il Voicemail

Well, it’s been awhile. I know. I apologize. Life has a way of getting in the way from time to time. I’m sure you all can understand. I mean, when King Juan Carlos invites you to an undisclosed location to hunt Bieber you simply do not turn him down. Inexcusably, we were unsuccessful in our venture. To apologize King Juan Carlos has promised to reduce unemployment in his country by creating a Spanish version of the Doritos Locos Taco called the Tostitos Frescas Tapas. I’m told it should create roughly 15,000 new jobs.

But enough about hunting humans, let us move on to more pressing matters, Hein Verbruggen to be more exact. Who knew he was such a fantastic villain! I personally didn’t think he had it in him. I mean sure he once threatened to revoke my all access Tour de France pass because of a particularly raucous Heineken chugging match I was having with Liam Neeson in 2001 in the press booth. But that all got settled rather quickly when I promised to make a donation of 3,000 bottles of Dom Perignon to the Tour of Beijing Truth and Clarity Tour. I thought it was a bit strange considering that race didn’t even exist then, but, Liam had wandered to a particularly intriguing burlesque show and I simply had to follow him.

What I’m trying to get at is that while Mr. Verbruggen always seemed a bit strange, I never quite pegged him for a mafia-esque enforcer. Yes he kept severed horse heads in his garden shed for no apparent reason. Yes he had an uncomfortable obsession with Tony Soprano and had a sign above his office that read “Now Entering Bada Bing”. Yes he has a tattoo of Robert De Niro from “Casino” on his chest. But bad guy who took bribes and made threats? I simply couldn’t imagine it.

That is, until I received an unsettling voicemail from the man. I took the liberty of recording it and will allow you all to have a listen and make your own conclusions…

To be fair, the two of us had been drinking rather heavily and I may have let slip that I had been invited to Kanye’s bachelor party. At which point Hein nearly threw up from excitement. And I will admit he said we should go to Chuck E. Cheese’s. I will not admit that I ever said that was a good idea. Hopefully the man will realize the error of his ways and can move on positively. Cycling would certainly be better for it. I actually heard there’s an opening in Amsterdam for a new Sanitation Director, I feel like he’d really enjoy that type of work.

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il Grupetto

I recently moved house and between finding a reputable haberdasher and a new source of platinum gilded golf tees, I found myself frequenting new local group rides. The group ride is an interesting beast indeed. Like a school of sturgeon responding to invisible cues, the group ride flows in a vaguely organic, sometimes erratic nature. Subtle clues can allude to substantial changes in its makeup and acceptance is rarely granted sans a primordial vetting process; the rules of which are shrouded in chamois cream and embrocation. As sure as you can rely upon the regularity of a different organized ride for every day of the week, you can rest assured that no matter where you turn the pedals you’re sure to interact with the same cast of characters. Like a traveling revival of Mama Mia, a fast group ride in Nice, France will have the same creepily familiar social makeup as a brisk jaunt in Sandusky, Ohio; just maybe with more fried Twinkies. So I present to you the troops of the group, those who take pride and pleasure in organized chaos, benvenuti al grupetto.

Smells like your sister no?

Smells like your sister no?

The Lung
The Lung is an older gentleman who’s tanned and experienced skin is surpassed only by his near endless supply of old race kits. The lung has a near preternatural ability to NEVER get dropped. He won’t win the group ride but you can rest assured that there is no terrain or tempo that will shake him. His face is either perpetually contorted in pain or void of emotion; each just as powerful. Upon further investigation you will find that The Lung is a former multi-mountain bike world champion from the early 80’s.

Who's up for a post ride sarsaparilla?

Who’s up for a post ride sarsaparilla?

The Town Crier
The Town Crier is fiercely concerned with group safety. He is first and loudest to call out any and every possible obstacle no matter how big or small its causal footprint. Calls of “SLOWING” or “GRAVEL” are bellowed with equal parts aplomb and audacity. This rider will not hesitate to chastise those who veer off course with “HOLD YOUR LINE”. Or the brazen individual who dares to not “KEEP BOTH HANDS ON THE BARS”. The manic nature of this individual is, thankfully, vacated once the pace increases. Just be sure to watch out for that “FALLING LEAF ON THE RIGHT” and may God have mercy on the soul of he who shows up not wearing a helmet.

