La Pina 2016: La Dolce Vita … and Bikes!
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Treviso, Italy and participate in the 20th anniversary of the La Ventesima Gran Fondo Pinarello. Here I am, a month later — and still smiling at the experience of getting to live out some of my cycling dreams of riding the back roads of Italy, with views of vineyards, beautiful buildings, sunflowers and the picturesque landscape of the Italian countryside.
This trip was at the invitation of Gita Sporting Goods and Pinarello; Gita imports Pinarello bicycles to North America and owner/principle Giorgio Andretta is also the man behind Giordana clothing. I was given the opportunity to represent Richardson Bike Mart and I was excited from the very minute Woody offered me the trip.
I was able to bring along a guest, so when I mentioned it to Annie, who loves everything Italian, she was more than happy to book a ticket for herself and come along for the ride. Little did she know, I invited her for her penchant for taking pics!
Day 1: Friday
After a long flight from DFW through Philadelphia and then over to Venice, followed by a quick 30-minute transfer to Treviso, we arrived at the hotel where we’d be staying with all the other Gita/Pinarello guests for the weekend — the really modern Best Western BHR Treviso. After a quick nap to fight off some jet lag, we headed down for cocktails in the bar before dinner where we’d meet some of Gita’s other North American attendees as well as our hosts for the weekend.
With a birra in hand, I was able to finally meet Sandy Nicholls, marketing director for Gita, who’d helped organize the trip. I was also able to meet Giorgio Andretta, owner and founder of Giordana Cycling apparel — an Italian native from nearby Vicenza, he also started Gita Sports out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Gita is the North American importer of Pinarello. Giorgio, a former elite racer himself, was one of our gracious hosts. His children, son Julian and daughter Giordana, work alongside him in both businesses and were there for the weekend as well. Girodana's husband, Geoff Walker, is the creative mind behind the clothing line's recent advertising videos. It was a pleasure to meet and get to know the Andretta family.
It wasn’t too long into cocktails when Giorgio rolled in his bike for the weekend: a stunning Pinarello Dogma F8 fresh off the production line with a navy blue and kelly green custom paint scheme. You would’ve thought an Italian supermodel walked into the bar with how fast the collective group of us surrounded the bike. Classic and simple. Uber light. A beautiful machine. Giorgio was pretty proud to show off that bit of arm candy. We were all drooling. And yes, everyone had to do the "lift up the bike and test the weight," the quintessential bike nerd version of kicking the tires on a car.
And with that, it was off to dinner — the first of many incredibly delicious meals we would be treated to that weekend. That night’s menu included the freshest Northern Italian fish called branzino and a risotto recipe from Giorgio’s hometown, complemented by an array of local wines. We shared our table with Giordana and Geoff, as well as Bicycling magazine's Rditor Bill Strickland and Advertising Sales Manager for the Midwest region, Steve Brawley.
This trip was my first to Italy and it was off to a pretty damn good start: delicious food, great people and beautiful bicycles. We were also introduced to Fausto Pinarello during dinner. A great first night!
Day 2: Saturday
The day started with a trip to the Giordana clothing factory, located an hour from Treviso. Giorgio’s pride was apparent as he walked us step-by-step through the production process. Giordana does both in-line and custom out of this facility. It was neat to see the laser cutting of the fabric and the way graphics are sublimated onto the materials. Some of the technology and techniques being used are mind blowing, yet so much is still done by hand. My favorite was seeing the various stations where all the pieces were hand sewn by women whose families who have worked in the Italian garment industry for generations. You can definitely tag the word authentic to the Giordana line. This experience made me even more of a fan of the line and will give me an extra sense of connection each time time I put their kit on.
Side note: One of the custom kits on the production line that day was the next Mellow Johnny’s kit – a fun Texas connection in the middle of Italy.
After arriving back at the hotel, I watched the Italian broadcast of the Tour de France stage with a few of the guys — the stage when Adam Yates went flying into, and over, the deflated 1k banner.
And then, the moment I’d been waiting for: we were off to pick up our bikes for the weekend. We were all to be riding Dogma F8s with custom paint jobs honoring the 20th anniversary of the Pinarello Gran Fondo La Ventesima. Bellissimo.
It was almost like Christmas morning. By now other dealer groups from around the world had arrived. There was a buzz of excitement and it was cool to hear about it in an Aussie accent or a foreign language. We were all also given matching Giordana kits to wear during the ride.
