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Stories

Stories by Palu Bicycles

Red Hook Crit: Milano No.8

Harry Bunnell

palu-red-hook-milano-2017.jpg

We recently wrapped one of our last events of the 2017 season, our home Red Hook Criterium in Milan. It was the eighth edition of the race and the sun was shining, making for a great weekend of racing and parties.

We were running the Parc Fermé for the third year, which is the area for bike checks and rollers where the riders can warm up pre-race. As ever we had a great crew of volunteers who ran it all seamlessly under the guidance of Palu founder Alberto Battaglia.

First-time volunteer and Red Hook Crit newbie Maria Grazia Arcidiacono recounts her experience of the weekend:

"We started the weekend at the track day at the Vigorelli Velodrome. It was nice and sunny and we spent the afternoon in the track circle catching up with friends, drinking beer and eating focaccia. It was nice to meet Chris from Berlin who was with the 8bar Team and understand a bit more about the history and culture of Red Hook.

That evening we decided to head to the pre-party at Santeria Social Club in the south of the city near the popular Navigli district. I hired a city bike and rode there with my husband who had his Cinelli with him after a week riding in Como. We had time for a few drinks before having to head off to find somewhere to dock and swap the bike – it starts getting very expensive after 2 hours!

The next day we walked to the circuit in Bovisa. I didn’t expect such a big setup with so many sponsors and the grand stand at the finish line, mega impressive! We checked in at the volunteers’ tent, grabbed our crew t-shirts and then had a briefing with Alberto at the Parc Fermé. 

The morning was fairly quiet, spent setting up rollers and sweeping the area… the calm before the storm! At around 12.30pm it started getting busy with riders arriving to have their bikes checked and get onto the track for the open session. Our main duties were to check rider numbers and make sure that we were staggering the arrivals by heat. There were a limited numbers of rollers so they needed to be reserved for the riders who had their qualification race coming up next. Some of the riders would get frustrated that they couldn’t warm up when they wanted, but mostly everyone was chilled.

Maria Grazia and Francesco, Parce Fermé

Maria Grazia and Francesco, Parce Fermé

It was pretty non-stop all day during the qualification races until we had a break at 5pm. This was a welcome chance to grab a beer and some food, plus go around the race village chatting to some of the teams about a cycling skincare range I’m looking to launch. After the break the racing was back on with an exciting Last Chance race, then the women’s and men’s Super Pole – a flying lap which decides the starting position of the top 20 riders on the grid. 

As the sun began to set and the flood lights came on you could feel the atmosphere ramping up for the final races of the evening, it was pretty electric. After letting in the remaining riders to warm up on the rollers I snuck off for a bit to watch the women’s race. It was amazing to see such a strong bunch of girls racing, coolissimo!

As the men’s race was starting we started packing down the Parc Fermé, breaking down the rollers, then removing the hoarding from the barriers and stacking them up. Alberto then got us inside the track to get a brilliant view of the race from behind one of corners. The men’s race fast and furious, great entertainment from start to finish.

At the end of the action we caught the podium ceremony and deliberated whether to head to the after-party. Without bikes it was looking pretty expensive by taxi so a few of us headed to a bar in Bovisa instead at around 1am for a beer and bruschetta. Not quite the crazy party we intended, but a nice way to wind down the day.

I’m originally from Catania and this was my first time in Milan. It feels similar to London, pretty modern, vibrant and eclectic. It was a great atmosphere all weekend with a bunch of like-minded fun people. I do a bit of road riding myself, but this has definitely got me more interested in the world of fixed gear. Who knows, maybe I’ll be racing next year!”

Follow Maria Grazia on Instagram @mari.arci for foraging and bike adventures in Sicily.

Meet the Riders: Federico Motta

Harry Bunnell

Photo courtesy of Scoot

Photo courtesy of Scoot

We’re proud to support grassroots racing through our sponsorship of NVAYRK; a global cycling team founded in New York which races track, crits and cyclo cross.

The team made its debut at Red Hook in 2015, and has been representing at races in Europe and the United States. We caught up with team captain Federico in Barcelona to get his low-down on the 2017 so far and plans for next year.

Palu: Ciao Federico! How’s your season been going?

