Monday, May 22, 2023

Well, that was quick!


Regular readers might remember we noted a new cycling website debuting a few months back? One rising from the ashes left when Outside bought up a bunch of 'em and started doing the "vulture capitalist" thing - combining 'em and handing out pink-slips to most of the talented people who created or wrote for them.

Zio Lorenzo liked the writing of some of them and wanted to give a middle-finger salute to the Outside folks so he tossed the $99 they asked for into the hat. Enough of us did to make them actually launch the thing just before Milano-Sanremo.

Zio had hopes they might do something different since the entire idea was based on subscriptions rather than advertising. They promised as much with lots of talk of what they could do with a site not in any way compromised by a relation to or need for advertising revenue.

Sadly, nothing much changed. Zio thinks part of the reason was the fact that all these people grew up under the advertising model. For too many over the years in the cycling-enthusiast press the goal seemed to be to kiss-up to one of the larger advertisers long enough to get hired by one of 'em as a PR hack. Anyone familiar with recent editors of Velonews, etc. can see their names now listed as just that for a bike company, component maker, etc.

ESCAPE seemed to grovel at the feet of the industry mostly by habit Zio guesses? Worse maybe was the clubby, "you are what you buy" culture in their comments sections where readers would receive atta-boy comments when recounting whatever it was they bought and how they used it. Zio made comments critical of this practice and wrote a few emails to the editor/publisher questioning whether this was what he'd paid $99 for? There was no response.

The final straw was this morning's email from these folks inviting me to pony-up to buy a shirt from them. Why? To support a retired journo friend's Race Across America effort. Really? Not for a guy who has fallen on hard times with health problems, not for victims of flooding in Australia or Emilia-Romagna, tornadoes in the USA or war in Ukraine or famine in Africa, but one of their journo crony's more-or-less cycling vacation!

Is there a better example of the self-centered, navel-gazing cycling community than this? That was it for Zio, posting a "How can you be so tone-deaf?" comment on their website, prompting an almost instant ban on his comments there.

No problem! Cancel Zio's subscription and since whatever's left of his $99 is yours, YOU can donate it to this "worthy" cause!

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Mangia bene!

 The Official Pasta of the Giro d'Italia

We admit it, we're suckers for the sponsors of the Giro d'Italia. We love the race and enjoy supporting the companies that support La Corsa Rosa, especially when their products are food or wine!

We can't find the regional ravioli Rana makes each year during the Giro here in Sicily so having it delivered made sense, especially when they pick up the tab (for the shipping)!

Next time Zio's in the supermarket, some chocolate from Novi will find its way into the basket.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Cycling too dangerous?

 Is pro cycling too hard?

David L. Stanley writes some great stuff for our friends at BikeRaceInfo. I think we share what the Giro d’Italia folks call amore infinito for La Corsa Rosa and I’d love to buy him a spritz on our beautiful Piazza Duomo should he ever visit Sicily. But some of his recent 2023 Giro d’Italia: Rest Day One is way off the back.

I agree 100% about the dangers of cars driven in the race caravan but David claims the UCI (and I assume by implication RCS, organizers of the Giro) views the riders as far-too-disposable assets, referring to the bad weather the Giro (and Italy) has faced recently. He points out that baseball games stop when it rains and implies that bicycle races should be held only on dry roads as well. He then goes on to claim motorsports don’t run in the rain, ignoring that MOTOGP - the fastest, scariest things on two wheels regularly DO race on wet tracks, their amazing rain tires allowing lean angles that astound anyone who has ever ridden a two-wheeler of any kind.

Is racing bicycles in this weather really that dangerous? Where he lives in Michigan it’s likely far different than in Italy. I lived for two decades in Iowa so I think I know what he’s writing about when it comes to the danger of thunderstorms and being struck by lightning where he lives, but I’ve also lived off and on in Italy for decades, including full-time in Sicily since late in 2018.

