So, Italy is done and dusted… A massive contrast from Whistler clearly! Which was kind of the point, after Enduro shredding in France and full DH action in Canada, it was time to select something else from the menu.
I have to admit I am toast after 7 days of hard road riding in Italy… Legs are fried and I am ready for a rest, much like I was after Whistler. Its a different kind of flogged out obviously, as the T Rex arms feel good, but my lower half is shredded.
Oddly, whilst I would love to stay and ride more, I was strangely ok to see the bike packed up this morning. I think that yesterdays epic final ride was a fitting send off to the Italian adventure (let it be noted I have done the whole trip without using the ‘Italian Job’ cliche).
So, to sum up the Italian awesomeness, a few sections below to bring it all to a close here:
1. A few notes on locations
Trento – Once the mystic of being in Italy had worn off I worked out this was the Masterton of Italy… Good riding and a nice village square, but you wouldn’t be saying “come on kids, lets pack up the people mover and spend a few weeks in Trento” to be honest. Fantastic riding out of town with some epic climbs, but I would make it a quick stay. Good if you want to come in Sept and get mangled on the Worlds course.
Prato – Pleased I can say I went to Germany on this trip, which is what Prato basically was. All the signs are in German first, everyone spoke German and it was strangely tidy and efficient… Weird. Nice place for sure, but quite small and quiet. I enjoyed it, but suspect for riding its a bit limited. I would probably suggest staying in Bormio on the other side of the Stelvio, looked like riding options were more plentiful and the non-classic side of the Stelvio looked epic.
Varese – Ah, yes, the place to be. Surprisingly close to Milan airport (which seems a long way from Milan), this place is great if you are coming with your troops and not on a Mancation. It has good shops so everyone can smash your cash while you’re out riding, good restaurants and lots of shit to look at. Its not on a lake or in the mountains (lake is not too far away), but that didn’t seem to matter. The riding here is unreal and the options to take seemed limitless. Importantly, there are decent climbs that sit in that 10 to 15km range, perfect for non-PRO riders.
2. A few stats
So, 7 days in Italy and what did we manage to clock up? No wonder I feel a bit shagged:
- 7 days of riding
- 535km’s ridden
- 24 hours and 18 minutes on the bike
- 10,855m climbed – Not too bad given Everest is 8,848m
3. A few awards
- Climb of the trip – Tough one this one, as I really liked the last climb of the trip, but I am going to have to go with the Mortirolo I think, basically due to its history and sheer freak factor, its not a normal climb and has huge knee crushing novelty
- Technology of the trip – The awesome combo of Strava/Map my ride/Garmin 800. I am sure its not new to anyone else, but using this golden threesome led to not only an annihilation of my comfort zone, but guided me to awesome roads I would never have seen otherwise
- Hotel of the trip – Hands down winner goes to Hotel di Varese, potentially one of the best I have been to in Europe. It wasn’t just the awesome rooms and mind blowing Wifi power, but the staff were amazing and super helpful, this is THE place to stay if visiting Varese
- Athletic feat of the trip – A tie between Clarso qualifying for the Worlds in Sept and his last 3km’s riding up the Stelvio, which saw him get into the top 10 on Strava. Just a beast on a bike, especially when it ticks about 7% on a climb. Or any % on a climb actually
- Shit my Rapha shorts downhill of the trip – The Mortirolo is a candidate, but I rode it to slowly to really worry as it was a freak show… No, this award goes to the second downhill on the Sept worlds course where I topped out at 80kph and almost couldn’t slow it down for the hairpin. And Clarso was pulling away from me. Fart noise
- Stiffy inducing Gelato award – This place in Varese did insanely good Gelato, well, this meringue thing that was more just sugary cream than anything else, but it was epic. Close second was the place in Trento in the square that Clarso and I hit multiple times
4. A few tips
Conceptually a lot of the principles from riding in Whistler apply to riding here, depending on how you would want to do a trip to Italy – Assumption is you want to climb epic monument Cols, if so, hit some of these ideas or tips:
- Plan the rest days – You can turn up and ride every day, just plan for some massive melt downs like my pathetic moment on the Stelvio… Plan your rest days in advance and like Whistler, its best to try some of the hard shit fresh, its more fun
- Bike set up – You really have to buy an Evo, but if you lack the personal courage to do so then you will absolutely need to turn up with a compact crankset (50/34) and a 27 cassette, unless of course you are Pro or love the idea of knee surgery or walking up mountains. Even Clarso endorses compact and he is a beast
- Do your homework – Check strava, look at blogs, ask around and get the low down. You don’t want to map out a ride and find its 30kms through tunnels, so make sure you check routes and also find the most famous ways to go. There are 3 ways up the Mortirolo for example, 1 is legendary and the other 2 are shit, would have been gutted if we’d got the wrong one
- Warmth – Its mind melting hot here in summer, so big bottles and lightweight kit, but still bring a jacket and some cold weather gear if you are heading to the mountains, its cold up there and shit can turn nasty faster than a wolf falls asleep
- Consume – The best thing about cycling every day in Italy means you can eat like a horse with worms, which is great as the food is legendary. Did I mention the Gelato? But on the bike you will need a lot of bars and gels if you are doing long range missions. The more days you ride, the more you will need. I ate a ridiculous amount of food on the last ride and still had to buy more on the way, so don’t get caught out by the accumulative effects
- Location – I haven’t done much in Italy to be fair, so not an expert, but I would probably split my time between Varese and Bormio to take in some of the Iconic climbs and rides, easy to get to and between from Milan, but that’s only my experience based on a sample size of 7 days and being driven around by Clarso
- Preparation – Don’t turn up here nude without any miles or importantly, climbing miles in your legs. You’ll be hating on yourself if you do, as riding here will tear you up if you’re not ready. Hit the hills and get a good base in to maximise riding enjoyment here.
So, its time to get on the SQ bird and head back to the hub to refuel, refit and rearm before heading out to the next leg of the tour, something completely different and unique and another first for me – The Nighthawk looms: