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Sunday, May 24, 2015

CAPS! Not hats! (the rest of the story)

We've been fans of cycling caps since...well...a long time. Back-in-the-day we had a very extensive collection of caps from famous (and not-so-famous) teams. When we began CycleItalia one of the first things we did was include a classic cap in the cycling clothing order we placed. Few things we've found in Italy make friends as quickly as the gift of a cycling cap!

We've kept a supply of caps over the years, beginning with a classic one including a green-white-red ribbon and our current model which (sadly) ended up with the tricolore screened on rather than being a sewn-on ribbon. Those are available in Italy along with the rest of our signature cycling kit. (various types of jerseys, plus bib-shorts, socks, gloves, wind vests and jackets, etc.)

In addition you can click HERE to purchase online our retro-wool jersey or sweater.

Now, you can also score a really nice cap to go with it! We wanted a high-quality, vintage-look cap with the retro tricolore ribbon, just like our original, so we asked the nice folks at reddotscycling to make us some, and to make them available directly to you.

Note: these are far from promotional giveaways or inexpensive throwaways, but instead a cap you'll treasure for a long, long time. 

Click HERE to order your cap.

CAPS! Not hats.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Giro d'Italia theme song

Love it or hate it, THIS is the Giro d'Italia theme song used on the RAI broadcasts. The video that goes with it is, well, interesting?

Larry's working on an English-translation as part of his Italian-language class.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bici d'Epoca - DO try this at home!

Heather (L) with our friend, Maynard Hershon at L'Eroica 2014

One of our favorite sites on the web, has posted Larry's essay on how to prepare your bici d'epoca. You can see it by clicking HERE. Thanks Bill!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Giro d'Italia 2015 - More Living the Dream

Wow, this was a challenging day. How much fun can one stand? Giro d'Italia Stage 7, a 264 km marathon from Grossetto to Fiuggi started for the riders around 10:30 AM.

Celeste Milani left his house about the same time to pick Larry up at the Academy by 11 AM. Right on time and off we went! Unlike the riders our first goal was PRANZO and the tiny town of Artena was our destination.

As you might guess, a steep climb was on tap...luckily we were in the car!

By the time we arrived at Locanda del Principe (shown above) the riders had covered almost 100 kilometers and we'd developed good appetites. This tiny, Slowfood recommended place was about halfway between Rome and Fiuggi, leaving us plenty of time for all the courses as well as plenty of time to get to the race finish. A little advance planning goes a long way! We went all-in, enjoying a mixed antipasto of various sliced meats, a prima salata cheese and fresh zucchini along with locally made Cesanese vino.

Our first plates were a wonderful gnocchi lunghi (think of the consistency of gnocchi but in a long, "pici" type noodle) dressed with fresh menta romana, zucchini, pecorino cheese and guanciale. Unique and very, very tasty.

Second plates we again agreed upon, the classic abbacchio scottadito (tiny lamb chops) that were so hot they actually "scotta'd our diti" (burned our fingers) when we picked them up.

We finished with a delicious, homemade variation on tiramisu with fresh strawberries before hopping back in the car and heading to Fiuggi.

Celeste had contacted a friend (more on him later) who worked with the Giro and thought he could score us VIP passes, so off we went first-thing to the race HQ to see how lucky we might be?

A phone call or three, then sitting in front of some helpful ladies and soon enough we were VIP'd, complete with photo ID badges! As you can see above we wasted NO time heading off to the special, reserved space with TV coverage, snacks and drinks of all kinds.

All just 50 meters from the finish line as you can see from the "first-floor" but we later moved down to the ground level for a close up view. A big screen TV was right behind us so we could keep up on the action as the race grew near.

Meanwhile, some real VIP's came in, including the ever-green Gianni Motta. Can you believe this guy is 70+ years old?

How 'bout World and Olympic cycling champion Paolo Bettini? These guys were riding with clients and such of the Mediolanum bank, sponsor of the blue (used to be green back-in-the-day) climbers jersey.

Then there was the Balocco "Cookie Man" as part of the publicity caravan. This may not rival the one at Le Beeg Shew, but it's loud and colorful just the same.

As usual, when you're AT the race, you really don't have a great grasp on what's going on, it's more about being there to soak-up the atmosphere live, but it's pretty cool when you can snap a photo of the final sprint like this, even if you can't tell who actually won. The fans were repeatedly asked to keep their hands (and everything else) out of the way of the riders.

On the way out, Milani wanted to track down Francesco Simula, his friend who arranged for our VIP passes. I suggested we walk toward the RAI TV trucks where we ran into Massimo Ghirotto, a stage winner at all three Grand Tours who now works for RAI radio as a moto commentator. Above you can see him posing with Celeste.