Federico: The current season, I would say, has been a really positive one. Personally I had some pretty decent results. The highlights are a 5th place at La Petit Course in Paris, a 6th place at Minet Crit in London, a 10th place at Thundercrit 2 in London and a 6th place in the Last Chance Race at the London RHC which allowed me to qualify to the final after an unlucky qualifier. I definitely improved my performances from the previous season but everyone else in the peloton has done the same!

Palu: How many times have you raced in Barcelona, and what makes the city so special?

Federico: Barcelona N5 was my 3rd RHC there. It was my first fixed gear crit ever in 2015. Barcelona is unique. The RHC in Barcelona is not just a race, people usually get few days off work and spend a week across the weekend in Spain, drinking beers on the beach with fellow riders from all over the world or riding their bikes along the beautiful coastline. 

Palu: You used to be a bike courier, what got you into racing fixed gear?

Federico: Yes, I used to be a messenger in London for about two years back in 2012. I got into bicycles because of that and, since then, my life changed completely.

Palu: You race multiple disciplines; road, cross and track. How many bikes do you own? 

Federico: I own four bikes at the moment. A race track bike, a commuter track bike, a road bike and I'm about to finish my CX build.

Photo coutersy of Dani Roversi

Photo coutersy of Dani Roversi

Palu: How do you balance working full time alongside a busy race schedule?

Federico: I work as sound engineer in a post production house in Soho and I'm working on different shift every week. So depending on the working hours, I train before work, usually in Regents Park, or in the evening, at Herne Hill Velodrome. I tend to do a mid/long distance ride on the road bike at the weekends or the Saturday morning session at the track. 
It’s really not easy to fit everything in and sometimes I cannot get as much training as I would love to, but it’s not a big deal, bicycles are great but they’re are not the only thing in life.

Palu: What’s been the biggest highlight of your racing career?

Federico: The biggest highlight of my racing career is yet to come, but I would say the 5th place at La Petit Course in Paris last summer as I was very close to a podium finish. I felt strong on a super technical course but a crash with 3 to go ruined everything. 

Palu: The racing scene in London is thriving. What advice would you give to the youngsters coming through?

Federico: The cycling scene in London is getting bigger and bigger. Its great because it’s made by great people. To the youngster I would say to get out, ride, meet new people and follow your dreams!

Palu: You have Red Hook Milan coming up in October, your home race. How does it feel to race on your home roads?

Federico: Milan is next and its always very special to me. Every time plenty of friends come over to cheer at me and they give me that little extra boost needed!

Photo courtesy of Chiara Redaschi

Photo courtesy of Chiara Redaschi

Palu: Where do you want to take NVAYRK in 2018?

Federico: We aspire to great things for NVAYRK in 2018. We hope Euan can confirm himself in the top 20 riders in the RHC peloton and we are also planning to have a girl racing with us as well. Also, we will add few more dates to the race calendar like Mission Crit in SF, Dijon and 8bar Crit.

Palu: If you could pick one place to ride, where would you go?

Federico: I fell in love with downhill (MTB) recently so, at the moment, my favourite place to ride would be hitting the trails in Whistler, British Columbia. 

Palu: Grazie e bocca lupo for the rest of the season!

Federico: Thanks a lot and i'll see you on the road!

Follow Federico on Instagram @federicomotta to see how he gets on for the rest of the season.

Red Hook Crit in Barcelona

Harry Bunnell

Photo: Tornanti.cc

Photo: Tornanti.cc

This has been our third year running the Parc Fermé at Red Hook Crit. Palu founder, Alberto Battaglia, sums up the experience after a busy weekend for the 5th edition of the race in Barcelona…

It’s always a great experience with enthusiastic people and exciting racing in three of Europe’s best cities.

Our main duties in the  Parc Fermé entail checking the condition of the bikes and making sure they match up with Red Hook Crit’s standards, including levels of wear on tyres, cleats, helmet straps and making sure there’s no unsafe objects attached to the bikes! 

Photo: Tornanti.cc

Photo: Tornanti.cc

The team is usually comprised of eight volunteers, many of whom have been working together for the last three years. There is a full briefing in the morning before the practice laps start, then it’s a busy day of bike checks throughout the day with a bit of time to grab lunch.

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Barcelona was extra fun compared to previous years. There is the new Superpole which makes the level of the race qualification more selective, especially their position on the starting grid.”

We get some awesome bikes coming through the Parc Ferme, but personally speaking the the nicest bike we got to check this year was Colin Strickland’s Pinarello Maat Pista. Troppo bella!

