There are few destinations in the World that please guests on all levels of the travel experience as well as a bike touring to Italy. Adding cycling to shadow the Giro d’Italia pro race is another amazing layer of engagement in this wonderful part of the world.
After 37 years in cycling, I can easily bring up many memories of riding amongst the beautiful Dolomite mountain peaks which are traversed by exciting sinuous passes that become a cyclist's paradise in spring and summer. This fantastic region is without question worth the trip in itself as one challenges a few famous climbs that the professionals will encounter during the Giro race.
Training for the Worlds Championship
The last time I climbed Passo dello Stelvio (I have never raced it) was on an epic training ride prior to the road World Cycling Championships in Montello, Italy. Bernard Hinault, Greg Lemond, Niki Rutiman, yours truly and some teammates with director coach Paul Kochli following in the La Vie Claire team car headed out from St. Moritz Switzerland for an 8 hour loop through the big Alps. We trained over 4 major cols climbing Ofenpass to cross the border into Italy, followed by Passo dello Stelvio, then down and up over Passo dell' Umbrail back into Switzerland, before summiting Ofenpass a second time in the opposite direction. We made the final push with very tired legs up the long valley returning to St. Moritz. After that day’s ride I was so exhausted that my appetite to eat and recharge the fuel was gone.
I remember how impressive Stelvio was at that time. The amazing construction of the switchbacks closer to the top of the pass is stunning. You begin to think what this road must have been like almost a century ago and what kind of effort it took commencing the build back in 1820. The pass had significant importance during the First World War with fierce battles being fought in this icy environment.
The road is now a sportsman’s paradise for both cyclists and motorists alike. It's a must to ride this monumental piece of history.
Another great aspect of Italy is that there is never a shortage of luxury accommodations. Over the years our Steve Bauer Bike Tours Signature Trip to the Giro we have chosen some outstanding hotels, villas and castelli. To give only one example, Villa Cipriani, which we chose once again for this upcoming Giro, is one of the unique places that we continue to return to for its understated class, friendly staff, and cozy location in the hilltop village of Asolo, known as the city of a hundred horizons. Nestled in the surrounding rolling foothills of the village are several scenic cycling loops with the challenging Mount Grappa standing out above them only a few kilometers away. This is the beauty and balance of a bike trip in Italy.
And what about the cucina and the vino?
I make an understatement when I say that Italy’s culinary experience is wonderful. You can go anywhere in Italy and find excellent food. From the very small family owned, everyday village restaurant or even the Auto grill on the highways to the top notch Relais & Chateaux, Michelin star restaurants, Italy has a simple, delicious, quality consistency like no other country I have visited.
Vino to match? Of course! One of my favourite places to visit is Valpolicella near Verona to taste the famous Amarone del Valpolicella wines. These robusto vintages are great to bring home and tuck in the cellar for a few years or even a decade or more. We recently uncorked and sipped through a 1995 Masi Amarone del Valpolicella “Mazzano” single vineyard vintage. Awesome! All the recently released Amarone del Valpolicella vintages from 2004 to 2009 are all scoring 90+ with 2007 at 95!. This is just one more fantastic reason to join us on this years Giro d’Italia signature trip and pick up a few Amarone bottles for special future celebrations. They are difficult to find anywhere else, but the source, these wines will cellar for a long time.
Wine country riding
It is hard to avoid the exceptional wine regions of the world while planning a bike trip. Italy is no different from other countries and over the years we have spent some good times in Toscana, Barolo (Piemonte), Valpolicella, Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, Umbria to name some highlights. Pleasant, scenic roads conducive for cycling permeate these regions, and merge the experience nicely. One of our rides on this years Giro d'Italia trip continues this natural blend of wine and bike experience. We will leave the mountains and roll south in the Adige river valley through the region of Trentino Alto Adige wines. The slopes are carpeted with the greenery of vineyards gripping the rolling yet sometimes steep rocky slopes which have eroded from the mountains. Easy, relatively flat, idyllic cycling with vineyard, mountain and river views, it’s the order of the day to recuperate the body after taking on the Dolomite mountains on previous days.
Never forget that those perfect cappuccinos are never far away at any time; a cyclists everyday requirement (at least it is for me). You won’t find perfectly consistent capos anywhere else in the world. Another perk that Italy seems to do just right!
What more could you ask for? Viva Italia!
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