Saturday, March 31, 2007

Detour No. 3 Into Italian Culture: Italian Language

Fri Mar 30, 12:47 PM ET
ROME (Reuters) - It's official. The language of Italy is Italian -- but not everyone is happy about it.

While it might seem obvious, the Italian-ness of Italian has only just been enshrined in the constitution, with parliament voting this week to state that: "The Italian language is the official language of the Republic".
The seemingly uncontroversial statement was opposed by 75 members of parliament, including leftists who said it smacked of cultural imperialism and northern separatists who are suspicious of pretty much any diktat from Rome.

One deputy, Federico Bricolo from the Northern League party, said his nationality, and therefore his language, was not Italian but Venetian. He said the dialect of Venice was spoken by "millions of men and women around the world".

"It's the language spoken in my family, in schools, at work. I am Venetian, Mr President, my language is that of Venice," Bricolo said in his dialect before his microphone was switched off because he was breaking a rule that states only Italian may be spoken in parliament.
Franco Russo, of Italy's main Communist party, said the post-war constitution deliberately left out any mention of the language in a reaction against dictator Benito Mussolini's attempts to "Italianise" the country by force.

The change to the constitution, approved by 361 votes to 75, is purely symbolic and does not alter the legal status that other languages enjoy in parts of Italy, such as German in the Alto Adige region or French in Val d'Aosta.

But supporters of the change said it was high time the language was recognised as a fundamental part of what made up modern Italy -- a country which was only created by unifying rival regions and city states in 1870.

It was Tuscan dialect -- in which Dante wrote the mediaeval epic poem the Inferno in the fourteen century -- that emerged as the national language of Italy, but many people still speak local dialects some of which are largely incomprehensible to people from other parts of the country.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Granfondo Italia, 2006

It's a rainy day today, and I received a notice about the 2007 Granfondo Italia registration, so I thought I would write about the Granfondo Italia of 2006.

Held in Carpi on October 16, 2006, it's tradionally the last big granfondo of the season. This granfondo is limited to 2,500 riders all of which must have the "sportiva agonistica" license; the license is obtained after passing a stress test monitored by a sports doctor.

Beppe, Daniela, Salvatore, Gianni (the spaghetti cook in Corsica), and I registered for 100km (62.1) miles mediofondo. The full distance granfondo was 148km. I wanted to do the longer distance but my buddies, who are smarter than I am, didn't want to overly punish themselves.

The race begins and ends in Carpi and passes through Modena and Maranello (of Ferrari fame). The GF Italia is a big deal with live TV coverage on RAI provided by helicopters and motorcycles.

As I've written in the past, granfondos are very competitive affairs although you can ride at a more tranquil pace if you like (there are time limits however). There are seriously good riders racing in the big granfondos so these tend to be pretty intense.

The start in Carpi was in the beautiful centro. The course profile was mostly a very gradual uphill for about half the distance, one biting but short (short for Italy) climb in the middle, and downhills and flat after that.

I averaged 20.5 mph average which is very good for me. We all came in with a few minutes of each other, all under 3 hours. I was doing very well until the climb that ended with a very steep pitch...I cramped and had to stretch a few seconds. After that the cramps would come and go, and I suffered a bit. I was not used to pushing that big chaingring ALL THE TIME! There were many accidents as there were many grupettos flying which I suspect had many riders out-riding their bike handling capabilities.

I really enjoyed this granfondo. It was well organized, the weather was great, it was intense and everyone (except those that crashed) had a good time.
Photos: the start; gruppo compatto; the leaders; the winner.
Images by Lodi are copyrighted by Enrico Lodi

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

CHESINI, the oldest bike shop in Verona

In 2006, I met with two of the three owning partners, Barbara and Paolo (in photograph), of Chesini to interview them for Barbara is related to the Chesini family through marriage. Since the interview we've become friends and I often stop into the store to look at the latest innovations in the marketplace.

The shop today sells high end bikes (their own brand and others), mountain bikes and city bikes, components and accessories. They also sell Chesini branded cycling clothing. Their website is:

Chesini was founded in 1925 by Gelmino Chesini who was a bicycle mechanic before he began building bicycles. He began the business on his own and the first business location was in Nesente on the outskirts of Verona. Later he moved to Verona. He developed what became a well known slogan in Verona,"O Chesini o cammini".

