Friday, February 28, 2014

Montefanna on a rainy day.

A couple days off the bike.  Wednesday, it was simply rainy and I needed a real rest day anyway.  Thursday, Emily and I spent the day traveling to and from Bologna seeing the Vermeer show there.  It was a fun day.  The show was great - very different styles and types of paintings than what we normally see here from the Italian renaissance.  We had a great lunch, as Bologna is know for the food. We also spent around 5 hours wandering around the old part of the city, seeing a couple of churches, and climbing a 100 meter high tower.

I awoke this morning to relatively hard rain, and went back to bed.  On my second try, I got up and the rain had turned to only showers.  I did all my normal morning routine stuff, and by the time I was finishing, it appeared to be clearing, at least for a little while.  I decided to suit up and give it a try.  I took the Gore-tex shell and pants, prepared for some real rain.  Well, I had around 20 minutes of riding without any rain, then for most of the remainder of the ride it was somewhere between what I would call showers and light rain.  I was dressed pretty well for the weather and did not even get the rain pants out.  It actually was pretty pleasant riding with almost no one out and the temperatures were good for climbing, which is what the ride gave me today.

I rode out through Le Cure then up to San Domenico on a back road I like, then up the main road toward Fiesole, turning off to descend through Maiano to the base of the Vincigliata climb.  It started to rain on the climb, and around 2/3 the way up I gave up and put on the gore-tex shell.  The rain slowed up.  It seems amazing that the act of putting on a coat can change the weather, but it often does.  I finished the climb and enjoyed the extra layer for the little descent to the road to Olmo from Fiesole.  I turned off that road immediately and did the Montefanna climb for the second time in a couple of weeks.  I have decided this is an excellent training climb as it is close in and is around 10 to 12% average grade with a maximum grade around 20% for 300 vertical meters or so.  It works me a little.

You crest Montefanna, then descend to hook up with the Monteloro road and take it back to the Fiesole / Olmo road close to the top.  I turned to take Via Faentina back into Firenze through Caldine and Pian de Mugnone, and really nice descent.  With the wet roads I definitely took it easy on the way down, but it was super fun anyway.  I really enjoyed the ride even with around 2/3 of it in precipitation.  21.7 miles in 1:53 rolling time for an average speed of 11.6 mph with 2733 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 47.  Great to get out!

San Domenico, Vincigliata, Montefana in rain showers by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

A grey day looking through the trees on the Vincigliata climb.

Even wet, in rain showers, I think this road to Vincigliata is
beautiful and a wonderful ride.

Low lying clouds ahead after joining the road toward Olmo
above Monteloro from the Montefanna climb.

Looking over toward Santa Brigida, the hills / mountains are 
in the clouds.  I had just descended from being in the clouds
at the summit of Montefanna.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

San Donato / La Panca on another perfect weather day.

Great weather again today, although a little cooler.  It did warm up though, so perhaps the cool was simply because I started earlier.  This is one of my favorite rides and I have not ridden it in over a month.  It also fit my time constraints today, and although I was not as fast as the last time I rode it, I felt good and had much more energy than yesterday.  I left town via Ponte a Ema, Gino Bartali's home town and climbed Via Carota to Osteria Nuova.  Just a beautiful little road with almost no traffic, and with the exception of one part that is around 12%, it is mostly quite mellow.  On the main road to San Donato in Collina, I quickly passed a rider who hung right behind me all the way to the top, then right before the top, sprinted past me.  This must be what a racer feels like when he sets the pace, blocks the wind, for many kilometers just to be passed at the end.

Even though I was kind of expecting it, as when I slowed the rider did not make any attempts to pass, I will admit it was a little irritating to have him pass me at the end.  A sweet descent with a couple of climbs to Incisa where I got some more water.  The other rider turned off on the first road toward Rosano.  I checked the distance between Incisa and the turn off in Figline, as the road is not that pleasant, pretty busy and kind of "industrial", and it is only 4 kilometers.  You can ride it pretty fast so it is less than 10 minutes of this, which is not a whole lot.  From the turn off, you climb to just past Dudda where I turned off for La Panca.  Most times I stop at a favorite bar in Dudda for a cafe, but today, there was a line out the door, as two large parties arrived as I was finishing the approach.  I decided to keep going, and the urge for a cafe was left behind.

