Ground Effect staffer Laurence and his father John are on an intergenerational adventure in Europe, racing in the Chemin du Soleil or ‘Road to the Sun’ in France's Haute Provence.
It's no coincidence that pizza and bicycle wheels are both round. Rumours infer that a quattro formaggi inspired the first mountain bike expedition into the Italian Alps, or at least fuelled it. And there is no better post-ride treat than a triple headed gelato.
Switzerland and New Zealand are chalk and cheese in many respects. The land-locked home of Swiss timing has no coastline, native bush nor wilderness. They keep sheep as a hobby and the farm animals wear bells.
A month ambling around the South of France on our push bikes... scorching hot days, lazy picnic lunches, curious cafés and a generous helping of old world culture.
Heat rising off the tarmac roasts me. My legs are locked into a rhythm as I push the pedals around. All I can hear is my own panting and the ring of cowbells floating across alpine meadows. After two hours of climbing I approach the summit of Hourquette d'Ancizon, a back road close to today's stage of the Tour de France.
When my brother Steve announced he'd mapped out a coast to coast route across the Northern Highlands, I sighed wistfully... "a week long epic from Ratagan to Montrose - I'll never get the time off work". To my surprise, he had actually pulled together a little gem that could be completed in just a couple of days.
In mountain bike racing, it sometimes happens. There are a bunch of slower riders in front, but you bide your time and find a safe place to pass. Ten minutes into this race and I was contemplating more extreme options as I viewed an endless mass of riders snaking into the distance. About 3,000 riders compete in the annual Finnmarks Turen endurance race in Ludvika, Sweden... and I started dead last.
In the summer of 2009, our route from Greece to Germany crossed the small country of Albania. It glared from the map with uncertainty - neither Tina nor I could claim encyclopaedic knowledge of the place.
Our original thought was to cycle tour through Italy. Then we mused that a mountain bike road trip might be more like us. The thought of combining the two didn't really emerge until the drive train on my touring bike imploded during a test outing in the Black Forest.
I teach German and a bit of junior French at high school. My French was pretty rough so I decided to apply for, and was fortunate enough to get, a Ministry of Education 'language immersion scholarship' to the south of France. Not content with just sunning it and soaking up the language, food and local vintages for three months - I decided to take my bike along as company.
There is something irresistible about Italy and Italian culture. The language is sexy, the locals gregarious and eating well is a national sport. Neither Nikki nor I had been to the Dolomites, nor knew much about them beyond a few breathtaking pictures of pale spires and sheer faces.
The London Cycle Show had taunted Ground Effect for a few years. Flippant remarks about mountain biking Wales or even making a break for the French Alps added recreational weight to the promotional argument for exhibiting at the show.