Go Dad Go!

A self-important blog about riding bikes, raising kids and the all-too-rare nexus of these two pursuits.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

From Greve-in-Chianti -- Day 1

At 8:30 this morning, having been jogging with my dad and brother for 30 minutes, I remarked, "You know, all the cyclists back home think that in Tuscany cycling is this religion, and cyclists ride up and down these rolling hills by the hundreds, but I'm not seeing it. If we were out on roads like this on a Sunday morning back home, we'd have seen 50 cyclists by now; here we've seen three."

Not long after that we turned around and headed back to Panzano, the little town where we would meet our wives; we'd passed through ten minutes earlier and the Sunday marketeers were beginning to lay out their wares. Our run had started at the house where we're spending this week, climbed a steep dirt road and met the Tuscan thoroughfare connecting Florence to Siena. As we crested the hill at Panzano the second time, we were met by a handful of cyclists, but still too few to convince me that I hadn't been deluded about Tuscan cycling culture.

And then another group arrived, in matching kits, stopping for espressi and pastries. Then three more rode through town, and then a group of six or seven, these looking fitter and more determined. Over the next half hour, as we drank our lattes (full-fat, one size) at least a couple dozen others rode through, and my mind was changed.

Cyclists in groups, and others riding solo; some cruising comfortably up towards Panzano's peak, but most struggling. A few on Cannondales, Treks and Specializeds, and more on Colnagos and Pinarellos, though not as many as I'd expected. Most legs shaved, and everyone in full, matching kit.

The cult of Marco Pantani is alive and well here; on my run back along the road between Panzano and Greve, riders with shaved heads or Il Pirata do-rags climbed in the drops, out of the saddle with one hoop earring dangling. Others evoked Pozatto and Pelizotti, curled locks flowing behind -- though none of the cyclists I saw seemed to ride as effortlessly, or certainly as fast, as any pro.

My brother remarked that here, cycling is as much social as athletic. He posited that you join your local club, and you ride on the weekend, probably just one day. You struggle through the ride, but you talk along the way, and you stop for coffee, and when it's over you enjoy a hearty lunch of red wine and cinghiale. Many of the guys we saw sported paunches, and paper-boy weaved a bit up the steeper sections; their average age had to be 50, maybe older.

The run was nice, but I was wishing I could be riding over the spectacular, green hills, putting as much effort into communicating as climbing, linking town to town and, yes, stopping for espresso. I doubt I'll have much company later in the week, when I rent a bike and ride these renowned roads, though I do think I'll ask if there's a weekday club ride; maybe some cyclists here ride during the week.


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