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.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Giro delle Dolomiti Stage 2

What a difference a day makes !!! Today was gorgeous, and tomorrow will be even better.

After Stage 1 we chatted with a friend of mine from Holland who's done the Giro six times now. He understood our frustration with the speed of the peloton. But he made a very good suggestion. Ride at the back of the pack.

So today we did just that, in front of the phalanx of cars, motor cycles, ambulances and other official vehicles. It made all the differece. But even more was the course. The first 20k was along the valley floor. Then we began to climb. At this point some of us used this climb, which was 7k long, to warm up. After a left hand turn (and with 2k of warning that it was coming), we started the timed climb. Today the timed climb was 13k long. The first 6k was about a 9% average....then a 2k section that was every so slightly downhill, so being in a group was important (plus it was a bit breezy). The last 3k we about 5-6% average. The road was perfectly smooth. Today everybody found a much better pace and we all finished within 3 min. of each other. Still we are amazed at the speed so many of these guys and gals can climb. And regardless of age or size. You find older (meaning 60+) guys going pretty darn well, a number of really strong women and even some guys over 180 lbs that can crank it out.

Our group had plenty of smiles at the top. The scenery was wonderful, the roads, the course, the pace. All is good now !

After the feed stop, we started at the back again. The decent was really nice, and safe and you could nearly go at unrestricted speeds, and move up the field. Another long climb (and plenty of room and good pace to move from the back to the front if you wanted to ride that hard) took us to the second feed and the views were even better.

Because I've ridden where we'll be going tomorrow before, I know today was just a preview of what the Dolomites offer. I'll definitely take the camera.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Giro delle Dolomiti Stage 1

We're in Bolzano now (a 150k drive from Castelcucco)...competing in the Giro delle Dolomiti. To be honest it's not exactly what we thought it would be. I say that because the organizers have a very tight control of the whole peleton. We knew that there was only one timed climb each day, but they have a schedule they follow....for traffic control purposes.

So today....we cruise out of town, all 800 of us, behind the lead about 25k an hour. The first climb was supposed to be 30k into the stage which should've taken about 1:15 to cover according to the printed time schedule. Luckily, or not, most of us were right near the front when all of a sudden, 14k into the ride, we go under a banner with the timeing chips beeping across the sensors. The climb is on, 9k at about 9% average. I say luckily or not because if you start a climb like that and try to stay with the best climbers here (and believe me there are some guys (and gals) who fly up the hill), you're liable to blow up. The biggest explosions came from Dom and me !!! Dom uses a SRM power meter and while the pace wasn't Tour de France speed....we are talking some serious watts being pushed (probably high 300 for the smaller guys and maybe 400 plus for some of the bigger riders). Lupo was our first 130th place! WTF? Here's a guy who's winning UDACE races and he's 130th? Ok, he's 8th in the 50-57 age group, with Ian (climbing with a lowest gear of 39x23, while the rest of us have like 39x29's) 13th in that age group. Tom K had a good climb, starting conservatively and passing all of us but Lupo and Ian.

At the top of the climb was the first feed zone. The organizers have a time schedule to follow, so you can't leave until they send the lead car out again on schedule. Then comes the frustrating part. OK, so we're up on the hills with some narrower roads and little villages. It was up and down a bit, but we were going like 10k/hr up the short little ramps and 25k/hr down them. We had all received a nice pair of Giro Dolomiti cycling shorts in our race packs.....I think they should include a new set of brake pads instead !!! Anyway, another feed zone with the mandated wait, and then we're off and back down to the valley. OK, here the lead car does 45-50k/hr which isn't bad, but on a 9% decent, the brakes were used ALOT ! Once back down in the valley at least they let us cruise at a pace that you could peddle some.
So in all we did about 83k in over 4 hrs. One funny thing about the end of the the front of the group, more and more riders were trying to get up there. It was so they could get in line for lunch quickly ! Actually it was a pretty good lunch.