Watch out for the shadow in 200 meters

Watch out for the shadow in 200 meters

The Reservist
The Reservist is forever keeping it chill. At any given time he’s coming off of a life threatening sickness, tapering for the biggest race you’ve never heard of or keeping it reserved for reasons unknown to anyone but himself.

The Reservist: Yeah man I’m not trying to go hard today, got the big State Regional District Divisional Championships coming up, just wanna keep it Zone 1-2.
Io: I am not familiar with this race.
The Reservist: Yeah man it’s like I just had a combo bout of Mono, MRSA, and all the Hepatitis’s so gotta give the system a chance to regroup ya know? Like I might just little ring this whole ride. Not trying to go hard.

The Land Mine
The Land Mine is a difficult character to spot, yet is extremely adept at catastrophic group dismemberment. The Land Mine can hold a wheel effectively in the flats and will defend his spot in the pace line with dedication and borderline aggressive resolve. You will resign yourself to merely staying behind him because passing takes more effort than its worth. That is, until the road goes up. With no warning, rhyme or reason the Land Mine physiologically detonates dropping his speed at a rate that seems unbounded by physics. This cycling IED causes havoc in the group as riders desperately hit their brakes and begin evasive tactics in order to not crash into the back of said rider. The pandemonium is further intensified by the guttural and disarming noises that come from The Land Mine post detonation.

The Waterfall
The Waterfall is an unfortunate individual and one that should be avoided at all costs. Regardless of both ambient temperatures and barometric pressures, The Waterfall sweats – an uncomfortable amount of sweat. I have no problem with perspiration, it’s part and parcel as far as cycling is concerned. Unfortunately, The Waterfall includes anyone with the misfortune of riding behind him in this production. Sweat and whatever other bodily fluids the Waterfall creates are expelled with uncanny regularity. Like heat-seeking Scud missiles, these saline cast-offs will find your face with supernatural accuracy. More maddening is that the harder you try to avoid The Waterfall, the more you’ll find yourself behind his fluidic onslaught. Rain capes will do nothing to help your plight.

You will know his sweat

You will know his sweat

The Tri-Guy
One would think Tri-Guy is instantly recognizable due to his tri-bike. Wrong. This particular iteration of Tri-Guy is cloaked in a road bike but, fear not, for there are telltale signs to aide in his identification. Firstly, look for the socks. Often times he will be wearing none or what the gentler sex refer to as “pedis”; socks which cover just the heel and toes. This, generally, is enough to out Tri-Guy, but continue up the subject in question. Ironman tattoo on the calf? Booty short length bib shorts? Sleeveless jersey with arm warmers? Bingo. While strong, Tri-Guy is erratic and unpredictable in the group. He’ll bob and weave, losing and regaining touch with the wheel he’s following with more frequency than a doping denial from Danilo di Luca.

This is your ride on triathlete

This is your ride on triathlete

While these personalities may seem to be more bothersome than laudatory within the confines of the group ride, there is a certain comfort there. Quick identification is paramount, but once achieved, a familiar rhythm can be established. You know these people. You endure these people. You avoid these people. Yet you’d probably miss them if they were gone. Who else would you complain about at your post ride coffee stop? What better incentive is there to be fit and able to ride at the front than a face full of another man’s blood, sweat, and tears…literally. How else would you be able to interpret the nuanced lexicon of a peloton in full gallop? So ride forth with the knowledge of the informed and may The Waterfall always be at your back and the road rise to meet you.

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il Hobbies

Finally, the road season is upon us. It feels the winters and off seasons that rip consistent racing from our trembling grasps are always longer than the last which inevitably leads to more free time than I’d like to have. Knowing full well that idle hands are the devil’s tools (my last bout of idle hands led to a foray into cyclocross of which we’ll speak nothing about) I took to several activities to keep busy during the darks months.

