Looking back at 2017
When we look back at the experiences shared and memories created in 2017, it’s not easy coming up with a top 5 because there are just so many, but we think this wraps up the highlights across riding, food, wine and the great people we shared the adventure with on our Cycling Tours in Italy.
1. Riding L’Eroica with Joe & Don
This year was L’Eroica Cycling Tour #4 for us. The more I ride it, the more I love it. There really isn’t a better day on the bike. The early morning banter at the start, the macchiato at the bar in the piazza, the attitude and camaraderie all around you….and of course, the beautiful steel bikes. This year our group split into three smaller groups based on riding levels and the distances each rider was doing. I shared an awesome ride with Joe and Don as we rode together for most of it and at times on our own, getting into the spirit of things with a glass of vino at 8.30 and pushing each other to keep on the bike the whole way. Post ride, it was great to see our whole group roll in, achieving their own personal bests and sharing a much deserved beer. We are already looking forward to #5 next year.
2. Climbing Stelvio for the Queen Stage of the Giro
Passo dello Stelvio really needs no introduction and climbing this mountain on the Queen Stage of this year’s Giro with its double ascent, was impressive. The steady procession of riders making their way to the top felt like a pilgrimage, and as we passed the carnival atmosphere over the last few km’s, we shared in the spirit of this beautiful race, seeing the pro’s absolutely fly past us. Our group then dashed down the mountain, dropped our bikes back to the chalet, changed and got into a perfect position at the finish to see Nibali fight it out for the win on the line. This was just an awesome day being a part of all the action with our group on our Giro d’Italia Cycling Tour.
3. Riding from Montalcino to Chianti, Tuscany
Riding in Tuscany is just pure magic. One of our favourite rides traverses a couple of its diverse regional landscapes and it’s just another perfect day out on the bike. Following a short drive to the majestic hill top town of Montalcino for our departure point, we ride back to our Chianti base. An awesome 10k descent starts the day as we meander our way back through Buonconvento, along tiny country lanes and stretches of deserted Strade Bianche, stopping for randomly passing herds of goats, the most delicious panino at historic Castelnuovo Berardenga, warm weather, no wind and continually changing and spectacular landscapes. Tuscany is truly a cyclist’s dream destination.
4. Climbing Colle Fauniera, Piemonte
An unexpected birthday ride up Colle Fauniera with Davide from La Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo was another major highlight of 2017. Meeting Davide one afternoon and then riding Colle Fauniera, one of the most spectacular mountain climbs in Italy the next morning, was one of those beautiful moments where business and cycling blend into friendship. Colle Fauniera or Colle dei Morti as it’s also known, with its 21.9k of distance, 7.6% average and 14% maximum gradient is a great challenge that delivers spectacular and awe-inspiring landscapes the whole way up and down.
5. Dinner at The Hunter’s Hut Chianti, Tuscany
A “secret” dinner in a local hunters hut, (think small and ‘deluxe rustic’ scout hall). Under the cover of darkness, we drove about 15km from our villa in Chianti, turned off the tarmac road onto a rough dirt track for the final 200m, before turning in to be greeted by the sight of a fire pit with the largest grate I have seen suspended above a slow smouldering fire, and surrounded by hunters who had just returned from their day’s adventure. We shared a meal of the most amazing freshly foraged porcini risotto, followed by a home made pasta with cinghiale (wild boar which is a must for every visitor to Tuscany) and then the main event was straight off the charcoal and included freshly caught game, cinghiale, rabbit and bistecca. Shared with another 40 or so people comprising the hunters, our hosts and their family and friends, this was one of those unexpected, rare and authentic experiences where the warmth, hospitality and sense of community of the Tuscan people could be felt at every moment.
Looking forward to 2018
Looking forward to the year ahead and the mix of Italian Cycling Tours we’ll be hosting, there are going to be plenty of interesting things on the calendar but here are 5 experiences that we know are going to be very cool.
6. – Monte Zoncolan & a Giro Mountain Top Finish
This will be day 2 of our Giro d’Italia cycling tour and it’s going to be awesome. A 90k ride will take us to the base of Zoncolan and then only a little 10.1k climb to the summit at an average gradient of 11.9%! After reaching the top, we’ll park the bikes and join the party in this ready made amphitheatre to watch the battle up the tiny road. This will be epic.
7. – A Tuscan Long Lunch
A leisurely long lunch in Tuscany is a very special experience and we include one of these in each of our Cycling Tours in Tuscany. It’s the Tuscan hospitality, the use of seasonal ingredients, the tranquil ambience of the surrounding landscape, the superb wines and the balance of innovation and tradition with the recipes and food preparation of the restaurants we personally select. Tutto bene.
8. – Pre Ride in Venice
Our Giro cycling tour starts in Venice in 2018 and we’re looking forward to a few days r&r before the tour commences, wandering the hidden streets and indulging in an Aperol Spritz and Fritto Misto di Mare as we are once again mesmerised by the Venetian canal life.
9. – The Giro in Piemonte
We say that Piemonte is an untouched cyclist’s playground, made up of small quiet country roads rolling over, through and around the many spectacular vineyards of the region. It’s going to be cool to spend a couple of days riding here as part of our Giro Tour, indulging in some beautiful Piemontese cuisine, a glass of Barbera or Dolcetto and then seeing the Giro race over the Barolo hills and through the spectacular hilltop town of Novello on their way to a mountain top finish. Piemonte features highly on our Italian Cycling Tours list in 2018, quite simply because we think it’s amazing.
10. – Falzarego Pass, Dolomites
The mix of challenge and reward is high on the list of things to achieve for me when going for a ride. Climbing delivers the challenge component of this mix and the reward can be anything from the descent, a decadent post ride meal, the sense of achievement of completing what feels like the impossible, or in the case of Falzarego Pass, for me it is the absolute awe-inspiring beauty as you hit the 3k to go mark, which gets even more mesmerising the further you go. To get to the top and look around at the craggy peaks of the Dolomites, I am filled with a quiet calmness. It’s amazing…. and then I get to descend for 10k and have a decadent meal at the end.