The son, Gabriele Chesini, continued the business. Large numbers of Chesini's were sold in Europe, particularly in Austria,Germany, and other European countries through representatives. A much smaller number were sold to the USA.

Four world championships have been won on Chesini bikes: Juniors, 1963 100KM race, 1964 100KM race, 1965 Juniors, and 1990 (under 23).
Chesini is located in the historic center of Verona (at Via San Paolo 8/10)near Ponte Navi. If you are visiting Verona a visit would be worthwhile.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

100th Anniversary Milano-Sanremo

One of the advantages of living in Italy is also being able to see excellent TV coverage of bike racing. For this race coverage was on both RAI Tre and SKY (in English....but oh my, the commentators are awful). I watched it in Italian on RAI Tre which was actually much more informative and exciting.

The race, run under wet conditions, had some serious mishaps, a reminder how dangerous the sport is and the huge risks the racers take. The most seriously injured was Andrea Moletta, who was one of three in an escape group when he somersaulted violently into a lamppost and low stone wall. He was taken to the hospital with a broken thigh. He was to be transported later to a special clinic for the necessary operation.

Rabobank's Oscar Freire raced very intelligently and jumped at just the right moment in the final sprint on the via Aurelia to beat the best sprinters in the world, including Boonen, McEwen, Zabel, O'Grady and Petacchi.

Photos: two images of MSR; Andrea Moletta (Gerolsteiner) losing control on a turn and wrapping himself around a lamppost, Oscar Freire winning at the line.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mario Cipollini Celebrates 40th Birthday

Mario Cipollini raced for 17 seasons, amassing 189 victories. He won the World Championship, Milano-San Remo, and holds the record for most stage wins (42) in the Giro d'Italia. Today's interview from Gazzetta dello Sport:

I primi 40 anni di Cipollini
Oggi il compleanno: "Il mio ritiro nel 2005? Avrei potuto correre ancora, ma solo con i miei uomini: Scirea, Lombardi e Colombo. Ora ho scoperto le gioie della vita, la famiglia, le figlie. In futuro creerò un mio squadrone"

22 marzo 2007 - Mario Cipollini compie oggi 40 anni. Nel suo palmares, in 17 stagioni, ci sono 189 vittorie, tra cui un Mondiale, una Sanremo e il record di tappe vinte al Giro (42). Ma Re Leone è stato anche un grande personaggio, che con il suo carisma ha saputo catalizzare l’interesse di chi non seguiva il ciclismo.
- Cipollini, chi è il suo favorito per Sanremo? "Mi aspetto una Sanremo atipica, perché nelle prime corse di stagione non c’è stato un vero dominatore. Bettini, con le cadute alla Tirreno-Adriatico, non sappiamo cosa può essere. Per Petacchi qualcosa che non funziona c’è. Boonen alla Parigi-Nizza non ha vinto e s’è ritirato. Zabel è un osso duro. Bennati è quello che forse ha qualcosa in più".
- Freire l’ha dimenticato? "No, ma quando sta bene ha un’altra gamba".
- S’è mai pentito di essersi ritirato? "Avrei potuto correre ancora, ma con il mio vecchio gruppo. Con Colombo, Lombardi e Scirea si prendeva un giovane come Bennati e ci si divertiva. Una volta demolito questo gruppo, ho provato a integrarmi in una nuova realtà, ma è stato difficile".
- E reintegrarsi nella vita quotidiana? "Non è semplicissimo. Hai subito due sensazioni. La prima è di grande libertà, fai quello che vuoi, mangi quello che vuoi. Però ti mancano gli obiettivi. Poi scopri le gioie della vita, come andare a prendere le bimbe a scuola e portarle a nuoto o a danza. Ti fanno un sorriso e sei in pace col mondo".
- Che cosa fa adesso Cipollini? "Il 'mammo' a tempo pieno".
- E che cosa vorrebbe fare? "Non è un segreto che ho l’obiettivo di creare una mia grande squadra".
- Il momento più felice di questi primi 40 anni? "La nascita delle due figlie e il trionfo al Mondiale di Zolder 2002".
- Il momento più triste? "L’unico momento tragico è stato l’incidente a mio padre. S’è ripercosso anche sulla mia vita professionale".
- Ha un rimpianto? "La Sanremo del 2003. Quando Bettini è scattato sul Poggio non ho agito d’istinto. Eppure avevo le gambe per andargli dietro: vincere con la maglia iridata sarebbe stato il massimo".
- La scelta migliore? "Nella vita crearmi una famiglia. In bici avere scelto Lombardi come ultimo uomo".
- L’errore che non rifarebbe? "Non credo di avere commesso grandi errori. Ho sempre preteso tanto da me stesso, quindi vedere la negligenza degli altri mi faceva perdere le staffe".
- Come festeggerà? "Con una ristretta cerchia di amici. Con una pattuglia sceltissima".