Music

I’ve always loved music and armed with a passion for sonic concoctions and an acoustic guitar that’s sat slothful in the wine cellar for years on end it seemed only fitting that I write a Grammy caliber album. It took two weeks of hermit-esque solitude in which I retreated to the deepest chasms of my artistic soul to access the type of raw human emotion that transcends cultural boundaries and becomes the anthem of a generation inspiring young and old alike to march for a common cause and make a difference in the world. The result was a complete success and methinks you’ve heard the fruits of my labor more than a few times. Not wanting to place myself squarely into always warming glow of the limelight I passed off performance duties to a plump and affable Korean named PSY. The song was Gangam Style. You’re welcome. Also I did all the choreography. You’re welcome again. Also I am dismantling him as I type so as to never hear or see of this song again. You’re welcome a third time.

They owe me royalties

They owe me royalties

Cooking

I was enjoying a delicious bucatini all’amatriciana one evening getting lost in the ever-hypnotic conversational rhythm of Nina Agdal recount the rigors of bikini modeling to me when my near perfect supper was interrupted by the squawking of a rotund fellow demanding to see the head chef. The ginger hair on his head nearly matched the gristle stained ginger color of his Crocs and I knew exactly who was bellowing some nonsense about always using Himalayan sea salt as opposed to Kosher. It was Mario Batali. I had run into him once before at a charity auction to benefit albino panda babies and needless to say our exchange was terse. What ensued was a culinary joust that lasted the better part of the next three hours. There was a flurry of mincing and julienning that would have made the hair on Tom Colicchio’s head grow back if he hadn’t been so busy sending suggestive emoji to Padma Lakshmi. In the end, yours truly prevailed over the pony-tailed, tomato hued cook with a grilled lamb lollipop drizzled with a cilantro-mint crème fraîche that brought the entire restaurant to tears which, in turn, salted the dish to inexplicable levels of perfection. I’m told Batali will no longer be competing on Iron Chef effective immediately

Sweet hat Fat Bastard

Sweet hat Fat Bastard

Art

Italians and art go together like the Swiss and cold, calculated sex. So it was no surprise that after a leisurely stroll through the West Wing of my manor (also known as the Inspirational Wing and every now and then known as the Wing of Muffled Cries of Passion) I demanded that Valentino fetch me art supplies

Io: Valentino! Vieni!
Valentino: Si, si signore, I am sorry I thought for sure today was just merely a “Inspirational Wing” day, the scented candles and edible oils are not ready.
Io: No, no Valentino Ms. Biel already has returned home to her boy band boy. I am for to need my art supplies.
Valentino: I shall call the local modeling agency for nude female models?
Io: No Valentino I am thinking a cycling themed project is the order of the day. Make sure to grab my favorite Prada painting smock.
Valentino: Certo signore, right away.
Io: And go ahead and call the agency anyways.
Valentino: I have them on speed dial sir.

What followed was an inspired foray into the often messy, often nude world of fine art. No medium went untouched from marble sculpture (which finally gave impetus to my marble cutter that Richard Branson insisted I would NEVER use) to oil still life on canvas (you’d be shocked at how still Kate Upton can pose for over an hour) to more modern multi media installation pieces (I knew saving all those old Pirelli F1 race tires would come in handy one day). What I was most proud of were the cycling themed canvases of champions both past and present. Simple and bold, they highlight the beauty and grit our dear sport breeds and more than anything they get me excited for yet another season of men greater than I looking for the wins they’ve trained so hard to attain.

Colors of excellence

Colors of excellence

If you’d like to see any of these grace the walls of your favorite cycling room or office or wine cellar or sensory deprivation chamber than don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. Until then please excuse me while I return to the Inspiration Wall where Kate Upton is still waiting for me in the exact pose I left her in.

 

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il Wintertime

As I was sitting in the breakfast hall of my humble abode deep in the mountains of Annecy enjoying an opiate infused Oolong Tea I noticed something. The drafts in the chateau have started to increase and more and more winter clothing has had to be donned before mounting my bicycle for training rides. This can only mean one of two things; 1) The French government has labeled me a cultural liability and is waging climate based warfare upon me and my associates, or 2) It’s winter. Knowing full well the chasm of progressive military development the French currently reside in I’m inclined to presume it is indeed simply wintertime. My olive complexion and chiseled physique are obviously more suited to warmer climates but winter can provide a myriad of activities and practices that make suffering through blizzards and frost inducing nights a bit more worth it.

