Italian Cycling

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Giro Merckx

With the Giro d’Italia, the Tour of Italy, less than two weeks away, I’m going to be taking a look at a few things linked to Italian cycling over the coming days. This year’s edition has a fearsome route, with more climbing than ever before; the sprinters cannot count on more than five flat stage finishes.

I’ve trying not to be biased as I have some Italian relations but for me, there’s no finer country for cycling than Italy. Belgium has some great races, the weather on a variety of Spanish islands is consistently good and Switzerland is Europe’s best kept secret. France has some superb terrain… but it also has some dull areas so as a whole it’s doesn’t win.

No, for me Italy is the most consistently good place for cycling, even if you find uninspiring terrain in the plains of Lombardia, you’ll find many cyclists. From the Alps to Sicily the country offers great roads, good weather and it’s also a great place to burn up some calories given the variety of excellent food, not to mention wine, at modest prices.

Bike business
The country still has a notable presence in the cycle trade. Names like Campagnolo and Pinarello stand out but there are many more, from home trainers by Elite to handlebars by Cinelli, as well as a host of artisan frame builders. But don’t be fooled, hit the roads on a Sunday morning you’ll be surprised by just how many are riding Shimano.

Regions
This year’s Giro celebrates il Risorgimento or “the resurgence”, the name given to the unification of the Italian state 150 years ago. Until then the country was a collection of kingdoms, with Austro-hungarian influence in the North and Spanish royal houses in the South. This legacy still survives, Italians are often fiercely proud of their region. Indeed the currently Italian pro squads are heavily focussed on particular region, for example Lampre is based north of Milan, Liquigas has its base, along with many of its riders, in the Veneto area.

Piaggio Ape

The Piaggio Ape

In the next two weeks I’ll be taking a look at a few things unique to cycling in Italy, from a few legendary names to more quirky things, like the Ape three wheeled mopeds that are part scooter, part utility pick-up truck.

In the meantime if you want, here are some interesting places on the web for Italian cycling:

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{ 5 comments }

Mark Rushton April 23, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Those Piaggios are often great to draft behind. You can always hear them coming and generally the drivers are game to let you draft for a few km

Larry T. April 23, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Great to see your focus on ITALIA! Of course here at CycleITALIA we’re horribly biased — but we CHOSE Italy as our focus after a decade of working for another challenging bike tour operation which also operated in France, Switzerland and Spain in addition to Italy, over the years. Your comments about Italians riding on Shimano stuff are true – Italians like the exotic and foreign in some things (thankfully not so much in the food category!) and I remember one of our Italian friends raving over a pair of Shimano cycling shoes. I asked, “Why would you buy those? Italians make the finest, hand-crafted cycling shoes in the world. These Shimano shoes are made-in-China, just like the sneakers you see everywhere in the world.” For him it was important to stand out in a sea of Sidi, Vittoria, etc. while riding his ex-Saeco Cannondale! Mark’s comment about the APE is dead-on, except for the two-stroke exhaust — how long can you hold your breath?

Anonymous April 23, 2011 at 6:50 pm

After last years Giro, im like a little kid waiting for christmas for this years event. For me it surpassed last years tour de france. Every stage seemed to be epic, with fantastic racing and fantastic views.

Starr April 23, 2011 at 9:15 pm

A focus on the Italian races usually brings a touch of “class” and “flash”, especially after a spring of cobbled-grit.

How about a write-up on the Italian style of racing. You know, the typical “Crescendo”.
Build, build, build, BUILD, BUILD, POW!
No wonder Italians relate everything to sex.

Mike DeGraaf April 24, 2011 at 4:19 am

I love the Giro. The climbs are amazing. I didn’t get to watch alot of last years race but the 2009 race was phenomenal. To me the Giro totally tops the TDF.

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