I just love the La Panca road, both the little climb and the super fun, long descent.  Today, it was great as always.  A little climb into Strada, then mostly a very fast ride along a ridge then the descent into Grassina.  I hooked up with the Cinque Vie route from Grassina, and was back home on the Viales.  Great ride.  46.2 miles in 3:11 rolling time for an average speed of 14.5 mph with 3422 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 61, which includes the sun effect.  Ciao!

Via Carota, San Donato, Figline, La Panca, Strada, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

What a beautiful day to climb to La Panca from Figline.

The Passo de Sugame road around Sting's villa.

There is a 3 or 4 kilometer stretch of road on the climb to Dudda
that stays right around 2%, which means some fast, fun climbing.

This picture is not as good as I would like, but the scenery
today was stunning.  This is on the climb from the Passo
de Sugame road to La Panca.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Such a perfect day, I had to ride. What recovery?

Today, my post will be a little different than normal.  A little less verbage and more pictures.  It was such a beautiful day that the camera called and was successful more than usual.  Today really should have been a rest day after a pretty difficult ride yesterday.  The weather was simply perfect, and the forecast is for rain later in the week, so I got out and rode.  Main road to Sieci, then the climb to the windmill and the descent to Rufina.  I climbed to Diacetto, then descended to Pelago and had a break at a different bar.  I enjoyed the bar, which had a table with chairs in the sun.  While I was ordering, some of the old men in the bar went out, but when I came out with my panini and cafe, they welcomed me, brought up another chair, and talked about my bike.  One of the things I love about the cycling culture here.  I took the descent to Pontasieve, then cranked it back in Firenze.  39.8 miles in 2:56 rolling time for an average speed of 13.5 mph with somewhere between 2744 and 2936  vertical feet climbed at a sun effected average temperature of 63.  Enjoy the pictures.

Sieci, Molino de Vento, Rufina, Diacetto, Pelago, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

About 2/3 the way up the climb to the windmill (Molino de Vento).  
What a beautiful road.

This is starting the climb from Rufina to Diacetto.  One of 
my favorite climbs that I haven't ridden in a month or more.

A view from farther up the climb to Diacetto.  I loved this and the next picture, so I blew them up much larger than normal.  You can see why I love this climb.

Wow, what a view with a Tuscan blue sky.

From the little water fountain around Falgano, looking
back at the tiny town.

Basically the top of the climb, looking to the South.
Diacetto is a couple of kilometers away, with a little 
climbing left after a short descent.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Granfondo preview with Luca

I did a second preview of the granfondo course this morning with the team.  We had a good turnout and started with 14, I think.  Many groups were doing the same ride, and we came apart on the climb to Fiesole, but regrouped there.  We had a group of around 40 riding up to Croce alle Vetta from Fiesole.  Most of us stayed with the group, as the benefit of staying with the group outweighs the effort when you are getting dropped.  We waited for a while at the Croce, and eventually got a phone call to go ahead.  We were down to around 9 of us at this point.  We stayed with the group from the top and really rode down to Borgo San Lorenzo, then up to Scarperia quickly.  Again, although the group was a little different, it seemed to be around 40 of us.  At the point where one has to decide to either do the long course for the granfondo or the medium course, the numbers dropped to around 15.  Within a kilometer, 11 of the 15 were having a loud discussion, and they turned around.  That left 4 of us climbing to Passo Giogo.

Luca was the only one left from the team with me, which is pretty much what I thought would happen. We rode up the hill with a couple of other guys from Bicisport.  Around 1/2 the way up, I was feeling pretty tired, and went to easier gears and the other 3 dropped me.  By 2/3 the way up, I was feeling better and enjoying the climb in the easier gears.  Although the fast start was fun, I think it wore me out a little, which is good to know for the granfondo, when the group will number in the thousands, and the adrenaline will definitely make me want to stay with a fast group.  I know it will be better for me if I do it at my own pace and not push the beginning, but we will see, as I also know myself and will probably go with the energy available and go fast at the start.

