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Italy: The Spiritual Home of Cycling?

Cycling History Italy Shutt Velo Rapide

Just like the debate surrounding  wearing black cycling kit vs high vis kit, people will argue until they are blue in the face about where the spiritual home of cycling is. Its just one of those divisive conversations best entered in a pub with an ample supply of beer. We recognise that West Flanders in Belgium stakes a valid claim to this title but we also think Italy should be considered as a serious contender, it has certainly been a hot discussion topic in the office recently. So why should Italy be a contender for the title of “Spiritual Home of Cycling”? We consider the points…


Campagnolo: Inventing, Creating & Developing

Tullio Campagnolo cut his teeth and built his bicycle shop, along with countless other Italian frame makers in Northern Italy/The Dolomites region; to this day Campagnolo is a brand synonymous with cycling. This region almost single-handedly saw many developments to bikes that we take for granted today.  Tullio’s re-design of the rear derailleur in the early 1950′s transformed this fundamental piece of kit from cumbersome and unreliable to something that was not only tough and functional, but beautiful.

Many “purist” roadies still sing the praises of Campagnolo components above all else. Even Pope John Paul II has had an appreciation of these handmade Italian components.

A Rather Large Race

On the 13th May 1909, 127 riders started the first Giro d’Italia at Loreto Place in Milan, it has been held every year subsequently, apart from during the two world wars. Second only to the Tour de France in the roster of Grand Tours, the Giro, like a giant Roman Amphitheater has showcased famous rivalries between the likes of Bartali and Coppi. Gladiators clad in thin shorts and jerseys armed only with bicycles & willpower have battles through the countries winding roads and rolling terrain. With past and present winners including Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, Roche, Indurain, Contador & Nibali, the Giro has certainly tested some of the cycling greats.

Religious Shrines and a Serious Memorabilia Collection

Although it easy to prove Italy has hosted some of the greatest moments in cycling history this wasn’t enough for us to be content with awarding it the crown as cyclings spiritual home. Big races just aren’t romantic enough and didn’t evoke the feelings and beliefs one would associate with “spirituality”. Let us give you a literal and metaphorical example of the magic found only in Italy.

Our imagination was captured by The Madonna del Ghisallo, near Lake Como. It was once described as “the poor man’s spaceship” for the way it allowed cyclists to emulate Neil Armstrong and “travel to the heavens”. It is not the highest or toughest of climbs, but the chapel at the top is essentially a Catholic shrine to cycling that burns an eternal flame. Plus there’s also a fountain to top up your water bottles!

You don’t need to be a devout Catholic to enjoy the chapel. It’s walls are adorned with plenty of memorabilia including jerseys and various bikes; from a tired looking Bianchi belonging to Fausto Coppi to the contorted frame crashed by Fabio Casartelli (a local to the region) when he died during the 1995 Tour de France. Next to the chapel is a museum which curates a lot of Italian cycling history.

Some places can be significant in sport because of their history but this is a place that demonstrates sports fanaticism exponentially. Memorabilia and history are transformed into relics and by proxy spiritualism thanks to the Chapel.  Aided to some degree by sporting history and the stunning views of Lake Como this quirky little Chapel and museum is one example of the intangible qualities that make Italy our contender.

We draw on the rich culture of cycling for everything we design & produce. Currently we manufacture a number of our products in Treviso, Italy (which is also the home of Pinarello) including our Performance Bib ShortsMarianne Thermo Roubaix JerseyWomen’s Carbon Bib KnicksThermo Roubaix Jersey and Carbon Bib Knicks. We like to think these products carry with them some of the evocative & romantic notions surrounding Italy and cycling that we have described (as well as looking great!).

- Simon & Lauren

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