There’s no argument about the dangers of riding in thunderstorms anywhere, especially on the plains in midwestern USA, but in Italy, rain doesn’t always come with thunder and lightning – it’s just rain. At the Giro’s stage 5 this year my rain-jacket started leaking after being at both the start and finish in an almost constant drizzle. It also rained for part of stage 6, but just like stage 5 I never heard any claps of thunder or saw streaks of lightning, so stopping or shortening a stage even because of a serious downpour strikes me as an overreaction.

Same with wet, slippery roads. Modern road bikes are all equipped with disc brakes, which we are told provide secure, reliable braking in all conditions though the gawdawful squawking and squealing does seem the price one pays. Tires have also never been better they say, with road tubeless and specially crafted rubber compounds that promise secure grip in all conditions. If the forecast is for rain all day, wouldn’t the team mechanic fit their best rain tires since they no longer have to worry about tubular glue needing overnight to set up? These are the same folks I used to see laying a thick bead of white lithium grease onto a chain as bikes were prepped for a rainy stage, so maybe it’s even time for that not-so-aero but more forgiving bike or wheelset while they’re at it when bad weather is an all-day forecast? It’s not like spare bikes are unavailable should conditions change!

Then there’s the cold and rain itself. David doesn’t dwell on this too much, perhaps he’s just as aware of the magical properties attributed to modern cold/wet weather cycling gear sold at astronomical prices as I am? The days of sodden wool jerseys and vinyl rain capes that might keep the rain off while acting like a sauna inside are long gone, so why does a temperature still on the plus side
of freezing at the highest peak on the days route cause so much whining and gnashing of teeth?

But more important than all this is what would have happened in 1910 if Alphonse Steines’ response to LeTour’s Henri Desgrange was: 

“Sorry old chap, we can’t bring the Tour over the Pyrenees. The roads are awful, there’s no cell phone coverage, the director’s car video screens will have no pictures and some people told me there are wild bears around. And it rains here…a lot! The UCI and the rider’s union will never go for it.”

What would have happened if the UCI’s weather protocol was enforced that same year at Milano Sanremo, where only 4 riders of 63 entrants finished? Or in 1956 on Monte Bondone with Charly Gaul? 1988 on the snowy Passo Gavia with Andy Hampsten? 2013 on Tre Cime di Lavaredo with Vincenzo Nibali?

We know what happened at LeTour 1996 when Riis raced to victory on the shortened stage where all the major climbs were driven over with riders in the cars except for the final 46 kilometers. We know what happened at the Giro with the 2020 Abbiategrasso farce – one shortened not by any real danger, more that the riders were just tired and didn’t want to ride in the rain. Is this the future of pro cycling?

Most cycling TV broadcasts feature some historical video, usually of heroic exploits done by legendary riders of the past, quite often in atrocious weather conditions, something road cyclists have been enduring since… there was road cycling. Where will tomorrow’s heroes, legends and exploits come from if weather protocols prevent racing under anything other than sunny skies with perfect road conditions?

Update: Friday's stage was supposed to be 208 kilometers into Switzerland via the fearsome Gran San Bernardo pass with a climb of Croix de Coeur and finish atop Crans Montana. A week before, Gran San Bernardo was scrapped over concerns about the road conditions on the descent, then the morning of the race the riders threatened a strike over being forced to ride in terrible conditions. The organizers caved, shortening the stage to just 80 kilometers, reminding many of the 1996 Tour farce. Many roadside fans gave the riders (inside their buses) a middle-finger salute as they drove out of Italy. 

Amazingly, reports of the road conditions on the descent (from the tunnel exit, the route they would have taken once GS Bernardo itself was scrapped) revealed nothing in the way of dangerous conditions. Nor were there dangerous conditions on the rest of the route. 

A lot like this from not too long ago? Will this ever stop?

In Zio Lorenzo's opinion the riders and their representatives were revealed to be whining babies who want the UCI's weather protocol changed to: "When the riders decide they don't want to ride for any reason, the stage shall be shortened or canceled. Nobody shall argue with them."

