Velo Veneto - Ciclismo Italiano !

Stories from the Velo Veneto bike racing camp in Castelcucco, Italy

Location: San Francisco, California, United States

I'm a 50 year old kid who loves to race bikes. I operate a bike racing camp in Northern Italy. When not in Italy I have the good fortune of living in one of the best places to ride, the Northern California Wine Country.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Passo Rolle videos

Thursday, June 28, 2007

i Dolomiti

It's been a big training week for us again. On Tuesday we took the group into the Dolomites to ride the Passo Rolle. This is a 21k climb that goes from 700m up to 1984m elevation. It is gorgeous as you can see. It's not a steep climb so when the Giro d' Italia goes over it's usually one of the first climbs of the day. Check out these photos....

On Wednesday we took the group, with hesitation up the Monte Grappa 1775m (a 26.4 k climb with 1600m of elevation gain)...I say hesitation because the weather looked a bit iffy, with storm clouds coming and going over the summit. We waited an hour then decided to give it a go. Sure enough, about 2k from the top, the leaders (Dom and Lupo) ran into rain. We didn't have the van with us this time, so worries about hypothermia on the descent caused most of the group to turn back down.

But not Lorenzo, the Ali Cat and Michele (Mike in Italian for his friends back in I told them as I passed them going down that I'd ride back to Castelcucco and get the van, then drive back up and get them. Well over 2 hours later, there they were in the Rifugio at the top, only enough $$ for hot chocolate, shivering, waiting and hungry. Mother Grappa had made them pay a price (43 degree rain!), but Allison set a record for the 30-34 age group women, 1hr 47min....she's one tough chick .... Complementi Ali !
Here's the Grappa on a nicer day !

Today, Thursday, was a day that everyone admitted they were about "cotto" (cooked). I took them on a 54 mile ride with about 3,000 ft. of climbing (we took out the final climb in favor of a race play section).

Damn, that Ali Cat is a tiger! The girl knows how to suffer, right there for the final sprint to Asolo (after Mike fell off the pace!)

The reason we had taken out the final climb (one used in International U23 races here) is that Ali told me she was ACTUALLY tired ! But there she is having a go.

Good luck to the ladies back in the Bay Area....she is going to throw down on you all in July !!!

Ok, racing on Saturday then a big ride in the Dolomites on Sunday over four passes....Sella, Pordoi, Campolongo and Gardena !

Until then, "in bocca al lupo"

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mike & Ali

Here's a short video of Mike & Allison at Velo Veneto. The first section is Mike climbing from Valstagna to Foza (14k, 900m gain). Next are two short clips of Ali racing with the Super Gentlemen in Monticello Conte Otto (I'm riding at the back of their pack trying to film and not crash!) And lastly is Mike attacking from the main field in Ponte della Priula. Great job you two !!!

Lot's of Zone 4/5 !!!

Well, week one for UDACE racing is in the books. FYI, UDACE stands for "Unione Degli Amatori Ciclismo Europeo"....or as Lupo likes to call it..."hibachi" racing...maybe because you'll be fried after the weekend !

We have eight riders here at Velo Veneto right now and five of us did two races last weekend. (two others just arrived the day before, and the third is just training with us).

Here in the Veneto region we have Treviso, Vicenza, Belluno, Padova, Venezia and Verona provinces to choose races from (there are 5,000 licensed racers in the Veneto region!)....all are within an our drive of our base in Castelcucco.

On Saturday we chose the race in Monticello Conte Otto, near Vicenza (home of Campagnolo) about 45k from Castelcucco. For Mike, Ali and Larry, this was their first UDACE race experience. The course was a 4.5k circuit with a couple of tight corners where a wider road turned into a narrower one. I had warned everyone that for the most part, corners in Europe (unless it's the final corner) are not taken at high speed like American criteriums. For that reason, if you're not at the front of the group the accordian effect is huge. In fact that is a race tactic that is used. The riders at the front will coast coming into the turn, going from speeds between 25-30+ mph down to sometimes 20mph or less. If you're farther back than the first 10-15 riders, you're hard on the brakes then really having to jump on it coming out of the corner because the leaders have attacked out of the turn and the field will really stretch out with gaps starting to form. This is where many of the breakaways get started.

