Today would be our longest day day; still entirely flat, but close to 100km total. Nancy felt like she could do it, but we wanted to roll at a more regular pace than we had in the first couple of days. Because the group was so big, and because Rosita was both the only leader and the only mechanic, whenever someone had a mechanical the whole group would stop and wait for it to be fixed. Dave suggested that our group of friends break off the front so we could go at our own pace; he and I are both comfortable leading groups and can handle mechanicals on our own. So we hatched a plan to break off at one of the rest stops.
We had to ride on some high-traffic roads to get out of the city, but soon we were back in the country. We were now following a distributary of the Po, which provided us with more options for levee riding. The route switched back and forth between levees, country roads, and occasional dirt paths.
After our first group stop in San Nicolo we decided to make our breakaway. A group of about 8 of us headed out, but unfortunately managed to make it only about 3km before Nathan (our lone unicyclist) came down with a flat tire due to a failure in his tire casing. The main group caught up with us a few minutes into working on it. It took about half an hour to patch the tube (twice) and fashion a tire boot out of a dollar bill (U.S.A.!) and some duct tape. We got the thing back together, and headed out again with the whole crew.
I generally don’t like long days on bike tours. When you have the pressure of high daily mileage, you have to miss out on the place you’re riding through. For example, we didn’t have time to explore this cool abandoned villa because we had to get back on the road.
The riding remained pretty pleasant. We were mostly on roads now, and there was occasional traffic, but the cars (and farm tractors) were accustomed to having to slow down for other road users, so we had no real conflicts.
After lunch in Traghetto (translation: “ferry”), we again got our group together for a breakaway. We had a very long, very straight gravel segment on a levee by the Fiume Reno as it headed out towards the Adriatic, which gave us 16km of almost uninterrupted riding.
When we came off the levee, we were still in a rural area, but the roads were a little more trafficky. We were nearing the lagoons at the mouth of the Po; because of the wetlands there are fewer roads in the area, so, fewer places for the cars to go. But once we hit the lagoon we were back on quiet roads. There are no bridges across the Reno this close to the sea, only a cable ferry, so there was virtually no car traffic out here. The lagoon was beautiful, with lots of large migratory birds, including flamingoes!
The park on the other side of the cable ferry was quite pleasant, wooded and quiet. We stopped for a while to rehydrate and snack. Then when we got on the road we realized the next group stop was right around the corner; having just had a rest, we continued on towards Ravenna.
We were 85km into the ride and people were tired. We fortunately had a straight and fast road headed into town; unfortunately it was quite busy, some of the least fun riding of the trip. I think the original route plan had us going further out towards the sea and avoiding this direct path, but that would have been an additional 10km or so and the group was not up for that. So we blasted along for 10km on a road with heavy two-way traffic. There was a bit of a shoulder but it was still unpleasant, so we were very glad when we were able to veer off onto the residential streets on the outskirts of town.
We were staying in the old town, so our ride ended on medieval streets with no traffic except for (many) pedestrians. We enjoyed the ride through the historic buildings, and found our hotel after only a small navigation error. The day wound up coming in at 98.3km; I offered to go do a lap of the city to get to 100km, but no one was interested. We were very interested in getting into our rooms, getting cleaned up, and getting our Aperol spritz for the evening. Our breakaway put us about half an hour ahead of the main group, which gave us some much-appreciated time for relaxation.