We regrouped at Passo Giogo, and the two others took off while I put on a shell and heavier gloves for the chilly descent.  It was a super fun descent, beautiful, a great road, and really quite fast.  I really love the feel of the new Continentals on the bike.  Luca and I stopped in Firenzuola for a quick snack and to find a water fountain.  We rode through the old town a couple of times to find the fountain and were eventually successful.  It is a really beautiful little town.  We took off to climb Passo Futa, the second longest climb of the day and the steepest.  We simply followed signs for the Passo, and ended up on a different road than the last time I rode it.  The new route was more direct, and a little steeper and harder.  A well deserved cafe at the old family restaurant at the top, then we were off to descend.

Luca is travelling late this afternoon to Puglia, where he grew up, to visit his parents for a few days, and wanted to get back the most direct route.  We were also quite tired at this point, and willing to sacrifice the jog over to Panna and the lap around the lake on the way back.  We also omitted the climb from Pratolino to Croce alle Vetta and the Via Salviati climb, which was fine for both of us.  When doing the granfondo, I really think both of these pieces, while short, will test me.  Both are steep, and happen when you are basically done with most of the distance.  Today, we returned from Passo Futa on Via Bolognese, and enjoyed a very fast descent to San Piero, then cranked up the gentle climb through Vaglia to the steep part to Pratolino.  The steep part was stinging a little, but was fine.  From there, we descended back into Firenze, with the route taking me right to the front door.  71 miles in 4:51 rolling time for an average speed of 14.6 mph with somewhere between 7250 and 8040 vertical feet climbed at an average sun effected temperature of 53.  Really enjoyed the ride and I am very happy with my energy level on a long difficult ride.

Scarperia, Giogo, Firenzuola, Passo Futa, Vaglia, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

At the top of Passo Giogo, the second and longest climb of the day.
It is a good effort for me.  Only 4 left of around 50 we arrived in Scarperia with.

We explored Firenzuola, a really nice, old, small town looking
for a fountain, which we eventually found.  Sorry about taking 
the picture into the sun.  

A view from the climb to Passo Futa from Firenzuola.  What a 
beautiful road and climb.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Nice under 2 hour recovery ride before a big day tomorrow.

Some crazy weather today.  I awoke to clear skies, but had decided to do a short ride on my own today and ride with the team, and hopefully preview the long course of the granfondo tomorrow.  For a while, I was regretting my decision, as the forecast called for rain today.  By 10:00 the skies had opened up and my decision looked good.  It cleared around noon, and it looked like the predicted good weather that was supposed to start early tomorrow was here, so I took off for the short ride.  It really looked beautiful almost the whole ride, but as I turned to come back to Florence, the skies were super dark, and 15 minutes or so after my return, the skies again opened up and dumped rain.  I guess good timing for me today.

I was looking at today's ride as a sort of recovery ride, between a long ride yesterday and a longer ride planned tomorrow.  I rode out through Ponte a Ema, then Grassina, then up to Strada, a climb I am doing more these days.  It is a pretty gentle climb and for an off day, it is fine.  After Strada, I skirted the town then descended toward San Polo, followed by one of the best really gentle climbs around here.  Around 150 meters of climbing at 2% or so gets you to San Polo - nice.  I have a spot in San Polo that I am stopping for cafe these days and I enjoyed one today.  It appeared that the older lady who owns / runs the bar is recognizing me, as she greeted me and when I left said, "a prossima", which means until next time.  I have only been there 4 times in the last 2 months or so, so I was surprised.

I got some more water in San Polo, then climbed to the little pass toward Cappanuccia.  This is a beautiful climb and road and I enjoy.  Back in Grassina, I followed the route Lorenzo, a Florence native, took us on a few weeks ago with the team to return home.  Great day.  28.4 miles in 1:47 rolling time for an average speed of 15.9 mph with 1545 vertical feet climbed (my Garmin reads 471 meters climbed, and it records that on Strava, but for some reason the Garmin site is saying around 1300 vertical feet, not sure why, but it started doing this a week or so ago).