Just then Milani got a call from Simula, who rides on the back of RAI's moto 1 and operates the camera to give us a lot of those great TV images each day. As you can see above we ran right down to meet him. MILLE GRAZIE to both of these nice guys for arranging Larry's VIP credentials!!!

We passed by the Tinkov team trucks next and Milani wanted to say CIAO to friend Ivan Basso. He'd already gone to his hotel so we missed him. This mobile kitchen was parked nearby, seemingly ready to cook up food. I don't know what the story is about the Grand Tour Kitchen but the smells coming out of this thing reminded me of one of the frite wagons at races in Belgium!

Larry got back to the Academy in time to score a dish of homemade gelato, capping an extraordinary day of living the dream!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Greg LeMond - the only American TdF champion

Greg LeMond is a world-class nice guy. Why? Here's an example: 

Back-in-the-day when we worked with another tour operation, one of their features were interviews with English-speaking pro riders at the Tour, Giro, etc.

At the Giro d'Italia in 1989, for some reason the usual riders the boss arranged interviews with were unavailable. Greg LeMond was "racing" and as a former world-champion and Tour de France winner we thought the clients would enjoy meeting him. We inquired through Otto Jacome, his right-hand-man at the Giro. He thought "The Champ" would be interested so we set things up for later in the tour. 

Amazingly, some in our little group were not interested! We drove over to the team hotel with those who were and everyone was delighted with Greg's stories and personality. When it was time to leave, the boss asked about interviews at the upcoming Tour de France. "If I'm in it!" was LeMond's response, who said he was just starting to feel better on his long recovery from the gunshot accident that almost cost him his life.

The boss wanted the interviews and explained what he'd been paying the others, offering the former world-champ and Tour winner double the amount. LeMond balked...asking for 1500, I think it was. The boss blinked and repeated his first offer..$1000.

LeMond smiled and replied, "No, it'll cost you 1500...lire. You can buy me a coffee. I'll do it for free."

He did too. In probably the most important race of his life, he came through with interviews at the 1989 Tour de France. We actually missed the second one due to late arrival (by us, not Greg) but he was willing to reschedule the morning of the final time trial. Imagine that.

Here's a link to an article on what Greg's up to these days.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Museo del Ghisallo

It's BACK! We just learned the famous Museo del Ghisallo has reopened. Last year we were unable to contact anyone to open it for our Legendary Climbs of the Giro clients. It's open again so don't miss out on a chance to ride the famous climbs and visit one of the most famous cycling museums in the entire world. We have two places left on our Legendary Climbs 2015 tour. Don't miss out!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Ciclismo come una volta (Cycling as it used to be)

Let's see. How best NOT to prepare for a challenging bike ride? First, take almost 4 weeks off from riding with family visits, getting sick and taking two rounds of three different antibiotics and then spend a few days driving a car and working on bicycles until the big day. That should do it!!!

But THIS is Eroica Primavera! We're going and we're RIDING, one way or another!! Larry already missed L-B-L due to sickness but he now seemed to be recovered enough...but just enough. As the song says, "You have to try. What would you be if you didn't try?" Above you can see a view out the window of our lodging in Montalcino.

And here's another. Sadly, while Larry was over the worst of his sickness, a common cold grabbed him on the way to Tuscany to meet Heather after collecting our bici d'epoca from our HQ in Piemonte. His taste buds went on strike as a result, so Heather was left to enjoy the great wine and food in Montalcino for him.

He actually felt a bit better by the next morning and was determined to ride (and enjoy) the great dirt roads only the 200+ km riders get to ride on L'Eroica in October. This Primavera event was a great idea with a start in Buonconvento to allow those who aren't hard-core crazies (and who don't want to start a ride in the dark for Pietro's sake!) and perhaps those put-off by the massive crowds at the original event to enjoy some of these roads and scenery. In addition to this Primavera edition there's now one in California, Japan, Spain and the UK. 

For us one of the most compelling reasons for riding the shorter loops is the reasonable starting time. Starting around 9 AM is just.. well...civilized. We have all day to enjoy riding and it's far from a race or something we're eager to "get over with" as the whole point is to enjoy seeing the other vintage bikes (and riders) and admire the beautiful scenery while experiencing the peaceful, almost car-free roads.

Here at the PARTENZA you see just how uncrowded it was. Even a guy riding the wrong way or Heather stopping for a photo is no big deal. This is how we imagine the early days of L'Eroica must have been, before everybody and his fratello decided to participate. While we're not going to begrudge the organizer his success or the popularity of his events, something is lost when crowds become too big, lines become too long and roads become slaloms (both up and down) because there are just too many people in the same place at the same time.

