Category Archives: Gran Fondo

The Participation Continuum

The Participation Continuum

The participation continuum moves from general to specific, with most of us satisfied to simply participate which, after all, is usually a very big improvement over where we started!


To move from outside the triangle to the lowest level (4) requires the most effort.  Forgetting the money for a second, that decision to change your life is the most difficult and should be the one you are most proud of.  I know from my own experience how difficult it is to simply begin moving when one weighs 125 kilos/270 pounds (yes I weighed that much, it took a lot of eating and drinking but somehow I managed); it requires the biggest investment of emotion and a massive change in lifestyle (no pun intended).  I speak in the context of weight + lifestyle changes because that is one of my experiences but any large step in a positive direction that takes you outside your comfort zone is something you should be proud of.

Now that you have taken the BIG STEP and are in the continuum, where would you like to be as it relates to your cycling practice?

Level 4 – has the largest percentage of cyclists; we are simply happy to be riding our bikes.  In my own case I was teaching an indoor cycling program called RPM.  I was helping my students get good results but wanted to be a better teacher so thought I ought to learn how to ride a road bike.  I was a strong indoor teacher and had trained  some of my students to be teachers as well but when I got on a road bike I had no clue – didn’t know where the gears were and when my little Polar speedometer hit 10 mph (I didn’t know about km back then either) my knees shook.  I may not have known where the gears were but man the brakes were my best friend!  My rides were solo and on my first ride to State Line when I got to the sign I looked ahead, it seemed to me that the cyclists were launching themselves off a cliff; I turned around and went home thinking “those people are crazy!”.

Level 3 – enter the group rides and the number of participants is smaller.  We find a group that we like to ride with and just get out there.  If we are lucky we learn the right habits although it is often hit or miss and unfortunately the teaching, although well-intended, is along the lines of “this is what I do”.  Of course if you find yourself in the wrong group…well, you know how it goes.  Still, you could remain at this level forever and have a great cycling experience – this level does not require a significant change in the resources you need to devote (unless you get caught up in the n+1 silliness, waste your money on the next ceramic nonsense, etc.).

(I write this in bold print because I believe it to be true, and I realize that it is self-serving:  invest your time and money in cycling education that will be specific to you and it will serve you for a lifetime.  Invest your money in “stuff” and you will continue to have more “stuff”.  Do what is best for you based on your own goals rather than impulse).    

I was lucky in that I had a built in group of indoor cyclists who I could (bother/coerce/convince/bribe/name it) to get a road bike and start riding.  We went of massive rides – some as far as Piermont from Ridgefield (NJ not CT)!  Madness!  Who knew we could ride from one State to another on the same day!

Level 2 – level up!  Again, the number of people in the triangle decreases as this requires a thoughtful allocation of resources (time, money, emotion) which many people cannot or will not make.  They are happy to remain at the group ride level.  In order to improve from the group rides phase to the next level of cycling one needs a teacher whose attention is on how to help the student improve.  Talking generalities to other cyclists and seeing what worked for those cyclists like the Stephen Covey analogy where Dr. Covey in his book “7 habits of Highly Effective People” asks if you would continue to visit an eye doctor who, when you sit in the chair to prepare for the exam hands you her eyeglasses and says “here, try these” and when they don’t work for you says “I don’t understand, those eyeglasses work for me!”.

Level 2 is where you invest in yourself to move from the general to the specific!  In addition to the group rides you will participate in events and camps, and you will be riding with a sense of purpose.  You don’t have to expect to finish first, but with coaching and a goal you will be riding with intent.  As in our everyday lives, living with intent gives us purpose and direction.

My experience was slightly different because I really enjoy teaching and I was able to further my cycling education by taking courses and seminars (I certified with Saris about 10 years ago) and was able to get my coaching license through USA Cycling.  I was leveling up to not only improve my own cycling through additional knowledge but mostly to be a better teacher and coach.

Most cyclists who want to improve from simple participation in group rides to a higher level of knowledge hire a coach so that they can continue building their own lives but at the same time participate, improve and benefit from their cycling practice (I had been teaching indoors, riding, developing new teachers and building my own knowledge and experience for 10 years prior to taking on coaching students for road cycling).  The idea of working with a teacher is to be able to move from general to specific – you invest some resources but don’t waste time with trial and error.  You learn and you grow and you live a better life with the guidance of your teacher.

Level 2 is a big step, almost as big as the one we make to become part of the continuum rather than remain outside the triangle.

