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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

CycleItalia's new support vehicle

Larry's always been fascinated by the old Fiat 500's, the beloved "Topolino" seen all over Italy. So he couldn't resist when this rare "Giardiniera" version came along. This one even has the "suicide" doors!

We're currently having a roof rack custom-made for the bikes though getting more than 4-5 of 'em up there will be a challenge. The fold-down rear seat will come in handy, though our travel times might need some adjustment as the tiny two-cylinder engine underneath will have a tough time matching the speed of our usual turbo-diesel support van, especially with the windows open - as there's no air conditioning.

Ciclismo come una volta? Indeed!

Note: posted on April Fool's Day 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring into Primavera (Spring)

The European clocks were moved forward into "summer time" this weekend and the weather here in Rome signaled approval. A gorgeous spring day was predicted, perfect for getting out on the bikes.

After a relaxing cappuccino at the local bar, we headed out to the Appia Antica on our ancient MTBs. First stop along the way was to check out Capo di Bove as you can see above.

These private baths date to the 2nd century.

We later passed these soldiers, perhaps on their way to the baths? Must have taken a wrong turn due to a malfunctioning GPS unit and showed up a bit late?

After bouncing around on the ancient paving stones we headed over to the Street Food Festival where it seems everyone and his fratello had the same idea on this gorgeous spring day?

With so many people (after all this is ROME!) it might have been renamed the "Standing in Line Festival" as this was the order of the day.

We lined up for olive ascolani, the tasty stuffed and fried olives, then for beer. As soon as you got whatever they were selling once you arrived at the front of the line, you got into another line, enjoying your treats while waiting for the next ones.

One place ran out of the treat we were after while we were in line! Perhaps it was for the best as these fried things were pretty heavy. 

We pedaled home, cleaned up and settled in for what turned out to be a marathon of bike races on TV. We are really spoiled here between RAI Sport which showed the final day of the Coppi-Bartali stage race from Emilia-Romagna, SKY's Bike Channel showing Ghent-Wevelgem and Eurosport showing the Tour of Catalonia and Criterium International!

After all that (great win by Paolini at G-W!) it was time for dinner so we wandered over to Lumie for Sicilian specialties, including fresh fish and a very good caponata. Not quite like being there but close enough on a lovely spring evening.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Interview with the founder of l'Eroica

Your hosts at their first visit to L'Eroica in 2011

L’Eroica started in 1997 because of one man, Giancarlo Brocci, who admired the values of cycling’s past so much that he wanted to reconnect others to that heritage, one inspired by Italian history, literature, culture, and music. L’Eroica also began as a foundation for the protection and preservation of the last gravel roads in Tuscany. The ride was born and held in and around the Chianti region, with 92 “hunters of feelings and emotions,” as Brocci calls them, at the first event.
Now, the charm and effort of riding a vintage bike over rolling country hills has spread throughout the world, including events in England, Spain, and Japan, and, this year, California.
On April 13, Paso Robles, California, will host Eroica California, taking advantage of the beautiful unpaved and paved roads through the vineyards, oak-studded rolling hills, and coastal mountain ranges of San Luis Obispo County in central California. It will be the first Eroica with an ocean view.
VeloNews spoke with founder Brocci (through a translator) to learn more about the event and the L’Eroica phenomenon.

Read the interview HERE

Then let us know your thoughts. We're considering a "strade bianche" tour in Tuscany in the future. You wouldn't (though we'd certainly encourage it) have to show up with a pre '87 bike meeting L'Eroica regulations, instead you could ride one of our now-classic steel machines or bring your own modern bicycle, same as our other tours.

Like all of our itineraries, this idea began as something we would enjoy ourselves. If we get some positive feedback, we'll start working on it. 

We're planning to revisit Tuscany in 2016 with a guided tour following the route of our current self-guided itinerary, so no dirt roads on this one. A "strade bianche" itinerary would be new, possibly circumnavigating the full 200 km Eroica signposted route over a couple days combined with more great cycling in fabled Toscana.  Perhaps in 2017? 

Sound good? Let us know.