To those not used to this, it seems a bit strange and a waste of energy. Well yes, it is if you're sitting in the pack versus, being aggressive at the front, attacking, covering attackts, etc. The Italians don't like to sit in !!! If you want to do that, they'll try to make it hard for you.

Of course every race is different. On some courses where the roads are very wide and the pack is large, sitting in is much easier. But are you "racing" just sitting in?

If the course has narrow roads and lots of tighter turns....look out, the field will explode....much like what you see on the videos of races in Belgium....the strongest truly will survive and dominate. That's why you MUST ride at the front ! It's very hard work, but the only way to get in the breaks.

OK, too much rambling....back to Monticello. The weather was warm, about 86 degrees with moderate humidity. Ali was first up with the "Super Gentlemen" (age 56-70) and "Donne" group (the huge majority of the time the women race with the SuperGentlemen). Unfortunately, she was the only women (there was a big Championship in Milano this weekend, so our fields were a bit smaller than usual). Check out Ali's blog for her own report, but she was stoked at the finish, talking tactics and giving her fiance Mike some pre-race advice on what to expect.

The next race was the Veterani (40-47) and Gentlemen (48-55). This was a pretty big field, probably about 80 riders. I had "promised" Larry that I'd watch out for him in the group (being his first race), but I wasn't true to my word.... something about pinning a number on me and I get all competitive it seems. Hence I was covering attacks from the start and was getting fried after only a few of the 13 laps we did. Lupo took over looking for the right move mid race, but had to go back into the pack for a rest and that's when "the move" that worked was off the front...about 15 guys. Mike was watching and waiting, ready to fire his silver bullet and made an all out attack with about 6 laps to go....but it's hard to get away solo when the pack is cruising along at 45k/hr. Next Lupo (aka Paul Wolfe) got away with another guy with 4 laps remaining and hung out there at about 15-20 seconds. In the final lap I went to the front and just set tempo, fast enough that the tired riders left in the main field wouldn't attack, but slow enough that we didn't pull Lupo's break back. He held on for a 6th place finish among the "Gentlemen". After the finish I looked down at a heart rate monitor that said 170 average HR (174 threshhold), 188 max for the day, 59k in 1:22, 43.1k ave. speed.

On Sunday, we raced in Ponte della Priula. This time the Gentlemen raced without the Veterans and some of the bigger guns were back from Milano. This day the course was more wide open with only one technical turn, but it was grovelling in the gutter was the order of the day. Again we (Lupo, Larry and I) missed the winning break. At times like that I like to just get some hard training setting a hard tempo at the front, or chasing down as many attacks from the pack as possible....all in an effort to get stronger. Throw tactics and saving energy out the window. These races can be so intense that you can't really train hard enough during the week, so this is your chance to bring your fitness up. Nothing results wise to report for us....the same with Mike in the Veterani....missed break, so he also did a bunch of work at the front, trying to form a chase break, setting tempo etc.

The star of the day was Ali. There were some of the stronger Super Gentlemen back from Milano and they busted up the field into three groups. Ali said it was a really hard race and the guys were actually being gentlemen, watching out for her, helping her to stay in there as she was working so hard. She was rewarded with the winners flowers, a podium girl kiss and the requisite bag of groceries !
Big training this week coming up. Trip to the Dolomites on Tues, then the Monte Grappa on Wed. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Time to Rest

Today the plan was for 75k's with some speed work in the last half of the ride, but after three hard days of training, Mike & Ali were a bit "cotto" (cooked). That and the fact that it's starting to warm up here, mid to upper 80's with some humidity. Sooooo, we decided that being more rested for the races this weekend was more important that pushing it. We did a nice spin through Cornuda, took a few pictures of Market Day, then around the Montello (site of the 1985 World Championships) and back through Asolo. Along the way, we passed a young rider who decided to sit in with us and when we slowed a bit he wanted to chat...with Ali first of course! His name is Diego Bernardi and he's a 19 yr. old "dilletanti" rider who lives in nearby Fonte and rides for one of the top teams in the area (last year two of he teammates earned pro contracts). In fine Italian fashion he called his mother and told her he'd be late for lunch because he had met some Americans and wanted to chat with them. One of his dreams is to visit America and maybe race his bike there. He loves all things American. Funny how we're all so in love with Italy and all he wants to do is come and see how we live. Maybe we can help facilitate that!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

