Sunday, May 31, 2015

Consuma and Croce Ai Mori con squadra.

An exceptional tour this morning with a few from the team.  We started with 7, and rode out to Pontasieve together.  A couple turned around there, which I did not know until the top of Consuma, as a few simply continued in Pontasieve.  We had 5 at Consuma, on a perfect morning for this relatively difficult climb.  Basically 1000 meters of climbing in around 15 kilometers with a pretty steady grade other than a couple of breaks thrown in there that are flat and even downhill.  Only 3 of us continued to do the planned ride descending to Stia, getting water, then climbing Croce ai Mori.  I had not climbed this in a couple of years, and it was much harder in my memory.  It was really quite nice today.  I do this ride around 4 or 5 times a year, but the last couple of years I have done it in the opposite direction.  It was great to do it this way today.

We descended to Londa, where I insisted on a stop as I needed some fuel at the bar there.  I had eaten my banana, had an espresso, but needed more for the return to Firenze.  We returned pretty quickly, as Clemente was quite strong today.  I had only ridden with him a couple times before, and he was quite a bit stronger today.  He is Canadian, and comes here with an art school every year for 4 to 6 weeks.  Anyway, he definitely kicked it today, and he, Lorenzo, and I had a great tour.  Just a pleasure to be out there today.  Thanks guys!

The crew at Passo della Consuma this morning.  Only two continued with me to Stia, then over Croce Ai Mori to Londa then back home.  

Saturday, May 30, 2015

2 solo rides, first in a while.

Two nice solo rides yesterday and today.  I thought I might have a tour tomorrow, but it was cancelled.  No problem as I am in recovery mode.  Yesterday I rode a favorite out through the Cascine, then on the flat roads to Seano, then up to Bacheretto, then down back to town through Carmignano (great cafe and pastry in the shade in a relaxing chair in the main square), Signa, San Donnino to Firenze.  I did not really feel great, but good enough and it was a spectacular day to be out.

Today, I actually felt strong, which is a change lately, which was nice.  I knew I would find out late midday about tomorrow's tour, and I decided to do a route that stayed away from where the team ride tomorrow goes.  Good decision with tomorrow's client tour not happening.  I ended up riding out Carota the up to San Donato in Collina, with perhaps a personal best averaging 21.1 kph to San Donato.  It is good to feel strong and good out there.  I enjoyed the descent through Incisa to Figline where I climbed up the Passo de Sugame road stopping in Dudda for an excellent cafe and pastry.  It is my version of an energy break here and I like it.  We all have our own version of what a performance enhancing drug is.  Just a little more climbing then the truly excellent descent from La Panca to Strada, then back in through Grassina.  Nice to feel strong for a change and nice to have a couple of solo rides.  Ciao for now!

Montemorello and the Arno valley on the descent toward
Carmignano from where the road above Bacheretto joins
the Pinone / Carmignano road.

A view yesterday to the Southeast on a quick stop during the
descent to Carmignano.

The Chianti ridge looking toward Dudda and Passo de Sugame.

Looking at the Chianti ridge toward Brollo.

This is a war memorial at the turn off to go over to Brollo.  Although
these are not often seen in the countryside, most small towns
have one.  Beautiful day today.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Visit to Assisi.

Yesterday, Kate and I took a trip to Assisi with Emily's Art History group.  It was Kate's birthday present from January, but it took this long to find a trip that worked with everyone's schedule, including Emily's, as she stayed in Florence to take care of the grandchildren.  Just an amazing trip and one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen, maybe the most beautiful.  The main Francescan church is simply amazing, as is the story of St Francis.  Elaine Ruffolo, who teaches the art history class was our guide and is great.  After visiting the church for 2 plus hours, we made our way up through the town to our lunch spot, which had excellent food.  The desert in particular, may have been one of the best things I have ever eaten.  After a very fun, slightly rowdy lunch, with much wine consumption, our group of 24 made our way to a couple of other churches.  The walk through the town was great.  It seems that wherever you look or go, it is just beautiful.  What a wonderful day.

The huge Francescan church on the way from the bus parking area.

A side tower that grabbed my interest as we prepared to enter 
the main church.

One of the cloisters going through the Franciscan Church.

Walking through town there are many views like
this through narrow lanes with the countryside
laid out in the distance.

The castle above Assisi from the town square after lunch.

Another beautiful view on the way to visit this church.

What a beautiful town.  Just starting back to the bus with the group.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Great ride in the Mugello with Joe and a couple of piano recital pictures.

