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.
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.
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.
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:
- La Gazzetta Dello Sport: Italy’s main sports daily in Italian, it is in the same corporate stable as Giro organisers RCS.
- The Giro d’Italia website: you’ll find profiles of the upcoming stages and more.
- The Italian Cycling Journal: from manufacturers to museums to races and riders, this blog covers plenty of cycling in Italy.