Gavia Cycling — The Italian Job — Installment 1

One cyclists story of the adventure of a lifetime in Italy. Traveling with Vito Valentini, Michael Lyach, Tom Niccum, Chris Torella, Aleksandra Sydelko, and Jenny Zarzuela to Terracina, Italy to attend the Gran Fondo New York, Italia camp and three-day stage race. Side trip taken to Milan, to visit Cicli DeRosa.

Sincerest gratitude to the grace, and class, of the DeRosa family during our time in Milan, and of course, the SK!


Life Starts at Fifty

The Gavia Cycling Warriors in between Sufferfest workouts, marveling at Strade Bianche on the big screen.

Pigs, Three Different Ones

  1. Stuck
  2. Suckling
  3. Wild (we can translate later)
Left index finger, six stitches, no waiting. Thanks CityMD!

Lets start with stuck. Making my way back to the Rock (Staten Island) from Gavia Cycling in Fort Lee, there were the usual traffic dodges and hang ups. I had seven things to do. Clean the car, eat a sandwich, shopping trip to freshen up the wardrobe, maybe get the car washed, load the gang in the car, pick up my parents, and head to the soiree. Operating out of order, the sandwich came up first. In a “do as I say, not as I do” type of moment, I found a lovely baguette, some prosciutto, and alas, no bread knife. Grabbing the closest next best thing, I proceeded to slice right into the core of my index finger. Yelling “I DID NOT JUST DO THAT” I applied local pressure, grabbed my car keys, and headed for the urgent care. I was bleeding like a stuck pig! BAM! There it is! 6 stitches later, I was back on the street. Knowing now that I would have 350+ miles of Italian soil to cover on a bike with a giant finger bandage. 7 things still to do, I was now down to eating a sandwich and getting everyone to the Bowery.

A Night at DBGB

Fabulous suckling pigs prepared as part of the DBGB “beast feast” — a great way to ring in fifty with family and friends.

The next day, we were back at it. Treating the Gavia Warriors at the studio to a section of the course that we would be riding two Sunday’s later in Terracina, Italy. With the trainers all responding perfectly, the 20 person group felt every kick in the terrain, and got to pedal through every downhill. The group got through the first forty KM or so, and then it was time for — oh wow — another birthday cake — hey I am getting a lot of mileage out of fifty!

A Quick Actual Birthday Later…

My and my gals putting a capper on the birthday! You can see the beginnings of a gnarly beard cranking up.

On Wednesday, March 8th, I would be traveling with my teammate, the incomparable Michael Lyach. Michael has won bike races as a pro, all over the world. He has coached the US Junior team, and has more palmares than I have had hot lunches. I was looking forward to spending time with him, working on my Italian, and hearing as much as he was willing to impart in cycling and life wisdom. He did not disappoint as you will see.

The Italian Job Begins

Left, my bike case in the back of the Pilot. Center, my brand new and fabulous Chrome bag. Right, me and the legend, ready to head to Italy.

Michael and I were ready to get going. After a hectic morning of gathering supplies, securing my international driver license, and meeting Michael, we were finally ready to go. I had two bags to check. My bike supply bag and primary luggage (fondly dubbed “The Sled”, by my lovely wife on our trip to Belgium last year), and my Thule bike case. The bike case, was flying empty. Awaiting the chance to carry something very special home. I was traveling without a bike on a bike trip. Michael was renting a bike in Italy, but I had something different in mind.

Michael and I were leaving earlier than the rest of the Gavia crew, who were leaving on the same flight to Rome on Friday afternoon to arrive Saturday. The plan in the broad strokes, was for Michael and I to fly to Rome, check our luggage into storage, and bring the bike case to Milan, where we would meet my coach and mentor Vito Valentini, the founder of Gavia Cycling.