Level 1.  This could be combined with Level 2, I could have simply used three level rather than 4, but I thought this needed an additional category.  Sign up for events with your friends and on your own to make new friends.  The people you meet at these events share your passion for cycling and before you know it you are learning about the world outside of the one in which you live.

Being part of GFNY has provided me the opportunity to meet literally thousands of people from every part of the world all while developing better relationships with our local cycling community – for that I cannot express enough gratitude.  Where else can you be laying on your couch at home in the 12th week of chemo, take a look at Facebook and see Uli doing a LIVE video letting everyone know that they imprinted 5,000 armbands with GFNY4VITO so that all the participants in 2016 could wear them to create a healing energy and spirit.

Positive change requires us to do something extraordinary.  Not all of us have an opportunity to play for the NY Giants and score the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl but each of us have the opportunity to level up within the context of our own lives!

Thank you for reading.

Vito Valentini, Human Potential Catalyst
Head Coach, GAVIA Cycling

For more information on how we can help you improve your cycling practice please visit us at GAVIA Cycling



Taking life for granted

We wake up every day with a certain set of expectations, that everything is firmly in place for our benefit; most of us don’t give it a second thought.  We are very spoiled in many ways – we have way more of anything and everything than we will ever need, and yet for many it isn’t enough.  Can it be?

What are your first 5 thoughts in the morning?  Do they include being grateful for being alive, grateful to be able to breathe clean air, eat fresh food, drink clean water and to have an abundance of family and friends?  This is part of living in the present moment; it is really the only moment available to us.  The past is gone, its only significance provided by our interpretation and the meaning we give it.  The future is a fiction.  And yet, how many of us are using our phone while we are in face to face with someone else OR how many of us are talking on the phone and working on the computer OR – my favorite – watching someone on the computer while on the phone AND talking to someone in front of them.

Is this progress?  Does this somehow make us significant?  Is this human connection?  Is there an opportunity for us to put down the phone and speak together; something good may come from it.

DeRosa factory photo

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Thoughts on Cycling

Cycling is a practice.  Like true martial arts, traditional yoga cycling, when accepted properly, becomes a process we can use when seeking to live our lives in the best possible way.  Study, train, and a participate with gratitude for having found something so special that it positively impacts every other aspect of our lives.

Start where you start and move forward from there.  This principle is never-ending, we do this on a daily basis.  Accept your staring point each day and simply do your best.  Keep  in mind that you can always do a little bit more than you think you can; don’t believe everything you think.

Craving more doesn’t help anyone.  Bigger, better, faster; the cycle of never-ending unhappiness with our current status – in our capabilities, our possessions, our abilities – leads to frustration on a daily basis.  The better way is to simply put in the work – the practice is what matters, results come from the practice and participation and remember this: there are absolutely no shortcuts.  None.  To anything or anywhere.  Shortcuts cause us to miss the process, and one way streets lead to dead ends.

Natural ability and predisposition to something that you live to do is one of the greatest gifts; it is so sad to see people waster their gifts and talents because they get caught up in the story and forget that they have to practice.  Such a waste.  The conversation about how fast the last group ride was, which new trinket to buy today, not knowing which bike to ride today – and for what?  The never ending search for happiness when in fact we already have everything we need to be happy.  Seek knowledge rather than things; the intangible is always more valuable than the tangible because the intangible cannot be easily replicated.  A bike is a bike, a saddle is a saddle and a pair of shoes is a pair of shoes; what differentiates one from another is the heart and soul of the creator.

Quiet your mind, sit with your thoughts and feelings, accept your challenges as growth experiences; if you are reading this then no matter how difficult you might think things are for you, you are more than likely better off than 90% of the world’s population – take a minute and consider how good we all have it.

Then start your day with an attitude of gratitude and see what kind of day you have.

Practice patience with yourself and others, don’t be so quick to judge yourself or others.  Trust yourself, don’t let fear and ego dictate the quality and direction of your life – or your cycling practice.


P6 – Perceived Effort – how I feel while I am doing the work

Cycling mimics life; being mindful of the amount of effort it takes to move from place to place, learn the next skill, further a relationship, earn the next dollar or build the next business is important.  How much more do you have to do in order to accomplish how much is perception of effort.  Perceived effort also matters in our previous conversation about power; how much more effort do you need to make in order to generate those 10 more watts, and is it worth it?

A simple measure of perceived effort is to break it down into three perceptions – comfortable, uncomfortable and breathless.  Perception is the key word here as there is no independent basis to measure those three descriptions of effort; you simply know how you feel while riding a specific segment at a certain pace.  You can gauge your improvement by riding the same segment over time and when what was causing you to become breathless is now only uncomfortable you know you have improved.