Grassina, Strada, San Polo, Cappanuccia, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Looking Northeast on the climb from San Polo.

The beautiful climb from San Polo toward Quarate.

Although the picture is fine, in person, the tree was exploding
with white blossoms, which did not come through in the photo.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Good training ride - the granfondo is a little over a month away.

After 2 days of rain, I was ready for a nice ride today.  The forecast was suggesting rain this afternoon, but the forecast changed while I was riding and it is staying quite nice now.  Hooray!  It only takes a couple of rainy days for me to miss the sun, being Colorado born and bred.  I planned a relatively long ride, as my training for the granfondo is demanding some distance.  Soon, perhaps Sunday, I will again preview the long course, which will have both distance and lots of climbing.

Today, I went out the Cascine, then out the back way to Signa and Lastra a Signa.  I took the river road out to Montelupo, and in Signa I picked up another rider and we alternated leading to Montelupo, which always gets me going faster, and uses less energy.  A win - win!  In Montelupo, I got some water, as it is starting to get warmer and I am needing more water for my rides.  I rode over through Sammontana, Villanuova, and Pozzale, then hooked up with the climb to Monterappoli.  I don't ride this often, and it is a beautiful road.  The skies were clearing as I rode, which was nice.  You ride up a ridge, then through the town, take a little downhill, then gradually descend along the ridge before a steep downhill to the main road.  The road to Castelfiorentino is busy with some relatively large trucks, but it is only 5k, which is not bad.

From Castelfiorentino, you climb up to the Ortimino ridge, and enjoy the rolling climb to Montespertoli.  A nice descent to Bocciano, then a climb to Montagnana before turning off to climb to San Pancrazio.  I don't normally add this to this route, but I was looking for more distance and climbing, which this adds.  A really nice descent today from San Pancrazio to Ponterotta, where I stopped for a cafe and a pastry.  Both were awesome, and I left supercharged with caffeine and sugar.  I climbed to San Casciano, thinking I was really flying, but only had my 3rd best time.  From San Casciano, over to Chiesa Nuova, then the switchbacks down to Galluzzo, then the Cinque Vie road back to the Viale, then home.

Really great ride.  69.0 miles in 4:29 rolling time for an average speed of 15.4 mph with 3615 vertical feet climbed at a sun effected average temperature of 60.  Wonderful ride on a great day.

Montelupo, Castelfiorentino, Montespertoli, San Pancrazio, San Casciano by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Love this little road between Sammontana and Villanuova.

The ginestra are starting to bloom just past Sammontana.

The view on the way to Monterappoli.

A view to the southeast from the ridge after Monterappoli.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Vallombrosa on a warm February day.

I will call this my first training ride for the granfondo coming up at the end of March.  After last weekend with the team, the longer ride had me tired, and I thought, I need some more long rides with lots of climbing.  We I had lots of climbing today, but the ride was not as long as I thought.  A really great training climb from Leccio to Saltino / Vallombrosa though, around 900 vertical meters without any real let up on the way.  Steepest part is around 13% and the gentle piece is around 3%.  I would guess an average of 8% for 900 vertical meters, which is probably why it is a cat 1 or beyond cat climb, depending on who you listen to, as it has been used in the Giro D'Italia a few times, most recently last year.

I started out going through Ponte a Ema, then up Via Carota to Osteria Nuova, then on up to San Donato in Collina.  My first descent from there to Leccio was great.  I am loving the new tires.  I think today was my first time to ride directly from Leccio to Vallombrosa.  The last time I tried, I turned the wrong way at Pietrapiana, and ended up climbing from a different point.  It is a super good, very continuous climb, and just what I was after for training.  I enjoyed a short break in Saltino, with a very good cafe and a candy bar to stoke the internal fire.  It worked.  Also, it is basically downhill from there.  I really enjoyed the descent.  For perhaps my first time, the roads were dry, I have new tires, and I let it go pretty good.  Super winding, twisting road to Tosi, where the road gets bigger, but the descent continues to Pelago.  There is a little climb in Pelago, then the descent continues to Pontasieve.