We're staying in a decent little hotel about 5k from the start on the other side of Bolzano. It's pretty Euro, meaning smaller rooms, no air conditioning and lot's of church bells to listen too. I think the guys who's been in Castelcucco for awhile miss it as they take such good care of us at the Hotel Montegrappa.

OK, tomorrow is a new day. Maybe a new plan? Check back tomorrow.

BTW, our roster for this event....

Paul "Lupo" Wolfe, Canada (wife Christine joins us tomorrow)
Ian Lovell, Australia (and wife Lyn)
Tom Krenitsky, New York
Juan Gaudiano, Panama
Alex Brackmo, Mexico
Domenic Valela, Canada
Rod Ciardullo, New York
Pat Carroll

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It's the Gelato

What a weekend. It all started on Friday as the temperatures continued to rise here in the Veneto. Time to head to the pool ! Dominic, Juan, Gene and I raced down the water slide eight times with Gene and Dom splitting up the wins and Juan and I filling the minor placings. Then is was time for a little swimming competition between Dom and I followed by some observation of the local population. Boy was it nice to be cool for awhile. July is typically the warmest month of the year here and we've finally got the heat.

On Saturday we raced in Sandon near Padova. I must say that Padova is not our favorite part of this region. No mountains....and too much heat!

Lupo was 5th from a break in the Gentlemen's race, and Alex was 9th. Dom, Juan and Gene rode well in the sweltering conditions, meaning near 100 degrees.

Today, Sunday was the big one though. We travelled north of Belluno into the Dolomites for a race in Longorone. The course was a 7+km lap with about 90m of elevation gained per lap. It was basically a big chain ring climb, but the winning break came on the flats after the decent. Our Man .... Paolo Lupo (aka Paul Wolfe) was victorious after soloing to a 2 min win with 4 laps to go. The field gave him an inch and he took almost a mile !!! Alex was 8th and I was 10th for a banner day for the Velo Veneto gentlemens's group. Gene got things started with a massive attack the second time up the climb and after that was brought back and the pack hesitated down in the valley, Lupo was gone.

Lupo loves riding in Italy....but he wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for the awsome gelato.....and that is a direct quote ! And now he's earned is usual two day break from training. We'll see him on Wednesday for his favorite ride on the climb from Valstagna to Foza. "World class" he says.
Enjoy your rest earned it ... il Campione !

On a fun side note, while Dom and Juan were racing we started chatting with a young boy, age 12 named Filippo. He mother said, "speak english Pippo". Many Italians speak more English than they let on to but are shy to try. We found out that Pippo's padre was in the breakawy group so we asked his name and said we'd cheer for his dad Fabio. With a lap to go we told Pippo and his mom that because the Americani cheered for his dad, that he would win....and Fabio came through! It was fun to chat with them all afterwards.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

GF Pinarello

The Gran Fondo Pinarello was Sunday, July 15. The worst part of these fondos is that they start early in the moring...this one at 7:30 a.m. The UDACE races usuall start between 2-4 you have a leisurely morning, then by the time you're home from the race it's time for dinner and you don't have to get up early the next day...perfect Italian lifestyle.

The Pinarello starts in the main piazza in Treviso, right in front of the Pinarello store where they have Miguel Indurain's World Hour Record bike and Jan Ulrich's Tour de France winning TT bike in the window.

Like all fondos, the first 500 riders at the front of the pack are "seeded"....then everybody lines up behind them. Not wanting to get up at 3:30 am in order to get to Treviso and line up at 6:00 a.m., we started at the back of nearly 2000 riders in the short, or "medio" fondo course, which covered 125k.
It takes about five min. once they start for us to get past the official "starting line" where the timing chip you wear on your ankle records your start.

