Sunday, April 29, 2007

Riding the "La Pissarotta"

One of my favorite rides for a very good 3 hour work out is that of riding the "La Pissarotta". The route takes approximately 2 hours of climbing followed by 1 hour of descending.
From the center of Verona a short ride takes you to Montorio. From Montorio you head north through Mizzole and onto the "La Pissarotta". This is a beautiful road for cycling. Tranquil, narrow, shady and cool, and always gradually climbing. It's a road that wears you down. At the end, you turn right and then a quick left to go to Squaranto and some other villages lost in time before finally arriving at Rovere V. From Rovere V. I follow the signs to Velo V. and then to Rocca. This puts you onto a ridge road that is east of the Pissarotta and then it's a beautiful descent with incredible views all the way back to Montorio.
In an interview with Damiano Cunego he mentions using the Pissarota for training, ".....per tornare a casa Damiano deve comunque raggiungere gli 843 metri d’altezza di Cerro veronese. Per arrivarci ci sono diverse strade (tutte in salita, naturalmente), la più gettonata da Damiano è la cosiddetta “Pissarotta”, 8 kilometri con pendenza media del sette per cento, con punte che negli ultimi tre kilometri raggiungono il dieci." Maybe one of these days I'll meet him.
Photos: "La Pissarotta" is in red

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Damiano Cunego Ready for Giro d'Italia

Local rider Damiano Cunego is ready for the Giro d'Italia. He won the 31st edition of the Giro del Trentino, in the Trento region north of Verona. He looked very strong in the climbing stages.

By the way, Cunego is a huge "Doors" fan.

Photos: winning at the line; wearing the leader's jersey, with the podium girls

Monday, April 23, 2007

Village of Montecchio

The village of Montecchio is tucked into a small valley in the hills just a few miles from Verona. After a climb up to Cola you descend slightly to find this view. I usually take this route to avoid traffic in order to reach the hills of Valpolicella.

Photo: cherry trees in bloom in Montecchio.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Richard Sachs S&S Build Update

The wheels (!) are in motion.

I stopped in at FONTANA to drop off the Campagnolo Record 36 hole hubs. The wheels will be built-up with Mavic Open Pro rims in silver and black DT Swiss spokes and ergal nipples. Should be fairly light and strong. I thought I'd go with the black spokes so the wheels would be a little different (+they'll look good with another "project" bike that is in the wings).

Then it was to the Gruppo 1 bike shop sponsor, "La bice e.....". They will be installing the Campagnolo Centaur gruppo. I brought along the cable splitters, old style Cinelli stem (the bike has a threaded steerer), Cinelli deep bend handlebars, Chris King headset, and Richard Sachs handlebar tape. I also brought along photos of the where and hows of the cable splitter installations as S&S couplers are virtually unheard of in Italy.

I like riding different bikes. As your ride more, and the more bikes you ride, you begin to get a better understanding of how different each bike can be. I find it interesting and fascinating. Everyone speaks of the great ride quality of a Richard Sachs so I'm looking forward to finding out for myself. Plus, I thought it would be fun to be riding a great American framebuilder's work here in Italy. Come to think of it, it will be nice to ride it on my visit to Dario Pegoretti.

Gruppo 1 Organized Raduno

Each UDACE associated club in Verona is responsible for organizing a raduno. Today was the turn of my club, Gruppo 1.

Club members began appearing at the home of Sergio Guerra at 0715. Tables had to be set-up for registration, for the sandwiches, pasta, wine and beverages to be served, and trophies and awards. While the men were doing that the women were busy making the sandwiches and cooking.

The raduno started at 0900. The sponsoring club always gets to ride at the front of the approximately 500 riders, setting the pace. The first part of the raduno is slow and it gives all cyclists a chance to ride in the group. The "long course" split off and we increased the pace to about 35KmH for the next hour. We took a road that Napoleon used to march into Verona and did a tough little climb into Custoza. As many radunos are on flat courses this, plus the speed, put the hurt on a lot of riders.

Arriving at the finish it was time to eat, drink, chat and make the award presentations. As always, a good time was had by all.

Photos: Sergio's country home in the middle of the city; some of the awards; riders getting ready to start; Gruppo 1 poses for a photo after a successful raduno.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Visit to Cicli Fontana

I combined an easy recovery ride today with a visit to Cicli Fontana in Domegliara di S. Ambrogio di Valpolicella (VR) where I dropped off my Campagnolo hubs for my custom wheel build.

