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Thursday, April 10, 2014

The countdown begins

Less than a month before we depart for Italia! May's a bit quiet for the guided tours this year so we're heading to La Campionissima soon after we arrive. We'll ride our bici d'epoca (as shown above during a shake-down ride here in Iowa) as we prepare for the guided tour season.

Have YOU reserved your place yet? It's time to shift "into the big ring" as they say if you want to join us in 2014. While Legendary Climbs has been sold-out for months, we can take a few more smiling faces on More Monferrato 2, La Primavera or Grandi Alpi. Act fast as the rooming lists are going out before the end of April!

Friday, April 4, 2014

April Fool?

The view out our back door in Iowa. (Note: this is a COLOR photo!)

April Fool! Who's the fool here? Will this winter EVER end? Did this happen to you? They say living well is the best revenge (or something like that) so get your revenge by joining us in sunny Italy this summer. We still have a few places available on selected guided itineraries or you can DIY it with a self-guided vacation.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Recipe: Zuppa di Fave (Fava Bean Soup)

We recently found these dried fava beans in a supermarket during our spring break travels. Now that we're back Heather cooked 'em in one of our favorite soups. While we don't think they're quite as good as those we've bought in Sicily, they're worth trying if you come across them. Here's Heather's recipe:

500 g. dried, peeled fava beans
1 medium potato
salt and white pepper to taste

Soak the beans in water for a couple of hours or overnight. Strain and rinse, then cook in a large pot with water to cover along with the potato, peeled and cut into 1" chunks. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for an hour or until everything breaks up easily with a spoon. These beans do stink a bit while cooking, but trust us, it's worth it. If things look dry while cooking add a bit more water, If things are too wet when everything is cooked, drain away a bit of water.
Now mix well, as you want a puree. A hand-held immersion blender works well for this. Add salt and white pepper to taste.

Dress this basic puree up with drizzles of extra virgin olive oil or saute some spinach, kale, chicory or other leafy green and top the zuppa. For a heartier dish, cook up some Italian sausage and crumble it on top. Buon appetito!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This could be YOU!

Petlin/Hodge photo

Well.. not really, as our friend Ann is one in a million. But you COULD be riding along the wineroads of Moscato d'Asti this summer. We have limited space available on More Monferrato 2,  Best of Piedmont, La Primavera and Grandi Alpi. Best of all, you'll get to enjoy a warmup ride in this gorgeous wine country no matter which tour you choose. Click HERE to reserve your place.

Friday, March 21, 2014

NAHBS 2014 Part 2 - the people

I thought I was a terrible photographer - but when you hand your camera to a stranger, you never know what's going to happen. So some of these photos are terrible, but they're all we've got folks. Above you see yours truly between Mike Deme of Adventure Cyclist and the man, the myth, the legend, Patrick O'Grady. He's the one responsible for the "Old Guys who get fat in winter" cartoons and Friday's Foaming Rant among others. These two kindly put up with me, letting me join them for breakfast and dinner. It would have been a far less enjoyable experience had they not let me hang around with them. Thanks guys!

While we're on the subject of nice guys, here's Campagnolo's Dan Large, their technical wizard. Besides being a nice guy, he's into MOTOGP too. These are the kind of folks you want to help, making an "Official Supplier" relationship like we have better when it can be (sort of) a two-way street. 

Next we have Dario Pegoretti, kind of a rock star when it comes to frame builders as you'll see here. He was blabbing away above when I called out "Maestro, sorride per favore" (Master, a smile please) as I aimed the lens through the triangle of the frame. He looked up more surprised than anything as you can (I hope) see. With a decent photographer it could have been a great photo I think.

The guy is almost always surrounded by others, it's hard to get a word or a second of his time.

But on Sunday morning, he was wandering the aisles of the show, so I barged into the conversation he was having, again catching his attention with some badly-accented Italian and got him to pose for this badly out-of-focus photo. If you watch the video, you'll understand why this guy is a hero. He used to be a "builder of trust" to a lot of pros, including that Spanish guy who won that big race in France a few times, but when steel went out of fashion in the pro peloton, he remade his operation to satisfy a public hungry for something still made with passion, rather than something cranked out in volume solely for profit. He certainly fits into that "larger than life" category of human beings!