We had about 90 minutes until we were to be bussed into the city center of Treviso for the big welcome dinner and to see the main Pinarello store. Annie insisted that I put on the brand-new Giordana custom Bike Mart kit for a few pictures with the bike.
After that, I could not resist the urge to take that beautiful bicycle out for a ride on those Italian back roads. I took off by myself, went over a railroad crossing behind the hotel and in less than 30 seconds I was on this amazing road: Perfectly smooth tarmac, blue skies, lush green fields and a sun setting off to the west. I caught myself laughing aloud and grinning from ear to ear. Truly a shame I only had about 30 minutes, may as well make the most of it.
Now my Garmin 1000 map screen wouldn’t work, but it did leave me with the breadcrumb trail of where I had already ridden, so I wasn't too concerned about getting lost. It was more of a question of how much exploring I could get in. I had an idea in my head and took off. My exploratory route was going well, but the left I had envisioned showing up never appeared. A quick peek at the time and I was going to need to back track and hustle in order to make the bus for dinner! As I scooted through the lobby giving a few nods and hellos, I shouldered the bike (cross is coming after all) and took the stairs two at a time. When Annie opened the door, and told me that I had five minutes to get ready, I rushed past her, saying “I had so much fun!”
Dinner that night was nothing short of amazing. Treviso is an old walled city: the city center, which dates to the 15th century, is surrounded by ancient walls and essentially a moat. There are piazzas all around town and we were dining in one that evening. Pinarello and Gita treated us to a true Italian-style festival, complete with multiple courses, endless wine and music.
While the food was amazing, what truly made the night memorable was the company and the people we met that night. Our table of 12 Americans included Bill and Steve from Bicycling, as well as Zach, Bicycling magazine’s Publisher; Kevin McKinney and his wife, Amy, and Darin Jones and his wife, Robin, from Louisville’s Southern Performance Center; Myles Morales, a roadie with a fixed-gear heart from Bicycle Haus in Scottsdale, and a distributor in Florida named Frank Israels. We had a blast. Red wine, white wine, beer and Prosecco flowed that night as we traded anecdotes and a whole lot of laughter.
Plus — a picture with Miguel Indurain. A good night, indeed.
We were having so much fun it carried over to the hotel lounge upon our return. This is when Julian introduced me to grappa. As a bourbon guy, I can appreciate the process in which grappa is made — it’s definitely an acquired taste, but the company made it enjoyable and I look forward to expanding my grappa palate.
Needless to say it was a late night, thank goodness there wasn’t an early ride the next day.
Each morning, everyone gathered for a huge breakfast spread, full of Italian coffees, pastries, meats, eggs and more. After numerous trips to the buffet, it was time to kit up and head out for a ride.
There was a bit of miscommunication and I found myself in front of the hotel wondering where the group was. (Note to self: keep an eye out for last-minute schedule changes.) The group had left about 15 minutes earlier and headed for a road ride that would end at the nearby Pinarello factory for a tour. Despite being bummed I’d missed the ride, I decided I was going to make the most of this. I pulled my phone out, found a city and one of the foothills and decided that's where I was going to ride. Off I went.
The roads and the views in this part of Italy are simply ideal for cycling. As I worked my way northwest, I was riding along side farm fields and
orchards. While it was busy, and I was still being passed by quick moving cars, I didn’t find myself nervous or apprehensive like I do back home. Maybe it was because I wasn’t getting buzzed by a dually trucks with 18-inch mirrors.
I set out to find the city of Volpago del Montello and then head north and climb the Santa Maria della Vittoria. Nothing too intense, an appetizer for the big gran fondo the next day. And that name, just sounds so cool and I’m going to assume that is what Vittoria tires are named after and the bike was equipped with them as well.
Just like you see in a Grand Tour, I zipped through a few tight turns in this small city, took one last turn out of town and boom, the road went up. I think it went right up to 8 percent. I found my rhythm and began heading up. It was a nice foothill climb, nothing compared to what was on the other and farther to the north, but certainly much longer than anything we have in Texas.
As I came to the top, as much as I wanted to press on and explore more, I knew I didn’t have proper hydration or nutrition to attempt that. I was able to let the bike go and really get some speed back down the climb. Once again, something we don’t have much of in Texas. Perma-grin set in again as I came back into the small city and began to wander aimlessly back to the hotel.
Another great dinner with new friends — and we’d added a few Australians to the mix too — and early to bed for the Gran Fondo the next morning.