It's a very impressive shop. In fact, it's one of the few that I've seen in which the showroom is smaller than where the mechanics work. They support quite a number of local teams and have a wide variety of high end products on hand such as Zipp and Corima wheels, LOOK frames, and of course their own FONTANA frames. People are always streaming in and out.

The shop was founded by Luigi Fontana, in 1983 I believe. His wife and two sons work there; his son Michele will be building my wheels. And there are a number of other mechanics as well.

From a bike perspective Fontana's greatest claim to fame is that Damiano Cunego won the 1999 Under-21 World Championship on a Fontana. They have his bike in the shop.

I've been told there are 25 bike shops in Verona province; I still have many of these to visit.

Photos: Entrance to Cicli Fontana, Luigi Fontana, Cunego winning the World Championship, Cicli Fontana location

A Chapter Closes on the "Delle Fogge" of Eros Poli

Last night a meeting place for all cyclists in Verona changed hands. Eros Poli has sold his bar, "Delle Fogge", in the historic center of Verona. All through the evening friends were stopping in to drink champagne and wish Eros well.

Eros is getting re-involved in the cycling world which he loves so much. He has two tours organized for June to climb some of the mythic climbs (ones he has raced on many times) of the Tour de France and is starting up a cycling tour business. See . If you know anyone that is thinking of a bike tour in Italy pass the word along about Eros' tours. He's a great guy, entertaining, and of course has an incredible amount of knowledge about all things cycling. It would be a REAL Italian cycling experience.

Photos: Eros Poli and family, the last night at his bar

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Giro d'Italia Fashion

Did you know you can buy Giro D'Italia fashion? All the items are branded with the Giro d’Italia Official logo and are recognizable by the pink label and the “Officina stamp”. See for more information.

Starting Richard Sachs S&S build

I am finally getting started on the build of my beautiful Richard Sachs with S&S couplers. I bought it on ebay (great price, right size, didn't have to wait 4 years and Richie himself installed the couplers). The paint is by Joe Bell. This bike fits into a suitcase that meets airline dimensions so there are no extra charges and none of the hassles that go along with dealing with oversize luggage on flights or trains. While many local and regional trains do allow bikes, the high speed, more comfortable trains do not. I'm interested in participating in more Granfondos around Italy, Radmarathons in Austria and Germany, so this will make it very easy. Ms. E can be sightseeing and shopping while I'm getting hammered.

I'm going to build it up with Campagnolo Centaur (because it comes in silver), strong 36 spoke wheels on new Campy Record hubs, and classic Cinelli stem and handlebar.

Photo: my Richard Sachs bike before coming to Italy; travel case it fits in.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

195 miles in 3 days

That's a lot of riding for me....Sunday (giro of Lago di Garda), Tuesday, Wednesday (Monday I went to the gym). I have some soreness but feel great. The weather has been wonderful so I've been taking advantage of it. To all my friends in NJ: soon you won't need the rafts; hope your homes all survived.

Giro d' Italia News, Verona TT and Zoncolan

Ivan Basso, of the Discovery Team, was training yesterday on the 42km TT course from Bardolino to Verona. That TT will be on Saturday, June 2nd, and could very well decide the race...if it hasn't been decided in the mountains just before the TT. It's going to be an exciting day in Verona! I was out and about riding yesterday but unfortunately didn't see him.

Cunego (from Verona), Basso, and Simoni are all riding the Monte Zoncolan climb in training. They will be climbing this "monster" on Stage 17, May 30th.

Simoni commented in December "that the climb was as tough as or tougher than the Mortirolo (at 10.5% average gradient over 12.4 km). The last kilometre was the hardest I confronted in my life as a climber," he noted to La Gazzetta dello Sport. From Ovaro, the 10.1 kilometre climb contains sections of 22, 20 and 18%, with an average gradient of 11.9%.

Cunego, who partially climbed it in December has said, "I have to say that I have never seen a climb so hard." He will be back on Friday to try again.

Basso trained on it yesterday. His statement afterward, "It is terrible but I like it."