My favourite bit of the day is the party after the race. It’s a chance to relax after an intense day on the radio with the rest of the staff, have a beer (or three) and catch up with friends old and new who race or are a part of Red Hook.

Photo: Chiara Redaschi

Photo: Chiara Redaschi

Big shout out to all the volunteers who joined us at London and Barcelona this year, if you would like to volunteer for Milan, please get in touch at Redhookcrit.com/volunteer

Summer Riding in Sicily

Harry Bunnell

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The month of August means holiday in Italy; people leave the city to head to the coast and enjoy long days on the beach. The climax of the summer is 15th August, known as ferragosto, which dates back to Roman times under Emperor Augustus as the “Feriae Augusti” (Festivals of the Emperor Augustus). 

For our Ferragosto we headed to the East of Sicily, to the foothills of Mount Etna. With its winding lanes spread over Etna and beautiful coast roads, Sicily makes a perfect destination for cycling for pretty much 12 months of the year.

We started our ride from Zafferana Etnea, a town famous for its honey due to its proliferation of chestnut trees. It acts a gateway to Etna, with one of the several climbs to Etna Sud starting from its basula (volcanic) stone streets. We headed north out of Zafferana, hugging the side of Etna along the Strada del Vino, climbing up through Milo and Fornazzo – following the same route as Stage 5 of this year’s Giro d’Italia. 

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On reaching the North East corner of Etna, we arrived at Castiglione di Sicilia. A hilltop town at 621 metres overlooking the Alcantara Valley. The approach to the city reveals a crop of colourful houses perched on the hills, and amongst them signs of its historic past including a Byzantine and Norman churches and fortifications.

From Castiglione we dropped down into the Alcantara Valley, passing a mass of tourists around the ‘Le Gole dell’Alcantara’ getting ready for a day of rafting and enjoying the rapids. It’s a fast and rolling road along to Giardini Naxos, which passes several hilltop towns overlooking the valley.

At Giardini we joined the Strada Statale to begin the ascent up to Taormina. This is a one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sicily, however the winding climb with multiple hairpins is quiet for cycling aside for the occasional tourist bus. On reaching the centre we continued up to Castelmola, a tough 5km climb in the midday heat. At the summit we were rewarded with a great view of the coast and mainland on a clear day, as well as a good bar for a granita and brioche to help the legs recover.

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With most the climbing done it was an ascent back down to Taormina to re-join the SS116 and head back along the coast, passing Isola Bella, a private island owned by Florence Trevelyan until 1990, when it was bought by the Region of Sicily and turned into a nature reserve. The final 30km along the coast road were spent dodging sun seekers attempting to park on the lungo mare, before a final kicker of a climb back up to Zafferana. 

The ride on Strava, 113 km with 2,392 metres climbing.

Photos and route courtesy of @hazbun who can be currently found cycling around Sicily on his Cinelli Experience, built by Palu Bicycles.

Dutch Courage on the Grappa

Harry Bunnell

Stage 20. Pordenone to Asiago, via the mighty Monte Grappa. It was the end of days for the 2017 Giro, an edition hailed by many as the most exciting race in living memory. Tom Dumoulin had surprised the major players and held onto the pink jersey since Stage 10, only to lose it to Nairo Quintana the prior day when the dogged Dutchman was gapped on the Piancavallo.

Starting in Pordenone in the autonomous region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the race swept down into Veneto taking on the Monte Grappa before finishing in Asiago, a town in Veneto famous for a crumbly cheese of the same name, produced from the milk of the region’s bounty of dairy cows.

Monte Grappa is one of the most loved and feared climbs in Italy. It has been a regular feature in the Giro during the 70s and 80s, returning in 2010 and then again in 2014 featuring an uphill TT to the Cima Grappa (summit) won by Quintana by 17 seconds.

There are many ways up the Grappa, around 10 in total, with the hardest ascent known to be the “Salita degli Alpini” from Possagno side, which arrives at Cima Grappa. The race wasn’t taken the hardest route, but at 24 km with an average gradient of 5.2% it’s tougher than your average. The Italians in this region know about tough, many of the roads up the mountain were built by the Alpini soldiers in World War I during the Battles for Monte Grappa against the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
 
So the Venetians must be passionate for this climb? A lot. Taking a ride up the Grappa is the average summer ride for local amateur cyclists. It’s not unusual to see the Italian pro team riders from Wilier Triestina, Team Sky, Quick-Step Floors,  Bahrain Merida, Andrioni Giocattoli, Lotto Jumbo, and Wanty training on its slopes.