Alcohol

During the racing season I make it a point to limit my alcohol consumption to merely champagne laden podium parties. However that steadfast adherence is dropped kicked out the window once winter induced off-season takes hold. When presented with dropping temperatures the decision to either put don another sweater or pour a delicious single malt Scotch should almost nearly always end with the glass. There’s a multitude of cold weather cocktails that will help warm the spirit and more than that are just fun to order. Hot Toddy, Irish Coffee, Rusty Nail, Sneaky Pete, Hot Buttered Rum, Conflicted Carl, Remorseless Gimlet, Mexican Standoff… those last three might not actually be bar “standards” now that I think of it. Pretty sure those were the whorish love children of an Absinthe fueled bender with me and Boris Becker. Anywho, so yeah, winter themed alcoholic beverages are fantastic. You get to slip slowly into the comfortably warm glow of a gentle buzz and more often than not you do so whilst clothed in some exotic fur and/or ostentatious boots. It’s a win win.

That’s hot, Todd.

Winter Sports

When the roads are blanketed in the freshly fallen crystalline ground cover that is snow, riding bikes can seem about as fun as volunteering at the UCI Doping Hotline. Remotely. From an Indian call center. In the middle of monsoon season. That is unless of course you are the type of masochist that relishes all that Mother Nature can throw your way and your sense of quasi-psychotic pleasure is directly proportional to the amount of wet snow-mud you must clean from your bike and teeth at the end of the day.  If that’s the case there’s a 73% chance you enjoy Cyclocross and unfortunately we probably don’t enjoy the same off-season leisure activities.  However, for us roadies there are options. The road racing cyclist fears change for the most part. Whether that change is carbon wheels at a Spring Classic, a new formula of leg embrocation or simply not being allowed to wear spandex I have good news for you. There is a sport that essentially combines everything we love as road cyclists into a familiar looking package that shouldn’t frighten even the most skittish of roadies. I speak of cross country skiing. The equipment is expensive, the uniforms are skin tight, you can wear your same Rudy Project or Salice sunglasses, there’s an unhealthy amount of obsession over which type of ski wax to use and no need for helmets so your once retired head band collection can shine in the toasty limelight of glory once more. The VO2 max thresholds are similar if not better and as if that wasn’t enough motivation there’s even an option to ski around with a purpose built rifle that is completely ok to just whip out and shoot things. Targets mostly, but I have it on good authority the rabbit and venison stew served at most cross country ski lodges at the end of the day is fresh for a reason. All in all it’s a measured and comfortable departure from cycling when the roads get too icy and opens a whole new venue of nature to Instagram.

Kit needs more white

Snow Bunnies

I’m not talking about actual bunnies here. In fact if there was any part of you that thought I was talking about white rabbits camouflaged in snow drifts you obviously don’t know me very well. I’m mildly offended but luckily this photo below serves as a magnificent distraction.

Nice boots

It’s already well documented that women have horrific circulation on even the warmest of days. Any man who’s had the shriek inducing surprise of a lady friend’s frozen toes plunged under a leg in the middle of July can attest to this.

Female Companion: My toesies are cold.
Io: What is a toesies?
Female Companion: My feet silly!
(Inserts feet under my perfectly shaved legs)
Io: Che kazzo putana you have the feet of a corpse!! You have tried unsuccessfully to ascend Mt. Everest?!
Female Companion: No I’m just cold
Io: We’re on Safari in the Serengeti you harpy!

Where this suddenly becomes an advantage is that in the winter it’s not only their little piggies that experience the unbiased chill of Jaques Frosté but the entirety of their body. And what  better way to warm the mind and body of a fiery firecracker than next to… a fire. Every self-respecting handsome-man knows a woman’s best side is so often viewed fireside. A bold and syrupy bottle of red wine, a charcuterie, a bear skin rug and the crackle of an expertly prepared controlled blaze beneath the hearth can bring warmth to even the balmiest of nights.