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Big Chainring Ride Around Lago di Garda

The alarm went off at 6:15 a.m. Had two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast (old habits die hard). Packed some Special K bars in my jersey, topped off two water bottles with water (I no longer drink Gatorade and all those other strange drinks). Chose to be a retro-grouch today so decided on riding my early 1990s MALAGNINI steel, SLX, bike. I was out of the house by 7:05 and rode over to San Zeno with a backpack with a change of clothes for lunch after the ride. My ride picked me up at 7:30 and we drove to the ride start in Peschiera.

There were 24 riders from various clubs and we departed on time at 8:30ish. After about two minutes it was time to use the big chainring and it stayed there for the next 5 hours.

The weather was incredible, similar to a June day. Clear skies, bright sun, and warm temperatures (82F). From Peschiera we went north along the west side of Lake Garda, the first time I've been on that side. Two beautiful towns were Salo and Limone, will definitely have to return there to explore. Sailboarders were out in force taking advantage of the morning winds. The west side of Lake Garda also has several tunnels and it was a bit challenging cycling in them. The light situation ranged from no lights to barely lit! By 11:15 we had arrived at the northern end of the lake in Riva di Garda.

In Riva we stopped for 30 minutes at a lakeside restaurant. We soaked in some rays, had Coca-Cola, made pits stops and then we were off again.

Heading south along the east coast of the lake the wind was mostly to our backs so it was a nice "train". That also meant more paying attention to the rider in front and less sightseeing (I was surprised to see many topless women basking in the sun along the narrow stretches of beaches).

By 2:15pm were back in Peschiera; a Century+ ride in 4 hr 50 minutes of ride time. Then we had a wonderful seafood lunch before returning to Verona. A great, fun, day.

Arriving home I discovered that Paris-Roubaix was still on EUROSPORT so watched the finish. Ms. E is VERY understanding. Did you know that at the Paris-Roubaix vélodrome showers each shower cell is given name of a past winner, and after the race, riders clean up in cells named after Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy, Fausto Coppi or Roger De Vlaeminck?

Photos: the group at the start (me in an old Bedminster Flyers purple jersey); having a Coke in Riva di Garda; my steel "old school" (as someone said) Malagnini, a great bike

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Getting Ready for a Giro Around Lago di Garda

Tomorrow will be my first ride completely around Lago di Garda. A group of around 20, from various clubs, will be doing the ride led by Eros Poli. The ride will be about 105+ miles (170Km) and the high temperature is expected to be 82 F (on April 15th!!).

The ride will start at the southern part of the lake near Peschiera, head north along the west coast (belonging to the Province of Brescia), past Limone. Limone became famous in 1979 when the apolipoprotein A-1 MILANO was discovered. This protein , which is in the blood of the people born in Limone, quickly removes fat from the arteries and leads it to the liver, where it is then eliminated. This protein is efficacious against arteriosclerosis and infarct. The protein has given residents of the village extreme longevity - a dozen of those living here are over the age of 100.
Reaching the northern most point at Riva (belonging to the Province of Trento), and finally heading south along the east coast (belonging to the Province of Verona) past Malcesine, Garda, Bardolino, and back to the start.

Lake Garda has its own "lake effect" with the winds in the mornings being north to south, and reversing in the late morning. Therefore, our ride will always be into the wind. Hopefully, the winds will be light.

Today the group did a casual 2 hour early morning training ride just to spin the legs. I asked Eros what speed he was planning to ride at tomorrow and he said he plans to ride at a "leisurely" 34-35Km/k (21-22 mph). I had to remind him today that some of us are mere mortals. It is essentially a flat ride so maybe it won't be so bad. The scenery should be spectacular.

Photos: Lago di Garda

Friday, April 13, 2007

40 Years Ago

The last thing on my mind 40 years ago was cycling.

I was reminiscing about life today, and praying for those soldiers that learned yesterday that their tours in Iraq and Afghanistan were being extended, and for those that learned that they had to return for yet another tour. 40 years ago there was always the possibility that your tour might be extended and I remember the horrible feelings that brought. The closer you came to your departure date the more fear you had that something bad would happen. The last thing you wanted in life was to spend even one more day there.

