Saturday, September 30, 2006

Vintage Bianchi sighting

This morning I passed an Italian geezer, 70 years old if he was a day, on an early 50s Bianchi that could have belonged to Fausto Coppi.
We were climbing towards Gaiole on the road from Montevarchi, probably a 300m climb.
While I was twiddling in 32 x 21, he was in about 46 x 21, leaving the 24 sprocket in reserve.
Click HERE for video

I was on the road by 9am today, planning to ride up to Greve on some backroads, then back to Radda on the main road.
The ride started out downhill for a few kms, and cold- for the first time while I have been here. Both the topography and my body temperature soon reversed as the descent turned into a 3km, 15% climb. At the top I turned right instead of left as planned, which I only discovered when I had descended about 300m altitude and found myself in Castelnuovo del Sabbioni rather than on the road to Greve. I decided that this was no bad thing, since I would be back in Radda for lunch.

The Eroica program starts this afternoon, with a vintage bike display in the Gaiole gym, and a dinner. I will be surprised if I do not have a couple of hundred more bike photos before the day is out.

Tomorrow I'm doing the 135km ride with Courtney Johnson, a fit looking specimen from Minnesota. He's riding a very tidy Richard Sachs, with a truly manly 41 x 24 low gear.

Radda in Chianti

On Thursday I rode up to Radda from Siena and installed myself in a hotel here, with the intention of getting in a couple of rides on or around the Eroica course. I stopped in Gaiole, where Eroica starts and finishes, before climbing another 350m towards Radda.

Yesterday's ride was a goody- I rode down to Gaiole and found the CR list gang (Bob Freitas, Mike Schmidt, Jamie Swan, Guy Apple, Courtney & Jennifer Johnson) lurking in the square. We headed (I thought) onto the first part of the Eroica course, but decided we were lost after about 10km ( all uphill). Went down an interesting looking white road to Starda, a dot on the map with a restaurant. Ate, drank the house red, then went back the way we came.
Stopped in Gaiole for a beer, then headed up to Radda the hard way, which climbs to over 600m. I think about 60km in all, but with more altitude gained than the K1 ride.

Decided on a rest day today (Friday)- had a mid-morning nap, gave Cecil a clean, then headed down to Gaiole for lunch.
None of the CR gang who are staying there were evident (most have wives who must be placated with shopping trips etc), so headed back up to Radda with a stomach full of spaghetti, beer & gelato.

When I got back to the hotel, Andy Hampsten's tour company was unloading a vanload of clients, so Cecil no longer has the garage to himself, and is looking scruffy but staunch next to the array of Colnagos, Hampstens, Merckxs, and one very cool Masi Gran Criterium. The influence of Grant Petersen is everywhere- Brooks saddles, flat pedals, even a Bleriot, Rivendell's's new 650B wheeled bike, with single chainring and huge rear sprocket.

Tomorrow, the official Eroica program begins, but I might try for an early ride up to Greve (about 50-60k round trip if I don't get too lost).

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Another day in Siena

I decided to spend another day here, mainly because I feel like I need a rest.
Yesterday I forgot to eat lunch when I arrived, and although I didn't actually blow up, I wasn't thinking too clearly either.
Todays mission is to eat, rest, then eat some more.

Went to the local Biciclettaria this morning to get Cecil's freewheel off. The mechanic led me out back and pointed me to the vise, and left me to it.
On the way out I noticed a beautiful old frame with Campagnolo Cambio Corsa shifter, which was apparently built by the papa of the woman who seems to run the shop. There was also a neat Tomassini in the workstand.

4 days of excellent riding

Friday: Novi Ligure to Castellania to see the Coppi memorial.
The Casa Coppi museum was closed, which came as no surprise.

Spent about 3 hours in the Museo dei Campionnissimi at Novi Ligure, and took a couple of hundred photos of stuff that only an extreme bikenerd could get excited about.

Saturday: from Novi Ligure, over Passa del Turchino (part of the Milan-San Remo course), through Genova (a sprawling and grubby port city). I decide to head further down down the coast. Mid-afternoon, as I climb out of Camoglia, I run out of water but over the hill it is cooler, and I crawl into Rapallo and top up my bottles. Over the next hill to Chiavari, where most of Italy was at the beach, and but the Hotel Doria had a room for very reasonable 42euros. Click here for map.

Sunday: caught the train to Pisa, saw the damn tower, then hit the road to Volterra, a town at 531m altitude,a fact I failed to notice on my map.
Probably inhabited continuously for the last 2000 years if the Roman ampitheatre is any indication.
I would have stayed another night, but the hotel didn't have room.