Interview by Claudio Ghisalberti of Gazzetta dello Sport
Photo: Mario on his birthday

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Visit with Olympic Gold Medalist Paola Pezzo

On the 1st day of Spring ride to Bardolino we stopped to visit with Paola Pezzo, mountain bike Olympic Gold Medalist in 1996 (Atlanta) and 2000 (Sydney). Paola, along with her partner and Giro stage winner Paolo Rosola, has opened a very nice bike shop. Named the "Olympic Bike Center" the shop features mountain and road bikes, and accessories. The address is via G. Marconi, 60; 37011 Bardolino (VR)
While we were there the Saunier Duval pro team car pulled into the parking lot to pickup a few things. The team then wizzed by, too fast for me to grab a photo. They were training for Milano-Sanremo on Saturday.

Paola also sponsors the Granfondo Paola Pezzo which is a mountain bike granfondo held in April. More information is available at
Paolo also rides road bikes as can been seen in the photo above in which she is racing up Peri-Fossi, a well known local climb of 10km at 10%.

Photos: Paola Pezzo in her new store; Saunier Duval team car in front on Paola's store; in a ride with friends up Peri-Fossi.

1st Day of Spring Ride to Bardolino

After Monday and Tuesday, in which a cold front that included rain passed through Verona from Greenland, the 1st day of Spring turned out to be gorgeous.

It was an easy ride with everyone enjoying the sunshine and clear skies. It was one of those days when everything looked so nice....the peach trees blooming, Monte Baldo resplendent in the distance with snow on its peak, the harbor of Bardolino, and Lake Garda.

We stopped for espresso at a lake front coffee bar and stayed way too long; it was just too nice.

We returned to Boscomantico for lunch which today featured homemade pappardelle with wild boar. Hmmmmm.

A fun day!

Photos: peach trees in bloom with snow capped Monte Baldo in the background; riding through a vineyard; vineyards (you can see more mountains in the distance); the Municipal building at Bardolino (we had our espresso at the cafe to the right)

If you can find wild boar here is a recipe that serves 8 that you can try:
Pappardelle in Boar Ragú
(A web-exclusive recipe from Italian Cooking and Living):
Recipe from Chef Don Curtiss
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds wild boar sirloin, cut into 1" cubes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
12 wild mushrooms, scrubbed and thinly sliced
24 basil leaves, julienned
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped oregano
2 cups Barolo wine
2 cups brown veal stock or chicken broth
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cups canned chopped plum tomatoes
2 cups canned strained plum tomatoes
1 1/2 pounds fresh pappardelle or tagliatelle
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil until it is smoking. Add the boar, season with salt and pepper, and brown the boar on all sides, stirring often, about 10 minutes over medium heat. Fold in the onions, mushrooms, basil, rosemary, and oregano; cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes, then add the Barolo, brown veal stock, vinegar, the chopped tomatoes, and the strained tomatoes. Bring to a gentle boil; lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 to 3 hours, or until the boar is tender and the sauce is thick.
When the ragú is almost ready, bring 8 quarts of water to a boil. Drop in the pappardelle and salt, and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water; return to the pot. Fold in the ragú and half of the Pecorino, and toss until the pappardelle are evenly coated; you may need to add a little of the reserved cooking water to dilute the sauce. Transfer to a terra-cotta serving bowl, sprinkle with the remaining Pecorino and the parsley, and serve hot.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A View Inside the Gruppo 1 Sede ("HQ")

The cycling club I belong to, Gruppo 1, has its own sede (headquarters). It's modest but it's all theirs. The walls are covered with many of the awards the club has won at cycling events over 25 years.
On the far left you can see a large chart. Here they keep track of member participation in club activities such as the club rides and the UDACE radunos. They have this interesting concept of applying a formula for discounting the next year's due based on the number of activities you participated in during the course of the year.