Of course all the aforementioned activities become meaningless when you have access to a private jet and can travel to wherever the best weather is about as quickly as you can pack Dolce & Gabbana overnight bag. Now if you’ll excuse me I have an Australian beach to loiter.

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Mi Ricordo…

In the short time that this blog has been alive I’ve become more and more acquainted with the online cycling community. I’ve also become more acquainted with Kate Upton and the private Twister Club that exists on secret yachts off the Amalfi Coast. It’s invitation only; I wish I could say more. The internet is a fantastic tool to utilize as a cyclist and consumer of fine leisure. It provides a venue for instantaneous devouring of race images, opportunities to pour over a near endless supply of bike parts and supermodels know how to use Instagram now. Which is fantastic. The internet also allows for the expression of opinions and an exchange of ideas the likes of which have never been seen before. The immediacy and efficiency of commentary is something that would have literally blown Alexander Graham Bell’s mind into a million pieces. Not Nikola Tesla though, that guy was definitely an alien from the future. Thomas Edison can eat shit. Unfortunately with this advance in communication comes the vitriol and overall exhaustive detritus from individuals who often times can remain completely nameless and faceless. It seems that there are few awesome things in this world that aren’t immediately castigated by interwebz trolls and deconstructed to a near manic level in order to display to the online masses why something is merda.

It was while enjoying my morning cappuccino and watching Valentino wax my Ferrari 458 that I began to harken back to the early days on the bicycle. The days when bike rides were less about Strava KOM’s and average power output and more about sweet jumps and skid stops. The days when the only sprints that mattered were the sprints for the gelato truck and to beat stoplights. The days when riding a bike meant the freedom to explore the world outside your front lawn as long as you were home in time for dinner. Mostly the days when I didn’t need to worry what someone was going to say when I slapped a Cinzano sticker onto my top tube or attached Roberto Baggio trading cards to my spokes. Isn’t this why we all picked up bikes in the first place? I can still remember in vivid detail my first two-wheeled bicycle. It was a gray Huffy Armadillo and it came adorned with strategically placed plastic protective motocross’esque panels which made it 100% as indestructible as an armadillo. That bike was my motorcycle and my Doberman Spike was my dragon. Together we patrolled the grounds of the Ragazzo compound inseparable and unerring in our quest to dispatch of all intruders. What may have looked like a squirrel to the layperson was in actuality a vicious Griffin who had acid for saliva and shot fire from its eyes. The undulating hills at the foot of Mt. Etna were breeding grounds for secret hideouts and military strategy camps. On my Armadillo I was the fastest kid in the world. There was no jump too big and no distance too far. Unless Mama Ragazzo found out I went past the Enoteca Bridge by the creepy old man’s house on Via Baldesi. That was too far. Mama Ragazzo was the only foe that was never bested, her might and sorcery knew no limits.

La Mama: Pasquale, dove sei andato?
Io: Nowhere Mama, to see Giovanni and eat gelato.
La Mama: Are you for to be sure you don’t go near that house and the ponte?
Io: Che cosa?
La Mama: You threw rocks at the windows you did not?
Io: But… I was sure there was no one to be seeing…
La Mama: Deceive me again and you shall pay a hefty price.
Io: But Mama…
La Mama: No Nutella per due settimane!
Io: Mama nooooooo, l’inferno è vuoto!!

There was a profound sense of excitement and exploratory innocence that that first bike instills in us as children. You’re suddenly free to explore, to go on treks, to discover the limits of your skills. I recently saw a group of kids racing full speed on their bikes to some imaginary finish line and the only thing bigger than the ill fitting helmets on their heads were the smiles on their faces. Unfortunately that sheer delight can get lost in layers of carbon fiber, compression fabrics and a murky mire of energy gels and bad attitudes. It’s imperative that we remember at the end of the day riding bikes is just plain fun. Saturday mornings as a kid consisted of waking everyone up in the house and bee lining it to the kitchen for the first of what would generally end up being roughly 4 bowls of either Cookie Crisp or Fruity Pebbles. Before a violent sugar crash threatened to derail my entire day Mama Ragazzo would shoo me outside to play where I would immediately mount my Huffy Armadillo and meet up with my neighborhood friends. The bike had two speeds; sprinting and skidding. There was no in-between. There would be races to the Tabacchi for Kinder, races to the football pitch to challenge the neighboring youth and races to community pool to see who was the fastest swimmer and the best cannon baller.

