Monthly Archives: November 2014

One of the many things I love about cycling….

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
– Vincent van Gogh

I believe I am very lucky to have found a sport that I love so much, with one of the most important things being the people we have an opportunity to meet and sometimes ride with.  Some are well-known:

– I have met iconic former professional cyclists like Eddy Merckx,
– current champions like Fabian Cancellara
– people like Cristiano DeRosa who currently manages the DeRosa cycling business along with his two brothers Doriano and Danilo; their father Ugo began building and fitting champions to their bikes 80 years ago
– Erhard Wissler, Chairman of the Wissler Group that produces Lightweight Wheels, Frames and accessories,
– Nelson Gutierrez who will one day be recognized as one of the visionary retailers of the cycling industry,
– Uli and Lidia Fluhme, who, because of their cycling passion (OK, they’re not too bad as cyclists go!) took their vision of a Gran Fondo in NYC and in less than five years have made it one of the preeminent Gran Fondo events in the world,
– my Gruppo Sportivo teammates, past and present, from whom I have learned so much

and some you haven’t heard of but consist of the entire group of people I have had the pleasure and honor to have ridden with either on the road or have had as students in my classes

Team Anti Vito

This is a language appropriate version of what two of my students have thought of me!

Today was one of those days.  I showed up to lead a C Ride from Strictly Bicycles; as it turned out the couple of people I intended to ride with weren’t there, the usual Strictly Bicycles ride was ready to leave and one of our customers was going to join this particular ride for the first time.  Although I n with him at length he has been coming to Strictly Bicycles for about a month or so (be patient and I will tell you who he is in a minute…) and riding with some of the other guys that come through the shop.  He is an athlete but new to cycling, the Strictly ride leader, Juan Aracena) told me he was going to keep the pace at 16 or so (I am convinced that Juan doesn’t know the difference between 16 and 61…) so I suggested to Amani that we ride on the back and see how it goes, that I can’t really ride with those guys if they start pushing the pace – so let’s hang on the back and if I can’t stay with them he could go on and stay with the group – of course he was gracious enough to do that……and of course we were seriously dropped waaaaay before Palisade Avenue!

I really haven’t followed football much since the late 1990’s – I watch a game occasionally and of course Nelson was so excited that Amani Toomer came to our shop to buy a bike so I knew he had played with the Giants and was a standout however didn’t now much more; he is really just a regular guy, very polite and humble, and enjoying riding his bike.  I asked him a little bit about his career but didn’t want to be too invasive and he told me his entire career was with the Giants and then tried at the end of his career to sign on with another team but due to a nagging injury it didn’t injury it didn’t really work out.
There is nothing I love more than helping people – in business, cycling, and life – so when I started talking about peddle stroke and he told me he was feeling his hamstrings I was really happy.

As we rode, Frank Lee, one of my friends and one of the guys I was going to ride with in the morning, pulled up next to us; he was a little bit late getting to the shop and kicked it into high gear for about 6 miles to catch up to us (never one to miss a photo op, whether or not he can breathe, this is the photo Frank took right before the catch)

Frank Lee Photo of Vito and Amani

 By the way I should let you know that Frank spent his Saturday doing hill repeats up Perkins!  Yep, he is THAT kind of cyclist, but somehow always has the patience to ride with me – he is a really great inspiration.

We enjoyed a really great ride to Piermont, stopped for a few minutes to say hello to Wade Stevens and then headed back to the shop.  We got to ride up State Line together and then between State Line and the bike shop we decided that we had a little extra time so we did a repeat up East Clinton – why not, its Sunday!

I thought that there might be an opportunity to ride with Amani again so let me learn a little bit more about his football career; pretty amazing and a real honor to share the road with him – more because of his character and nature…. his football accomplishments beginning with his college career are pretty incredible – but the sentence that resonated the most with me:

“Toomer expected to go into 2006 as the Giants number two receiver, but quickly showed signs of brilliance. In a week two matchup in Philadelphia, Toomer helped to spark a 17-point comeback by hauling in a career-high 12 receptions with two touchdowns. Physically exhausted by game’s end, he had to be carried off the field by trainers.”

As I said, an honor to be able to ride with Amani today…..and why I really love and appreciate being able to ride my bike…..imagine old and feeble me riding with a Super Bowl Winner and holder of so many NY Giants receiving records….


I am betting a dozen scones – and you know that I am not a betting man, let alone when it comes to scones – that Amani signs up for Gran Fondo NY 2015…….


Our Hincapie Gran Fondo Experience

I enrolled in the Hincapie Gran Fondo for several reasons, not the least of which was that my brother, sister in law and nephew live in North Carolina.  Hincapie Sportswear is one of our vendors at Strictly Bicycles, I spoke with some of the prior years’ participants who told me that the course was really great, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet George Hincapie in person.  The event was scheduled for the last Saturday in October, so Melanie and I drove (I drove, she hid!) down to see my family on Wednesday, stayed with them until Friday noon, then drove over to the Hincapie Sportswear HQ in Greenville to pick up our race packets and numbers.

Visiting my brother and family is great – my 10 year old nephew Matthew is a Honeymooners fan like me, and we had an opportunity to see him pitch in a little league game on Thursday evening.

Matthew on the mound

Its an interesting league, 10 to 13 years old; my nephew and his battery mate, both 10, come in at a combined weight of approximately 90 pounds; some of the 13 year olds weigh 30 pounds more than that on their own!  Anyway, the team’s record was 0-8 until that night, the team was down 11-3 going into the last inning when they rallied, got to 11-9 with bases loaded and two outs (they lost, but came close!).  My brother (the team manager) called me to let me know that they won their first game that Saturday, finishing the regular season and heading into the playoffs on a winning note.  Melanie and I were clearly the good luck charms!