Great private tour today for Florence by Bike.  All I knew ahead of time is it was to be one person who wanted to ride relatively far and fast.  I met Joe at the shop, and just looking at him, I knew he was quite fit and a good athlete.  I discussed route possibilities with him and he said he was fine with whatever I wanted.  We turned out to be very compatible riders, although I think he could have dropped me if he wanted.  I gave him a number of opportunities to ride ahead if he wanted, describing where to wait for me, etc.  He was quite happy riding my pace, which was pretty much the pace I ride on my own, perhaps a little faster.

We did one of my favorite tours with a little add on.  We started out the back way to San Domenico, then over through Maiano to the Vincigliata climb.  We rode quickly up this climb, which is really the hardest of the day.  No stops for pictures, as he said he really just wanted to ride.  We continued up to Vetta la Croce, then over to Bivigliano where we did stop for a water break.  We hit the super fun descent to Vaglia and stopped at a bar there for cafe espresso and pastries.  I had stopped here one previous time and it was quite good.  From there we rode to Scarperia, then San Agata and Galliano.  I was planning on Bosco ai Frati, but we would have been back too early, so we decided to extend the ride by going around lago de Bilancino.  From there over to the climb up via Faentina to Vetta la Croce, then the descent back to town.

We were still a little early for the bike return, so we stopped at a new favorite spot in Piazza Liberta for a cheeseburger and a beer.  Really nice guy, strong athlete, and a great day.  104.0 kilometers in 4:23 with 1565 meters of climbing.  Thanks for Riding with Cosimo, Joe!

Here is Joe at the water / view stop in Bivigliano.

Joe and I in the shop after the ride.

I know the blog is about cycling, but here are a couple of personal
photos at my granddaughter's piano recital yesterday.  She was so 
happy and composed that it was one of those special experiences
that I will treasure for years.  She even dedicated her first song
to Nini and Nonno Pidge.  So happy to have the opportunity
to experience the grandchildren growing up.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Meet and Greet to Impruneta, then return on some favorite roads.

Nice meet and greet this morning with a couple of young people currently living in New York.  They both had pretty perfect English with American accents, so I thought they were both American.  It turns out Tim is from England and Sophia from Germany with an Austrian father.  They met at the International School in Munich where they both grew up.  Tim really did not sound English at all and I detected no German accent in Sophia.  They said the International (American) school did this for them.  They are off on a 3 day self guided tour and I took them to Impruneta where we had a cafe and discussed the maps and plan for the 3 days.  They were both fairly strong and I am sure they will have a great three days.  They were planning on the "hard core" option for today, so that speaks to their fitness and preparedness.  Have a great time.

I returned through Strada, San Polo, Capanuccia, and Grassina.  I love that road and had not ridden it in a while.  I need to stop at the recently renovated winery with lunch and tasting owned by Ruffina.  For me, 50.3 kilometers in 2:30 with 660 meters climbed.  A nice mellow day!

Tim and Sophia on the way to Impruneta.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Nove Colli and a relaxed day with Kate and John.

Yesterday was Nove Colli, a great race / event in Cesenatico around 3 hours by car from Florence.  It is a big event, this year over 14,000 cyclists, although only 12,500 could be registered for the "race" with timing.  It was a whole weekend for around 6 hours of cycling, but a great time.  One of the real benefits of being on a team here is that people from the team organized hotel rooms, transportation, a van for the bikes, and pretty much everything you can think of for the race and a great weekend.  Thanks so much Lorenzo, our team president, for all you do.  We met Saturday morning around 10, pretty close to the apartment and did the van loading and split up in vehicles.  We had 12 from our team, but only 8 of us were in the van and associated car.  A very stormy 3 hour drive got us to Cesenatico, where we checked into the hotel, then went to their main room for lunch.  Really a great spread for lunch, and everything was included in the price of the shared room (only 2 to a room), so it was a very good deal.

Lorenzo picked up race packets for all of us, and I took a cruise into town to check the bike and look at everything.  Kind of fun, but definitely a zoo.  We found a TV to watch the TT for the Giro, then a few hours of rest followed by another great spread of food for dinner.  Again, really quite good.  We discussed the plan for the morning, which meant for me, getting to bed early, as we were meeting back at the dining area at 4:30 am for breakfast before the race.  Ouch!  They had a nice breakfast spread ready for us, even cooking pasta to fill up for the race.  We met again at 5:30 for a group photo, then were off to the starting area to line up in our grid location.  With over 14,000 people, it is quite a feat to get everyone off reasonably and safely.