The first 25k of the course is pancake flat, so the peloton is moving pretty good and if you want to move up the field you've got to hit the gas and do a team TT up the side of the pack. Dom and I were the first Velo Veneto riders to hit the first climb at which time you're like a fish swimming upstream trying to work your way through slower riders. At one point he managed to swim a bit farther ahead and find some open road and that was the last I saw of him.

The course has only five main climbs. About 10k's before the last climb over the highest point of the Montello (sight of the 1985 World Championships), Juan caught up to my group and in his typical "non-hampster" style (meaning he pounds a big gear!) who started setting tempo I was happy to let the young guys do all the pulling.

One thing you learn in the Pinarello is that since the climbs aren't that long or steep, really busting a gut up the climbs doesn't mean you'll drop the 50 rider pack you were just in as down the decent and back on the flats they will invariably chase you down!

Anyway, Dom had a final time of 3:24, Juan and I came in at 3:29, followed by Lupo, Alex, Larry, Gene, Maria and Tom (Jinny rode the "Gourmet" ride....and had the biggest smile on her face at the finish...LOL)

The results can be viewed here.

Actually, the day before the Pinarello, five of our riders did an UDACE race in Travettore di Rosa'. Lupo finished 2nd in the Gentlemen's category riding with Alex, Gene and Larry. Domenic raced in the Cadetti.

Monday was a rest day and the guys rode to the pool (called "Conca Verde") near Crespano for some swimming and "people" watching...LOL

Yesterday, the group went up to assault the Passo Rolle again. For Alex, Gene and Tom, it was their first time up this climb in the Dolomites. Gene's comment was "that climb alone" was worth the trip to Velo Veneto.

Today, everybody but Tom and I (he's more of a flatlander from Indiana) did the MonteGrappa via the Campo Croce route. If you're counting, that's an UDACE race, a Gran Fondo, and two big climbing days in the last five days. Why so much? Well partly, most guys don't want to travel all the way to Italy to have a bunch of rest days, but also we're preparing for the Giro della Dolomiti next a big block is better to do now than right before the Giro starts July 28.

The next couple of days will be much mellower. Probably another trip to the pool and rides of 2-2.5 hrs instead of 3+ with big climbs.

Right before we left the post ride pasta feed at the Pinarello, this guy came to our table to eat....definitely old school ! They actually have an event, I think in Tuscany where all the riders are on old bikes, with vintage clothing, etc. Just like the 1930's and before. You gotta love this country!

Ciao for now.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Buon Compleano

Who's your mechanic? For our man Domenic of Toronto, it's Marco Argentin on this day, installing some new bars. Marco is one of the Italian National Team mechanics....yeah, that's right, he worked for Paolo Bettini and the Squadra Azzuri at the World Championships last year.

But it's not all about the bike here at Velo Veneto. We like to "party" just a little bit with our Italian family at the hotel Montegrappa. Last night it was Luca's 38th birthday. Here he is with two of his children, Laura (8) and Luis (6). Also pictured is Renato Palazzo, our camp founder. It was also his "compleano" yesterday. Luca's wife Lydia was in the hospital, having just delivered their 4th child two days before. We look forward to seeing her and Letizia soon.
When you're at our camp you feel like part of the Bolzon family. Normally on Thursdays the family takes the day off (the bar, ristorante, pizzeria in closed to the public) and we go to a nearby town to eat at Luca's brother's pizzeria. But last night was was an honor to share a meal with the family.

Fantastic dolce and custom macchiato after !

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Arm Warmers

Been a bit lazy lately in updating this blog. Mi dispiace.