Blog posts about our various bici d'epoca adventures can be found by typing EROICA into the Google search bar at the top of the page.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Milano-Sanremo 2015

"La Primavera"  (literally the spring, as in after winter) or "La Classicissima" (the classic of classics) RCS' Milano-Sanremo race is Sunday. For us this marks the real start of the pro racing season. We're not going up there this year as Heather has other commitments and we saw it live back in 2010 when the photo below was taken. More details on all that HERE.

Larry pauses near the top of the Poggio back in 2010

The first of the Five Monuments of Cycling, followed of course by Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, L-B-L and Lombardia, Milano-Sanremo is the longest single-day race on the pro calendar.

One of our favorite books about these races is "The Spring Classics" published by our friends at Velopress.

Even though today the tiny tunnel atop the Passo Turchino has been replaced with a modern, two-lane galleria, you can still get an idea of what it must have been like to emerge from the damp, gray skies of the Lombardy plains into the spring sunshine of Liguria all those years ago.

All this leads up to a blatant commercial sales pitch (it's OUR blog after all!),for the last two places available on our special itinerary to pay homage to this great race, June 22-29, 2015. Don't miss out!

Sunday, March 15, 2015 epic day!

Stage 5 of the 2015 "Race of the Two Seas" was billed as the big showdown between the "Fabulous Four" until Chris Froome failed to start. But Vincenzo Nibali, the "Shark of the Straights", Alberto "Il Pistolero" Contador and Nairo "The Condor" Quintana were there...and so were we.

As veteran race-watchers, the first order of business is making sure we have adequate food so we stopped by L'Oste del Re in Orvieto for panini porchetta.

We went up to Orvieto to escape the closed roads and helicopter racket from the filming of the next 007 movie atop the Janiculum Hill Sunday morning, starting at 5 AM! Saturday night we enjoyed a nice bottle of wine, prosciutto and cheese at L'Oste, known for their cured meats and local cheeses as much as their wonderful porchetta, which you can see above.

Sunday morning armed with porchetta sandwiches and a bottle of beer, we were ready to head to the race. As you can see above, the weather wasn't really so great for waiting by the roadside (or in the car) enjoying a porchetta sandwich until the race came past. Yes, that is the finish line in the background. It hadn't starting snowing all that much...yet.

So we did what we did the last time we were up here and the weather was bad, when we went to see a stage of the Giro d'Italia. When the going gets tough, the tough go to lunch! So we found a nice, warm place to enjoy some hot soup, sausage, roast potatoes along with some vino rosso, etc. We then hiked up the last kilometer and took up a spot across from the big-screen TV so we could keep up on the action.

To keep warm we had to stamp our feet and venture off to secure some hot drinks, but as the weather grew ever more grim, we knew we might be in for one of those epic "We were there" days that will be talked about for years. There was some rumor about cancelling the stage but the finish was all uphill and the team buses were here for the riders to take shelter as soon as they finished. We're happy the organizers insisted on racing!

As you might imagine, there were not too many fans crazy enough to come out to see a race under these weather conditions so we had little trouble getting up close. Here you see Movistar's "The Condor" with just a few meters to go, taking the stage win and overall lead.

Followed by Bauke Mollema of Trek Factory Racing, who was a bit of a surprise.

Then Tinkof's "Il Pistolero"  and some companions.

Astana's Vincenzo "The Shark" Nibali came past a bit later. Seems he's lacking a bit of form at present, but doesn't seem too concerned. When your goal is to be at peak condition in July, it would seem comforting to see your major rivals in such great condition in March. How can they maintain this fitness all the way to July? Questions were asked about Nibali's form last year but he came through when it counted. Will it be the same in 2015?

By the time the team helpers started to arrive, the road was pretty slick. As you can see they rode in the tracks of the cars to avoid spinning their wheels. By this time we were pretty well frozen ourselves so retreated back to the place we had lunch for some warm drinks as we waited for the traffic to settle down. In case you wonder what happened to the porchetta sandwiches.....they were preserved just fine in the car in the cold temperature and tasted oh-so-good as dinner once we got home!!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Strade Bianche Eroica Pro 2015

Say the title fast three times!! It's a mouthful, but we got a mouthful (and more) of dust at Strade Bianche 2015, our third visit. You can read about our first and second via the links, but here's the story of our third time seeing this soon-to-be classic.

