We continue with Part II of Buzz Yancich's story of "Ben Vivere 2009" (Part I):
Ben Vivere 2009, Part II
"Some surprises, Eros sets a fast pace and the rebirth of a cyclist"
We met Eros just a few steps from the cobbled Piazza Bra in Verona the location of a beautifully preserved Roman Arena which dominates the city view. He arrived in a Mercedes Benz 12 seat van that would be our transport for the next ten days. Eros’ big smile, hugs and enthusiasm immediately set the tone as well as the eleven Aperol Spritzes he quickly ordered. We toasted each other’s safe arrival and the 10 days that lay ahead of us. Number one was the forecast and if on cue we looked up to the sky and the sunshine was breaking through.
The first of many rounds of our official team appertivo: the Spritz Aperol
As we would come to learn Eros is always full of surprises. We were finishing up our first Spritz when he hit us with the first surprise and it was a doozy:. “How would you all like to enter a bike race this Sunday? I have spoken to the director and we can get everyone in. No problem.” We looked at each other with a bit of amazement – racing was not on the itinerary and we are not racers. The race was the Gran Fondo Avesani – the last big event of the year starting and ending at the Roman Arena in Verona. “OK. Great, I think we should do this it will be fun – Trust me.”
There would be three distances and we would be enter the “shorter” 100K ride which included the 10k climb to Fosse.
With that announcement we headed to our hotel on a hilltop above the Valpolicella valley.
The Castrum Relais
Each hotel room included a plate of fresh fruit and a bottle of Prosecco with a nice handwritten card from Eros and his wife welcoming us to Italy.
And our Amis d’Eros team kit and sweaters.
And for those that rented bikes: Brand new from the Pinarello factory Campy Record equipped Princes and Dogmas (Eros is a good friend of the Pinarello family – in fact, he seems to be a good friend of everyone).
We would spend the next three nights and two days training for the Gran Fondo, riding from our hotel and into the hillsides and mountains of Verona and the Valpolicella valley.
Before we started our first day of riding we had our own surprise for Eros. Somewhere in the winter months over a glass or two of wine we came up with the idea of having our own team kit inspired by our favorite Veronese appertivo – Spritz Aperol.
The look on Eros’ face was priceless when we all walked out on the morning of our first ride in our Eros Poli Ben Vivere kit and presented him with his own set.
We got Eros good on that one and took him completely by surprise.
Eros proudly sporting the new Ben Vivere / Team Spritz Kit - It bears repeating: Eros is one big guy.
Team kit rear view featuring wine bottle pocket
So, we saddled up and hit the road. Again, no maps, just a general description by Eros of our route and off we went. Eros had arranged a mini van and two drivers Ivan and Frederico, two local riders.
Also joining us was Robert – a friend of Eros who would tag along on quite a few of our rides. In fact, we always seemed to have an extra local rider or two with us on each of our day’s adventures.
So the pattern was this: Breakfast and on the road by 9:00 a.m.
Late morning coffee break:
Coffee and recioto wine (served to us by the Carrera Director Sportif and coach of Pantani and Chiappucci)
Lunch was sometimes a picnic or part of the wine tasting (ok lets just say it was more than a “tasting”) or a stop in a local bar.
A light lunch for us at the coach’s house
Followed by a wine tasting around 2:00 p.m. somewhere along the route.
Wine tasting – Eros style
Usually we’d return home by 4:00 p.m. to a light bite to eat and then time to relax for an hour or so. Because by 6:30 we were off to some new location for appertivos.
Appertivos, to the unacquainted, is the Italian 7:00 pm happy hour of Prosecco, wine, spritzes or a combination of all three accompanied by essentially a full meal of hors d’oeuvres.
First course of hors d’oeuvres – three more to follow
Once the appertivos were finished it was onto DINNER which typically started at 9:00 pm and continue for hours until the last grappa was finished.
Osteria meal at an unnamed restaurant – in a former mortuary, yes that’s right a mortuary – down an alley somewhere in a small town on the outskirts of Verona. P.S. even if you had the address and a map you would never find it.