Nothing out of the ordinary to report. Lupo did get 3rd place in a race last Saturday in Francenigo.
Top 10 get bags of groceries !
Last Sunday was the UDACE Veneto Championships. Surprisingly the fields weren't as big as I thought they'd be. But they were very high quality. No results to speak of unfortunately.
I guess the big news around here the last week is the crazy weather we're having. Is it global warming? July is supposed to be hot and muggy in the Veneto. But it's been cool, 60's and 70's with thunderstorms and no humidity. More like the weather in the deep Dolomites near Cortina instead of the sweltering Ventian stuff we're supposed to have.
Also, famiglia Bolzon, our hosts at the Hotel Montegrappa, have a new baby. Letizia was born last night at 10:30 pm. That makes 12 grand children now with another in a few months, and the youngest daughter isn't even married yet.
This coming weekend 10 of us will be doing the Gran Fondo Pinarello
Here's a few photos from the summer so far.
Mariano's Geleteria...great post ride food !
Antonella, she handles reception and the breakfast room at the Hotel Montegrappa.
Dinner with the gang at the hotel.
Dominic with Laura, 8 yr old daughter and sometime server of famiglia Bolzon.

A couple of weeks ago in Valstagna on the River Brenta.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007


What a weekend ! Saturday five of us raced in Visnadello. Allison got to go against the newly crowned Italian UDACE champion. I'm sure she'll post something on her blog in the next few days about that. She and Mike are enroute to the USA as I type. They'll be missed here, they were great.

Domenic did his first race of his summer stay here. He just started riding early in 2006 and got a taste of Italian cycling on his trip to Velo Veneto last year. So he's back for a real long stay this summer. MUCH fitter, leaner, new bike, power meter, the works. And it shows. He rode wonderfully well, in only his second UDACE race ever and he's done less than 10 events total in his short career. I'm sure we'll see wonderful continued improvement from him this summer.

Lupo and I took turns getting in to breaks, but again missed the one that stuck.....argghhhh....but the form is starting to come. That attacks feel stronger and the recovery it's just a matter of time.

Everyone was so impressed with riding the Passo Rolle earlier in the week, that instead of racing on Sunday, they all chose to head into the heart of the Dolomiti to ride some big passes.

We had planned to do the Sella loop starting from Arabba, but were stopped by the Caribinieri because the Maratona Dolomiti was in progress. Woops, I'd completely forgotten about it....9,000 riders strong with closed roads!

So we went to plan B....climb the Passo Fedaia (Marmolada) and Passo Pordoi instead. The Marmolada is a bitch! It felt way harder than what that link shows. Maybe it was tired legs from the race the day before....or not low enough gears (Dom and I had 39x25), but Dom had to walk for a short while because his low back seized up. Lupo was ok with his 34x25, Mike & Ali had 39x29 and survived fine and Maria toughed it out on her 39x27....(I'm going to go with a 39x29 low gear for the Giro delle Dolomiti at the end of the month)

My altimeter showed consistent grades of 10-13% for the last 6k (12k total climb lengh from whre we started) with only a few 6-7% hairpins in the last 2k for respite. Strudel was well earned at the top!

The Pordoi is much easier, starting in Canazei after the decent off the Marmolada. Also a 12k climb but mostly 7-8%...and the views are spectacular. Photos and videos don't come close to what it really looks like. Also, at 2257m, the air is getting a little thin up there.

Again, time to eat at the top of the Pordoi. Mike said his power meter showed that he had burned almost 2500 calories and we'd only been riding for 2 1/2 hrs !!! By the time we had gotten back to the van, we'd done about 68km (42 miles), but that took nearly 3 1/2 hours!

Ok, so aren't Monday's supposed to be rest days? Not for Mike and Ali (they were leaving the next day in their defense). Time for one last leg breaker. One should always been careful heading out with Lupo to explore a new climb. He's liable to try and find something that will crack the hardiest of souls...and he did. The Monte Tomba, 5k from Castelcucco, one of the rarely used routes up the Monte Grappa. The first mile isn't too bad, but then it's about 3 miles at 10-15% and after that another 2+ miles at 8-10%. OK, that was enough...the Ali Cat FINALLY CRACKED! I'm sure she'll come clean in her own blog after she's recovered. Of course a spin over to Bassano del Grappa to purchase some Grappa to take home took the pain out of the legs.