The Gran Fondo
Except that my night’s sleep was just shitty. I didn’t get more than 45 minutes that night. I don't know if it was delayed jet lag, nerves before a big ride or a combo of both, but I was miserable when the early morning finally rolled around. And when I don’t get any sleep I feel nauseous and don’t want to eat. Not a good recipe for 100 miles and more than 6,000 feet of climbing. This was going to be a long day.
I did muster up a few smiles for a pic with our little group of Americans and as Steve led us from the hotel into Treviso and the ride start. I couldn’t get over the number of people getting ready to ride, nearly 4,000! Second largest ride I’ve ever seen next to Hotter than Hell. We had a good 30 minutes til start so I did manage to eat a few rice cakes. 100 miles and some rice cakes. Solid nutrition plan right there.
We had been put into staging areas based on our numbers. We had numbers in the 1400s so I landed in the second corral. That meant about 1000 riders
in front of me. The only thing I’d heard about the ride is getting to the first climb at 20K as fast as you can. Of course, everyone else is trying to do the same thing, so be ready to drill it from the gun.
The first wave rolled away and we waited for what felt like an eternity, maybe two minutes, then they released the next wave. We spent the next few minutes dabbing along until we make it over the moat and out of the walled center city and then it goes full gas. Not kidding, everyone is drilling it on the main road out of town. It takes me a few moments to gather myself, shift it up to the big ring and start to hammer myself.
And so this goes on, four lanes wide, full traffic closures, full gas. I look down at my Garmin more than once to see speeds near 50 KPH! Yes, kph, I am in Europe after all. While I’m trying to pass slower riders and find faster wheels that are passing me, I’m actually feeling pretty good. That said, I’m also in my head trying to figure out how long I’ll be able to ride. First thought is to hammer to the first climb to help get our little American crew to the base and then find a place to turn off and call it a day. But then I get to that point and I manage to zip right up the climb, passing more people than are passing me.
Rest Stop Madness
Not long after I discover where the real race of an Italian Gran Fondo occurs: the rest stops. Still undecided on how long I’m going to ride, I take advantage of the first rest station at the top of the next climb. The name of this climb escapes me but topping off bottles and grabbing a bite seemed like the best thing to do.
Holy moly, what a melee. Since this ride is timed everyone is in a massive rush to get back on the ride. So much so, people aren’t getting off bikes to
fill bottles and food. Instead, simply pushing forward while still straddling the top tube, using elbows. It was nuts. I get that there was some money on the line — but that’s why Fausto arms himself with Indurain and Team Sky riders 10 minutes up the road. I was laughing to myself as I wedged in to grab my water and walked back to my bike.
I didn’t go too much longer until I knew it was decision time. Really, there was no decision to make. Right turn for the full Gran Fondo, including two legitimate mountain passes, or a left turn for the Medio Fondo and not bonking.
Left turn it was.
In the end it was the right choice. All things considered, I felt okay, but I would have cracked, big time. At this point I’m in between just following wheels for a few minutes then doing my own thing for a few more while I take in some of the amazing sights. This amazing valley road, once again just like on television, with vineyards so close I felt like I could reach out and pull grapes right from the vines. I did finally settle into a small group and one big guy seemed to insist that he do the lion’s share of the pulling as we started working our way back to Treviso, fine by me. We had one climb left, not a very long one, but one that averaged close to 10%. I knew that when the river on our left side we were getting close.
I saw someone standing in the road blocking traffic and I knew that it was time to climb. As we made the turn, I pulled up next to the big guy doing work. We looked over at each other and he mutters something in a language I don't understand. My response is a laugh and to tell him I wasn’t sure what he said, but I perfectly understood the message, he responded with a laugh as well and we started grinding up that hill.
Grind it was. Choosing the short route was now a splendid idea. As I picked my way past slower riders, I decided to pick it up near the top, this was a timed segment on the ride. As I heard the beep from the timing device I saw the next rest station and the rumors were true, beer!
After a birra and a pastry, it was time to put a bow on this thing. Only 25k was left and this first part was downhill. I was in a small little group and it contained a female rider that was just railing the turns. We lined up five or six deep and just followed her line all the way down. It was absolutely one of the best parts of the ride.
As we motored along the flats back into town, I began to take inventory. I was cooked, and no sleep and no food was getting the better of me. In the last 10k as the pace quickened, I was unable to take pulls and started hiding in the back. In the last few kilometers when it really got fast I just sat up and soft pedaled in. I crossed the line satisfied yet wanting more. Perhaps some other day I’ll return to climb those mountain passes.
