Around the corner from where I work in London the leaves from the Plane trees have fallen. For a few weeks there’s a beautiful, random autumnal patchwork across the tarmac. It has the feel of a piece by natural sculptor Andy Goldsworthy.
I don’t associate urban cycling with “beauty”, but occasionally there are moments. I suppose beauty is transient and that just what the covering on this stretch of road is. A heavy downfall at a busy time of day and it’ll be gone.
Falling leaves marks a decision point for the cyclist. For the professional racer, the Tour of Lombardy  is known as “The Tour of the Falling Leaves”. It used to mark the end of the professional season. A chance for those weary riders to put their feet up, get fat and relax until it all started again the following March with the “Primavera”, the Milan-San Remo. The calendar is changing and no longer follows the European seasons. There are more opportunities for year-round racing to appeal to a global audience.
Among the ordinary cyclists, falling leave marks the time to sort the serious from the fair-weather riders. Cycling through the winter requires some dedication and planning. You’ll need to scour the back of the wardrobe for those extra clothes, hats and gloves. Your bike will sprout lights and mud guards. If you’re going to work you’ll notice the bike rack getting emptier and you’ll be scouting out the best radiators to dry your kit on.
 I’d love to visit Italy properly. I went on a school ski trip that happened to be in Italy, but apart from the attention the ski instructor paid all the girls, we could have been anywhere. Years ago I bought an old Italian touring book published by the Italian equivalent of the Automobile Association. From this point on I realised that a weekend mini-break isn’t going to hack it: I’d need at least three months and an open-topped sports car.