Fun ride, and for the first time in many months, no booties, knee warmers and not tights, and only a base layer t-shirt and a long sleeved jersey.  Loving the warm weather we are getting right now.  Although this ride was a little shorter than I thought, I realized that for my ultimate preparation ride for the granfondo, I can ride over to Consuma from Vallombrosa, then down to Stia, up Croce ai Mori, then back to Firenze.  It should add around 700 vertical meters and bring the distance to around 150 kilometers, which would put both at similar points to the granfondo.  Sweet ride today!  53.1 miles in 3:50 rolling time for an average speed of 13.8 mph with 4731 vertical feet of climbing at an average (sun effected) temperature of 64.

San Donato in Collina, Leccio, Vallombrosa, Pelago, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

A church that lines up perfectly on axis with the road on 
the climb to Pietrapiana from Candeli.

On the climb to Saltino, many ranges of hills / mountains are visible.
If you look really hard, there is snow on the highest peaks in the background.
This is obvious in person, but not perfect on a photo.

The gate to the Vallombrosan monastery in Vallombrosa.  Not
the original building, but the original location for this order
that spread around the world.

 A close up of the ironwork above the gate and the monastery in
Vallombrosa.  I know the order is from Vallombrosa, and a famous
early renaissance crucifix was made / painted for this monastery.
Anyway, pretty cool iron work.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Quick recovery ride on a cloudy day.

After 210 kilometers with the team this weekend, I thought a recovery day was in order.  I still wanted to go for a ride, as the temperatures are pretty nice even with the cloudy skies.  I did my conversation time with Donatella this morning, ran a couple of errands, then headed out for a short ride.  I climbed up Via Faentina from Le Cure, then turned off to climb from Pian de Mugnone to Fiesole.  It is a very nice climb, with perfect pavement, as it was part of the World Championship course last September.  The start of the climb is around 10%, but it quickly goes to 7% and is pretty steady to Fiesole.  I continue climbing through Fiesole, then turn off for a little more climbing before the descent back to town through Vincigliata.  A  nice, quick recovery ride on a cloudy, but pretty nice day for February.  13.2 miles in 1:03 rolling time for an average speed of 12.5 mph with 1100 vertical feet of climbing at an average temperature of 60.  Ciao.

Pian de Mugnone, Fiesole, Vincigliata quickie. by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

The tower in the saddle is Fiesole, where the road is leading.
All I can say is that it is much more obvious in person.
I have tried this picture before with similar results.
Perhaps I should stop taking this shot.

I love the climb and the new World Championship
pavement on the way from Pian de Mugnone to Fiesole.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Perfect team tour on a perfect day!

All I can say about today's ride is WOW!  It is mid-February and the average temperature was 65, just perfect.  We had around 12 from the team and took a very nice pace that allowed everyone to stay together to Greve.  After Greve, it all broke apart on the climb to Panzano, which is to be expected.  I was the first to jump ahead, and only 3 of the 12 ended up stronger than I on the climb, and Luca Lacalamita was only 20 feet ahead at the top.  I did push it pretty had and ended up with a personal best on the last, and they say the hardest part of the climb.  We regrouped in Panzano, and only 6 of us decided to continue.  A number of riders were tired and wanted to return home from Panzano.

That was fine, and 6 of us continued and really enjoyed the remainder of the tour.  We descended from Panzano to the valley floor below, and turned to climb through La Piazza to the main road just above San Donato in Poggio.  This was just a super piece of riding.  The weather was simply spectacular and the scenery, the road, and the lack of any traffic made it dream like.  From San Donato, we enjoyed the descent to Sambuca, then Bargino, then climbed to San Casciano where we again regrouped.  We descended down to Falciani and powered back into town on the main road.

Today's ride was one of those where I realize what a gift it is to be here and ride.  At times our group of 12 turned into 40 or 50 on the way to Greve.  Two pro teams passed us, one on full on time trial bikes, and one that appeared to be a development squad.  Both with cars.  It is just such a fun cycling scene to be a part of.  If you can keep up and work with the group, you are totally accepted into the fold.  It just makes me feel great to be here and doing this.  56.7 miles in 3:31 rolling time for an average speed of 16.1 mph with 3132 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 65.  What a day!

