Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Cheap Ruche!

 Cheap Ruche...can it be real?

Anyone who has joined us at Piedmont Cycling Resort is aware of our fondness for this wine. Ruche is a rare wine from Piedmont and the production zone is within easy riding distance from the resort. 

There's a sign along the roadside as you enter the town of Castagnole Monferrato (the center of the wine production with only 100 acres devoted to this grape) that says: "If someone offers you a Ruche, it's because they like you."

That's our philosophy and most of the dinners we host at the resort's ristorante feature this wine. The taste is unique and pairs well with the foods of the Monferrato region. One year we had enough groups for enough dinners to exhaust the ristorante's supply! We begged for more but were told the bottling can be done only around the full moon so we'd have to wait!

Eventually the supply was replenished but the joke about how the CycleItalia guests drank up ALL the Ruche persists. We're not ashamed as this wine deserves its cult status. Some of our clients have told us it can even be found in the USA and they delight in sharing something they're pretty sure their friends have never tasted.

We were up in the region last summer and bought up a selection of Ruche wines to bring back to Sicily to go with our Piedmont-themed dinners. Sicilian wines are great but sometimes we want something different, especially to go with the food from the Piedmont region like risotto.

Not too long ago we found some cheap Ruche wine here in Sicily, at LIDL of all places! This store is kind of like the Trader Joe's of Europe you might say - they have products from all over the world as well as specialties from the local region and elsewhere.

They have a regular promotion called "American Week" where we score bottles of real maple syrup (from Canada) as well as some pretty decent peanut butter, all at very reasonable prices.

So when we saw this Bricchidorati Ruche at about 1/2 of what we'd pay in a supermarket in Monferrato (and you can't find it here in Sicily) we bought a case! Today Zio Lorenzo grabbed what he thought was one of them to go with our pranzo of Carlo Zarri's "Enchanting Langa Salad" followed by a vegetable risotto.

The label looked similar but not quite the same, so after lunch down he went to our "wine cellar" to compare. You can see the two bottles in the photos and upon close inspection notice the description on the back is identical so it's a reasonable guess the LIDL cheap version was produced and bottled for them by Luca Ferraris, a name you can see along the road we take out of Castagnole Monferrato, for us one of the most scenic stretches of road you'll ever cycle. Their version is called Terre del Parroco and our guess is they supply the bottles filled and sealed with just the DOCG strips on the neck so LIDL can add their Bricchidorati labels and sell 'em in their stores.

We'll be on the lookout for more of this at LIDL and if you ever see this wine at your local wine shop, be assured that it's the real thing and it's good, as the DOCG should suggest.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

Fausto Coppi in Siracusa?


Here's a photo of Fausto Coppi in Siracusa from November 1947. Who knew Il Campionissimo was here? Next to him is local guy (from Floridia, a place we ride past regularly) Gino Aglieco. There was a GP di Ragusa soon after this photo was taken, suggesting Sicily's been a great place for winter training for a long time.

The photo is from COPPI per sempre by Auro Bulbarelli. As far as Zio Lorenzo knows it's yet to be translated into English, but you can see some of the pages in this video clip.

Zio's plowing through this 2-book set page-by-page, improving his understanding of Italian in the process...or so he thinks!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Happiest Holidays 2020

 Happiest Holidays 2020

 Wherever you are and whomever you're with during this difficult time we hope you can find some joy in this season.

2021 can't get here fast enough!!!

Harry & Leather on their tiny terrace in Sicily Christmas Day 2020

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Let's get FAT!

Let's get FAT!

Nah, we're not talking about the extra pounds you might put on at holiday time or what you might gain from restricted activity due to the pandemic, we're talking TIRES.

Zio Lorenzo's been musing about a super-monster-gravel bike project but so far has been too cheap to pull-the-trigger on one. Your can read more about that HERE.

Meanwhile, he's now mounted up these way-fat tires on the ancient MTB. These babies are FAT!!!

Fat, fat, fat!!! The old Schwinn "balloon" tires come to mind, but these are high-quality tires with a supple carcass and great ride, perfect (as they note) for making your old 26" wheeled MTB into something more useful....which really means fun, right?

Since Zio Lorenzo no longer has interest in bouncing around over big rocks (or worse, falling off and landing on 'em) he was looking for a way to turn this old bike into something more fun to ride on non-asphalted roads and trails....like the old daze in SoCal.

How fat are they? Check out the images here with the calipers showing just how fat they are. They remind Zio of the racing slick tires fitted to some small GP-style motorbikes!

They say knobs and such are only useful when there's mud or soft-enough dirt for 'em to dig in and let's be honest - how often is that the case? So why slog along pushing those squirmy (and noisy) knobs around? The GEAX tires put on this bike for riding around Rome were the eye-opener as even with their knobs, compared to the moto-inspired, stiff-carcassed Panaracer Dart and Smoke we previously used on these bikes they rolled like silk tubulars! 