I was fortunate enough to call this a work trip (a heartfelt thank you to Woody and RBM), but if you think you are up to the task you can do La Pina as well. Sign up and book it on your own or let Pinarello Travel take care of everything first-class, VIP style.
Either way, this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip full of food, friends, bikes and wine that should not be missed out on. Ever since I started cycling and watching professional racing I've always dreamed of riding a cobbled road in Northern France or through a valley full of vineyards in Italy and it actually happened, I might very well still be smiling.
Echelons, Gravel and Beer: Just your normal ho-hum Saturday morning training ride with a guy named Lance.
*This recap originally appeared on TexasBikeRacing.com — where you'll find all the racing news and cycling lifestyle features for bike racing in the state of Texas.
Last weekend, despite some early-morning rain, I made my way over to Ft. Worth to join the Mellow Johnny’s first “Ride with Lance” group ride.
Now I have never ridden with or met Lance before so it was a unique opportunity to be a part of this — and to get the chance to shake his hand and a quick picture before we rolled out was pretty cool. Seeing that I’d get to ride with not only Lance, but a handful of elite Texas racers, including friends Chopper, Chris, and Colton, I knew I was in for some fun, and probably some pretty stout training.
As about 300 gathered in the parking lot, Will Black of Mellow Johnny’s (great guy, definitely worth it to find him in the ATX store and say hello*) made a few announcements about where the rides were going to head and how those of us in the faster group should keep it cool until we reached a certain point. Ah, the “hold your horses, gentlemen” pre-ride message.
For those of us in the smaller group that would head out for the longer, harder ride that Lance himself would do, I full well knew that this was going to turn into a training “race” at some point, so I was sure to get myself up near the front on the roll out and stay up there. It was a grey, chilly and the winds were howling before we left the parking lot. Good spring weather in Texas, right?
As we began to get farther and farther from town, the pace picked up a time or two as did the strength of the wind. As we made a right hand, turn we had some construction barrels to deal with for a few miles so we settled two by two onto the shoulder of the highway.
On the Wheel of a Champion
It was not my intention, but there I was, sitting on Lance’s wheel. This was the first time of the day I had really ridden near him and it took a few minutes to sink in. It was very surreal, all those years watching him on TV. The wind was howling directly at us at this point and all I could think about was don’t crash into him, not that I ever want to crash into anybody, but I certainly didn’t want to touch wheels today.
A left hand turn put us onto White Settlement Rd and this is one of the times we opened it up. I had never ridden these roads before and it was a nice combo of rolling hills and turns. Throw in some loose gravel in the turns, as well as 200-yard sections torn out for construction with that wind, and we had our very own Spring Classic. It was every man for himself as we screamed towards Lake Weatherford.
Mind the Gap
At one point, some of the loose gravel in concert with a blind left-hand bend found me on the wrong side of a gap and having to dig deep to close it down. I looked behind to see if there was anyone to help and there was nothing. It was just the 20 or so guys that I was with, and I had to get to that last wheel.
I did, and then we backed off a bit as we cruised around the east and north side of the lake, but then was soon as we hit the west side, Powers had to go to the front and show off those legs he worked on in Mallorca. He pulled us along so fast that when my file uploaded to Strava after the ride I ended up with a KOM. Powers, you beast!
The group whittled down to just a few in contrast with the 100s that rolled out.
We crossed under I-20 and took a quick rest at a convenience store and it was time to head on back to the shop. We rolled down 20 and I think we may have picked up part of the Peach Pedal as we headed back (another ride I need to go do again) and we went south towards Aledo. The group had grown in size after the stop and we were soft pedaling through some of the tight turns. Lance was riding near the front with some of his crew, a few guys inadvertently rolled off the front and were met with an immediate whistle — they quickly sat up and were absorbed back into the peloton. El Patron had spoken.
As we rolled up to the stop sign on Aledo Road to let traffic clear on Chapin School Rd, I looked over at Chopper and in between deep breaths asked, “When was the last time you traded pulls with a former World champ who has been on the podium at the Tour de France eight times?” He just smiled and laughed, “Nope, that’s a first.” A quick peek around and there was only seven or eight of us there, still not sure how I pulled that one off.
The LA Train
After the bunch wheeled through Aledo, we were met with that blunt force of that 25 MPH gust right on the nose. The pace dropped and the first few guys ended up putting the rest of us into the gutter. After a few minutes of this, I hear a “move to the left!” hollered from behind. I knew exactly who it was, and about 60 seconds later, to the front he went. Lance opened it up and sat on the center line as we set up the echelon behind him. Next thing you know, it is full gas and we are all taking 10-second pulls on the front. After my second time through, I was slotting to the back, looking for the last wheel to jump on when I realized it was just seven of us left, the group had disintegrated with that tempo in the wind and somehow I’d managed to make it. Pretty surreal for this Cat 3 racer.
