Nine men, one baby, a pair of wives and not a bike in sight, we could have been mistaken for a stag party destined to go badly wrong whilst checking into our flight at Gatwick. In fact, our raison d’etre was the inaugural Huez* riding experience, destination - Porto Ercole, Italy. This is where one of Huez's founders, Lorenzo grew up and learnt to walk, swim, talk with a strange accent and inevitably ride a bicycle and no doubt where he found his inspiration and love of cycling in the beautiful Tuscan hills. Undulating Tuscan farmland with a hazy mountainous backdrop, it was easy to see why the Huez* team had chosen this spot for a weekend of riding.
Some of us had come here to train for the impending Marmot in July and others just to test ourselves but we all had a common cause which was to have fun, eat a lot of pasta and try out our new Huez* tech gear ranging from hats, shorts, tops, jumpers and windbreakers.
Our guide and inflictor of pain for the weekend was none other than Max Lelli, 16 x Tour de France competitor and Giro Champion, dressed from head to two in red, Max is the closest you’ll get to a human version of a Ferrari. Max had our bikes measured up, geometrized and ready to go for our first day on the road.
Meandering through the beautiful rural scenery it didn’t take long before we were pushing ourselves up some pretty big hills. Of course natural competitiveness started creeping in amongst the group and three hours in, we had covered some considerable ground. Passing through and admiring from a distance the stunning old Italian villages was a joy. The afternoon saw the pace pick up again although this time Max had some optimistic challengers. Swatted off like flies, it was impossible to keep up with the 16 x time Tour de Francer when he put the power down.
117km later we were back at Lelli HQ to enjoy a large glass of isotonic red wine and cheese. The wine itself grown and produced on the grounds, the Italians know how to warm down properly. Sore bums and tired legs, we retreated back to Huez* base camp for some much needed r&r provided by master cook Angioletta. Her food is like nothing I’ve tasted before, prepared with real Italian love and passion.
Day two we were accompanied by at least 30 avid Italian cyclists. Most had already averaged 4,000 km this year so we had a job on our hands to protect the reputation of British cycling. The route involved less aggressive climbing than day one but with the help of our new friends, the pace was healthy averaging at 30km/ph. 97km covered in less than five hours, we really had pushed ourselves hard to keep face. Max Lelli on the other hand barely broke sweat…….Ferrari!!
Our last supper together, sharing stories of the weekend, brought home for me what an awesome sport cycling is at brining friends together, in beautiful places. Caught up in our busy lives it’s easy to forget how special it is to spend quality time together whilst also pushing your limits. Grinding up a 10km climb is made so much easier knowing your buddies are going to be at the summit to congratulate you share the spectacular views.
The inaugural Huez* riding experience was a huge success! An opportunity to learn from a seasoned professional in the most stunning surroundings, with great company and exceptional food. I’d trade a stag in for that any day! Viva Huez*.
Written by Andrew PollenMore stories