These bald fatties seemed a logical next step. A fast, twisting paved descent could be BIG, BIG, fun on this bike...the V-style brakes work pretty well paired with the proper brake levers ... and there's a big contact patch of rubber on the road. But of course first ya gotta pedal it up to the top!

But for now it's providing some fun and keeping Zio from coughing up the thousands of euros for that fantasy super-monster-gravel bike.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Greg LeMond receives Congressional Gold Medal

 Congratulations CHAMP!

This news reminded Zio Lorenzo that he never followed up THIS post from awhile back. Here's the rest of that story:

After our great interview at the 1989 Giro, where LeMond had some encouragement with a second placing in the final chrono stage in Florence we hoped he'd a) show up at the Tour a few weeks later and b) be willing to indulge us as promised with some interviews.

To this end our boss at the tour company even flew over some Mexican food items in his luggage, knowing "The Champ's" fondness for them. He figured handing them over was the perfect excuse to remind Greg that we had a group there and were excited to see him do well...and of course grant us some time to speak with our group.

The chase began with handing over the goodies and trying to find a time and place that would work for LeMond. These were days long before team buses, in fact the place we finally caught up with LeMond was some sort of school where the riders were put up for the night in a huge dormitory.

Yep, you read that right - some of the biggest stars in the sport had to share quarters with the rest of the peloton! We got there early to stake out our spot and wait for LeMond to arrive, taking a look around in the vast room where beds were set up, imagining 100+ tired pro cyclists snoring away all night. They even had those huge, round "sinks" where 20 people could gather round and wash their hands all at the same time! A lot of the glamor of being a pro cyclist at that time drained away after seeing this.

We waited outside as other team cars arrived with the riders inside to set things up for massages, bike servicing, dinner, etc. LeMond, as one of the protagonists (I can't remember if he was in the yellow jersey on this day or not) was certainly going to be one of the last to arrive after media interviews, etc.

So we waited...and waited. We had staff members staged around to watch for his arrival and let our group know, just-in-case Greg decided to sneak onto the grounds from a different entrance. We'd been promised an interview and we were going to get one!

Other ADR team vehicles arrived but none of 'em had Greg inside. Our guests began to mill around, distracted by the arrival of other teams but we tried to corral them, not wanting "The Champ" to show up and have to wait, the boss wanted to usher him right over to our waiting group the minute he climbed out of the team car.

When the moment arrived, the look on LeMond's tired face was not encouraging but he brightened up quickly as the Americans started shouting his name. The boss led him over to the waiting group where he sat down on the grass in front of us and started talking.

Just like back in Italy, he talked and talked. Various other fans would come over but not understanding enough English would soon wander off. Finally an ADR staffer showed up and almost dragged LeMond away to his massage, etc. as our group applauded. A future interview was agreed upon quickly and the details worked out, so off we went.

The final week of LeTour had our interview set up at the team hotel near Aix Les Bains but some late arriving clients delayed our arrival so long that LeMond was already going to dinner by the time we arrived.

"The Champ" seemed almost as sad about this as we were but suggested we try again - "What about the last day?" he asked. "There's a time trial starting in Versailles. We could do it there before I start."

Yep, a guy battling to win LeTour was willing to spend time with us before what was the most important time-trial stage of his racing career. With no money changing hands. The boss said we'd get back to him before we went out to explain to our group that we'd arrived too late but were trying to reschedule, despite already thinking that getting the entire group out to Versailles from our lodging near the Champs Elysees would be impossible.

There was some private talk amongst the staff of sneaking out there on the day, but we knew that wouldn't be fair, so the idea was dropped. Instead we took a train out there just to congratulate LeMond on his fine effort, figuring he had zero chance of making up the time gap to overcome Laurent Fignon in the yellow jersey.

We went back to our hotel in Paris and later out onto the Champs Elysees to see history being made with LeMond putting in an amazing performance to win LeTour 1989.

Thanks Greg!

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Book Review: GIRO 100

 GIRO 100 by Herbie Sykes

Zio Lorenzo's a big fan of Giro d'Italia history books but his Italian reading comprehension's not really good enough to get all of the subtleties or metaphors in Italian-language books on the subject.

To the rescue come guys like Herbie Sykes! GIRO 100 was created after Sykes sought out and met up with 100 different people involved with La Corsa Rosa over the years from racers, directors, organizers, sponsors and others.

There's a great chapter about our friend Aldo Gios which would make the book worth the price on its own but Zio found the other 99 just as interesting and entertaining.

Sykes' MAGLIA ROSA was such a great book we couldn't resist adding a copy to a promotion we did around our friend "Chairman Bill" McGann's The Story of the Giro d'Italia when it first came out. If you enjoyed those books you'll love GIRO 100.

There's probably still time to get a copy for the cycling enthusiast on your holiday gift list. Click HERE to get one.