Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ben Vivere 2009, Part II

We continue with Part II of Buzz Yancich's story of "Ben Vivere 2009" (Part I):

Ben Vivere 2009, Part II

"Some surprises, Eros sets a fast pace and the rebirth of a cyclist"

We met Eros just a few steps from the cobbled Piazza Bra in Verona the location of a beautifully preserved Roman Arena which dominates the city view. He arrived in a Mercedes Benz 12 seat van that would be our transport for the next ten days. Eros’ big smile, hugs and enthusiasm immediately set the tone as well as the eleven Aperol Spritzes he quickly ordered. We toasted each other’s safe arrival and the 10 days that lay ahead of us. Number one was the forecast and if on cue we looked up to the sky and the sunshine was breaking through.

The first of many rounds of our official team appertivo: the Spritz Aperol

As we would come to learn Eros is always full of surprises. We were finishing up our first Spritz when he hit us with the first surprise and it was a doozy:. “How would you all like to enter a bike race this Sunday? I have spoken to the director and we can get everyone in. No problem.” We looked at each other with a bit of amazement – racing was not on the itinerary and we are not racers. The race was the Gran Fondo Avesani – the last big event of the year starting and ending at the Roman Arena in Verona. “OK. Great, I think we should do this it will be fun – Trust me.”

There would be three distances and we would be enter the “shorter” 100K ride which included the 10k climb to Fosse.

With that announcement we headed to our hotel on a hilltop above the Valpolicella valley.

The Castrum Relais

Each hotel room included a plate of fresh fruit and a bottle of Prosecco with a nice handwritten card from Eros and his wife welcoming us to Italy.

And our Amis d’Eros team kit and sweaters.

And for those that rented bikes: Brand new from the Pinarello factory Campy Record equipped Princes and Dogmas (Eros is a good friend of the Pinarello family – in fact, he seems to be a good friend of everyone).

We would spend the next three nights and two days training for the Gran Fondo, riding from our hotel and into the hillsides and mountains of Verona and the Valpolicella valley.

Before we started our first day of riding we had our own surprise for Eros. Somewhere in the winter months over a glass or two of wine we came up with the idea of having our own team kit inspired by our favorite Veronese appertivo – Spritz Aperol.

The look on Eros’ face was priceless when we all walked out on the morning of our first ride in our Eros Poli Ben Vivere kit and presented him with his own set.

We got Eros good on that one and took him completely by surprise.

Eros proudly sporting the new Ben Vivere / Team Spritz Kit - It bears repeating: Eros is one big guy.

Team kit rear view featuring wine bottle pocket

So, we saddled up and hit the road. Again, no maps, just a general description by Eros of our route and off we went. Eros had arranged a mini van and two drivers Ivan and Frederico, two local riders.

Also joining us was Robert – a friend of Eros who would tag along on quite a few of our rides. In fact, we always seemed to have an extra local rider or two with us on each of our day’s adventures.

So the pattern was this: Breakfast and on the road by 9:00 a.m.

Late morning coffee break:

Coffee and recioto wine (served to us by the Carrera Director Sportif and coach of Pantani and Chiappucci)

Lunch was sometimes a picnic or part of the wine tasting (ok lets just say it was more than a “tasting”) or a stop in a local bar.

A light lunch for us at the coach’s house

Followed by a wine tasting around 2:00 p.m. somewhere along the route.

Wine tasting – Eros style

Usually we’d return home by 4:00 p.m. to a light bite to eat and then time to relax for an hour or so. Because by 6:30 we were off to some new location for appertivos.

Appertivos, to the unacquainted, is the Italian 7:00 pm happy hour of Prosecco, wine, spritzes or a combination of all three accompanied by essentially a full meal of hors d’oeuvres.

First course of hors d’oeuvres – three more to follow

Verona nightlife

Once the appertivos were finished it was onto DINNER which typically started at 9:00 pm and continue for hours until the last grappa was finished.

Osteria meal at an unnamed restaurant – in a former mortuary, yes that’s right a mortuary – down an alley somewhere in a small town on the outskirts of Verona. P.S. even if you had the address and a map you would never find it.

Of course, that’s not the end of the meal or the evening:

Into the cellar for post dinner drinks with the chef

Owner and chef pouring some recioto – a sweet red wine found in the Verona region. He made us an incredible meal that evening.

On the second night we began to question whether we could survive the pace Eros was setting for us – and we are not talking about the riding – but the food and wine. We knew Eros would take care of us in that department but he seemed particularly keen on making sure that we experienced the best and most authentic gastronomic experience possible. In fact, by the end of our trip we all agreed that this was the most complete and satisfying 10 days of eating and drinking any of us had ever encountered.

It seems Eros has a “hollow leg” because every morning he was full of energy, excited and ready to roll! Our breakfast conversation usually included the following two thoughts: “I think I had too much to drink and eat last night… and how does Eros do it?”

To be continued....

Information on Eros' tours can be found here.

Stories for the Italian Cycling Journal welcome; contact me at There are more than 1,100 stories in this blog; the search feature to the right works best for finding subjects in the blog.

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