Intense dialogue over who was fastest down the hill ensues

Not a whole lot has changed in older age. I still wake everyone up in the house mainly so that Valentino knows it’s time to make my cappuccino. Breakfast is now a sparser spread of assorted cheeses, fresh baked breads and cured meats; I still have it prepared in a bowl though. Mama Ragazzo always calls on Saturday morning to make sure I’m eating enough and find out if I’ve found a nice girl to settle down with. I still meet up with neighborhood friends only now those friends are Pippo Pozzato, Franco Pellizotti and Peter Sagan. We ride as fast as we can and stop at cafes for treats and coffee. Sometimes Robinho invites us to watch an AC Milan game and sometimes we head over to Elisabetta Canalis’ for a dip in the pool. Really life is pretty much exactly the same. Even 20 years after the fact taking my bike out for a ride with my friends is still one of the best things I could be doing on a weekend.

Bikes are fun. Hanging out with your amici is fun. Combining those two things and utilizing the transitive property of multiplication stipulates you will have roughly 4 times as much fun than if you are alone. It’s important for us to remember every now and again that waking up and sharing some road with the day’s first light can be a renewing experience. Descending perfectly paved roads through a light fog and emerging onto sun baked valley floors invigorates and awakens the soul. Sprinting for imaginary finish lines after a group trek through farm flanked rollers can be the best competition you’ll ever find. Recalling highlights of a day’s ride over cappuccino and pastries is the perfect end to a morning jaunt. The exhilaration that was felt on that maiden voyage atop your bike is still attainable all these years later. There aren’t a lot of activities that can claim that type of longevity. Well, I mean, I suppose there’s a few others but Kate Upton would kill me if I said too much.  And if all this isn’t enough to remind you how sweet bikes can be, watch this video below. If it doesn’t make you smile and awaken an inner jubilation that perhaps was once dormant, you’re a heartless savage and/or a remorseless sociopath. A dopo amici.

 

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L’Interbike

The first time I ever went to Vegas was by accident. I was judging a Flawless Diamond competition at the De Beers mansion in Antwerp and started drinking Absinthe with Silvio Berlusconi and Javier Bardem. Next thing I know I woke up to the soprano incantations of a Venetian gondola operator as I lay out front of a jewelry proprietor. The light looked strange, the air smelled like stripper and the people were all demonstrably recalcitrant to my demands for explanations. It was only after being manhandled by some of the strangest carabinieri I’d ever seen that I realized I was somewhere that was very much NOT Venezia.
Io: Ho there, you, in the red tunic! Where is this place??
Vegas patron: The buffet.
Io: What buffet? Who is the chef? Where is the suckling pig and sexy women passing out prosciutto and melon?
Vegas patron: I got a yard of Banana Daiquiri.
Io: Che cosa? You measure drink volume in distance here??
Vegas patron: Cirque du Soleil.
Io: What is this infernal wasteland!!? I am in Dante’s purgatory!!!!!
 

I was in Las Vegas, at the Venetian. Vegas is a strange and disarming place that promotes debauchery and consumption to excess yet will leave you penniless, alone and glassy eyed with equal amounts of speed and conviction. In other words it’s like poker night at Pat McQuaid’s place. Recently I attended the annual cycling expo known as Interbike in this city of sin in hopes of finding the next best thing and something to do with the $50,000 worth of chips from the Bellagio I found in my pocket the other day.

