Friday, September 20, 2019

Summer's end in Sicily

Summer's end in Sicily

Summer's winding down and the tourist crowds are (slowly) waning here in Siracusa.

Soon we'll "get our island back" as those who live here like to say. We hope to get the keys to our house next week so we can say that too.

It's not too early to think about Piedmont Cycling Resort 2020. Once we have a better idea of your interest we'll decide on the opening and closing dates.

If you can't wait to come over until May 2020, contact us about cycling here in Sicily as the weather here is just getting better as the heat of the summer subsides.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Gelled Out?


What did bike riders eat back-in-the-day? You know, before those bars were invented? When they first came out three decades ago, some of us thought, "Cool, a sort-of banana you can throw in your pocket that never goes bad or gets smashed." They even came in banana flavor!

But they tasted like....well....not very good, no matter what flavor they made 'em in. There was a berry-flavored one that smart-asses used to unwrap and stick in their mouth like a giant tongue or the chocolate one about which they'd ponder - "Should I eat this or just put it directly into the toilet and skip the middle-man?"

Soon there were bars to eat before your ride, others to eat during your ride and still more to eat after your ride. If you followed these rules cycling could start to be a very expensive sport compared to the days of bananas and cheap manufactured snacks like the infamous Little Debbie Cake.

Next up of course were gels. No chewing needed, just yank off the end and squirt the stuff down your throat. Nothing new there really as Ambrosio has been marketing honey (see above photo) in an instant dose packet for decades.

A chemist might do a real comparison but we'd be interested to see how much difference there is in energy provided by honey, canned cake frosting or the various gels on the market. The bottom line is all of them contain various sugars which give one a boost of energy. 

But some of these things cost a lot more than others with the ones marketed directly to cyclists and runners by massive marketing efforts certainly topping the list. Somebody's got to pay for those TV ads or big bike race sponsorships - and you can guess who that is, right?

Our idea is: EAT FOOD! Enjoy a nice breakfast before your ride. If you're still out around lunch time, stop and have some lunch. It can't hurt to have something in your back pocket that lasts forever if you don't eat it, but save it for the situation where you're starved and there's no place to get anything rather than using these chemical compositions as a substitute for real, tasty food.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Pizza Napoletana in Sicily

Pizza snobs move to Sicily

We admit it - we've become insufferable snobs when it comes to pizza. Four months in the historic center of Napoli, just minutes from the most famous makers there will do that to you as regular blog readers know.

So now we've moved to Sicily with a house purchase in the works. Sicilian-style pizza is OK...just. But the stuff was supposedly invented in Napoli and nobody much argues they do it best. Now that we're down here, wouldn't it be nice to enjoy something similar now and then?

We saw the sign for this place awhile back but didn't pay much attention until we came back this week after having a truly awful pizza up north. We were sort of desperate but we were rewarded here - Anima e Core might have been near the back of the back in our Great Pizza Shootout, but they at least would be IN the pack!

That may sound like faint praise, but it's not. They even had Pino Daniele music playing, only letting us down when they didn't have a Neopolitan espresso to finish our meal.

Buon lavoro!!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Eye Candy: #? in a series


Does one have to be "of a certain age" to enjoy the look of chromed steel and polished aluminum? No carbon in sight. 

Heather's made-to-measure GIOS-Torino with a mixed groupset: Campagnolo Athena 11 Ergopower + rear derailleur and cassette. Centaur 10 triple crankset with older version Athena dual pivot brake calipers.

Cinelli (pantographed) bar/stem with Miche (pantographed) seatpost. SMP Glider saddle. Campagnolo Centaur hubs laced into Torelli/Ambrosio aluminum rims.

Painted to match (Thanks Silca and GIOS!) Silca Impero pump and Scicon under the saddle bag, SMP bar tape and Elite aluminium bottle cages.

Heather rode this at the most recent GIOS Raduno and more than one person thought it the prettiest bike at the event!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Addio Felice Gimondi

Addio Felice Gimondi 1942-2019

Italian cycling great Felice Gimondi suffered a heart attack while swimming in the sea during a vacation in Sicily.

Heather met the great man years ago and we still have the framed, autographed photo he gave her. She had Italian cycling friends in Bergamo, one of whom wrote most of the newspaper cycling columns by Gimondi in later years.

Harry & Leather met him a few times, once at a stage of the TdF as he walked along a street alone after a race finish. What a surprise! He might have been just as surprised to be recognized, but stopped to talk with us for awhile. A very nice man.

A few years later we visited our journalist friend, bringing a world-champion jersey Zio Lorenzo was using to collect autographs of all the living world champions. He already had quite a few, but somehow had left the jersey back at the hotel!! Our journalist friend was on his way to a dinner Gimondi would attend, so this was an opportunity lost.

Or so we thought! Turns out our journalist friend, who was also close to the owner and founder of a famous cycling clothing maker, detoured on his way to the dinner, picked up a maglia rosa as well as a maglia iridata and took them with him to the dinner. 

The next morning we were handed two jerseys, each personalized and autographed by Felice Gimondi!!!! We still have both and have plans to (finally) get them framed so we can mount them on the wall of our new home in Sicily.

