With 180k left to go and the knee-high snow back in Salzburg, John was adamant about doing the roughly 150k loop around Lake Garda and Boban didn't even attempt to convince him otherwise. Heading out at the crack of dawn the Alpenglow on the western Garda Mountains once again blessed us with a scenic start. Freshly embrocated we made good progress through the tunnels, galleries and cypress riddled towns. While the eastern side is in the shade of Monte Baldo the whole morning, it took little away from the beauty of the rustic towns featuring ancient architecture and colossal castles that riddle the shore.
Just before reaching Torri del Benaco, Boban missed a pedal while clipping in. His full-ass-force blunder caused his saddle nose and seatpost to loosen and slip down - a funny mistake, but a painful one. After fixing the damage we pulled off the main road onto Via per Albisano which led us over a little hill, overlooking the town and the lake. The road descended back lakeside to the actual town of Garda.
While riding out of the town we couldn't trust our eyes when it seemed like we actually were catching one of the countless groups of cyclists buzzing around the lake. However, once we got closer we realized it was a peloton of pubescent kids riding without any adult supervision, which is something completely unimaginable in Austria (it's probably even a crime in the US!).
We weren't the only ones overtaking them, when shortly after Saxo Bank rider Pavel Brutt passed us with a look of concern towards our direction. Even amongst all the people we stood out with John riding with a lifesaver vest and Boban having a DSLR strapped to his back. We picked up the pace on the busy roads of Lasize, with Boban putting a few short efforts in TT position. Soon we caught Pavel just before Gardaland where John adhered his Call of Duty and busted an impromptu bike-guitar performance in front of the Rock & Roll Restaurant. After not getting standing ovations from the crowd consisting of two stray dogs we hit the road again. After a brief stop in Peschiera del Garda, John was struggling to follow the Merckxstyle-TT champion through the countless cobbled roundabouts lining the way to Desenzano.
In Desenzano the Garmin led us straight through the packed city square into a market. After pushing our bikes for a bit we were back on the main roads to Salo where John flatted, which wasn't that bad until he realized his new 5 euro pump wasn't exactly a good thing to save money on. Luckily a local Pro stopped and let John use his CO2 cartridge and after a brief stop at a bike shop for supplies (and a new hand pump) we were finally heading back into the crack.
After getting into heavy traffic and some long tunnels we were already considering taking a boat back but, in the end our determination to finish the Festive500 took over and flew along he road that is literally carved into the mountain. Sometimes outside, but mostly in nerve wracking tunnels, we finally reached Limone as the sun started to set. Here we pleasantly forgot about our schedule and gathered some oranges for the drive home. Another tunnel later we arrived in the gorgeous town Riva del Garda which marked almost the end of our journey. While taking in the scenery, John's girlfriend Brigitte messaged letting him know the snow picked up again in Salzburg so we decided to squeeze out every kilometer possible while riding into sunset.