He lives how I feel

Quick Takes

• The entrance to Treasure Island smells like Eau de Whore mixed with a failed Glade scent mixed with vomit. And broken dreams.
• There is no viable coffee option within the quagmire of hotels on the strip. In order to avoid supreme catastrophe it is imperative to bring a portable espresso machine. Have the porter install a Marzocco GS 3 in your suite before arrival.
• The women on the advertisements being handed out by the “card snapping” individuals on the strip don’t actually look like that. Trust me. Dear God please trust me.
• “Bud Light Platinum” is Anheuser-Busch code for “Triple Filtered Urine Runoff”,
• The grand prize on the Ghost Busters slot machine is not a gigantic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. It’s just a bunch of stupid money.
• Two story display booths allow for the perfect clandestine getaway when certain needs must be met with certain female accomplices.
• More booth babes. Seriously. I know a guy.

Ció che mi piace

• I am a self-admitted Campagnolo addict, that is no secret. So I ordered my minder to direct me to their booth immediately upon entering the show floor. The Super Record EPS gruppo truly is a sight to behold. It’s gorgeous and shifts brilliantly. Apparently most installation issues can be remedied with high quality olive oil and a 10-minute cigarette break. What was also interesting to see was the Athena EPS. Being their entry level gruppo the price point on this is sure to be attractive. I put in an order for 400 complete gruppos to throw into the gift bags for my house warming party at my new flat in Monaco this December.
• The BMC Timemachine TMR01 is gorgeous. The finish and design is flawless. I’m told a custom made Tissot watch is hidden somewhere on the bike upon purchase. I want one and am willing to endure an Andy Rhis investment presentation in order to have it.
• Reynolds has some very tasty wheel options on offer including their RZR crazy light and crazy awesome “super wheels”. According to Reynolds their RZR 92 rear wheel is faster than a disc. These would have come in quite handy when I had to escape the Saudi principality on my TT rig after getting caught in Princess Jasmine’s quarters by Sheikh security guards.
• The Cipollini bikes were stupendous looking. The booth was minimalist save for the sure-to-be-nominated for best foreign short film at the Oscars “Cipollini Bond” video that played non-stop. I have to admit, when Mario told me he was going to start producing carbon racing bikes I thought it was another one of his Brunello and steak Florentine fueled ramblings but the bikes seem to be getting more and more popular and look damn fast. Mario himself actually showed up to the conference so it should be interesting to see how many women will be naming their children “Vegas” in about 9 months time.

An art deco interpretation of post modernist industrialism in regards to Dada sensationalism. Obviously.

Ció che non mi piace

• Time didn’t have a booth at all. Look was there and their offerings were attractive to say the least. The 695 in Mondrian livery with Campagnolo EPS was on full display and I’m about 90% positive I saw Richard Virenque wallowing in a darkened corner listening to “The Freshmen” by Verve Pipe as the tears flowed freely down his face. I would have liked to have seen a new RXRS Ulteam in person, not to mention I’ve heard there’s an onsite baker pumping out fresh baguettes when Time does actually set up a booth.
• The depressing lower level of booths no one was visiting. The cycling industry is tough no doubt. There are countless purveyors of highly specialized products and it takes great quality and great marketing prowess to achieve success. It was painful to see a lonely booth hocking the latest and greatest energy drink hydration system to no one in particular. Part of that could have been booth placement, part of that could have been the flavor options of Desert Cactus and Salted Cod. Equally as hard to watch were the substandard “booth babes” offering to take photos with the attendees only to be resigned to standing around forlornly in an ill-fitting bikini.
• The swag. I was fully anticipating walking away with a complete gruppo, frames, wheels and numerous pairs of bibs. Sadly the only free things that found their way into my hands were energy gummies, the worst pair of cycling socks I’ve ever laid eyes upon and Celine Dion’s personal cell phone number and her itinerary for the next 2 weeks. All of which do nothing to enrich my life.

All in all the show was impressive. I saw things that I liked and saw things that I hated. Vegas attempted to bequeath unto me a bevy of salacious temptations and I actually emerged a richer man than when I arrived. For tax purposes I can’t elaborate on how much I actually made only that it all rests safely in a Cayman Island account, cheers Mitt.

Her heart went on for too long

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La Vuelta

August is a month in my life that is generally reserved for olive oil harvesting at the villa and hanging out with Fernando Alonso in between European GP races. After Alonso’s unfortunate crash at Spa-Francorchamp we were nursing our collective wounds over a bottle of Dom Perignon and calf’s milk pedicures when he asked if I had been watching the Vuelta.

