it ‘a good ‘training hill’, a fair description if you are a trainee masochist.

Leaving Rome via Tomba Di Nerone is a gently rising way out of town, through an affluent suburb. By the amount of medical facilities on offer in the area, I would assume that most people living here are either very old, or very unwell. Around the top of the hill, you pass an unassuming tomb by the side of the road in a small park. Nero left his influence on history, but he clearly has not garnered a large amount of historical respect.

We did the down-up-down from la Giustiniana to La Storta, and then turned off for Formello, passing over the Autostrada. The nearer you get to Formello, the more cyclists seem to appear, there is a gravitational force around this area which seems hard to resist on a weekend morning. I believe there is a decent downhill MTB trail round the back, which seemed to be where a number of guys were heading (I will confirm this when I’ve done some research).

Formello isn’t really a town worth stopping in, so we pushed on to Sacrofano, which is a much prettier settlement that hugs a hill and spills down into the valleys around it. A good place for a coffee, and to plan our next leg to Sacrofano. A quick hilltop summit and down, is how it looked on the map. 100m later, with gradients at the edge of town reaching 20%, I started to think that maybe I may have left the oven on at home, and it was time to turn around and make haste back to Rome. To add insult to this punchy, 200m climb, there was a nearby fountain spilling water over the tarmac. With a few slips of the back wheel, I decided to unclip. Fatal error. Carl, ever the experienced rider of the two, shifted across to the drier side and got stuck into his 34 x30 gear. Not wanting to be left behind, I saddled back up, pushed off, tried to clip in on the hideous gradient, missed and toppled into a sideways comedy fall (we’ve all been there). It would have been OK if I hadn’t been seen doing all of this by an overweight, mid 50s man leaning heavily on his balcony at the side of the road. Laughing heartily and shouting an amusing insult at me, he had his morning’s entertainment. For my role as entertainer, I got up, bowed and stalked off, pushing my bike up the hill like it was a punishment… which it was.

And onto Morlupo: if Formello is a disappointment, then Morlupo is the antidote, another hillside town, but grander, more sweeping and, finally, with some traffic views back down into the Tiber valley and across to the Apennines. We took in the terrain, and smiles came to our faces, knowing that the only way back to Rome was almost entirely downhill. There are some great roads back to the city, we took a decent one, very quiet, mostly good tarmac, and as the speedo shows, you can get up above 60kph quite comfortably for a few stretches.

Within 40 mins, we were back to the top of the river path, and rolling smoothly back for lunch.

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