OK, but perhaps no more television images of the old days when it was real RACERS racing in the weather conditions they were dealt should be used to promote the sport, since they find just a forecast of bad weather unpleasant enough to threaten a strike?

David Stanley wrote a (sort of, I guess?) retort to Zio's post here. Rather than reply tit-for-tat to something that's far from one of his best columns for BikeRaceInfo here's the link so you can read it yourself. Rather than "throat-punch" him as he suggests for people like Zio I'd still buy him that spritz on the piazza, but this piece is just wrong, wrong, wrong as it seems clear he wants the Giro to be the INDY 500, "a sunny day in May affair" exclusively. Zio thinks that would be a tragedy for road cycling far worse than someone hitting the deck on a wet road or getting really, really cold.

Sorry David.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Giro d'Italia rest day #1

 Giorno di Riposo

That's what they call a rest-day here in Italy. So let's catch up, OK?

First the news that Maglia Rosa Remco Evenepoel is out due to Covid-19. A real shame since the race was shaping up not to be the "Mow 'em down in the chrono, defend in the mountains" so many pundits predicted. Rigoberto Uran's out too, how many more will be sidelined before La Corsa Rosa gets to Rome?

Before all that we flew off to Napoli, rented a car and drove out to Atripalda to see the start of Stage 5. As you can see things were soggy, but that didn't stop the people from coming out! We could barely pass in-front of the Novi stand - the lure of free chocolate is pretty strong, even in the rain!

The race got started and we headed off to the finish in Salerno.

But first, PRANZO! Heather consulted our "bible" the Slowfood guide to Italy and after parking the car and some wandering the wet streets we soggily stumble into l'unico Taste of Italy. It was worth it! Sadly (for them) we were the only ones in the place as they thought the race would close access to their place by midday.

We enjoyed lots of fresh fish but since they figured on closing had nothing to offer us for dolci though they did treat us to limoncino along with a recommendation on where to go for caffe and sweets. Grazie Francesca!

Romolo was on the way back to the race finish, so off we went and were glad we did! They even served our favorite Napoli espresso so we bought a box of pods to take home.

Suitably fortified, we were ready for the race finish, still under gray skies with constant rain. But again, that didn't keep the people away!

Seemed like most headed home to dry out so we were able to get close to the presentations. Not close enough to get sprayed with prosecco but a guy behind us did catch one of the flying corks!

Post-race it was a drive along the Amalfi Coast to our night's lodging. We splurged on the best room on the was just one night...and we didn't spend on dinner, just some drinks while we watched the nightly race recap on TV. Tomorrow the race would pass right by us and our plan was to escape right after so we could cut across and see 'em pass by one more time, then race off to the airport for our flight home.

The next day was better weather-wise though there were a few showers but we were able to walk down the now closed road to get pizza, which the kind hotel management (grazie Valeria!) let us enjoy while watching the race on TV.
The race came past but our "W Magro" banner didn't get on TV as the 'copter shot was too far out, but we did score some bottles as a few teams handed 'em out to their riders just before our hotel.

After quick goodbyes, we were on-the-road behind the race, but quickly stopped at the first intersection by the police. The delay made getting to the next place to see the race a tough chore and by the time we got there it was too late... so off to the airport we went....

...only to find out our flight was delayed! Grrrr! But an ice cream cone and watching the race coverage on Heather's phone made the wait not so bad and we were back home in Sicily by 11PM.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Giro d'Italia 2023

 La Corsa Rosa 2023

 We are ready!

We'll fly to Napoli next week to see it live.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The Coolest E-bike Ever?


If you can't see this, go here.  Or here.

Made to measure in Italy. Under 12 kg. Available through our friends at Albabici. Get in line behind Heather!!!

When this first hit the TV Favaloro couldn't keep-up with the demand in Italy. He's caught up now so you have a chance to get yours.