Photo: me, 1967, near the Laotian/Cambodian border

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Gran Premio Palio di Recioto

The town of Negrar, in Valpolicella, has an annual two week long event featuring wine (especially Recioto) and food competitions. Part of the activities includes a very important "Under 23" race, the "Gran Premio Palio di Recioto". Teams come from all over the world come to tackle a very tough 92.5 mile (149 Km) course.

Recioto is a wine made from grapes that have been dried on mats after harvest. The fermentation is stopped early so that the sweetness remains. It's unique to the Valpolicella region and somewhat of an acquired taste. Well, it wasn't too hard for me to acquire it!

I did some climbing in order to enjoy some quiet back roads with beautiful views of the hills of Valpolicella in order to arrive at Negrar. Once again I returned to a spot at the end of a long, hard climb which the riders would pass through 6 times. Last year I had been invited into a home here because it was pouring rain and cold. Although yesterday was a spectacular day I was invited into the house once again to eat and drink (Recioto, of course). All of the Recioto here was from the vineyards of the people invited. It was soooooo good. They have a good system: once the riders pass everyone goes to the house to chat, drink and eat. When you hear the lead motorcycles come by you stroll out to the road and watch the racers come through. Then, back to the house for more festivities, etc.

Once the riders come through for the last time everyone heads down into Negrar to watch the finish.

Compliments to Ermanno Capelli (Unidelta Garda) who won in 4.03', an average speed of 22.86 mph (km 36.790). He joins Moser and Cunego as a winner of the Gran Premio Palio di Recioto.

Photos: of race day

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sant'Ambrogio di Valpolicella

Yesterday, on "Pasquetta" (the day after Easter), I rode to Sant'Ambrogio di Valpolicella for a raduno. Arriving there I found lots of cyclists searching for the start. To make a long story short, the event had been cancelled.

Archaeological sites dot the Valpolicella's hills with evidence of prehistoric human settlement; man first settled in the Valpolicella area 40 to 50 thousand years ago. Near Sant'Ambrogio is the Fumane Cave, known as the Solinas Refuge, with its rock paintings and the "witch-doctor's stones".

Finding the raduno cancelled my friend Massimo and I decided to ride to Lago di Garda. Under warm and sunny we had an espresso at Bardolino and then continued on to to Torre and eventually back to Verona. In all it was 5 hours of riding, grabbing some fast wheels along the way and getting some good interval training in.
Photo: hills above Sant'Ambrogio

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Alessandro Bellan Wins Tour of Flanders

Tuscan Andrea Tafi was the last Italian to win the Tour of Flanders, in 2002. He has said, "Only those who are in top condition can say that the Ronde is not hard. For everyone else, it's the Way of the Cross." The description is befitting a course that is a tortuous 161 miles (259km) with many steep climbs on cobbles.
Today was the turn of 27 year old Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) from Castelfranco Veneto to win. Ballan escaped the last 16km with Belgian Leif Hoste (Predictor-Lotto); they worked like dogs just keeping ahead of the peleton. 150 meters from the line Hoste started his sprint only to have Ballan come around him in the last few meters. What a race!

The English announcers on SKY EuroSport kept reminding viewers during the race that Italians don't like to race in the normally cold, rain, and windy conditions of the Spring Classics in Belgium. Perhaps there is something to that as the race had been been won by an Italian only 9 times since 1913. Today was a beautiful Easter Sunday in Belgium, and the sun was definitely shining on Ballan.
On the Saturday preceding race day the course is open to registered cyclists. There were 18,000 participants this year. It's something to think about as a possible trip for next year.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

A Chance Encounter with Pietro Guerra

It's been a somewhat difficult week. I have had a terrible cold for four days so decided to rest from cycling. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to just relax as I had to deal with some very challenging problems related to my "permesso di soggiorno" (permit to stay). This is THE document that permits you to remain in Italy so making sure everything is in order is at the top of the priority list.

With the temperature at 73F (23C), and feeling just good enough to get a ride in, I was looking forward to a nice spin.

