The European road racing season is about to draw to a close and there are three main events left on the calendar, all in Italy. First is the Milan-Turin, then comes the Giro del Piemonte and finally the Tour of Lombardy next Saturday. All three races take place in north-western Italy and are conveniently timed and located. For example after finishing in Turin it’s not far to the start of the Piedmont race in Alba.
There’s something special about these final races, they mark the last moments before the year ends. Not just the cycling year, but the whole cycle of local life. Grapes have been picked, vine leaves are turning yellow, apples too are falling off in the breeze. For centuries life in this part of world draws to a close at this time of year and people retreat indoors. Not that life stops, it’s just that people tend to head indoors. Wine is tended to, farm tools are repaired and even sheep and catttle are brought down from higher slopes to graze in the valleys or even wintered in barns.
Cycling is very similar. It leaves the mountains behind, riders will ease of the mileage and time is spent indoors, whether wheelbuilding or weight training. As much as our sport relies on carbon fibre, aerodynamics and sports science, it follows a rhythm dictated by nature and agricultural traditions.
It’s also a fine week to get to Italy. Piedmont and Lombardy can often be overlooked by tourists who flock to Toscana and Rome but they produce fine food and wine. Piemonte is home of the Alba truffle and both Barolo and Barbaresco wine. Above all the regions are incredibly scenic. I remember a book by cycling photographer Graham Watson where he said the scenery around Lake Como was so beautiful that he wanted to scream out aloud with joy.