Measuring heart rate allows us to attach some data to those perceived feelings; we create ranges that mimic comfortable, uncomfortable and breathless.  For example, if your heart rate remains at or below 70% of your theoretical max you are likely to be in the comfortable range; when your heart rate between 71% and 85% of your theoretical maximum is your uncomfortable range, and anything above 85% will likely cause you to feel a little (or a lot) breathless.  Caution – these are ranges used for the purposes of this explanation and not exact; we normally do a simple physiological test in order to find the ranges that are more specific to the student/athlete.  Training within specific zones will lead to specific results, for example if we are working with a new student/athlete whose main interest is to shed some extra weight and body fat we would do most of our training below the uncomfortable range in order to help build their basic cardiovascular system.  If, on the other hand we were working with a cyclist interested in developing greater endurance and speed we would have them spend additional time in the “above 85%” category.  Everyone has different starting points and goals; the idea is to do the work in the ranges that provide the most specific benefit.  Using heart rate zones does now obviate the question “how are you feeling?”

Combing the question “how are you feeling” with the date from a heart rate monitor along with the data from a power meter is the best of all worlds.  It allows us to ask the question “how are you feeling?”, measure it against what the heart rate monitor is telling us and compare it to the power output.  We then go back and answer the original question which was “is the extra effort worth it”.

I can give you two specific examples related to my own cycling.

Example 1.  I do not use a power meter on my road bike although I use a Garmin 1000, a heart rate strap and Strava.  I know the power meter would be a benefit but the extra investment of money plus the extra analysis would take away some of the joy of riding outdoors therefore the answer to the question for me is “the extra effort is not worth it”.  I do power vs. heart rate and speed analysis on my indoor rides at Gavia where the focus and specificity of the training helps me tremendously and the data is easily captured without changing the focus of my ride.

Example 2.  As I trained for GFNY 2016 I analyzed my heart rate and perceived exertion vs. speed on the segment that drops us down into Haverstraw then along the water and back up to 9W.  I know that I can keep my heart rate at 132 – 136 bpm riding into the wind and maintain a speed of 32kph (it is relatively flat); I know that if I try to increase my speed to more than 35kph my heart rate will increase to 150.  Given that I need to conserve some energy for the upcoming climbs and the remaining 100km it doesn’t make sense to me to try to ride faster than 32 to 35kph at that point in the race, it isn’t worth the effort (actually I am not sure that I can ride faster!).  Faced with a similar choice in the park on the return I would make the extra effort and suffer the consequences knowing that I was almost home; it would be worth it to finish the race with a better time.

I hope this series of blogposts has been helpful to you.  Please feel free to visit to join our email list in order to continue receiving information designed to help you improve your cycling performance and enjoyment.

If you have any specific questions related to these blogposts and/or would like them all together in  eBook format, or might be interested in a participating in a cycling coaching and training program specific to your needs and goals please feel free to email me at and let me know how I can help.

Thanks for reading!

Teaching is my life’s purpose.  I have been teaching, coaching, training and inspiring cycling students of all levels since 2004.  From 2004 to 2006 I taught indoor cycling (I certified as an RPM teacher in 2006) and in 2006 I decided that in order to be a better indoor teacher I ought to begin riding outdoors.  That has been the most impactful, life-changing decision I have ever made.  Cycling has provided me with just about all the meaningful relationships I have in my life (I actually met my wife through cycling!) and has provided me with THE platform that allows me to accomplish my objective as a teacher/coach – to effectuate positive change in people’s lives.  I am one of the founders of Gavia Cycling, where I am involved in developing the coaching, training, classes and group rides we offer at our studio located in Englewood Cliffs as well as on the road.  I have been a member of Gruppo Sportivo Gran Fondo New York since 2011.

Vito Valentini, Human Potential Catalyst – DeRosa I Gavia Cycling


Our Campagnolo GFNY training season

T-67 = the number of days remaining to Campagnolo GFNY2016!  Are you ready?  Are you getting ready?  There are plenty of opportunities for you to get ready!

GFNY Sunday Group Rides
This is the link to the GFNY Group Rides information.  This lets you know what to look for each week – where Jared posts the rides so that you can sign up for the Sunday group ride.  I love these rides as much as I love the actual event.  While I have been passed by more than 20,000 cyclists over the past five years during the actual GFNY events – the memories of hearing “on your left” remain with me long after the event is over – nothing compares to the relationships that have come from our group rides.  I encourage you to participate in our rides.  It is an opportunity to ride the course prior to event day, an opportunity to meet riders who ride at the same approximate level as you, and a wonderful opportunity to meet some really great people!