There is also a fully equipped kitchen so often there are luncheons or dinners to celebrate one thing or another. The Gruppo 1 club is certainly the club that eats the best in Verona province!

Photo: a recent dinner starting with the appetizers. On this occasion Eros Poli was visiting (all white shirt); to his right is his long time trainer, Elio.

Monday, March 19, 2007

S&S Couplers for Travel Bikes

For those that like to travel and would like to take their bike with them a good solution is a bike fitted with S&S couplers. This past weekend's visitor, Brent, had a beautiful full titanium HAMPSTEN (the brand of 1988 Giro d'Italia winner Andy Hampsten) with S&S couplers.

S&S couplers are made by the S and S Machine Company ( If you are interested in learning more about S&S couplers start with this website.

Since 1993, the S+S Machine Bicycle Torque Coupling system has revolutionized the bicycle industry and forever changed the image of travel bikes. The S+S Coupling system allows a truly high performance bicycle to be disassembled and packed for travel quickly and easily in airline-checkable luggage! No more extra charges, no more oversize boxes, no more worries about delays when switching ALL fits in a case meeting the requirements for checkable luggage.

So, how does it work? One coupler is installed on the top tube and another on the down tube. The couplers have interlocking tapered teeth which are drawn together by a threaded lockring, providing an extremely rigid joint with minimal tightening force.

There are companies that specialize in selling new bikes equipped with S&S couplers such as CO-MOTION (, very informative website). Others that build new bikes are Bilenky, Calfee, Davidson, da Vinci, Erickson, Merlin, Moots, Rodriguez, Santana, Serotta, Seven, Ti CYCLES, and Waterford, just to name a few.

There are others that specialize in retrofitting bikes with the couplers. Builders that perform this work can be found at

Steel, titanium and even (some) carbon frames can be retrofit; unfortunately, aluminum frames can't be retrofit.

Another reason for writing about this subject is that I have a beautiful Richard Sachs with S&S couplers. I bought it on ebay before coming to Italy. For one reason or another I had not built it up. After seeing Brent's S&S coupled bike I now have the ambition to get the Sachs on the road.
Photos: a S&S coupler; a coupler installed on top tube, a spanner wrench is used to tighten it; "split" cables are connected; it all, including wheels, goes in a hard case

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Busy Weekend of Riding with a Visitor

Some friends of mine had suggested that a friend of theirs contact me as "Brent", from Orlando, would be visiting Verona this weekend and would be bringing his S&S coupled HAMPSTEN titanium bike. Brent was on business in Europe and he hooked up with me via email before arriving in Verona. I gave him a hotel recommendation and we met for the first time on Saturday morning in front of his hotel. From there we met up with the Gruppo 1 Saturday ride.

The club ride went to the southern part of Verona province which is primarily agricultural and flat. Like myself, Brent has an interest in vintage steel bikes so we had some nice discussions while riding about Masi, Cinelli, Richard Sachs, Dario Pegoretti and other famous framebuilders. For the occasion I rode my steel SLX Malagnini.

Late Saturday afternoon we met with Eros Poli, had a couple of glasses of wine, and chatted about pro racing, bicycle tours, and bikes.

Saturday evening Brent, Ms. E and I went to dinner at a restaurant on via Sottoriva which is the oldest street in Verona. This restaurant departs (swerves!) from the more traditional Venetian establishments in that it serves fish specialties from Puglia. We had a fantastic dinner which was nice because it was on the eve of Ms. E.'s birthday.

Sunday morning I met Brent again for this time we were going to ride in a raduno. It was a perfect morning and the raduno was HUGE. 700 riders for a leisurely Sunday morning ride through the center of Verona and into the outskirts of the city. Arriving back at the start we had some mortadella sandwiches and other goodies. As I had to be in Verona for a birthday luncheon for Ms. E. some gracious club members took it upon themselves to take Brent out to beautiful Lake Garda for a visit to some of the lakeside towns and lunch in Garda.

I believe Brent had a memorable Italian cycling experience for his weekend stay.

Photos: Brent visiting Eros at his bar in Verona; Gruppo 1 getting ready for the raduno at Porta Palio.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Almost to Malcesine

Malcesine is a very pretty town, along the eastern shore of Lake Garda, further north from Torre del Benaco. I thought I ride there as the weather was fantastic, sunny, blue skies and 18C (64F).

Lake Garda has an interesting wind effect. In the mornings the wind is always blowing towards the south, as the days warms up the wind switches directions. For us in Verona that means our rides along the lake are into the wind.