Local boy Enrico Battaglin from Lotto Jumbo featured in the race this year, he grew up cutting his teeth on this climb before turning pro with Colnago at the young age of 17. An ex-teammate of Palu founder Alberto, they still train together when back home together in Vicenza.

The race itself was an exciting one, with Frenchman Thibaut Pinot winning the sprint ahead of the other GC favourites to take the stage. Despite being gapped on the Foza climb, Dumoulin showed courage and rode within himself to bring back the gap to just 15 seconds from his rivals. It ultimately proved enough to win the Maglia Rosa, with the Dutchman flying on the final day’s time trial and sealing the win after an incredible three weeks of racing. Bravo!

Chalking off Strade Bianche

Harry Bunnell

Tuscany is known for its fine wine, rolling hills and beautiful architecture. If you’re a cyclist, chances are you’ll also know it's famous for its white gravel and chalk roads that make up the parcours for Strade Bianche, a one day 176km race that starts from Siena before looping out to the countryside, then back into the historic town centre with a finish on the brutal Piazza del Campo, a steep roughly surfaced climb.

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the race, which first started in 2007. Last year was a great tussle between Cancellara and two Etixx-Quickstep riders, Štybar and Brambilla, with Spartacus sealing his victory on the Piazza del Campo climb for the third time in his career.

Every year amateurs have a chance to ride the same route as the pro peloton on the day following the race. We travelled out to Tuscany for a few days to take in the main race and test out our wheels on the famous gravel tracks, all 50km that feature on the route.

The pro race saw a decisive early attack from Mikal Kwiatkowski of Team Sky, who attacked with a few km to go and took a great solo victory. We caught the race with the rest of the tifosi in Siena’s centre, getting a grandstand view of the action:

Video courtesy of @lucapal14

The amateur ride on the Sunday proved to be a damp affair, with rain falling on and off throughout the day, turning the gravel roads into mud. Our bikes took a pasting, but made it through unscaved. We used 28 tyres that are designed to cope well on the Tuscan roads. After long hours in the saddle we made it back to Siena, celebrating in the evening with a typical dish of Fiorentina steaks and glass of chianti. It's a must-do an event on the granfondo bucket list.

gfstradebianche.it

Chasing the Winter Sun

Harry Bunnell

With the winter months upon us, pro and amateur riders head south to seek out warmer climes and new roads. Spain has a bounty of destinations that make for perfect winter training camps; from the smooth winding roads of Majorca to the volcanic inclines of the Canaries.

In January 2017 we were invited to join Team Trek Selle San Marco at their annual training camp in Calpe. Situated in the Alicante region of Spain, Calpe is characterised by mild winter weather and the mighty Penon de Ifach, which rises out of the Mediterranean sea.

Formed by Marco Trentin in the Veneto region of Italy, Team Trek Selle San Marco have been successfully competing at national level since 2013 in both road and MTB races. 

In 2016 the team won many races, including the first stage at Cape Epic, the Russian national championship, multiple stages and overall classification at the Brasil Ride, 3pic, La Forestiere and Ornans. 

The team are targeting several races in 2017 including the Cape Epic in South Africa, the Italian Championship Marathon and the Marathon World Championship in Germany.

We joined the team for seven days of riding, as they focussed on conditioning for the upcoming race season. Each day would typically take in a 100km ride followed by a relaxed afternoon of relaxation, with pre-dinner stretching and gym work for upper strength.

The evening meals drawn up by the team nutritionist provided plenty of vegetables and a choice of fish or meat. The "minestra vellutata" dish (thick potato and carrot soup) we made was a particular hit, so much so that we had it again a couple of nights later.

We were unlucky to receive the first snowfall in Calpe for 32 years, but that didn’t stop us getting out on the bike everyday. Most of the professional teams are now choosing the Costa Blanca for their winter camp, so everyday we crossed paths with other famous athletes such as Marcel Kittel and Philippe Gilbert, Greg Van Avermaet, Nasser Bouhanni, Jakob Fuglsang, Vincenzo Nibali and many more.

Buona pedalata a tutti!
               
teamtreksellesanmarco.it