The top photo is outside the Pie Lady of Nyack.  Bottom left: Gavia Cycling Girl Power also at the Pie lady.  Bottom right: our GFNY C Group always stops at State Line to regroup.

Gavia Cycling
I helped create Gavia Cycling almost immediately after GFNY2015.  It gave me an opportunity to continue training with an athletic purpose (along with other important purposes like finding great coffee, pie and muffin places with friends) throughout the summer and fall.  On the weekends I would leave my apartment in Fort Lee at 7:30AM, head down to Weehawken to meet up with anyone interested in riding, head back north to The Modern, then go on our rides.  Our groups varied in size from one (me) to sometimes as many as 20.  We had a great time riding together, we found some great pie and coffee and we improved our cycling skills and got much stronger!
At the end of 2015 we had an opportunity to open a small indoor cycling studio in Englewood Cliffs.  We mimic the joy and passion inherent in our outdoor group rides indoors and continue to build our Gavia cycling community.  We offer classes, coaching and training for cyclists of all levels; I love focusing my attention on new to moderate experience cyclists while Frank (Don Francesco) and Susanna (La Strega) focus on the intermediate to advanced cyclists.

Click on each photo for the captions:

We are finalizing our GFNY specific training camps; look for our announcement this Friday!

Beautiful roads, indoor studio, inspiring cyclists – time to #beready for GFNY2016!

ARE?!  YOU?!!  READY?!!!

Gavia Cycling Studio Opening

We are really excited to be opening our indoor cycling studio located at 1 Sylvan Avenue in Englewood Cliffs NJ, right on the border of Fort Lee; it is the road we all affectionately know as 9W.

We will be at the studio this Saturday from 8AM until 3PM and Sunday from 3PM to 6PM if you would like to stop by to talk with us, get some information and sign up for some classes.  We are offering two free classes at 9AM and 12 Noon.
The special offer is this:  sign up this weekend and get 10% off the 25 ride and three month unlimited packages.  Show us your GFNY 2016 registration and take another 5% off those same packages.

If you would like to participate in one of the classes please follow this link:

Ride with Us

If by chance you can’t make it over to the studio but would like to take advantage of this weekend’s offer please email me: and we will work it out for you.

We offer a full schedule of indoor rides beginning Monday January 4th at 5:30AM; our rides include:

  • RPM classes (an interval based training program over mixed terrain coached to powerful and inspiring music).  I have been teaching indoor cycling using the RPM Program principles since January, 2006 and have seen the results that can be achieved simply by participating in class three times per week; it is a great program for every level of cyclist
  • Power and heart rate based training.  I received my power training certification from Saris in January, 2008 and believe that providing athletes with information about the underlying science and principles of training, in almost in all cases, helps them achieve greater results with a much bigger sense of satisfaction
  • Campagnolo Gran Fondo NY course specific training.  Want to be a pro for a day on May 15, 2016?  Join us at Gavia Cycling and train like a pro every day!  We will ride and train on the exact segments of the GFNY course, including the full course at the end of April, so that when you race it it will be completely familiar to you!

We offer a cycling coaching program for beginner and intermediate cyclists that allows us to combine indoor training with outdoor rides.  My own story should be called “The Unlikely Cyclist”.  I began teaching indoor cycling in 2003, became certified to teach RPM in January, 2006 and wanted to become a better teacher so thought it would be a good idea to ride outdoors.  I bought a very used road bike (that’s how I met my good friend Nelson of Strictly Bicycles infamy) and found something that I really love.  I created a small cycling group at the health club I was involved in; the first time we road to Piermont we thought we won the Tour de France!  I trained more, studied more, got my power training certification from Saris, a couple more indoor certifications, my level 3 USAC Coaching license (I am re-certifying for that as we speak) and then along came Gran Fondo NY and being really lucky ended up on the Gruppo Sportivo and have been leading C Group training rides for the event since December, 2011.  My youngest student was 8 and my oldest (because I like to suffer) was my mother in law who was 70+; and then everyone in between. I have been coaching and teaching cyclists how to ride  for approximately ten years and am incredibly happy and grateful for the opportunity to coach and teach on an almost full time basis at Gavia Cycling!

Group Rides
For me group riding is the essence, the heart, the soul of cycling!  The friendships, the feeling of community, the encouragement and inspiration we provide each other, that’s cycling!  Our goal is to replicate the feeling of the outdoor group ride indoors so that we can all ride together throughout the year.  The great thing about riding together indoors?  A, B, C, D, and E Groups ride together at their own levels and still enjoy each other’s company.  (We also get to see if the stories certain people tell about their speeds and power are really true!  You know those guys: “yeah I held 450W up state line at 27 mph”; yep, those guys).