As you leave Torre del Benaco the road north is typically only a few feet from the water. It was particular windy Tuesday and it just beat me into submission. After 120 miles on the weekend I wasn't recovered enough for a 90 mile day with much of it into the wind. So, I turned around and climbed Torre to Albisano and took in the spectacular views of the lake.

The following day I did the club ride which went for espresso to Torre del Benaco. My Italian friends consider it the prettiest harbor on the lake.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

First Raduno, Almost My First Ticket!

Today was the first "raduno" of the cycling season. With my UDACE license in hand I was all set to participate. Arriving at the Gruppo 1 sede (headquarters) I was fully intending to jump in the van and catch a ride to the small town of Sustinenza at the southern edge of Verona province. The weather was a cool 6C compared to yesterday's 18C.

When I arrived a small group (Beppe, Daniela, Juliana, Massimo, and Roberto) were just getting ready to depart by bike. So, I decided to join what would have to be a fast ride in order to get to Sustinenza on time.

Southern Verona province is very flat and mainly agricultural. We had a nice ride arriving 15 minutes before the raduno start, enough time for an espresso.

The raduno was a relaxed affair, as they usually are, passing through fields and very quiet, lost in time, small towns. At the finish there was spaghetti, mortadella sandwiches, wine, and cake available. Prizes were awarded to the clubs based upon the number of participants.

I returned to Verona with Roberto and Massimo, both that have about 20+ years on me. Roberto is one of those guys that can, and did, ride at the front at 40 kmh (25 mph) for hours and not tire. So, for me it was pretty tiring after riding yesterday as well.

As we came into Verona, Roberto and Massimo turned off to go to their homes and I continued on to the centro. Coming to a red light I stopped, looked for traffic and seeing none proceeded. Next thing I know there is a police car alongside of me telling me to pull over. Oops. I'm asked for my document (carta di identita) which I do have but only a copy that is pretty mangled (my original would look pretty bad if it lived in my jersey back pockets). The police officer was not happy. I explained that I DID STOP at least! Which is a lot more than even cars do sometimes but I thought better of saying this. In the end they let me go, saying that next time the fine could be 148 Euro.

So 80 km (50 miles) yesterday and 112 km (70 miles) today made for a 120 mile weekend. Not bad for early March.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

E Sempre Cosi?

"Is it always like this?" Those were the words uttered about 10 minutes into today's Saturday morning Eros Poli ride by a new rider. Little did he know that the ride would only get faster.

It was a gorgeous day today with the temperature reaching 64F. The ride start times are now at 0830 and with the weather so nice everyone was frisky.

Eros, thankfully, takes mercy on us. He clearly is very relaxed while we are all working pretty good. Even though he has been out of the pro ranks for 8 years now he's obviously in another solar system when it comes to riding.

Good example: there is popular, short climb (short as in short for Italy, long for New Jersey) out of Bardolino called the "Pino". One of the the guys thought he would attack Eros and have some fun. Eros put it in the 53x17, then 53x15, and just ROCKETED uphill. The acceleration was so fast it was hard to fathom.

Once we did the climb we really motored back to Verona with Eros easily pulling us along. I'd guess the average on the way back was 23mph +. Not being sure it inspired me to finally get a new battery in my Mavic computer. I have a love/hate relationship with bike computers; most of the time I don't like to use one.

It looks like I'll be going to the TdF to watch some stages; more on that in the future. Also, Ms. E. bought a beautiful city bike today; I'll take some photos soon.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Nightmare of Mounting Michelin Axial Pro Tires

Michelin Axial Pro tires are well regarded so when a pair came on Italian ebay (another story for another day!) for 20 Euro I grabbed them. In a nice green sidewall no less, to compliment the green highlights on my Malagnini frame.

I've read endless stories about how hard Michelin tires can be to mount. Having changed many tires and tubes I figured, "How hard can it be?".

It was HARD! Bruised fingers and 3 tire irons later I had managed to get them on. Despite being careful I found a flat this morning; I must have damaged the inner tube. So, I had to do the front over again. It was a little easier this time as the tires had stretched just a little.

Looking forward to my ride on them tomorrow, and praying I don't have a flat.