Finally, we have the boys at Abbey Bike Tools. If you're a tool-junkie like Larry, you'll appreciate what these guys do. In a world full of junky, disposable, "use it once" tools these guys craft tools you want to buy. They also work closely with guys like Dan Large to make sure their stuff functions perfectly, with a specific tool for every task. Needless to say I came home with one of their newly released hanger alignment tools! They also make a great cassette lockring tool, one that lets you skip (in most cases) removing the skewer nut just to tighten the lockring.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Milano - Sanremo 2014

Riders exit the tunnel on the Turchino Pass in 1955 (courtesy of "The Spring Classics")

Sunday is Milano - Sanremo, "La Classicissima" or "La Primavera" the start of the REAL pro racing season. Here's a link to a video clip from 1960, when the climb of the Poggio made its debut in an attempt to make it harder for pure-sprinters to win.

In 2008 they added another climb, Le Manie to further discourage the sprinters with about the same amount of success. For 2014 the plan was to remove this and substitute a climb named Pompeiana later in the route. Mudslides have prevented this, so for 2014 it's back to the route used from 1960-2007.

You can check on video coverage here though some of it may be unauthorized.

We still have a couple of places left on our homage to this great race, a tour we're calling La Primavera. Anyone who remembers the snow of the 2013 event will understand why we're running this tour in June!

In addition to following this storied route, including the Manie climb, we'll pay respect to men who won this race a total of 9 times, Costante Girardengo and Fausto Coppi with a visit to both Castellania and Novi Ligure.

This is truly a tour like no other, don't miss out!

Monday, March 17, 2014

NAHBS 2014 Part 1 - the bikes

Larry's back from Charlotte, NC and the North American Handmade Bicycle Show 2014. It was a fun weekend, combining beautiful bicycles and interesting people. This post will cover the bikes, saving the interesting people for next time.

 This bike was probably my favorite, though I did NOT spend a lot of time pestering the builders about their history, experience, etc. not wanting to get in the way of someone who was interested in BUYING something instead of just blabbing away. As a result I don't even know who this builder was, but he was located in what was called the "new builder section" and seemed to be from Japan. My photos were limited to road bikes with Campagnolo parts on them for the most part. There were plenty of otherwise gorgeous bikes built with parts from those "other people" but my sense of aesthetics put them in the category of "a Hitler mustache on the Mona Lisa" so no photos of them here. Photos were further limited by my poor photography skills, as many were just too blurred to put up here, sorry.
 Another gorgeous bicycle, this one from Casati. I lean towards classic looks like these. If you are really interested in tracking these builders down I'm sure other websites or blogs run by professionals will have more details on them. You can click on the photos to enlarge them enough to figure out what the name on the downtube is.
 I will always have a soft spot for ITALIAN bicycles, including this gorgeous Casati. I don't understand why this brand does not have more of a following here - they're truly beautiful machines.
 Another nice-looking bike whose maker you'll have to track down on your own. Campagnolo was having a separate award for bikes with their components so many makers had special notices on them pointing this out.
 This retro "scorcher" bike caught my eye not only for the beautiful workmanship, but also the retro concept. I don't care much for single speeds or fixies in general, but this was a special case.
 I'm far from a titanium bike fan, but this one, with the retro Campagnolo parts and polished finished caught my eye.

While we're on the subject of titanium, check out this MOOTS. It was in the Campagnolo competition and I'd be surprised if it didn't take top honors. Supposedly built for one of the honchos at Vecchio's in Boulder, the polished bits reminded one of chromed lugs while the polished and pantographed seat stay caps furthered the classic look. The other side cap had CAMPAGNOLO pantographed on it while the brake bridge featured the circular logo of the famous parts maker. A vintage steel pump head and tiny Campy decal on the downtube showed real attention to detail. The only way I'd like this bike more would be if they somehow worked a tricolore paint scheme in!

Next post: the people at NAHBS