GF Campagnolo

Almost dinner time here in Italy on Wed, June 20. The Gran Fondo was three days ago, so why am I just writing now? Sono molto stanco !!! (I am very tired)

This year because of some conflicts with one of the towns the ride went through, the race started at the ungoldly hour of 6:45 am which meant having to get up about 4:30 !!!
As usual, those that care too, meaning most of the bunch, start out like bats out of hell (once you clear the starting area and get out of town anyway) one point I saw 61k/hr on a flattish stretch....well, ok, that was me trying to bridge up to the next group.
So you hit the first main climb at the 36k mark and face 9km at a 6% average with maximum of 10%...not too bad for openers. Check back here soon for some video I took while riding up that first climb.
At the top of that climb is the first feed zone and the point where the long distance course deviates....they do 213k !!!
By this point you're riding in smaller groups, like 6-10 riders. Following a long decent with about 10 hairpins, the second main climb is up, the "le Ej". This climb isn't to bad for the first half, but the road is rough. The total climb is 11k long but the last 5k averages about 9% with extended pitches at 12-13% !!!
Paul had started farther back in the grid than me so had to make up 3-5 min on me. Just as we're hitting the steeps, Lupo comes spinning by in his 34x25 (my 39x25 takes good fitness to haul over those climbs!). Ciao Lupo, go ahead, I feel like asdlkekdfl !!!

But down the other side who do I see but senor Wolf. The rough decent had taken the starch out of his collar and we rode down to the next feed zone and actually stopped at that one.
There is no flats and from the bottom of that decent you cross the river and immediately start up the Croce d'Aune....or as we call it, the "kick in the crotch e' !!! This climb is used often in the Giro d''s 11k with the first 3k at about 7% average, then a flattish few k's with the last 4-5k averaging about 10% with 12-13% max grades....mamma mia !!!
FYI, at the top is the Campagnolo monument where Tulio Campagnolo in an amateaur race in the cold and rain couldn't get his frozen fingers to work changing his real wheel gearing....which lead to him inventing the quick release and the BEST gruppo company in the world !!!
I'm not sure how or why, but my legs came good on this final climb and this time I dropped Lupo then headed down the other side with it's smooth roads and sweeping's easy to hit 50 mph on this !
I thought we were home free, but we hadn't noticed a little article in the race magazine about a new climb they added this year....2.3k at 8% with 11% max they've broken my will and Lupo has caught up again....drats!
Once over that "denti", which means jagged tooth, it was flat to the finish, well almost. We got into a group of about 7 riders and hammered the 10k home, into town, a sharp left turn on to the cobbles then a 250m grind up to the finish....ah oh, cramps!!!
And so Pappa Grappa and Lupo finished together in 198th and 204th in
4 hrs 49 min for 122k.
btw, the weather was great....about 60 degrees at the start and low 70's by the finish....perfetto.
Since that time there have been two airport runs to make (the first right after a quick lunch and shower on Sunday) and fresh legs arriving wanting to hit the road. Hence today was a day off for me, driving the van and taking pictures.
More soon and coming up this weekend UDACE racing !

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Good Weather for GF Campy tomorrow?

Let's hope the weather for the Campagnolo is better than what the guys in the Giro d'Italia stage 15 to Tre Cima Lavaredo faced....7 degrees celcius (45farenheit) and raining !!!

Start the Racing !!!

Buongiorno from Bella Italia ! Time to kickstart the action here at Velo Veneto. Tomorrow is the GranFondo Campagnolo. There are three distances to choose from. "Lupo" and I will be doing the "medio" fondo which is 118k long. The long distance is 214k which would take too long to recover from since we need to start speed training for the UDACE races that begin for us next weekend. Check out the event website here...

I'll post a event report later, but we expect this to mostly be a training ride as neither of us are fit enough to go for a high placing in our age groups.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tanto, Tanto, Tanto !!!

Ok, I just had to include this video....both for the "yutes" (young guys) who loved it....and the older guys who didn'

It's from Lorenzo "Jovanotti" Cherubini...2005 top Italian hit