July 2004
Italian Idyll
by Mimi Sheean
 

A group of us, including La Grangers Charles Pollick, Bob Rasner, and me, were sitting just off the plaza in the historic heart of Vicenza, eating pizza, drinking wine and enjoying the beautiful weather. We had ridden about 30 miles to get here from our hotel, known as the “Italian Cycling Center,” and were spending the day clattering around in our bike shoes and enjoying the sights of this Renaissance city with our tour leader, George. George is a great fan of the art and architecture of the Veneto region of Italy, and in particular a fan of Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. Today we were cycling from one Palladian building to another, learning from George’s expertise. The trip culminated in a visit to the magnificent Villa Rotunda, a building which later inspired Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. We were very tired after the 30 miles back home, all uphill, but were better people for the experience.

Charles and I had come to the Italian Cycling Center quite coincidentally at the same time as Bob. We had heard many stories from friends about the place, and about George in particular. We decided it was time to try it out for ourselves.

The ICC is not exactly the center of Italian cycling, certainly. However, it has been in existence for 21 years and is the brainchild of American George Pohl. He lives in Italy from May through September every year, regaling guests with his knowledge of the area whilst riding them into the ground. Even though George is 73 years old, he is incredibly strong and you will be happy if you can keep up with him for a typical, 4 hour, ICC ride.

The ICC sits right up against the pre-Alps, at the top of the Veneto plain. The mountains soar up dramatically behind the hotel, and this area is a mecca for para-gliders and hang-gliders, mostly from Germany and Switzerland. The third-steepest climb in all of Italy is near the hotel. It’s an area full of vineyards, small farms, beautiful old churches and medieval towns. The roads are in good condition, and every ride is just idyllic.

The great thing about the ICC, as opposed to your typical bike tour, is that you get to stay in one place. It’s a small hotel in a tiny town, the names of which I cannot reveal (George does not want to encourage competitors).


Charles, Mimi, Bob in the square of Marostica.


Riders cycle past vineyards of Prosecco grapes


Charles & Mimi , Giro stage 12


George at the Scapin factory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a garage under the hotel just for bikes, complete with an air compressor to fill your tires, so no schlepping the bikes into your room. There are 38 different rides he has established here along the foothills of the Italian pre-Alps, so you definitely won’t repeat a ride. The rides always include a destination, whether it’s an 11th century monastary or the Scapin bicycle factory. And there is always a stop for fabulous Italian coffee and pastries. Often you’re back at the hotel in time for lunch, or lunch is on the road. Your fabulous dinner is always at the hotel. Thanks to 4-plus hours a day on the bike, we didn’t gain an ounce. At a price of $140 a day, including all meals, it was an incredible bargain to be sure.

A few of us drove to Treviso to see the finish of Stage 12 of the Giro, which Petacchi won in his inimitable style. We enjoyed the caravan and the crowds, and were able to get right up to the team buses, which are unapproachable at the Tour. It is always exciting to see the giants of the road in person, even if in person they’re quite diminutive.

I realized why it is that George has so many repeat customers. People come to relax, and that is what you can do there. George’s customers come to ride on beautiful roads, eat wonderful food, and just forget about the daily grind of everyday life. It’s what the Italian Cycling Center is all about.

 



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