Today: Volterra to Siena, in the pissing rain.
Found a good backroads route, and didn't get lost, at least not so that it mattered.
Cecil broke a spoke, so I am looking for a man with a big spanner to get the freewheel off.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Man cannot live on pizza alone..

but you could give it a bloody good try if they would only serve it at breakfast.
I think I need to broaden my dining experiences somewhat, but it would help if I knew what I was ordering.

This afternoon I'm taking the train to Tortona, to see the Museo di Campionissimi at Novi Ligure, and the Fausto Coppi House in Castellania.
Some of the details, like accomodation, are a bit nebulous, but at least the weather is warm if I have to sleep under a bridge.

On Saturday & Sunday I might try to ride to San Remo via the latter part of the Milan-San Remo course.

The last few days have been frustrating, and work-related.
A trip to Vicenza to meet with Campagnolo, where I was unable to see the factory, was supposed to be followed by a visit to Fizik in Pozzoleone, but thanks to a comedy of communicational errors, it didn't happen.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Eroica diaries pt 2 Madonna del Ghisallo

17th September

Caught the train from Saronno up to Como, planning to ride to the shrine at Madonna del Ghisallo.

It cost more to get the bike on he train than it did me, and a few Italians still looked at me as if I was breaking some local taboo.
I don't think I missed much by not riding- the train passed through a succession of small towns, separated by green space which seems doomed for iminent development. Every vista includes a couple of construction cranes.

After intensively exploring the lakefront at Como I finally found the road to Bellagio down a back alley, getting underway at 11am. The road undulates along the Como lakefront through a succession of villages, and past the holiday homes of the 18th century rich.
I stopped at Lezzeno for a plate of spaghetti and a beer, before continuing to Bellagio, where I managed to get lost again. After consulting with a pair of German moto-tourists and their library of maps, I went, somewhat uncertainly, on my way.

I may surprise you, gentle reader, that the most important shrine in all Christendom is essentially devoid of any signage, so as I grovelled to an altitude of 800m, then started descending again, I was somewhat in doubt that I was on the right road. Like a good pilgrim I kept going, eventually to be rewarded by a sign advertising the Madonna del Ghisallo camp grounds. A few minutes more stiff climbing (this is the most significant climb on the Tour of Lombardy parcours), and I was there.

The inside of the chapel is tiny, the walls festooned with banners, jerseys, and memorials cyclists who have died. some at a ripe old age, but also a disturbing number of teenage riders in more recent years.
Higher on the walls, bikes that belonged to Bartali, Coppi, Motta, Gimondi, Merckx and Moser, as well as the bike that Fabio Casartelli was riding when he was killed in the 1995 Tour de France.

I stock up on Madonna di Ghisallo medallions and Fausto Coppi postcards before heading downwards to Canzo-Asso, a descent with none of the technical challenges promised by the 11km switchbacked climb up from Bellagio. Out of Canzo-Asso the road rises again, a last dragging grind before the final descent, enlivened by thickening traffic and a series of roundabouts, into Como.

Eroica Diaries - Airline food

October 15-16th

The fabulous Susy Pryde has been heard to exhort young athletes to take their own food on long flights and to eschew airline food at all costs.

Not me.

Some of my friends are athletes, and I co-habit with one, but I'm like one of those diesels that will run as happily on finest pump fuel or last nights chip fat.
The KLM flight from Singapore to Amsterdam nearly disabused me of this belief, however, and then their colleagues at Alitalia lost Cecil for a day.
He was finally delivered, in more or less good shape on Saturday night, in time for an outing to Madonna di Ghisallo yesterday, of which more anon...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Going to Eroica

Tonight I'm in Singapore's Changi Airport, enroute to to Italy, for the Milan Show, some stinky lightweight cycletouring, and Eroica.
I'll be heading home via Velo Rendezvous.

I'm as disorganised as I'm excited, and until a week ago had not decided which bike to take.
I had been waiting for a nice Frejus or other old Italian bike to present itself for duty, but it wasn't to be, so I delved into the shed and dragged out my Cecil Walker.

Last time I rode Cecil any distance was last year's K1, when I felt the 47/32 x 13-26 gearing didn't give close enough ratios, so I 'upgraded' the TA Cyclotouriste cranks to a 50/47/32 half step plus granny. This required a longer cage rear derailler, so a late model Campagnolo Rally was disinterred. It's not a great shifter, but its the shiniest thing on the bike.
Kim Sinclair gave me the scoop on the road conditions in Tuscany, so I swapped out the Conti 700 x 37 pictured for some Rivendell Riffy Tuffys.

I have a few days of business commitments, after which I want to visit the chapel at Madonna di Ghisallo, the Museo di Campionnissimi at Novi Ligure, and the Coppi hoise at Castellania before haeding to Tuscany for Eroica.
I'll be updating the blog whenever I get some internet access.