In addition to me, we are honored to have Michael Lyach be part of our coaching program; if you don’t know Michael please look him up and you will find names like Andy Hampsten, Greg LeMond, and Chris Carmichael when they were juniors.  Susanna Panzini (you all know her as La Strega) is joining our team as an indoor cycling coach and will be completing her RPM certification as well as her USAC Level 3 Coaching Certification at the end of January.  We have two more team members whose identities must remain secret until mid-January.

(Photo credit for the photo of me and Michael – Ektor Silva)


Our studio is equipped with 24 Elite Real Turbo Muin B+ FEC trainers.  I know, quite a mouthful, but they work really well and are completely silent; all you hear is what you hear outdoors, your own bike (and of course our inspiring music)!  Our software captures all of your ride data, shows it on three television screens while you ride, can automatically be shared with Strava, Training Peaks, Ride with GPS and several other social and training software products and your ride results will be maintained in your account and emailed to you after each class.  Our studio is filled with natural light and who knows, from time to time we may serve coffee and pie!  We have six DeRosa bikes built with Campagnolo groupsets on order and expect those no later than mid-January.  For those that do not want to bring their bike back and forth we offer free, secure storage for anyone on the monthly coaching/monthly unlimited class program.  We have also provided velogrip straps for rear wheel storage while you ride.

We are very grateful to several sponsors who graciously provided support to Gavia Cycling in the way of free equipment, reduced pricing for equipment and/or mechanical service, technical advice and generally helping us make Gavia a reality.  Those people/companies are:
Cristiano DeRosa and DeRosa Bikes
Ektor Silva
Elite Cycling and Mike K at ProNet Cycling
John Cohen/NY Racing
Lidia, Max and Uli at Gran Fondo NY
LG Electronics/LG Mobile/Don Francesco
Nelson and Joanna and El Gato de Leon at Strictly Bicycles
Shiva Maharaj/Gruppo Stelvio
VIP Fitness

I believe we have a lot to offer and hope that you consider becoming part of our Gavia Cycling Community.

Our web address is and our email is

We wish everyone a safe, healthy, happy and prosperous 2016 and look forward to serving you.

Vito Valentini


Time for a Group Ride

Tomorrow is the day; the day when you see the Eventbrite post on FaceBook that says “Campagnolo Gran Fondo NY Group Ride registration is now open”.  We see that and we know its training season!

This is what our group rides looks like:

And this is what you are going to #beready for:

Our group rides were created specifically for you so that you can get comfortable with the race you are going to tackle in May, 2016.  You have almost six months, there is no doubt that by beginning your training NOW you will absolutely give yourself not only the best possible opportunity to finish the race but to actually finish strong!  If you have an opportunity please listen to the podcast I did with Uli where we discuss the race course:

Podcast 22

I am really lucky; not only am I the oldest member of Gruppo Sportivo, by far (with Jared a close second at half my age), but I have been with the team since inception, and have been able to see the way so many of our participants have grown as people and cyclists and leaders.  Did you know that Omar rode right next to me in our C Group during my first year as a member of GS-GFNY?  Ramon rode with me the following year.  Look what happens when you dedicate yourself to something as these two men did over the past several years.

Please don’t wait until April, think you can eat better and ride more for six weeks and participate in GFNY in your best possible condition.  Don’t wait until the metaphorical tomorrow:

One minute and twenty seconds

The relationships we develop during our Group Rides last throughout the year, some of them began during the first or second GFNY and have continued to this day.  Please don’t let this opportunity pass you by, please join us for a Group Ride!

Remember, Jared opens the registration every Thursday morning and the rides are on Sunday.  if you are interested and have some time, I lead our Gavia Cycling Group Rides every Saturday; I leave Strictly Bicycles at 7:30AM heading south to the Port Imperial Ferry to pick up riders from Hoboken, Weehawken, Jersey City, North Bergen, WNY and the head back north to The Modern then right away to Strictly Bicycles to pick up more of our group and then head north.  Everyone is welcome and just like our GFNY Group Rides there is no charge.  Please visit our FB page or group Gavia Cycling for a look at the routes.

I, along with all of my Gruppo Sportivo teammates – Frank, Jared, Omar and Ramon – are looking forward to seeing you this Sunday!  Have I said it yet?

Please join us for a Group Ride!

If you have any questions or believe I can help you in any way, with Gran Fondo or cycling in general, please feel free to email me at or message me on FB.

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