Bad news - the shop that is open does not do mountain bikes and the shop that does will not be open until next week - so we are left with no other alternative than to walk, covering the distance at half the speed, but covering it nonetheless and hopefully finding a bike shop on the way, next week.
Cycling is bad for walkers, because it makes you realise just how excruciatingly slow walking is - a sensation that in our case is further exacerbated today by a head wind that makes even free-wheeling down hill hard work. But gradually Paul and I get into the routine, me pushing him from my bike where there is not enough downward incline to get his bike going by itself, or where there is no other option, simply walking. It is not an easy journey, we are hampered by vague and erroneous mapping with place names even the locals don't recognise, but in spite of this the peaks and troughs of the mountains we negotiate make the pain worthwhile. Paul and I agree that this is probably one of the most beautiful mountain ranges we have gone through. Better still, the process of getting lost brings us into contact with a family who not only put us on the right road, but also load us with fresh fruit and water straight from the fridge.
So moans and groans aside, we make surprisingly good process, arrive in Fornovo di Taro at about six and feel only slightly exhausted.
I think it is called Armco, like vacuum cleaners are called hoovers, Armco is that galvanised crash barrier that started out on motor racing tracks but that has appeared to become the main tool of Italian road designers to bring down the accident statistics. Last year we saw gangs on all the motorways we travelled installing 2 tier Armco no doubt to prevent cars launching into the other carriageways - seems like a good idea. It is also an ever-present feature of the SS and SP roads. Here it is a mixed blessing - I hope it reduces the need for the shocking number of wayside shrines to teenage and 20 something boys, but it also acts as a funnel into which pedestrian, horse and bike rider are forced to share the limited tarmac with 2 lanes of traffic.
Our approach to Fornovo de Taro requires us to use the SS 357 in some parts which is encased in the stuff. The traffic is light, but there is just no escape if you are trapped between a juggernaut and the edge. The bridge over the Taro is no better with stone parapets and a gale blowing that tries to push us into the traffic. We had hoped to use a hostel in Fornovo di Taro, but reading the maps in more detail it seemed that this would cost use a 5 or 6 kilometer diversion, not too bad on the bike, but too much to ask after a long day on foot. So we opt for the Hotel Cavaliere close by the point where the VF leaves Fornovo. It is pleasant, but not 90 euros pleasant.