Greve, Panzano, LaPiazza, San Donato, San Casciano, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Coming up toward La Piazza.  Che Bella!

Starting the climb to La Piazza from the valley below Panzano.

What a beautiful day and perfect ride.

The countryside and the road above on the climb to San Donato.

Lorenzo and Luigi on the last difficult part of the climb toward San Donato.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Excellent team ride to San Baronto with alternate routes.

A very nice team ride this morning.  After a kind of late night, with a fair amount of wine between Emily at a nice Valentine's day dinner, I was surprised at my energy today.  We had a nice group of 6, with the unusual mix of 3 women and 3 men.  It made for a nice pace on the way toward Vinci.  Andrea led the tour, and it appeared that he must cycle this area often.  I have ridden up through San Baronto at least 10 times, probably more, and had never taken this route.  We headed out through Lamporecchio, then turned off the regular way from there, descended a little, and ended up on a nice little back road with little traffic.  The climb on this road was much harder, with a number of places averaging 12 to 15%.  It was really beautiful though and a fun alternative.  We regrouped at the top, then descended through Vinci to a turn off toward Vitolini.  We regrouped there, and then climbed up this beautiful road then turned off to continue climbing, then descending on a beautiful road to Empoli.

We turned off toward Limite, and Andrea had another fun alternative for us.  There is a beautiful back road that winds through the countryside which makes you miss around 5 kilometers of traffic.   Really nice, although there was another 50 meters of climbing.  From where we rejoined the main road, it was a group crank back into town.  It ended up being a good, long tour, which I definitely needed.  I am planning on the long course for the granfondo in a month and one half, and I need to start doing some longer training rides.  Well, this was my first longer ride.  Now, for a long ride with more climbing.  Soon!  69.3 miles in 4:31 rolling time for an average speed of 15.3 mph with 2136 vertical feet climbed at an average (sun effected) temperature of 59.  Thanks, Andrea, and a great team ride.  Ciao.

Montelupo, Lamporecchio, San Baronto, Vinci, Limite, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

The sun came out after Montelupo and it was a nice ride through the various
towns on the way toward Vinci.

Looking back toward the climb basically completed at this point.

We took a different and much harder route to San Baronto today.
Just past the top was a park with this rock decorated and labeled
with the climb we just completed.  I really like the cyclist
at the top with arms raised.  Cool!

The second piece of cycling art, where we came into the main road
by San Baronto.  Actually a pretty cool mosaic at this pass.  This
location is a total cycling scene.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's day ride in perfect weather.

Happy Valentine's day all.  What a perfect day we had.  I would guess a high around 60, calm air, and what I would call, "Colorado" blue skies.  Shopping this morning, both for groceries and Valentine's day gifts, left me with only a few hours before I need to pick up Viola.  I had this ride in mind, and had not been over here for a few weeks.  Loved the ride!  Via Carota is always a joy to ride.  The climb to San Donato in Collina is fun and reasonably mellow.  The descent to Cellai was fast with my sweet, new tires.  The climb / descent / climb on the back road to Bombone is another treat.  You follow that with a great descent to Rosano, and you have most of the ride.  What remains is crossing to Pontassieve and then a crank on home.  Really nice ride.  Ciao.

33.2 miles in 2:12 rolling time for an average speed of 15.0 mph with 1780 vertical feet climbed at a sun effected average temperature of 65.  What a day!

Via Carota, San Donato, Cellai, Bombone, Rosano, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Via Carota is just such a beautiful road.  What a Valentine's day
gift from the weather gods.  Wow - Spring is here today!

The range across the Arno was spectacular from above Cellai.

Just past the climb from Cellai.

What a pretty back road to Bombone.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Great day for some climbing. Hard, but fun.

Another busy day here.   I was babysitting Torrio this morning, which with a couple of hiccups was pretty good.  I was finished a little earlier than I thought, so I stopped at the shop on the way home.  I have had a little bump feeling on my back tire lately, and when inspecting it, it appears ok, but the little bump was definitely there.  I decided on some new tires, front and rear, and even purchased the ones I really like, not the least expensive ones.  So, new Continentals on the bike.  Of course, this took some additional time, and Emily and I had a lecture to attend at 5:30. so my time was limited.