We found a really great hotel in Asheville (The Renaissance)but stopped in Greenville to pick up our race packets.  The setup worked out really well, combining the packet pick up with a Hincapie Sportswear factory sale and a free bike cleaning area sponsored by WD40; Melanie was able to find a really great light winter jacket and an under layer that really came in handy the next day while I, nerd that I am, spent some time talking to the WD40 guys about biodegradable bike cleaning products.

Need proof?

WD40 wash

Asheville is only 45 minutes away, so we headed off to find our hotel, checked in, and got to walk around the town for a bit while the temperatures kept dropping, finally managing to find a number below 40 degrees…..and managed to remain there when we left the hotel to head over to the start the next morning……


(Melanie ready to leave our hotel in Asheville to head over to the start – 38 degrees – brrr!)  I gave her my leg warmers, long finger gloves, long sleeve jersey; she is a trooper!)

The parking was about 1 mile from the start, an easy ride over, where we dropped off a clothing bag and headed over to find our corrals.  I started a little bit further forward than Melanie as our intention was for me to do the 89 mile Gran Fondo and Melanie to do the 50 mile Medio; the start chute has a slight uphill.  There were a good number of pro and ex-pro riders at the front and George gave a good two minute talk about the event and his goal is really to get more people riding their bikes – a goal that resonates with me – then ready to go…start moving, clip in………with the uphill start I managed to get behind a guy who started then stopped and down I went – an auspicious start!  Scraped my leg enough to draw some blood, knocked the seat our of whack… up, made believe I was Gato (one of our Strictly Bicycles mechanics), fixed the seat, and off I go…….

The event had two time cutoffs, first one at the 21 mile rest stop (10:30, 90 minutes) and the second at 41 miles (12:45, 3 and a half hours….but a little deceptive because it is after the Skyuka climb, which I figured would take me an hour up and down).

I made the first cutoff by 10:10, a really great time for me!  The route to get there was phenomenal, twisting turns up and down through a forest of trees, right near lakes and river; I had a guy right behind me for 8 miles and thought that if there were a helicopter overhead we would have looked like two pros (other than the speed of course!).  I spent no more than 10 minutes at the rest stop, filled a water bottle, used the bathroom, and off I went.  A couple of miles up there was a split in the road, right for the Gran Fondo and left for the Medio; there were several race volunteers at the split and they told us all to go left, no matter what course we were going to do.  A little past mile 25 I see some cyclists with the blue number on the bike (Gran) headed back our way; turns out we DID have to take the right…..I stopped, did a quick calculation, didn’t believe I would make the cutoff at 41 miles and therefore acted like a billboard for Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York by waiting at the 25 mile mark for Melanie so we could ride the Medio together.

Riders passing – “you ok?”

Me – “yep, just waiting for my wife”

It worked out really well – while I was waiting Peter Cassell and his son Zack passed by and stopped for a couple of minutes……

LOML on the road

There’s Melanie approaching the 25 mile mark!”

It was a lucky thing to get diverted the other way; after hearing the stories about Skyuka, both the climb and the technical descent, I don’t know that I would have made the cutoff and I was super happy to be able to ride the rest of the course with my wife!  On the first big climb we made two new friends and rode part of the way with them; talk about two people who inspired me.

HGF new friends

The last part of the course is exceptional – 12 miles through the South Carolina watershed – peaceful and exhilarating at the same time.  Of course George being a Gran Fondo organizer is an assassin just like the rest of them (yes you – Uli!) and plugged in a super steep climb AFTER the watershed, when you think its over….the only thing missing was the sign saying “its ok to cry now”……

It was a great feeling to be able to come through the finish chute hand in hand with Melanie and hear the announcer say “Vito Valentini from Gran Fondo NY“…….

We didn’t stay at the finish too long, just enough to see Peter and Zack again and bump into a BTCNJ friend, Anne Bari…and then a GFNY friend from Boston, Carl Frenqueza……

Got back to Asheville, showered, changed and had one of the most amazing dinners at a restaurant called “Table“.  Having lived in New York for most of my life I have been fortunate and have eaten at some of the best restaurants – this place was right at the top – great food, impeccable service, no pretenses, fantastic from beginning to end…worth the trip to Asheville!

HGF Number 438

I should mention that I solidified my reputation for not really having a clue when it comes to directions, and all my cycling friends know that if they ride with me they will most likely have an opportunity to ride 20% more than the original route calls for.  While I didn’t get lost on the way to the event of on the way home I have to confess that one of the reasons for staying in Asheville was that I thought I could go see my friend Mike who lives in North Carolina – in Ashe County.  I thought to myself “how far can it be”; how about two and a half hours!  With his football coaching schedule and our long drive home we weren’t really able to get to see him this trip – but next time for sure!  I was in a bit of a hurry to get home – I heard that Nelson was doing all kinds of crazy things while I was away, like building next year’s Campagnolo Gran Fondo NY finish line at Strictly Bicycles and designing new Strictly Bicycles team hats:

GFNY Finish SB  nelson at his best


All in all it was a really great experience for me and Melanie; for those of you who are interesting in participating in a local Gran Fondo at the end of the season this a a really great event; it will keep you training right until the end of October, you can take a couple of weeks off, head over to Cozumel for GFNY Cozumel mid-November, join us for the Strictly Bicycles Thanksgiving Day Ride, and then jump on board with our Gruppo Sportivo Gran Fond New York training rides that begin each year in the first week of December!



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