As we rolled back into MJ’s and closed out the 50 some miles, we could hear the live music and smell the food trucks. Then the best part of the ride was when I heard there would be free beer. Free beer!?! Heck yea, by know you know that I, and a whole lot of TBR readers, #willraceforbeer
When cycling meets gaming: Can a virtual ride on a boring, old trainer actually be fun?
Congratulations! You’re in.
I had been waiting for that email for an eternity it seems. In reality, it was only 48 hours, but with the cold, snow, and ice we had been getting in north Texas, I was getting a bit stir-crazy. Couple that with a cold, and I was even beginning to relish the opportunity to get back on the trainer.
For the better part of a week I’d seen Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter blow up with posts and pictures about people “riding laps” around Zwift Island. Think of this as a trainer combined with a game console. There was also news of current and retired pros riding on the Isle of Zwift – I’d even seen a teammate manage a screenshot of Jens Voigt. I remembered reading a release about it back in December, but I was so wrapped up in other things as well as still having decent weather, I didn’t give it much thought. Well, now I needed to be on that island.
Setup was quite simple; just a simple download and I was set. (Zwift works on both Mac and PC.) From there, I created a standard user name and password details to create a profile. The game requires an ANT+ power meter or a trainer that broadcasts in watts; sync this up with other ANT+ device such as a heart rate monitor and speed/cadence sensor. The last step before I could start playing riding was to create my avatar, right down to the socks and shades.
Game on: Let’s Pedal
Now, the fun begins. I hopped on the trainer and started pedaling. Once I was all synced up and ready to go, I was dropped on the island right before the start/finish line. My plan was to ease into it and warm up a bit before going to hard. Well, that lasted for about 45 seconds. I was immediately closing gaps on the guys in front of me or having guys come flying past. It was quite the shot of adrenaline in the arm, so I was instantly shifting into a bigger gear and pushing things a bit. No little animated character was going to pass me!
Now the video game aspect started to kick in. I noticed a progress bar across the top of the screen ever so slowly start to fill. So as I pulled up behind the next guy in front of me, the screen read “close the gap.” I did and held it for a bit before a loud sound filled the speakers as I had unlocked an achievement for drafting. As I made my way around the island, I unlocked a few more achievements along the way and my progress bar jumped from level one to two. I was slowly becoming hooked.
On each lap, there were three distinct points that rewarded real-time jerseys. There was a green jersey sprint point, a KOM point, and then the start/finish line of each lap itself. These times were kept and the jersey awarded until somebody bested the time or the current leader left the island. I had yet to attain any of these jerseys, but had unlocked other jerseys and bikes with other achievements. With all the other action going on, with riders passing and being passed a, with having to deal with those three points, I found myself sweating profusely with my heart rate elevated.
Before I knew it, I’d ridden almost 90 minutes covering close to 30 miles. I scrolled through my Garmin to take a peek at my Training Stress Score and Intensity Factor, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I got a decent workout in while the time flew by. I can’t say that I was doing specific intervals or wattages, but I was a bit tired and my legs felt like it was a good workout.
So despite the fact that Zwift is still a trainer ride, it seems like it could be a great way to pass the time while on the trainer. Most of us have tried music, movies, even watching race replays. None of those really seem to cut it. Zwift takes riding on a trainer and combines it with a multiplayer online video game. Still in beta testing with this one limited island course, the company expects it to officially launch in the near future and offer more locations to ride – and with the response of more than 13,000 cyclists signed up as beta testers, Zwift seems like they’re really onto a new way of training and even racing. Rumor has it Zwift will host online group rides and possibly even races. Could we one day be racing Jens Voigt in a virtual crit?
Maybe. In the meantime, the cool thing about Zwift is that you can hop on at the same time as your cycling friends, teammates, or even competitors – from near and far – and race them around the island. If nothing else, the trash talking on social networking after a Zwift ride is awfully entertaining.
Maybe a TBR Zwift race is in order?
JOIN ADAM FOR A GROUP RIDE.
Ride resumes Spring '16
Wednesdays | The World Famous P&A Lunch Ride | 1:00 p | Richardson Bike Mart | 18 mph average | 15 miles | sponsored by Richardson Bike Mart
[sponsored by usually means free stuff every now and then]