Click here for a great Gimondi photo gallery and more details, including a special interview.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

In memory of Luciano Berruti

Luciano Berruti 1943-2017

Luciano Berruti was not the founder of the Eroica events (that was Giancarlo Brocci), but he WAS the face of them. Seemingly endless images of the man pop up at the mention of eroica or vintage cycling.

We first met him in 2015 at the smaller spring edition of the popular EROICA in Tuscany. You can read about that HERE. We saw him again at the California edition the following year which you can read about HERE. He was both pappa (Italian for father) to his sons and papa (Italian for Pope) to the EROICA faithful.

We were sad to learn of his death two years ago. We'd even contributed to a short film made about him that you can learn about HERE.

Earlier this year at the GIOS Raduno Uncle Larry rode up next to a guy on a GIOS bike with "Luciano Berruti" lettered on the top tube. He asked how he came to be riding this bike and Luciano's son Jacek introduced himself!

We'd seen him before, most recently at last year's La Ghisallo event where a memorial Mass was said in the chapel, but his face wasn't familiar enough to recognize, unlike his famous father. By the end of the raduno we'd been invited to visit Cosseria, their hometown and site of -

Check out for more details.

Various dates were set and broken (for various reasons) until we finally could attend the memorial on the two-year anniversary of Luciano's passing - he was out riding his bike (of course) when his heart gave out.

We couldn't get there to attend the ride or cemetery visit, but we did get there in time for lunch! Far more than just a post-ride pasta party, we dined with Luciano's friend and Eroica founder Giancarlo Brocci and Luciano's widow, Sofia.

Many stories and photos were swapped during the pranzo and then it was time to see the museum! This was Luciano's personal collection on display in a space provided by the town of Cosseria after Sofia told Berruti something to the effect of "either the bikes go out of the house, or you go out of the house!"

They are wonderfully displayed along with Luciano's collection of cycling jerseys. Below are photos taken by Zio Lorenzo - enjoy!

Quite a collection, eh? Luciano may be gone but he left us wonderful memories and this amazing collection to enjoy.

Grazie Luciano! 

And grazie mille to Jacek and the friends of Luciano for their warm hospitality!!!

Friday, July 26, 2019

A Day on the Col du Lautaret (yes, it rhymes)

A Day on the Col du Lautaret

Yes, it rhymes! That big race where they put the leader in a yellow shirt (we must be careful here as the organizers of this thing are very strict about using any of their many trademarked terms for Le Grand that trademarked too?) has been very interesting so far this year.

Unlike past editions that British team has not (so far) suffocated the race and when we left for France, 6 riders still had a chance to win.

We drove the Piedmont Cycling Resort support car into Briancon in about two hours, unloaded the bikes, hopped on and made our way up the Col du Lautaret, a climb the racers would take on later in the day.

Much later, but the same confusing, conflicting and generally illogical actions of the Gendarmes were on display, same as it ever was.

The last time we'd seen the race live was 2010 when BigTex' last hurrah fizzled out in Morzine, but some things never change - there's always a Gendarme with that "Barney Fife" complex who takes his instructions literally. Road signs indicated the route would be closed to traffic at noon, but nobody took that to mean cyclists. Except this guy! We lucked out by following someone with local knowledge down into the valley...and onto a double-tracked dirt trail. We were worried about flat tires but plenty of others were out there on road bikes, so on we went. 

Luckily the trail soon turned into a paved road that climbed up the valley and eventually intersected with the race route - where we were almost welcomed back onto the road! This was despite the fact the team buses were zooming up the climb with horns blasting as we rode.

We passed one more "Barney" but this one at least let us through - on foot, which turned back into on wheels as soon as we were out of his sight. We'll never know what safety or security issues were involved but we and hundreds of others continued up the road only to cheers of encouragement.

C'est la vie as they say!

The race is still popular, despite what some might have you believe and space at the top of the climb was tight, but everyone's in a party mood and one hears a lot of different languages, but all seem to speak and understand cycling at some level, whether they rode up there on a bicycle or came in a car or camper and hung around smoking cigarettes for a couple of days.

For some, the publicity caravan may be the highlight?

Ya gotta love some of the crazy creations the marketers come up with!

And then there's the majesty of the mountains and the thought that while this is a free event, you have to get up here somehow to see it.

This hotel was taken over by one of the big bike tour companies. Many years ago we'd stayed in the original, one that burned down awhile back. Their restaurant was open to the public so we scored some overpriced sausage, beer and of course - FRITES.

Anyone who considers him/herself a true bike racing fan needs to see a big race like this at least once in their life. You can watch every race on TV or via streaming and know facts and figures, but you will NEVER know what it's truly like until you are THERE.

Finally the racers arrived, with the breakaway group about 5 minutes ahead but disintegrating fast.

Those racing for the yellow shirt in Paris came by pretty much in formation.

A friend sent us this TV screen shot - our 1.5 seconds of fame?

Followed by those who'd done work for their team earlier and now had only to get to the finish under the time limit and then the rest who had only that last requirement to fulfill.

Once the broom wagon and ambulance passes, it's a free-for-all to get outta there, no matter whether you're going up or down. Luckily we were going down and the traffic wasn't too bad. We avoided any news of the race' outcome so we could replay it once back at Ariotto (and seeing ourselves at the roadside when the leaders passed the 27.7 km to-go mark - see screenshot above) like it was live.

A great stage, made even better by seeing it live, in-person!

Vive LeTour!