But first, we needed to tackle JFK. Arriving at JFK I found out that The Sled was overweight. They were going to charge me for both The Sled, and the bike case. With that knowledge, I repacked the bike case to include about 10 pounds of stuff that I knew I would need when I brought the bike case to Milan. (You see where this is going, yes? Empty bike case? Milan?). Both bags checked, and the right price paid, we were on our way.

It was at this point that Michael introduced me to his special knowledge of airport processes and procedures. Without getting into detail, I will only say that Michael’s wizardry made short work of getting us to the gate, and getting on board the plane. We had a sandwich, and a trip to the “cabineto” and got on board. The flight was relatively uneventful. I can only say that you maybe don’t want to watch the movie about the origins of Mary Poppins if you are sensitive dude like me. It just wasn’t what I thought, and we will leave it at that.

Greetings from seat 15J. I fly a lot — and on Alitalia, I am nobody. Alitalia, if you don’t like our service….TOO BAD!


With my heart in my mouth, we proceeded to store our luggage with the Rome airport luggage storage. It was time to move on to Milan. Terminal 1, back through security, and to the gate. Michael helped us navigate by asking the right people the right questions. Once inside, we were in dire need of coffee. The first Italian coffee of many these next ten days. Outstanding.

While we had coffee and a light breakfast, I learned some new Italian words/phrases from Michael, and figured out where we would be renting his bike from.

Milan, You Say?

The text from Vito indicated that, today was the day.

No time to lose. Check in, drop the bags, freshen up, and be ready by 13:30. As predicted, Nicholas arrived at 13:30 and we were on our way to Cicli DeRosa. As we arrived, I was floored. The bikes, dang it! The bikes. Each one a work of art. Each for a specific purpose or type of rider.

The array of DeRosa bikes on display was overwhelming. Each one a work of art.

The Moment I Had Been Waiting For


“OK, I do that anyway — no biggie” I thought.

“Oh, and only use this glue. Unless you fully clean the rims before putting on the next tires.” Somewhere in here, he apologized for his English, and I for my Italian. But he was doing fine. “Glue you say?”

“Yes, this is the right glue”

“Oh, so they are tubulars?” I drifted across the room to Vito. “Wow tubulars.”

“Tubulars? Really? Do you want me to ask for clinchers?”

“Nah” I said. I was freaking out. I don’t know anything about tubulars. But now, suddenly, Ugo DeRosa is standing 10 feet away. “Um, Ugo, these fabulous wheels, can you please dumb them down for me? Thanks bud!” It really was Ugo DeRosa, and I am NOT Eddy Merckx!

Vito and I went back and forth — should we, shouldn’t we, what next, and finally got to — well I will just learn how to fix tubulars. I am not the only one riding tubulars, right? It will be fine. OK — moving on! I am now a tubular guy and that is it!


Left to right, Michael Lyach, Christiano DeRosa, myself, Vito Valentini


The first of many aranciata’s to be had, the DeRosa soft case in the hotel, a great dinner with Michael and Vito.

Trains and Automobiles

Michael Lyach and Ugo DeRosa
Bonus time at the factory before catching the train to Rome.

Watching Michael and I board the train was like watching Abbot and Costello board a train. With carry on luggage, a bike, and four DeRosa shopping bags, every time we placed an item, another item fell from the luggage rack. We worked furiously to get everything put away before settling into our seats for the trip out. As the train started moving, the chatter on social media indicated that our teammates were on their way to JFK and sweating a snow storm. It seemed that all of Gavia Cycling was in motion. Coach Vito on the way back to NYC, Michael and I on the way to Rome, and the rest of the team heading to the airport. We would see them in the morning, but we had to get to Terracina first. This would prove to be no mean feat.

And we are off to Rome!


Prologue References:

  1. Strade Bianche:
  2. Seven Things to Do:
  3. The Sufferfest:
  4. The Sled:
  5. Mary Poppins thing:
  6. Terracina, Italy:
  7. Tubulars:
  8. Cicli DeRosa:
  9. Aranciata:

A family guy, tech-pro, and cycling enthusiast.