The V in Italy.

The V in Italy.

Strangers in Paradise- CycleVentoux to The Rescue

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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.

 

 

 

// Cyclotourism

  1. Coffee along the road in Italy? It’s way too hip for me! I recall having to wait at a counter and then getting a small porcelain cup. I guess they figure you have to have a cigarette too so what’s the hurry. But Seriously? I want something big that I can take with me. Up in Spain following breakfast at an inn, that was situated in a vineyard, very cool place, in Bilbao, I recall asking for a to go cup of coffee before we headed west for a drive to the mtns. They looked at me funny. Look, the coffee may be good I get it. But I just don’t have the patience to hang around sipping from small cups when I have places to be. I like big cups of black to go coffee. I love that stuff. They don’t get coffee done right in Europe. It’s supposed to be fuel.

    That said, I think I might forever regret not participating in that last KT. At least until one in future. And what I wouldn’t do to ride a bike in the mtns north of Italy some day. Super cool. I’ve made that run from Malpensa to Lugano thru Como in small cars. Oh man, Beautiful.

    Cheers!

  2. @Randy C

    Good Coffee. Less is more. ‘Nuff said.

  3. @Randy C

    They don’t get coffee done right in Europe.

    I can’t insert a boggle eyed emoticon can I?

  4. Looks like some damn fine times there, Gianni! Love it that you were given Bianchi to ride too…

  5. @Randy C

    Bzzzt, wrong.

  6. @Oli

    Yeah, me too. There was a possibility they were going to be Scott’s but I too was thrilled to be on the celeste. And the groupsan on my bike was faultless. Luckily my wife’s was Campagnolo, maybe Potenza so she didn’t have to reprogram her brain on shifting. I kept downshifting on climbs when I meant to up shift.

  7. @Randy C

    I recall asking for a to go cup of coffee before we headed west for a drive to the mtns. They looked at me funny.

    Yep, that’s not going to happen in Italy either. No giant cups of filtered coffee. No one is lingering over their coffee, caffé (espresso to us) there either, boom, out the door. Really good fuel.

    My wife asked if there would be Starbucks…god I hope not was my answer. And I was right. Every little bakery and bar sells good caffé, 1 euro, or less.

  8. Damn, Gianni, that looks like a wonderful time you all had. Seriously jealous! Those Italians sure have some of that je ne sais quoi, don’t they? (insert banned three-part punctuation here).

  9. So good to see you getting away from heaven once in a while. Oh wait, but you went to heaven. I’m confused? Celeste, espresso on the highway to heaven…

    Gianni you and the little lady look great, fitter than Sean! Thanks for sharing!!

  10. @Randy C

    The rantings of a man who doesn’t understand the first thing about coffee. Please disregard…

  11. *Mortirolo*

    (Italian for death on wheels)

    Sounds amazing Gianni. I love any place where the hardest thing is choosing between espresso, gelato and vino rosso!

  12. @Harminator

    *Mortirolo*

    (Italian for death on wheels)

    Sounds amazing Gianni. I love any place where the hardest thing is choosing between espresso, gelato and vino rosso!

    On a clear day the Alps are right there. And riding to the Ligurian coast is not far either. In Alba I saw signs for Del Turchino which I was assuming meant the M-SR route must go near.

    Still, as you were saying, the mix of riding and recovery options are really hard to beat. If I didn’t suck so badly at climbing I might entertain such foolishness, but I know better.

  13. @Rob

    So good to see you getting away from heaven once in a while. Oh wait, but you went to heaven. I’m confused? Celeste, espresso on the highway to heaven…

    Gianni you and the little lady look great, fitter than Sean! Thanks for sharing!!

    Too me long enough, didn’t it? Always a good idea to wait until one is ready for the wheelchair before actually riding in places like Italy. And that body slimming lycra, you can’t beat that stuff.

    My connection to Robert is through SR. He is the brother of Abby Gladstone, and used to live in Cambridge. You might have known him too.