A couple of weeks ago, Luca, from the team was telling me about a climb he does when he wants a difficult work out.  I decided to give it a try today, as the last time I had it in mind, it started raining just at the decision point.  I climbed to San Domenico, then to the turn around 1/2 way up to Fiesole, then descended to the Vincigliata climb, one of my favorites.  Usually, when I finish the Vincigliata climb, I know I had done the hardest climb of the day, as it has a good long piece toward the beginning which averages around 12%.  Today, it was just the warm up.  I rode over to the Fiesole / Olmo road, but turned off immediately to do the Montefanna climb.  I am pretty sure I descended this road once in the past, but had never climbed it.  At any rate, it had been at least 10 years since I had been on the road.

A really nice road, basically no traffic, but it was hard, as Luca had told me.  Looking at the Strava information, it shows a stretch of about 1/2 km at around 22%, which seems right to me after riding it.  It was hard, but it was what I was after.  After finishing the climb, you descend to the Monteloro road, around 2 k after Monteloro.  I finished the climb to the Olmo road, the rode over toward Bivigliano, but cut off to climb Montesenario.  I did not do the little spur at the very top, as time was not allowing, but another difficult climb.  I descended to Bivigliano, then headed back to Pratolino through Viliano and Casellina.  I headed back to Firenze on Via Bolognese, and branched off at Via Bruni to miss the end part in the city.  Great ride, hard with lots of climbing, but a nice day and lots of fun.  28.6 miles in 2:26 rolling time for an average speed of 11.7 mph with 3584 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 56.

San Domenico, Vincigliata, Montefanna, Montesenario, Pratolino, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

A view across a valley to the west on the climb to Montefanna.

Yes, the climb up to Montefanna was steep.  The Strava site
showed one section at 22%, and the Strava site usually is more
conservative than the Garmin read out.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nice ride with Dominick, getting him back on the bike.

I did a quick ride this morning with Dominick, an American who has been here around 12 years and has a touring company that I do some work for occasionally.  He is involved with moving part of his business to Switzerland and moving the family there as well.  He is back in town for a bit and just getting back on the bike.  We are doing a promotional skype call this afternoon, so we got together for a ride this morning to discuss the call and get him back out on a fairly easy tour.  I knew he was a little nervous about "keeping up", so we basically did a tour he wanted.  It was fun and nice.  He is a strong rider, and is particularly good at some explosive power, so even at an easy pace, there were times I had to push.  Most of the time, I set a pretty casual pace which felt good.  I even threw in a little interval on the climb to Chiocchio, dropped Dom and doubled back to finish the climb with him.

We rode up from Grassina to Strada, the continued over / up to Chiocchio and Spedaluzzo, then descende to Passo dei Pecorai, then just cranked back into Firenze on the valley road through Tavernuzze, then home through the centro.  We went over toward Dom's office and had a cafe at his neighborhood spot, which basically was a riot.  I am in pretty good cycling shape, and my body and legs have taken on the typical shape for a cyclist.  There were 4 or 5 old men in front of the cafe that Dom knew, and they were all over him about his bike, and that he had a little extra weight, and used my bike (Italian) and my body as a comparison.  It was fun to be the point of comparison that they were saying he should move toward.  We all have egos after all.  It was also fun just to watch and understand most of the banter, all good natured, that was taking place.

A fun morning ride with Dominick and good to see him back on his bike.  36.0 miles in 2:26 rolling time for an average speed of 14.8 mph with 1273 vertical feet of climbing at an average temperature of 53.

Grassina, Strada, Chicchio, Falciani, Tavernuzze, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Dominick on the start of the climb from Strada to Chiocchio.

