Cycling in Italy
by Philip Watson and Susan Medlock
Hey, wanna know were there’s some great European cycling? Well ... listen up.
There’s this place in Northern Italy (60 miles west of Venice), at the base of the Alps, called the Italian Cycling Center (ICC). It’s run by George Pohl, an American, and they book cyclists each May through September. E-mail for reservations, pack your bike and book a flight to Venice, and ICC will have a driver waiting to get you and your bikes. If your bike misses the flight (as ours and others did), ICC will loan you a bike. The cyclists stay at the “residence”, which is Spartan but adequate accommodations (got your own shower, small fridge, stove, utensils to make coffee, etc.)
Food? Yes, indeed, darlin’. Eating, both quantity and quality, is a big part of the ITC experience. Dig this, ICC provides the rider 3 meals a day, and hey, y’all, it’s dining tailored for athletes with discriminating palates.
Please allow me to explain further.
Each morning (in your riding attire), select from a huge breakfast buffet with about anything a cyclists would want, (no tacos), and, too, if you want cappuccino and eggs, just raise your hand when the waiter yells for the count.
Lunch and dinner is a choice of 3 pasta and one rice entries; plus over 30 antipastos are self serve at the buffet; plus another entrée: choose from beef, pork, rabbit, chicken, a seafood – twice they offered grilled horse!; then pass around big platters of Freedom fries, grilled peppers, green peas, carrots, roasted potatoes and garlic.
And a gorgeous salad bar. Bottles of red and white wine as well as rustic EYE-talian bread are always on the table within grabbin’ reach.
Oh, almost forgot . . .your choice of 4 different desserts – from healthy melon to decadence squared.
Dining was on the second floor of an old building converted into a great restaurant. We sat along a wall of open-shutter windows. There was always a delicious breeze and spectacular view of rural Italy. At dinner, you view the sun setting and the moon rising.
lots of 5 star eating at ITC
Hey you gotta eat, because at ICC, the only thing better than the food is the riding.
And to cycle in Northern Italy ... is to climb.
Lots of riding at ITC
Each day, three different ride levels were offered, along with “extra credit” riding on the B and C rides. While the others drank coffee at an outdoor bar, extra credit riders rode a suggested route. Rides were grouped as A, B & C (easiest). But no ride is without it’s challenge. One of Susan’s C rides was 62 miles with lots of climbing.
All rides include a break at an outdoor cafe for coffee, pastry and scenery.
At dinner each night, ride leaders describe the next day’s rides. (It gets really quiet as the suspense of the next day is unveiled). Then, depending on how you feel, choose either A, B or C. The stronger rides will head into the Alps, with switchbacks that go up and up for miles. Once you start a climb, pretty much get a low gear and stay there till the top (and hope for a flat enough spot along the way to grab a water bottle). At the top all the riders wait and re-group. Now you’re sweaty and the air is frigid (brrrrrr!). Riders pull out their jackets and arm warmers, and then -- DESCEND. Heeeee ... haaaaa! Grab them brakes. Roll down mountain roads with multiple hairpin switchbacks, squeezing the brakes till the hands “go to sleep”. The ride leader admonishes, “everyone descend at your own pace!” – just like the climb – and on the descents, well, the guy wearing the GDB jersey was always last. Hey y’all, we ain’t got that kind of riding to practice up on.
lots of learning from the ITC crew
Everyone was super friendly. At home when packing, I forgot my newly ordered 12/27 cassette and – can you believe it?! – a guy from New York loaned me his extra 12/26. No way I’d could’ve pushed my 11/23 to the top on the A rides (I barely could with the borrowed 26 cog).
The rides finish up about 12:30 each day and you go to the restaurant. By then, the blue skies of Borso del Grappa hold scores of para-sailers and hang gliders. After lunch there’s excellent hiking in the mountains, and down the road is an Olympic sized pool. Shopping in Bassano, a 7-mile bus or bike ride, is a fun afternoon. Or you can shower then lounge outside the residence, and stick your nose in a book – our choice most afternoons (along with a cat nap).
Lots of quality bicycles are manufactured in the area (Colnago, Pinarello, De Rosa, Scapin) and, especially on the weekends, the local cyclists are out in force. The word was, “In Italy, you can always tell American cyclists ‘cause they wear black shorts and helmets.” Local riders cruise in and out of the ICC pace lines, adding a rich European cycling touch.
After 4-5 days, most riders are ready for an “off-day” and so took the train to Venice for sightseeing. Unfortunately, the museums and all the art and refined sophistication was wasted on your truly.
one day off to take train to Venice - the most romantic city in the world and Susan with the most unromantic guy in the world
What’s so cool is Northern Italy is cycling friendly. It has to be; all types of Italian citizenry ride bikes. To get an Italian driver’s license, a big part of the testing is cycle awareness. For example, many people flunk the car license test because they do not use their right hand to open the door when exiting the car -- using the right hand forces the driver to look back and see if a cyclist is approaching. It may be hard to believe, but the roads in Northern Italy are truly shared with bicycles.
river in Northern Italy
ICC costs $140 per day for room, meals and rides. $100 per day if you’re with a cyclist and don’t ride. Check ‘em out on the web at: www.italiancycling.com.
The ICC trip was our gift to each other for 20 years of marital bliss. Now if I can just figure a way to pay Susan for my half.
Filling a water bottle from a spout that has quenched thirsts for centuries
Break time on a C ride
Hey, you gotta eat
Other articles in the series:
Riding The Big Mick by Joe Rohner
Talimena Scenic Byway by Warren Smith
Colorado Cycling - Great rides for all skill levels by Joe Rohner
From the Third Roman Empire to the Third Reich: Brittany and Normandy by Joe Rohner
10 things you always wanted to know about Ireland but were afraid to ask by Joe Rohner