As experienced race-watchers, the first order-of-business was to swing off the A1 autostrada as we neared the frontier of "porchetta country" and pick up a couple of tasty panini stuffed with this roasted pork, a bottle of vino rosso, some apples and a chunk of pecorino cheese. Back on the road towards Siena, Heather navigates us to our first sector of strada sterrata, about 50 kms into the race. We've got plenty of time to relax and enjoy our lunch, but it's so cold and windy Heather got out of the car only for this pose!

There was plenty of standing around in the cold wind, making us very glad we were not out there on bicycles! In fact, we scrapped that idea entirely for the weekend though we were staying over until Sunday rather than returning to Rome right away.

No helicopter flying above this early in the race so we were warned of the race's approach via an official car followed shortly by an early breakaway: 8 guys with more than 8 minutes lead on the lethargic peloton. And in this cold and wind, who could blame them?

We both got back in the car while we waited for the peloton, here led by almost the entire Movistar team trying to control things for their captain, Alejandro Valverde who would go on to finish 3rd, just like last year.

And just as quickly they were gone with just dust clouds well as all the team cars, press cars, broom wagon and ambulance. But with such a compact group, it was easy to (especially as we'd parked the car heading back against the course so we could make a quick escape) get back to the highway.

We zoomed along, bisecting the basic course loop to a long section of sterrata, one we'd watched from before, knowing some interesting action might happen here. The panoramic view of the race approach was important as well. 

We stopped just beyond the top of Monte Sante Marie (again poised for a quick escape) where some team staff had parked, so we knew this could be a crucial spot, plus it was just a few kilometers from the highway to ease our race to Siena to see the finale.

The Garmin boys had spare wheels and were hoping former winner Moreno Moser might do the trick again, while his fan club was up here in force as well.

Meanwhile the Lampre guys were busy taping packets of liquid food onto bottles for their riders using high-tech..........duct tape. 

Above you can see (despite the less-than-great image) Peter Sagan and eventual winner Zdenek Stybar as Sagan forces the pace. Sagan would run-out-of-gas soon after this, but maybe is still short of form, waiting for the real monuments of cycling to come later?

Vincenzo Nibali went by so fast all I could get was this blurry shot of his butt! He probably didn't want anyone to ask about Astana's license issues?

Shots like this one are one of the reasons we go to these races rather than watch 'em on TV where all the action unfolds from the comfort of your couch. But if a race like this was going on an hour or two by car from where YOU lived, we hope you'd go see it live too. It's hard to get more close to the action than this!

Or this!

After racing into Siena and parking the car, we ran into the Campo in time to see the final attack on the big screen TV and the winner cross the finish line. Sadly Larry's camera lens was not long enough to get any closer, but you can see how good our vantage point was.

Close enough to almost reach out and touch the winner as he reached the team staff for their congratulations.

Post-race we retired to a nearby agriturismo and a simple, casual dinner. Next morning, having scrapped our cycling plan we set out to cover some more of the famous white roads in the car as R & D for a possible future itinerary. Let us know your thoughts about a vacation featuring Eroica-style riding on these famous roads, but CycleItalia style and in May or June when the weather should be perfect. You won't need to come up with a vintage bicycle or cycling kit, you can ride one of our now-classic steel bikes or bring your own, whatever it's made from!

We capped our weekend with Sunday pranzo HERE before returning to Rome and hope you all had a great weekend too. Next week we'll head off to see a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, the Race of the Two Seas.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The REAL racing season starts

We're off to see Strade Bianche this weekend.

As the REAL pro racing season ramps up this weekend with Strade Bianche in Tuscany, far too many of you in the USA will despair of seeing these great races. Check HERE to find out how to get 'em on your computer, then hook it up to your big-screen TV, make yourself a cappuccino, then sit back and enjoy.