What's Cool In Road Cycling

HomeGRRL Italia: Ready for Flanders

As our Italian-based Homegirl Rook Campbell readies for her trip to the Tour of Flanders, she sent this dispatch of her past week’s life in Lucca. She’s been busy with team appearances, appreciating prosciutto, and hangin’ with Jan … Ullrich that it is!

Rook leading her Michela Fanini teammates log some post-San Remo training in Toscana.

Shared Roads
Lucca and the surrounding region are truly ideal professional cycling training grounds. There are infinite possibilities for climbs and you never have to take the same route to achieve a particular terrain, and even my teammates who are from here will often exclaim how beautiful some road or region is, so you can enjoy something for the “first time” over and over again.

It’s normal to pass or join the sport’s top male or female stars. If you are climbing, you can imagine wildly who might be trying to chase you down or who is ahead as your carrot, and your cycling dream villain or god might actually play the part in person.

I’ll skip a topographical narration of who lives here and there and name drop delux, but I must report one such chance encounter. There is this local bar that I visit every day, I like it because it is so plain and normal. People come in covered in paint and grease, old women rant about how Cipollini has let them again down in not being able to climb at least like Petacchi (to warn you that you must learn to climb), and the barristas clip the local newspaper photos and articles or our team for me.

Guiseppe Guerini and JanUllrich – turns out they all love the cookies at this one cafй in Tuscany.

As I was ordering two of these local specialty corn flake topped cookies, Jan Ulrich stepped up beside me to order the same. I hesitate to report on eating cookies with him as it pains me to read further reports of Jan Ulrich and winter eating, so I must report that he is looking very very lean, fit, and strong. I took the whole moment way too calmly and normally, considering that Jan Ulrich is my all time favourite cyclist, but I did manage to step outside the moment and conversation to ask for a photo before he left.

Did you hear the one about the Italian butcher? This gent is the team butcher, who is rather admired by the girls.

The Aura of the Prosciutto
Here, prosciutto signifies more than a deli item. The whole pride and essence of Italy and cycling are linked with this meat. To not eat prosciutto is nothing short of a sin. A sub par race performance, the first thing said “you didn’t eat prosciutto today…” Cured or cooked, it is necessary to eat this meat or alarms of suspicion sound.

Recently, a large portion of our team’s house proscuitto was missing, and while the details must remain confidential, this was a serious episode of drama that could make a proper reality tv series. Our brother team, a men’s professional team sponsored by another Fanini family member, is Beretta -which is regional prosciutto company. I advise all cyclists considering a future spot on this team or another Toscana team to plan on making this a daily staple.

The proof is on the paper – Rook’s teammate Katia scores 2nd.

This weekend after a solid second place finish by teammate Katia Longhin (50mm behind Nicole Cooke) at Trofeo Cittiglio, we are heading to Belgium for our second world cup race, Tour of Flanders. I am planning on feeling this day to be the hardest day of my life: my teammates say this is not an exaggeration. Because of this sort of anticipation, I do not yet have thoughts or images of the three day stage race in Holland that begins a few days later. If I have any thoughts of this race, I only think “narrow road.” More vivid race reports will surely develop after the hardest day of my life that is expected, Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Neon Never Really Went Retro In Italy
The past two weeks have been like constant pop quizzes in middle school, with the hours of the day flying fast and with bizarre and unexpected surprises. We visited an elementary school for a sports presentation day. After the more formal gymnasium talk and presentation, we headed out to the playing fields. The kids sort of liked the local professional soccer team a bit more, as they got to try to score goals and run around or hang on the goalie’s legs.

Our attraction was most likely increased through our Power Ranger resemblance, all clad in neon lycra though without the extra race accessory radio cable to complete the superhero kit. And of course, bikes are always cool for kids – loads of questions about the pedals and shoes and gears. But the bikes were a tad too big for the kids, or so we thought. After a very hyper teacher – the type that loves recess more than kids – asked to go for a quick spin on a bike, the kids lined up.

We held the bikes for the kids to climb on, and we let one boy take off on his own. He was a natural. But suddenly another boy ran out between two cars with a soccer ball, and we froze as we witnessed a rather lovely endo. Fortunately, our natural was a natural with crashes, too, so only the brake hoods and saddle took nicks.

Rook Campbell is a 28 year old American pro racer living in Lucca and riding with the Michela Fanini team. In the coming months, she hopes to share her experiences of being a professional cyclist in Europe on a women’s team, and to deliver a little of the road grit, euphoria, and stupor that comes her way.

Michela Fanini com

Like PEZ? Why not subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates and reminders on what's cool in road cycling?

Comments are closed.