  14. @wiscot

    Damn, Gianni, that looks like a wonderful time you all had. Seriously jealous! Those Italians sure have some of that je ne sais quoi, don’t they? (insert banned three-part punctuation here).

    I’m seriously jealous of the hand gestures required to communicate there. I don’t think it can be learned. And lots of Italians out riding on the weekends, even some giant groups out on the narrow roads. No car drivers getting mad at all. That, my friend, is heaven.

  15. @Gianni

    @Randy C

    I recall asking for a to go cup of coffee before we headed west for a drive to the mtns. They looked at me funny.

    Yep, that’s not going to happen in Italy either. No giant cups of filtered coffee. No one is lingering over their coffee, caffé (espresso to us)…

    Huh ????? Oh man, is there a place that better defines a good linger ?? Okay, maybe in Spain you linger longer in to the night during dinner but dang… It’s Italy ! And there’s not a better place to linger with class ! That’s just the thing. I don’t know how it is possible to linger over those little cups of coffee. I mean, sure, have a cigarette, but dang… You know, I think that greatest word in all language, is Maranello, when said with good Italian dialect.

    Anyways, going to Italy and riding Bianchi’s? Well that’s about perfecto! Not withstanding the little coffees that are too hip for me.

    BTW: I have a cupboard full of those little stovetop espresso makers. Little Bialettis. Great fun in eve’s after dinner when cooking up a coffee to be served along w/some good grappa.

    Cheers!

  16. @Gianni

    @Rob

    So good to see you getting away from heaven once in a while. Oh wait, but you went to heaven. I’m confused? Celeste, espresso on the highway to heaven…

    Gianni you and the little lady look great, fitter than Sean! Thanks for sharing!!

    Too me long enough, didn’t it? Always a good idea to wait until one is ready for the wheelchair before actually riding in places like Italy. And that body slimming lycra, you can’t beat that stuff.

    My connection to Robert is through SR. He is the brother of Abby Gladstone, and used to live in Cambridge. You might have known him too.

    I have to get me some of that body slimming Lycra!!

    No, Robert and I never crossed paths, that I remember. If I had known that a 2degree friend was doing this I think I might have posted up… Oh well I’m still feeling like there is some time left as FL is truly the fountain of youth and I’m reaching new plateaus every 6 months. Maybe we could organize something in the not to distant future with the usual suspects and hangers on – now that @BuckRogers @xyxax are expats it should be easy to get a crew together? After Tuesday we may all be looking for permanent vacation homes…

  17. @wiscot

    Damn, Gianni, that looks like a wonderful time you all had. Seriously jealous! Those Italians sure have some of that je ne sais quoi, don’t they? (insert banned three-part punctuation here).

    io non lo so…

  18. That’s great, Gianni!

  19. Such a great trip! Well done! So great!

    And Milan is only 7 hours from my door. I have been duly inspired to make a trip down sooner than later!

    And yes, nothing better than a slow espresso before, during or (and) after a ride in Europe.

  20. Ciao Gianni: those are my roads !!!

    The photo was taken on the road just out of Murazzano going to Montezemolo. I’m based in Milan but my family is almost from there so I often ride in the beautiful Langhe roads. A paradise for cyclists.

  21. Woah, cool trip Gianni! Thanks for sharing, glad you got to experience it!

  22. @Luca

    Ciao Gianni: those are my roads !!!

    The photo was taken on the road just out of Murazzano going to Montezemolo. I’m based in Milan but my family is almost from there so I often ride in the beautiful Langhe roads. A paradise for cyclists.

    Caio Luca. Lucky you! I’m glad you know where I was because I didn’t really but I did know know it was fantastico. I already feel the need to get back there next year.

  23. @Pedale.Forchetta

    That’s great, Gianni!

    Thanks Pedale, I was thinking of you as we spent time in Italy. Italy seems well, lots of small industry, work, infrastructure improvement. Things seem more hopeful there, meanwhile, we are riding off a cliff here…

    I better go ride my bike.

  24. Just keep riding, just keep riding ….

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