The race started promptly at 6am, but our group, numbers 8,000 to 10,000 did not get going until around 6:30.  It had been sprinkling while we waited for the start, but as we closed in on the timing pad, thunder, then real rain.  The rain lasted for at least 4 hours, which really made of a difficult time. I think I dressed very well, and did not really feel too cold after around 15 minutes of racing getting the blood going.  I saw very few falls considering the weather, in particular because the course has a number of steep descents.  Descents can get very slippery when the roads are wet, and add in hard rain, and you get the picture.  I saw 4 people go down, but basically everyone was very cautious and safe.  The rain pretty much stopped after around 4 hours, but at that point we climbed into a pretty heavy fog, but had visibility of 50 meters or so.  Still, very welcome after 4 wet hours.  The fog only lasted 30 minutes or so, but by then we were starting the last climb of the short or medium course, which almost everyone did.  It was definitely the hardest climb of the race, and the last kilometer of the climb averaged 18%, and I was stuck without my two easiest gears based on a small technical problem.

Difficult, but I made it and then enjoyed the mostly fast descent back to the flats into town.  The descent was broken up by around 5 more short (50 to 100 meter vertical) climbs, so it was not a gimmie.  Somewhere along this part I had a flat, but basically was able to coast into a mechanical pull off where experts put my bike in a stand, changed the tube, pumped it up and had me on the road in less the 5 minutes.  I asked if I could pay and they said it was part of the race and included in the inscription fee.  Sweet.  I caught a good, fast group when we hit the flats, which went from 8 to around 30 as we passed and picked up people on the way in.  The leaders for most of the way tired out, so it was pretty easy to kind of pass everyone as the finish line closed in.  Great organization, and I had a text message with my official time, 5:36:31 within 15 minutes of my finish.  Super wet, but really super fun.  137.3 kilometers in the 5:36 with 2052 meters climbed.

This is Marco Pantini land, and here is a monument to the locally
beloved cyclist the afternoon before the race, when we had hopes 
of reasonable weather.  

The night before we had a huge table with 12 from our team and
around 16 from a Roman team, who are friends with a couple
of our team members and were staying at the same hotel.  
The hotel provided 3 meals and let us use the rooms for showers
after the event.  Of course, the season has not really started for this
seaside resort, and the race, Nove Colli, was partly started to get people
there off season.  I think it works, as somewhere around 25,000 people
show up for the race.

A bit of the scene at the staging for the start at Nove Colli.
With over 14,000 cyclists, it takes a while to get everyone started.
This is our group and a number of the team members at the race
waiting to get going.  Everyone has a chip on the bike, so the real
start is when you ride over the timing piece.  

Lorenzo and Amanda from our team at the start area for our 
group (grillio) for numbers 8,000 to 10,000.

Jersey and bike ready to go with numbers in place the night 
before the race.  The jersey never saw the light of day, as a 
rain shell was in place the whole ride.

My daughter, Kate and a friend from both high school and 
college, John Rice, just below Luiano on a very nice, relaxed
tour in Chianti today.  63.3 k in 3:12 with 844 meters climbed.

Friday, May 22, 2015

5 day van supported tour with the Bennett family - great week!

Just finished 5 days with a super nice family from Vancouver, the Bennetts.  Everyone was a pleasure to guide, but both the van driver and I were most surprised by the two children, Hanna, who is 11, and Nathaniel, who is 15.  Both rode almost the whole route every day, and neither ever complained.  It was fun to see how Chris and Christine managed this so well.  On difficult climbs, Chris would ride with Hanna and talk to her or play something like 20 questions.  I only helped her by pushing her up a hill on a difficult climb on the Radda loop to San Sano.  At the top of hills, we would typically take a break for pineapple, which Hanna in particular really liked, and one of the parents would hand out a previously agreed upon number of gummy bears.  It worked!  

Hanna was pretty much the chatterbox of the group, and was quite funny at times.  Whenever we started a downhill, she would shout, "woo-boo"!  Nathaniel, Chris, and Christina would then chime in.  Sometimes on downhills she would start to tell me a story, which as we went faster and faster I could not hear, as I crept ahead.  This did not deter Hanna, who would simply continue with her story even if no one could hear her.  When we would stop, I would tell her I did not hear the second half of the story, and she would just say, it doesn't matter.  Nathaniel was a total good sport the whole time, and never resented the attention his sister received.  As the week went on, Chris and Christine would send Nathaniel up to stay with me on climbs giving him some time to work out a little harder.  

