Living in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and getting to Italy is not a quick or easy trip. Who’s going to keep the beasts alive? Are we fit enough? Do we bring our bikes? What is the least painful way to get there, in coach? This can go on and on, depending on the worry level. My wife and I had to go to the east coast of the USA for family matters so that’s a handful of time zones down right there. My friend Robert had recently reestablished contact, his apartment in Monforte d’Alba, Italy was available. He would get us bikes. He assured me one could ride from the apartment and be right into amazing cycling. OK, this sounds like a trick but let’s do this.
The last time we traveled in Italy was during the pre-google maps epoch. Then I came armed with pages of printed-out driving directions for Milan city center from the airport which were pretty useless once I missed the first turn off the highway at 130kph. Now, life is good, the passing lane is sacrosanct and AutoGrille, the ever present highway food provider still makes consistently better coffee than even the hippest hipster café in the USA.
Robert Deeley, our old friend and owner/driver/guide/braintrust of CycleVentoux bike tours arrived in Monforte hours after us. He had just driven from Provence to Geneva to drop off clients and then down to home in Italy, all in a day’s work. Robert is an engineer and builder and when the American economy crashed in 2008, so did everyone’s construction business. As many may have contemplated but few have ever dared, he said basta, let’s try something completely different. He settled on the Ventoux area but now has additional bases in the Langhe wine country in Italy and Catalogne Nord, French side of the Pyrénées.
Monforte is one of many hilltop towns in the Langhe of Piedmont. This is an area I knew nothing about and never included in my Italian fantasy cycling dreams, but now I know better. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with the things Italy is famous for: Nice people, simple great food, great wines, amazing countryside. On our first full day there we headed out with Robert and as promised, we were in IT immediately. We descended into some cold river valleys, climbed to some hilltop towns, sat on a few Italian wheels, basked in the warm sun at cafés. Cars, I don’t remember seeing many. This was one of those shining days on the bike. I don’t need the Moritolo, I need this. Grazie Roberto.
For those who need the Moritolo, any itinerary is possible. Robert had just hosted a rowdy Australian crew who wanted to do all the big Dolomite climbs. He set up a base at a hotel in Bormio and dragged them up every climb one could do there. Normally he covers food and lodging, everything, everything except the bar bill. Smart.
The good news is if Velominati ever ventures further south than Lille for a Keepers Tour we have found our operation. Granted, Pavé Cycling Classics covered the beer costs too but they do have a direct line to a brewery.
As a disclaimer, Robert let us stay with him and use his apartment while he was riding with clients in Ventoux area. We paid for our bikes and everything else. I’m writing this because I can. He is a friend. I’d like to support anyone who endeavours to show new cycling areas to cyclists, who is doing it as a full time occupation and doing an excellent job of it.
Here are a few choice photos of CycleVentoux and our first ride in the Langhe.