Lately I've been using Schwalbe tires which have turned out to be terrific. Before that it was Continental tires. Both were easy to put on.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Looking back: Climbing the famous "Stelvio"

This ride was organized by my cycling club as part of its summer program. The Passo dello Stelvio is located in Italy, and at 2757 m (9,045 feet) is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps, and the second highest in the Alps. Of course, it is famous with cyclists as some epic battles have been fought here in the Giro d'Italia. I should add the real epic battles have been fought here as well: before the end of WW I, it formed the border between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Italian Kingdom. During the WW I, fierce battles were fought in the ice and snow of the area.

It is possible to climb the Stelvio from two different sides; from Bormio and from Prato, both in Italy. It is also possible to reach the Stelvio from Switzerland, namely from St. Maria. The toughest and most spectacular climbing is from Prato which is where we would start our climb. With 48 hairpins, each numbered on a stone, it is regarded as one of the finest continuous hairpin sectors in the Alps.

We departed from Verona at 2:00pm on Friday, July 7th, 2006. It was a 3 hour drive to Prato allo Stelvio which is approximately 75km from Bolzano. It rained quite hard on the way up and things looked bleak for our Saturday morning ride up the Stelvio. We enjoyed a very nice dinner, enjoying local cuisine at our hotel (Wellnesshotel Zentral, 39026 Prato allo Stelvio, Alto Adige- Italia Tel. 0473616008). The forecast for Saturday was not good, and the rain through the night was worrisome.

Fortunately, when we woke up it had stopped raining but the forecast called for rain again in early afternoon. So, it was a quick breakfast and on the road on our bikes by 8:00a.m. My roommate did nothing but snore loudly all night so I didn't have a great night of sleep.

The Passo dello Stelvio is 24,3 km (15.1 miles) long. The average gradient percentage is 7.4 %. The first 10Km or so is a gradual uphill along a beautiful river. You then come up upon the first switchback which has a sign: 47. So. now you know you have 47 switchbacks to go! Each one of them is numbered. And, there is quite a bit of distance between the switchbacks; only at the top to they get closer together. It's an awesome sight when you are climbing and the switchbacks are before you up, up, and away. I felt really good, and alternated between seated climbing and dancing on the pedals out of the saddle. 2.5 hours later I was at the top! I didn't climb for time; just to survive (smile). Just imagine climbing Schooley's Mountain for 15 miles.

Unfortunately, the club van couldn't make it to the top (carburetor problems) so I didn't have my camera up there. The altitude is quite a bit higher than Mont Ventoux. Ventoux is 1900m asl and the Stelvio is 2,700m asl. We were going to cycle down the other side into Switzerland and come back into Italy but because of the van problems we had to ride down the way we come up. Even though it was July it was cold up there. It began to rain so we left the top after about half an hour. You had to be really paying attention on the way down!

I found Mont Ventoux harder. I think it was steeper (10% vs 7.4%), it was a cool 9c when we started the Stelvio climb vs. the hot, hot, hot day we went up Ventoux, and I think I'm actually in a little better shape a few weeks later. Also, the switchbacks allow you to rest just a tiny bit whereas Mont Ventoux does not have switchbacks (except for two at the top). I'm surprised, looking back, that I arrived at the top of Ventoux more quickly than Stelvio.

It was another excellent adventure!
Photos: a view of Passo dello Stelvio showing upper switchbacks, a view looking down at some hairpins, a photo of the glacier that is to the left as you climb, the daunting view of what is left to go, me after coming partially down.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Strange Reason for a Fast Ride

With rain in the forecast for the next two days I really wanted to make today's, Tuesday, San Zeno group ride. The only problem was that friends were finally, after several months of waiting, getting their high speed internet connection installed today. There was a possibility I might be needed to bridge the language gap.

The ride to Torri del Benaco and the climb to Albisano was spirited. We swooped down to Garda and stopped for a quick espresso. Just as we were departing for the return to Verona my cell phone rang. The Italia Telecom guy needed me. I said, "I'll be there in one hour." That meant that I really needed to haul.

The return back to Verona is usually at a higher clip than the outgoing leg. But, for me to make it in an hour we really had to be moving. I hadn't said anything to the group so everyone was kind of off-guard when I started to constantly attack and go off the front....trying to keep the pace way up there. Now, this is a lot different than my typical wheel-sucking ways.

It was odd, the harder I went the better I felt. To make a long story short, it took 55 minutes from Garda to the center of Verona. That was ffffffast! My buddies were looking at me like I was crazy.

