[Artists rendition of Fabio. Original artist retains copyright]
Tall, athletic, with perfect poise, long blonde hair and super-tight brilliant white trousers (no VPL) and white vest. Fabio knelt on the massage table astride my right leg, his thumbs needing vigorously on a particularly tender spot on my hamstrings.Earlier he had ordered all of his colleagues to put down their healing hands and gather around my table to inspect the worst case of ‘not stretching’ he had ever seen. I lay face down, in my pants starring at the unhoovered carpet. They all nodded knowingly. Two even took the liberty of touching the tightest hamstrings that Fabio had ever professionally encountered.
The room was 5m square with one door and no windows. There were 4 other exhausted cyclist with 4 other (less opinionated) masseuses working quietly to soothe tired muscles. At the open door 2 other men in underwear and one uncomfortable but fully dressed north American lady stood waiting their turn on the table.
The next words that Fabio uttered aloud were
‘There first thing you must do after this massage is take a bath’.
There was a audible intake of breathe in the room. I wish I could say he broke the silence by explaining that he felt it would soothe my damaged muscle. The silence continued. I waited for the ground to swallow me up but the Fabio intervened.
He sighed in surrender, released his grip on my thigh and in one smooth gymnastic movement leapt from his kneeling position to land on his feet, legs apart to the side of the massage table.
‘I will change your orientation!’ He announced.
‘Better men then you have tried Fabio ‘ I was about to say when …
In an instant he turned me on my side, my face poised at his groin. He pulled my knees up and toward him, he embraced me with his left leg, securing my legs. He laid his shoulder, arm and chest across my torso and twisted my upper half and my lower half in the opposite directions. There was a audible crunching noise.
The tension in the room about my personal hygiene vanished, replaced with a different tension. My fellow inmates were silent. Wondering if I was still alive but too frightened to intervene in case it drew Fabio’s attention to them.
Ten minutes later my relaxing complementary massage was over. I can’t recall any complements but I have to say that despite the vigour and the crunching noises it was pain free. Fabio had one parting shot however.
‘You don’t stretch! It is lucky that I found you. You would never have been able to finish. Now if I can help you every night you might have a chance of finishing in Venice.
‘No, no, no Fabio, you know nothing about Tuco!’
There are two types of people in this world, my friend. Those that quit and those that don’t quit.
And besides he didn’t find me. I found him. There was a 5 foot improvised sign in the lobby that read “FREE MASSAGES FOURTH FLOOR”
I thanked Fabio and left. There was 6 days of hard cycling left but I knew I would be finishing.
P.S. The following day while struggling up the Nuffenen pass I was a minor celebrity.
‘Your the guy that had the massage with me last night. Me and Gary didn’t think you’d start today. Are you okay? Did it hurt.? He told everyone to take a bath and that shy American lady was after you …