The Gruppo 1 ride was small (it's Easter weekend and Italians take a long weekend as Monday is a holiday...."Pasquetta"). A few KMs from Verona we hooked up with another small ride and joined forces. We were riding along when one of my friends says, pointing to a rider, "Do you know who that is?". Well, it was Pietro Guerra from Verona. I knew the name as Pietro won a silver medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, was World Champion in the 100km team time trial in 1968, and won the Italian Pursuit Championships in 1970 and 1971. In stage racing Pietro won one stage in the Tour de France in 1971, and a stage of the 1968 Vuelta a Espana. The teams he rode with as a professional:

Bianchi (ITA)
Bianchi (ITA)
Salvarani (ITA)
Salvarani (ITA)
Salvarani (ITA)
Salvarani (ITA)
Salvarani (ITA)
Salamini (ITA)
Salamini (ITA)

Also of interest is that Pietro won those Italian Pursuit Championships on a bike built by the almost mythical Mario Confente.

Pietro and I chatted quite a bit on the ride. Quite the entertaining morning. On the roads of Verona province you never know who you might meet.
Photo: Pietro Guerra in the early 1970s.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Raduno start, Porta Palio, Verona

Verona is a fortified city, with 2,000 years of construction of fortifications throughout the city. The urban town wall has a length of nine kilometres and takes up almost 250 acres (100 hectares) with its towers, curtains, bastions, earthworks and ditches. Outside the city town wall there are thirty-one forts, nineteen of which still exist.

Historically speaking, the first town wall in Verona was built by the Romans (Ist-IIIrd centuries) and during the period of the medieval communes (XIIth-XIIIth centuries). Cangrande I of the Scala family added a hill city wall which was later included in following fortification works.

The Venetian period saw a radical transformation of the pre-existing defences during the XVth and XVIth centuries. It was between 1520 and 1578 that Michele Sanmicheli built the three monumental urban gates “Porta Nuova” (1535), “Porta San Zeno” (1538-40) and “Porta Palio(1547-57).
An excellent website to learn more about the fortifications of Verona is

One of the many differences between the cycling cultures of the U.S.A. and Italy is that in Italy when there is a club ride, or participation in any kind of event, everyone wears their club kits.

Photos: Gruppo 1 at Porta Palio raduno; you can see a part of the wall fortification in the background of the first photo.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Gruppo 1 Cycling Week 2007: Puglia Region

The annual one week cycling tour later this year will be to Puglia in southern Italy, the region often referred to as the "heel" of Italy. Still considered a relatively undiscovered region of Italy, visitors come to enjoy the Mediterranean weather and wholesome food.

Our cycling journey will begin in Matera. From there we will head southeast to ride the coastal road along the Golfo di Taranto. We will ride the entire coastline, reaching the southern most point at Capo Santa Maria di Leuca before turning north to ride along the Straight of Otranto. Once we reach Fasano we will turn inland and head west, back to Matera. Cycling distance will be approximately 475-500 miles.

Sometimes known as Apulia, Puglia is a land of lush olive trees, vineyards, rich brown and red soils, mild wet winters and hot dry summers, and of friendly, open people, with ready smiles.

Puglia’s history is a complex weave of colonisation, invasion and a continual struggle for independence and the Greeks, Romans, Turks, Saracens and Spanish have all laid claim to parts of Puglia through it’s history.

Puglia historically produced much of Italy’s pasta, and today it still produces over half of it's olive oil. It's rich fruity red wines, particularly those from its Salento region are also becoming popular. Lunch is something to be enjoyed and lasts from between 1pm and 4:30pm.

The architecture of Puglia is at once simple, yet stunning and the old quarters provide many insights into the different civilisations that have influenced their architecture. Roman, Greco and Messapian features are often seen side by side and Cisternino is particularly pretty. From a distance, many of the towns appear as beautiful ‘walled’ villages. Many of the houses are painted white to reflect the hot summer sun and indeed Ostuni, located between Bari and Brindisi, is also known as the ‘White City’.

Puglia is the home of the Trulli, simple yet beautiful limestone dwellings with conical roofs, many dating back to the 15th century. Highly sought after by both local residents and well to do outsiders, they have almost a fairy tale quality about them.

Puglia, like much of southern Italy, has in the past been considered a poor relation to the more northerly regions such as Tuscany. It’s cuisine, the now delightful Trulli, and even the distinctive style of furniture, known as Arte Povera, all originate from the need to make do with little material wealth. Today however, the picture is very different and the many trendy stores and boutiques tucked away inside most towns and villages attest to the growing wealth of the region.

Photos: Puglia (we will be cycling the dark green), the "heel" of Italy; white houses of Ostuni; The "Trulli" houses