Now I'll go soak in the bathtub.....

Photo: I know I'm home when I roll into Piazza Bra past the Roman coliseum

Sunday, March 4, 2007

New climb finishing with lunch in Piazza Erbe

Today, Sunday, March 4th, was a beautiful day. It was so nice that all I needed were bib shorts, and a base under a short sleeve jersey. Spring is here...already!

After breakfast and a stroll around Verona with E. I went on a solo ride to try a new climb I discovered last week. It felt so good to be riding without long pants, a jacket, and long fingered gloves. From Verona I headed west along the Lungadige to Parona and onto via Valpolicella. Before arriving at Negrar I turned back east and climbed this beautiful road up to Montecchio. From there it was more climbing along a very narrow ridge road with views of Lago di Garda.

After winding my way back to Verona, E. and I decided to have lunch in Piazza Erbe, a square full of life and colours as only some of the best squares of Italy can be. We sat in the sun, had a wonderful lunch, people watched, and relaxed. Life is good.
Photo: Piazza Erbe, green awnings are Cafe Filippini

Ride to medieval Castellaro Lagusello

The Saturday club ride departed Verona for Castellaro Lagusello in the Comune di Monzambano, Mantova. Castelalro Lagusello is a well preserved medieval village founded between 1100 and 1200.

".......enter a whole other dimension, peaceful and bucolic....the fortified village of Castellaro, which is mirrored in its heart-shaped lake, was first forgotten (thus we must give our thanks to the power of oblivion) and then – when people noticed that this corner of the Garda morainic amphitheater had miraculously escaped the plague of surveyors – it received tender loving care from the local council.
Thus the old Guelf walls, the streets paved with river stones, the exposed stone walls of the rectory and of the houses were saved: such as the house covered with climbing plants, opposite Villa Arrighi-Tacoli, which one would never tire of looking at, because it has remained intact since the 13th century.But let us proceed with order. One enters the small village from the north through a wide gate, which until the 1700s also had a drawbridge. A tall square tower, called the Clock Tower, rises above the gate to protect it.
Venturing further among the rustic houses, one soon comes to the Baroque church of San Nicola, which holds a wooden Madonna from the 1400s.
Following the tiny side streets, filled with a forgotten silence broken only by the scratching of chickens in the courtyards, one reaches the small square where stands the 19th-century Villa Arrighi (today owned by the Tacoli counts and open to visitors only by request), which incorporates a fort with defense walls with Guelf battlements and mullioned windows, from which there is a beautiful view of the lake and the surrounding countryside.
The villa is a transformation of the former feudal castle, and it incorporates the small church of San Giuseppe, which was completed in 1737 and holds a number of paintings from the 1600s. The church opens onto the square, from which one reaches the lake shore by going down a brief stairway. The wooden boats moored near the shore add to the idyllic enchantment of this place.
The view of the village from the south is also admirable, with the city walls from the 11th century (from the same period as the old castle and once including nine towers), the lake adorned with ditch reeds, and the luxuriant nature all around."

It was an enjoyable morning ride of 55 miles on quiet roads.
Photo: riding into Castellaro Lagusello.

Quoted material from

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Coming:Alpe d'Huez, Galibier, Izoard, Telegraphe

Last year Eros Poli organized a great trip to Mont Ventoux (the stage he won in the 1994 TdF). Last night was the first meeting for those that are planning to participate in this year's trip.

The meeting was held at the Gruppo 1 club headquarters and as usual there was lots to eat and drink. It was a festive atmosphere with everyone talking about last year and what awaits us this summer.

Eros explained that this year's trip will be a 3 day weekend in June. We will be riding Friday afternoon, all day Saturday (see graph), and Sunday morning. Bourg d'Oisans will be our base in France. This year we'll be tackling several climbs: Alpe d'Huez, Galibier, Izoard, Telegraphe, and others. It looks to be an absolutely spectacular area...on a completely different scale from a riding perspective. Thinking ahead I wish for good weather and good legs.

Eros' long time trainer, Elios, was there as well and he was kind enough to give me some training tips to build up more power. Looks like hill intervals in the big chainring are in my future. Can't wait! Not.
Photos: the village of Bourg d'Oisans, the switchbacks of Alpe d'Huez, a lone rider on Galibier, the Izoard, the profile for our Saturday ride ending at Alpe d'Huez.