Of course, that’s not the end of the meal or the evening:
Into the cellar for post dinner drinks with the chef
Owner and chef pouring some recioto – a sweet red wine found in the Verona region. He made us an incredible meal that evening.
On the second night we began to question whether we could survive the pace Eros was setting for us – and we are not talking about the riding – but the food and wine. We knew Eros would take care of us in that department but he seemed particularly keen on making sure that we experienced the best and most authentic gastronomic experience possible. In fact, by the end of our trip we all agreed that this was the most complete and satisfying 10 days of eating and drinking any of us had ever encountered.
It seems Eros has a “hollow leg” because every morning he was full of energy, excited and ready to roll! Our breakfast conversation usually included the following two thoughts: “I think I had too much to drink and eat last night… and how does Eros do it?”
To be continued....
Information on Eros' tours can be found here.
Stories for the Italian Cycling Journal welcome; contact me at email@example.com. There are more than 1,100 stories in this blog; the search feature to the right works best for finding subjects in the blog.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
My friend Peter, aka "Pietro", filed this report from Verona where he's riding before hooking up with an Andy Hampsten tour.
"Eros (Poli) picked me up at 8:30 AM. He wants to try the Monte Baldo climb from the Adige River Valley. It was a little bit of a drive.
He found a parking spot and we biked along the valley for quite a while. As you can see, Eros is old school, no helmet. Finally, he said the climb would start. It was supposedly 16 km to San Valentino. Lucky for me, I thought this was the top (Ha! Ha! Ha!). If I had known that the penultimate highest point was at the 32-34 km mark, I would have had him shoot me and dump me into the gutter. According to Eros, Stelvio climb is 27 km, last 7 km much steeper than first 20. We will see.
We started out OK but my legs were heavy and I had to stop about 4 km into the climb to have a Maxim GU and recover. I actually started to feel better and got into the rhythm. A little coaching from Eros and a couple of times a hand on the back to push me along. Eros is strong. Of course, having ridden seven TdF, four Giro’s and two Vuelta’s (along with Paris-Roubaix, etc), what else would you expect.
Actually, the grades were pretty gradual, probably 6-7%. We did hit some sections with more of a grade but for the most part it was pretty constant.
We reach the “first” rest stop (other than Pietro putting feet to the ground; the Gruppo 1 cycling club always says if you stop you didn't do the climb....cruel) in 1 hr 40 min, probably average 9 Km/hr. I needed two cokes.
Of course, this older Italian man passed us on the climb. He must have been at least 65. Italians know how to ride.
So we proceeded again, some flat, some climbing until we reached the Cheese House. Now this was a stop!!!! We had a plate of cheese and meat with fresh bread. I again stayed with coke. Espresso afterwards. Eros had a beer and then finished the espresso off with a grappa. Now where do you find a place like this in the States? The Italians know how to do it right.
Of course, some more climbing. Finally, some downhill but a short stop at a bar along the road overlooking Lake Garda. Wow!!!!! What a sight, although we only saw a little piece of the Lake. Blue water. Cliffs along the coast. Wonderful sight!!!
I followed Eros down the road. We passed the slow cars. Maximum speed was 92 Km/hr (maybe 56 mph). Some ups and downs. The final descent at the bottom was really fast with sweeping curves. Feather the brakes a little, pressure on the outside pedal and lean into the curve. Many Kilometers of descent.
I tell you, the scenery was spectacular. You see the winding road, then houses or buildings. These are all older stone and masonry buildings. Beautiful. All this is out in the middle of no where. These pics only give you a small sense of the beauty. You have to ride this road to really appreciate how great it is.
On the way back to the hotel, another stop. Coke for me. Beer for Eros.
Re-packing for Andy’s tour tonight. I brought too much crap. I have got to figure out what to leave behind. Thursday is rest day and bring bike box to the other hotel by the airport. Maybe meet Andy Hampsten.
Tour starts Friday, we climb Stelvio."
Photos: Eros, Eros and Peter, Peter
Stories, including cycling trip stories, for the Italian Cycling Journal welcome; contact veronaman@gmail