Again, a very nice family and a good 5 day van supported tour.  Riccardo, our van driver was excellent.  Having van support, although we did not really need it that much is very helpful with most any group.  Great 5 day tour with Dominick's company.  They do a great job with the logistics, hotel selections, and pretty much everything.  Ciao a tutti!

Monteriggione, where we waited out the rain in the cafe straight ahead.
Our last day, and we rode from Siena to Casole Val d'Elsa.  Rain 
over, sun is out, time to ride.

A nice break in Rapallo Terme on the Siena loop day.  Beautiful 
centro in the town.

Lunch break in Castelnuova Berardegna where we waited out
the rain and had lunch.  I had not eaten in this little town before,
and this was not my most inspired pick for cuisine, although it 
was ok, and the timing for the rain was perfect.

Here is Nathaniel in the Crete Sienese on our Siena loop day.

In the Crete Sienese on our Siena loop day.  A little
rain but we waited it out at lunch.  This is Hanna, a 11 year
old who just kept going the whole 5 days.  Very impressive.
Her dad, Chris, is right behind her, and kept her occupied on 
hill climbs with things like 20 questions.

A quick stop for a picture on the "white" road climbing
to Castello Brolio.

Here is the family at Castello Brolio on our second day riding
the Radda Loop.  Great day.

A few pictures on our first day, climbing to the top of the hill
above Chiocchio on a perfect day in Chianti.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

3 different, but equally nice days of tours with clients.

It has been a few days, but I am in the middle of a stretch of 10 days of work in a row, with some of the days being relatively long.  So, I will post when I have a chance to catch up.  Today, I did a meet and greet, then guide a family, the Sheltons, to Impruneta.  From Impruneta, they are on their own for three days on a self guided tour.  I help Dominick with the self guided tour package and guide them out of the city to Impruneta.  It is a nice service and usually a nice guide 1/2 day.  Today's group was a family from Denver, which was fun, as I lived the majority of my life in Denver.  They brought a bit too much gear to take with, and Charlene, the mom, was really loaded down.  Good spirits and attitude will get them happily to Radda tonight.

Yesterday, I did a Florence by Bike Chianti tour for a nice young couple from France.  They both grew up in the south of France, but are now living in Paris.  This was only their second get away after having a baby 9 months ago.  Fun day, and with the forecast calling for rain most of the day, we were lucky to only get around 30 minutes of rain.  We went to Villa Monteoriolo, where our hostess, Eleonora, does a fantastic job of making everyone feel welcome.  She is also an excellent cook, so we have a very nice lunch.  Some of the best olive oil I have had comes from the property, and she does a tasting with us.

Thursday, I did a van supported tour day for Dominick with a group of 4.  Two were sisters and the other two their husbands.  Really nice group and a fun day.  It is nice to have the van to make things easy.  We started above the switchbacks from Galluzzo, then climbed over to Chiesanuova, and rode the ridge over to Villa Corti, just past San Casciano.  They had asked about a tasting, and I had taken a couple of groups here before, so we just dropped in and it was great.  Three of the four were pretty tired when we got there, so it was a good time to regroup and gain energy.  All four rode over to Mercatale, then down through Luiano to the main road.  Soon the ladies got in the van, and they guys rode to Greve, where all the bikes were back on the van and we had a nice, relaxed lunch.  Great day.

After a wine tasting, ready to get back on the road.  My Thursday
van supported tour with Michelle, Susan, Fred, and Ron.  Great 
day, group!  This is at Villa le Corti a vineyard and winery 
just outside San Casciano in Chianti.

Michelle still happily riding, although the end was near here.

Gilliaume and Sara at Villa Monteoriolo on Friday's Florence
by Bike Chianti tour.  Nice couple from France and a fun 
day.  Rain forecast, but only 30 minutes of rain encountered.

On my way back from today's meet and greet, I stopped just 
below Luiano to take these two pictures.   Yes, I did hit a little
rain on my return to Florence.

The Chianti ridge from Luiano.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Nice ride through Bacheretto.

