Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Joining an Italian Cycling Club...it's different!

First you should know that Verona has 50+ cycling clubs. Second, unlike the USA where you can join several clubs, here you can only join one! The underlying reasons for this are that with club membership you also automatically obtain membership in one of the national cycling societies and you are also subscribed in an insurance program.

When you come from a culture of being in many clubs (for the flexibility in choosing different rides, being with friends that are in other clubs and going to the social events) the Italian system is somewhat confining. You could say that the opposite is true as well, i.e., the clubs here have very strong bonds between members. Choosing the right club, therefore, is very important.

Initial club membership costs about 80Euro. You typically receive a full cycling kit including bib shorts, jersey, gloves, socks, and a windbreaker. Winter jackets, pants are an additional cost.

You must also have a physical examination. There are two types: a basic physical examination that allows you to participate in all club events and non-competitive events (as an example, the short distance course in a granfondo), or a physical examination+stress test which allows you to participate in all types of events.

Not wanting to be limited to what kind of events I could enter I went the physical examination+stress test route. I visited a sports doctor where I was tested for lung capacity and put on a stationary bicycle for the cardiac stress test. Not only did the doctor review the results but the results were sent to a cardiologist for confirmation that everything was in order. Two weeks later I received a letter that states I could enter competitive events. I carry a "attivita agonistica" (competitive activity) license which has to be renewed every year, and I have to go through the test process every year. The cost of the examination is amazing low, 75Euro. For me it seems a very inexpensive proposition for verifying that my heart is OK.

By the way, I'm at that point in life where I'm in the last "age group" as far as these things go. My age group is "SUPERGENTLEMEN A". It's funny how English words work their way into the Italian language in some of the strangest places.

Shortly after arriving I joined a club whose main interest was in racing in granfondo events. I certainly wanted to do that but the club was way too serious. At the start of the following year I joined Gruppo 1, a club that was much more social, has a great program of activities, and there is a small sub-group that races in granfondos. They own their own small "sede" (headquarters) where meetings and dinners are held, and their own van for sagging on long trips. Very warm, kind and friendly people. When I am with them I am immersed in an entirely Italian world.
Photo: some of the Gruppo 1 members on the Tour of Corsica in 2006; I'm holding the rear wheel.


  1. Hi this is an interesting article. We are thinking of going to Italy next year 2010 and would like to join club rides and do some club races. Do you have to join an Italian Club to do this? or will our Australian licences do the job? How do you find a club? Can you join from afar?
    Thank you

  2. For granfondo racing you don't need a license, but you do need a letter from a doctor stating that you are fit "for competitive/racing cycling events."

    For licensed racing I believe your Aus license is ok, but best to check with the FCI, Federazione Ciclistica Italiana: http://www.federciclismo.it/index.asp

  3. I'm a 60 year old American female planning a cycling trip to Italy. I'm used to traveling alone, but this time would like to find people to ride with. I'm interested in Puglia and the Adriatic coast.
    Please help!
    Ciao and Thanks.

  4. Susana: please email me; my email address is at the bottom of any recent post.

  5. Hi, I recently moved to Florence and want to join a cycling club. Problem is, I have no idea how. I know there are a ton because I always see groups out when I ride, but there doesn't seem to be any sites online for different clubs in the area. How do I "sign up" for one?

  6. Amanda: suggest you visit a few bikes shops and get some advice. Try a few rides with differen clubs before deiding which to join. Your in a great place for cycling, finding a group shouldn't be hard.

  7. Hi, is there a way to see and purchase some of the clubs kits...I picked one up from Cafe Teatro in verona a number of years ago and love to wear it when I ride in the states..

  8. re: buying jerseys: italian ebay would be your best bet.