Fernando: Pasquale hai visto the Vuelta yesterday?
Io: What is Vuelta?
Fernando: The Spanish Grand Tour.
Io: I am not familiar…
Fernando: Pasquale I am been talking for you about how exthited I am to see it for like 2 weeks now. It is the race of my homeland.
Io: Fernando… you’re Spanish?

I consistently forget Spain even hosts a Grand Tour mainly because nearly every time I tune into the race it appears they’re competing in a 3-week circuit race around Sicilia. However, Fernando insisted this edition was shaping up to be something special and refused to try any of the caviar canapés I’d ordered until I promised to watch the race. I relented and was treated to one of the most exciting Grand Tours I’ve watched in awhile. Also Fernando threw up from eating too much caviar.

Why the Vuelta was Fantastic
This year’s Tour de France was boring. It had all the excitement of a Led Zeppelin reunion tour fronted by Sammy Hagar sponsored by Ensure. Sky dominated, Wiggins can TT and Chris Froome has uncomfortably skinny arms. The only bright light from an otherwise dimly lit Tour was Peter Sagan signing boobs without provocation. Oh and him winning stages too. The Vuelta was interesting to watch from the first stage. All eyes were obviously upon Contador to see how he would fare post-suspension and he did not disappoint. Even more exciting was the GC triumvirate that Contador occupied with Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez. I have a completely newfound respect for purito, I always knew he had explosive late race power (in addition to explosive late race bowels…allegedly) but his grand tour prowess has been a revelation this year in both the Giro and the Vuelta. Valverde was equally impressive and I had to remind myself that he too was returning from a suspension. It seems his regimen of 14,000 sit ups and 640km per day during his suspension paid off.

The Tree Amigos

Contador
I’ve never been a big fan of el pistolero, something about him always just rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps it was his links to Liberty Seguros, his obnoxious pistol, his tainted meat defense or maybe it was because he tried to hit on Doutzen Kroes when she and I were dating. All that aside, this edition of the Vuelta changed all that. He rode like riders past. He rode with heart and conviction and cojones grandes, WHICH you should never order as a side dish with your eggs in the morning after a particularly rigorous night of Sangria and bull fighting. Trust me. Contador was expected to show up and pound the other riders into submission yet he appeared fallible and his normally crushing attacks were consistently being pulled back. That is until Stage 17. On paper it didn’t seem like a stage that would seal victory, in fact on paper it didn’t seem like anything since my Spanish is almost exclusively limited to what I do and do not want in my paella. Contador escaped and thanks to the help of other riders, namely Paolo Tiralongo (to whom a first born has most certainly been promised), he was able to put enough time into Rodriguez and Valverde to secure the leaders jersey. It was a ballsy move that could have backfired spectacularly but it made for sensational racing and proved having the sack to actually take risks can pay off. Kindly take note Tour hopefuls.

Because it’s so hot outside…

Podium Girls
It’s no small secret that podium girls share a special place in my heart. I’ve waxed poetic on the talent of the women of the Giro and decided to learn French solely so I could chat up the Tour ladies but I was more or less left mouth agape at the Vuelta podium girls this year. There were times when I wasn’t sure if I was watching a podium celebration or a casting for the new Kanye/Jay-Z music video sponsored by Cirac and Durex. The women were beautiful and appeared to be more than happy to be doused in copious amounts of Cava Gran Ducay. There has to be something in the agua in Spain right now. World Cup, Euro Cup, Rafa Nadal, Fernando Alonso… maybe it’s all the siestas. More than likely it’s all the Spanish Fly.

5 minutes to champagne shower ladies

All in all the Vuelta was fantastic this year and rest assured I will be rearranging some of my schedule to find time to attend a few stages come August of 2013. I’ve already dispatched Valentino to set aside a few crates of Brunello and risotto so I don’t die of thirst and hunger whilst visiting. All that’s left now is to figure out how to say “You should come see my Italian villa after you get off work, I’ll send the helicopter for you” en Español.

 

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