The Chianti countryside in the area around Strada / Chicchio.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Trip to Sicily

This is a very different blog post for me, as it is not about cycling, but a quick sharing of a trip Emily and I took to Sicily the weekend before last.  We were able to get an inexpensive flight from Florence to Catania and stay with Emily's friend Paula.  We had a wonderful time.  Paula is a very nice lady who at 67 is taking her, "Junior year abroad", as she never did it when in college.  She is from Boston and met Emily in her fall Art History Class.  She had a wonderful apartment in Ortigia, as small island just off the coast (100 meters) from Siracusa.  She is very adventuresome to do all this, and she has totally landed on her feet in Ortigia coming from 5 months in Florence.  

Her landlord's sister lives down stairs and has befriended her and is just super welcoming and inclusive.  Our second night there, she organized an aperativi with 8 others to welcome Emily and I.  Another night, she took the three of us to her favorite pizza place in Siracusa, which was great.  A funny story from that outing was in the planning.  Paula has retained her American timing for dinner, and wanted to go out around 7:30.  Giuseppina told us all that 7:30 was only for children, and if she wanted to meet and see adults, we should wait until 8:30 at the earliest.  Well, we went out at 8:30, and were able to meet and see people she knows.  She has lived almost all her life on Ortigia, and is a lot of fun to be around.  She knew we were planning on a day of travel, and discussed the two good options for a trip, lent us maps, and even called places she knew were the best for lunch to make sure they were open.  How incredibly nice.  

Here are Emily and Paula in front of the entrance to Paula's 
apartment building on our first morning out.  This was Saturday,
which was stormy and rainy, which had the seas and waves
quite high and fun to watch.  The remaining days were quite nice,
so it was fun to see the area in a storm.

One of the interesting things about Sicily is the history
and number of different cultures that have had influence 
over the last 3000 years.  Below is a photo from the Duomo
in Ortigia with Greek columns from a temple with Roman
infill.  The facade is Baroque / Rococo.

Our second day Emily and I were on our own for most of the day,
as Paula awoke not feeling well.  We walked to a wonderful market,
bought perhaps the best ricotta I have ever had, then relaxed at this
cafe in the sun for a cafe machiato and a pastry.  

After relaxing in the sun, we returned to the apartment, then headed out
to Siracusa to see the vast Greek ruins on the outskirts of town there.
We found our way and had a nice one hour walk to the entrance only 
to find that it closes on Sundays at 1:30 and we arrived at 1:45.  We 
walked over to this large modern building where there is a ceramic piece
of the Madonna and Jesus and it is said that at some point real tears
came from the Madonna's eyes.  It is a very popular pilgrimage site.
Whereas I don't really ascribe to organized religions, it was an interesting
building and visit.  The picture is looking up at the roof from the inside
of the sanctuary.  

After returning from Siracusa, we went to the piazza del Duomo in Ortigia
and sat outside at the old bar / cafe there and had cocktails and a snack.
It was very fun as the place came to life as we watched with kids playing, 
tourist groups visiting the duomo, and this small duo started playing music.
The person playing this "stand up bass" was fun to watch.  There is only
one string and he moved the arm closer and farther away to change the tone.
I had never seen this instrument before.  Great afternoon in the sun at the Piazza.

This is the Baroque / Rococo facade of the Duomo 
taken while we had cocktails and enjoyed the scene.

The next day we rented a car and had a fun adventure.  This picture is 
of a Greek Theatre on the top of a hill around 50 kilometers from Ortigia.  
It was very beautiful and there were ruins of a whole complex there.
We ended up driving small back roads to a town called Piazza Armerina
where we visited an old Roman villa.  The villa was pretty much destroyed 
in a landslide or more at some point.  There are some remains of the structure,
but most of the floors with incredible mosaics are intact.  Apparently two people
spent most of their lives restoring the mosaics and removing the mud that had
accumulated over time.  It was a very fun visit, but I neglected to take any
pictures of the mosaics.  We stopped at the restaurant that Guissepina
had called and had a wonderful lunch on the way.  Grazie!

The piazza Minerva, with the Duomo ahead on the left on our last morning.

We had lunch at a restaurant on the water with fresh fish and this 
nice view of the small fishing boats.  For some reason, almost all
the boats have some portion painted blue.  Anyway, it makes 
for a beautiful scene.  Grazie, Paula and Guissepina for a 
great 4 days in Sicily.  Ciao.