Great mid day ride, although I was out in the heat of the day.  The highs are only mid 80's, so even mid day it is not too bad.  As you climb, the temperatures are nice, and I enjoyed a nice cafe and slice of crostata in Pinone on the terrace.  Nice breeze and temperatures I would guess in the mid to high 70's.  Quite nice.  Enjoyed the ride and have been thinking of doing this ride for a while.  It is not a ride to take client's on, so I got it in solo.  Perhaps clients would enjoy it, but I stay away from busy roads with clients.  On the way to Seano, I hooked up with a guy wearing a new kit with the sponsor of Eddie Mercx, the exact name of which I have forgotten.  We made good time together, then he turned off, I presume for Carmignano right after Poggio a Caiano.

I enjoyed the climb through Bacheretto then up to Pinone for my break.  Water in Bacheretto, and today was the first day of the year I was spraying my head and face with water while riding.  Feels good.  I rode back home through Montelupo after the sweet descent through Castra.  Along the Arno river road, mostly in shade, with pretty nice temperatures right next to the river, which was the plan. It is nice when plans actually work.  71.1 kilometers in 2:57 with 657 meters of climbing.  Great ride.

The fountain in Bacheretto.  I took this for an
English friend, who lives here occasionally to ride.
He always likes my pictures of fountains.  This
one is in Bacheretto.

Nice sculpture at the little piazza in Bacheretto.

One of the views on the way to Pinone from Bacheretto.

One of the views on the way to Pinone.  The hardest hill is done.

The view from my chair, resting and enjoying a cafe and 
an excellent slice of crostata in Pinone.

A favorite, solo.

First solo ride in a while yesterday.  I am happy to have lots of work right now, and when I do not have work, I seem to have events, but it is nice to ride solo at times.  Yesterday was a day filled with many, many errands, but I was done in time to start riding around 3pm.  The sun is setting now around 8:30, so there is plenty of time to ride.  Yesterday was the first "hot" day of the year as well, with highs in the mid 80's, which is what it was when I started.  I rode sleeveless for the first time this year and it felt good.  I took it easy, or relatively easy, as all the work and events are taking a toll on my energy level.  One more event in the near future, and I am deciding whether to do the long, which was my plan (205 k) course or the medium (135k).  I just signed up two days immediately after the event, so I am considering the medium course.  We shall see.

Yesterday's ride was great.  Nice to go my own pace without checking on anyone.  Did a favorite semi short route that I thought would keep me in the shade most of the time.  It was more exposed than I thought, but the temps were really not too hot.  Beautiful ride and many good water refills.  No head dousing yet, though.  69.3 kilometers in 3:16 with 1103 meters of climbing.

Looking through the trees at the green splendor on the way to Bombone.

A tiny, and I think beautiful road above Cellai.

A villa near San Martino with the Chianti hills in the background.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Great ride with Jen and Jean Charles.

I had a very nice tour today with Jen, one of my daughter's best friends here, and a wonderful person whom Emily and I have become close with, and her relatively new friend Jean Charles.  It is great to see Jen with such a nice, interesting, fit and fun man.  Jean Charles is from France, close to Belgium, and both he and Jen had three languages - French, English, and Italian.  With one and one half languages, I sometimes feel a little out of it here.  I continue to struggle with Italian, but continue to try, and I do think it is slowly improving.  At least I hope so.

We did a nice tour, on a medium route, but both Jen and Jean Charles were stronger and more interested in going fast than I expected.  They used my two extra / rental bikes, and had flat pedals with running shoes.  Even then, they both were kind of competitive and fast.  Really fun to ride with so many different people with different levels of fitness and different mindsets in relation to cycling.  We had another day of basically perfect weather, and enjoyed it.  A nice stop in La Luna, excellent cafe and pastries, then down to Ginestra.  Given the option of a little extra, they took it, and we climbed up to the little ridge ride to just below Montagnana.  I gave them the option of extending then, and they kind of wanted to, but basically wanted to have some relaxed time before a dinner tonight with many of Jen's friends in Florence.  As we returned through Chiesanuova, Galluzzo, and Cinque Vie, it was apparent that we had made the right decision as they were both slowing a little and were getting sore in various body parts, as neither of them cycle often.

Great job riding today guys, and thanks for "Riding with Cosimo"  Today's ride was 60.5 kilometers in 3:09 with 601 meters of climbing.

Jen and Jean Charles almost done with the Grilliao climb.  I sprinted ahead to 
catch them on the way to where I took this pictue, but by the time I had the 
camera function of the phone ready, they had passed me.  So, here we see
them from behind.  Next time a faster sprint, or tell them what I am doing
ahead of time, as the increased their speed to not get left behind.

Jen with the valley between Ginestra and Cerbia in the background.

Jean Charles climbing toward Montagnana.