We've read a few accounts of the recent Eroica California event. One "journalist" who shall go un-named seemed to fail to grasp the concept. He whined about having to walk up a steep climb and about missing a turn, then made reference to using a GPS device. We think ANY sort of electronic device not available in 1987 should be banned, though we'll cut some slack for a cell phone discreetly tucked into a back pocket in case of emergency. Strava? Forget it! The same guy mentioned nothing about the rest stops (RISTORO in Italian) which are one of the highlights of this type of event. Above you see bike parking at the first one we came to. A cypress tree for every bike!

Each RISTORO is an opportunity to highlight the culinary delights of the region as well as provide energy for the riders. Above you can see Heather ready to dig into fettunta, (sliced, toasted bread with oil and salt) crostata (jam tart) pecorino cheese, prosciutto or salami panini, fresh fruit and your choice of water or Chianti. NO "energy" bars or drinks! Just REAL food and plenty of it. 

The fellow above is a regular at the Eroica events. His photo is seen all over the website and other promotional materials for Eroica. He came up to us and said "What a beautiful couple!" pointing to our matching retro outfits. (Grazie to Soigneur, Nalini and Vittoria by the way) He told us about attending the recent California Eroica event.. this is a guy who "gets it". Larry couldn't help but ask if the RISTORI in California were like the one we were enjoying and he admitted they were not quite the same, but it was the first time for the event and he was confident that eventually they would get it right. California produces some great wine and other things so it should be a no-brainer to stock their rest-stops with the delights of the region.

We counted back numbers up to 1000+, far from the cut-off of 5000 at the original event held in October of each year. While we think the Primavera version could have been just fine with perhaps 2000 participants, we were happy it was small. No elbowing to get your card stamped, no long lines anywhere. Everybody was friendly, a true no-stress event for the participants, quite different from the October version, which is a bit over-the-top these days. Larry has a theory about doubling the number of participants in an activity resulting in the number of jerks involved increasing by an exponent of 10, so perhaps 1000 or so enjoying these events keeps them enjoyable for everyone?

Above you can see one of the tougher climbs on the CORTO route. Most we talked with commented on the climbs in this region being less challenging than the ones on the routes up near Gaiole. We agreed, though with so little cycling form they were plenty challenging enough for us, even with our low gears. Many, many people are forced to walk these as their vintage bikes simply don't have gears low enough, which really makes one appreciate the efforts the old legends of cycling had to make while racing over roads like these. Since we didn't attend the California event we can't say for sure about those hills, but the journalist who whined about having to dismount and walk must not have any passion for or understanding of the legends of the sport. Think of the days when racers had to dismount, remove a rear wheel and turn it around to change gear or operate a lever system on the seat-stay that loosened the rear wheel, then you pedaled backwards to a different gear before securing the wheel (you  hoped) and continuing on your way.

Unlike the California "journalist", we had a GREAT time, despite Larry being sick and both of us short-of-form. We started slow and tapered off from there like we do so often. Interestingly enough, on the flatter, rolling or downhill sections we often caught up to those who'd dropped us on the previous climb, though now and then they'd pass us again on the next climb. Events like these remind us of why we got into this sport in the first place. The friendly atmosphere and the beautiful machines combined with that Italian "hospitality-gene" (could that have been missing in CA?) make these events 100% fun...if you have the right attitude.

We think Eroica and the other bici d'epoca events (which these days are almost every weekend somewhere in Italy) are the cycling equivalent of vintage car rallies but without the beard-stroking, tut-tutting and comments about someone's radiator cap not being "period correct". While some have a "concours" type display, the real fun is the riding of the bikes and admiring them in their true, dusty element. Even when you stop and help a guy who's obviously never changed a tubular in his life (he had no glue so I hope he was careful in the turns!) and is struggling get his rear wheel off, it's fun.

When you're finally off the bike and sitting down at the "pasta party" it's still fun, especially when they put a plate of pasta, various cold-cuts and cheese in front of you along with a bottle of Tuscan Sangiovese. Then they bring you more of those tasty crostate for dessert! On top of this they hand you a specially-marked bottle of Rosso di Montalcino as a trophy just for finishing, as long as you get your route card stamped at each checkpoint, something Larry failed to do in October, missing out on the special bottle of Chianti Classico.

We feel sorry for those who can't enjoy cycling without carbon-fiber, engineered food and electronic devices to monitor "performance". Cycling was (and is) a wonderful sport and activity before ANY of those things were available. This is the spirit we try to re-create with our tours, though we'll still welcome you with your carbon bike and we'll even avert our eyes if you unwrap and eat engineered food between meals! But with us, it will still be like...