Cycling Italy in the Shadow of the ‘Giro’

The Giro d’Italia is a cycling road race in Italy equivalent to the Tour de France. Top professional cyclists from around the world gather to compete in one of the most grueling road races, covering every region of Italy. The three-week competition began May 4th, which sent the competitors on a designated route of 2,116 miles.  Diverse terrain through valleys and mountains in cold and wet weather conditions made this year’s event one of the more brutal in recent memory. This 96th edition of the race began in Naples and finished in Brescia.

Adnan on the Passo Campolongo
Adnan on the Passo Campolongo~ all photos credit of Adnan Kadir

Adnan Kadir, an avid cyclist and friend from my own hometown of Portland, Oregon, just returned from Italy. Accompanied by his fellow cycling athletes and his French-made Cyfac bicycle, he had planned this trip to overlap with the Giro d’Italia. As anticipated, they observed two days of the race while also cycling through Italy along some of the same designated routes, passing through the rolling hills and vineyards of Tuscany and up into the mountains of northern Italy. The first two weeks of his trip were handled by what he describes as a ‘stellar’ outfitter called InGamba.

Adnan's Cycling Gang
Adnan’s Cycling Friends
Giro d'Italia racing through town
Giro d’Italia whips through a village-the 4th guy back is the race leader, and eventually winner, Vincenzo Nibali, wearing the Maglia Rosa (pink winning jersey)

Adnan described the Giro d’Italia as one big cultural event. The cyclists in the Giro rode in a rolling enclosure between official vehicles while police kept cars off the road. He saw people pack themselves along the roadside as the racers came through. Several actually broke rank and ran beside the riders. This year’s route took the competitors up the steep ascent through the mountains of northern Italy to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the highest point at an altitude of 7,550 feet. On the final stages of the climb, the road was surrounded by huge banks of snow. Last year’s racing route took the cyclists to the top of Mt. Vesuvius and on to Sicily for a couple of days.

Adnan and the Sella
Adnan with the Sella behind him

One of Adnan’s favorite rides while in Italy was around the Sella Ronda. This ride is about 90 km and takes in the Passo Gardena, Passo Campolongo, Passo Pordio, Passo Sella, and finishes on the pass where his hotel was located, the Passo Pinei. They started in sunshine but encountered snow while climbing the Sella.

Snow Zone
Snow Zone-Adnan with friend Christoph from Munich

Is competing in the Giro d’Italia a goal of Adnans? Not at this point in his life, he assured me. “After spending a year racing in Europe, I liked racing but I didn’t love it. I wanted to use my brain, so I came back home and went to grad school.” Good choice! Adnan has raced in Guam, competed in a 7-day mountain bike race in the TransRockies in Canada as well as a 7-day road race, the TransAlp, in Europe (2008). Today he races 2-3 times a week around home.

Cyclist resting in Spiazzi
Caprese, an easy favorite

Adnan is his own boss. Not only does he live adventurously, but he is an entrepreneur as well. He organizes training camps and cycling trips and works as a cycling/triathlon coach through his company Aeolus Endurance Sport. But not all of his fellow athletes are in the same country. With the help of a power meter, specifically the QuarQ power meter, he can utilize remote coaching. Adnan is also a partner in LifeCycle Adventures cycling tours, which operates in California, Oregon and Hawaii. Here is a great short promo video where Adnan explains what he does-

Piazza Pastrengo
Piazza Pastrengo

There are loads of hotels around Italy that cater to riders. One that Adnan stayed in and recommends was the Enjoy Hotel Garda, but there is a whole network of them all around Italy (

Adnan and pals on ridge
Adnan and pals on ridge

“The ride to Asciano was on a magnificent ridgetop. The fog cleared and the sun came out, revealing amazing views in every direction. After Asciano, I rode through the sunny valley back to Lecchi, stopping for coffee in the sunshine in Castelnuovo Berardenga.”

Group heads out together
Alpt de Suisi
Adnan’s good friend Christoph from Munich at  Alpe de Suisi
Gate at Asciano
Heading for the Gate at Asciano, photo taken by fellow athlete Jenn Reither

*Promo from Giro d’Italia

Streets of San Gimignano
Streets of San Gimignano

Adnan left me with this one final off-bike experience that he had during his visit to Castello di Ama winery. Originally a walled fortress, wine is now produced and artists hosted who are required to produce one installation while they stay there. Adnan was impressed by how they integrated artwork into the winery spaces. After viewing the art, a gourmet dinner made by the resident chef awaited him and his friends. The food, he emphatically states, like his cycling trip, was unforgettable.

Morning in Chianti
Morning in Chianti

Casanova in the Doge’s Prison

Venice Bridge of Signs

Casanova Walked the Bridge of Sighs

“It has always been my opinion that when a man sets himself determinedly to do something and thinks of naught but his design, he must succeed despite all obstacles in his path.”  Casanova

Giacoma Casanova, Latin lover and debaucherer, had gone too far. In 1755 everything caught up with him. Refusing to change his ways, he was sentenced in his hometown of Venice to the Doge’s prison, the dreaded prigioni, for depravity and blasphemy. Crossing the Bridge of Sighs from the Doge’s palace, so named by Lord Byron after the ‘sighs’ of condemned prisoners at their last glimpse of light, Casanova was put into a lead-lined cell inside the infamous Leads prison. No convict had ever escaped the sweltering vaults.

Corridor of the Leads
Corridor of the Leads (Prigioni)

Giacoma Casanova

Casanova had previously traveled extensively throughout Europe, supporting himself as a soldier, violinist, spy, entrepreneur, businessman, Homeric translator, novelist, and librarian. He actually considered becoming a priest at one point which, minus his robust sexual appetite, might have worked. His involvement as a notorious libertine, gamester, disturber of the public peace, and inability to stay out of debt worked against him as his womanizing contrivances, seemingly untamable, spiraled him further downwards.

Casanova's House, Venice
Casanova’s House, Venice

He didn’t spend idle time in his prison cell, however. Finding an iron rod, he managed to dig a tunnel in the corner. Later, after being forced into another cell, he passed the bar to a renegade monk named Balbi, who occupied the cell next to him, with the idea that the monk would dig a tunnel to his cell and another tunnel leading out. Balbi burrowed through the ceiling, freeing them both and using the bar to pry open lead plates on the roof. Breaking into a room through a dormer window, they continued to force open doors and gates until they reached the water. Finally, Casanova having spent fifteen months in prison, they made their escape by gondola to central Venice.

Casanova and Balbi were free…never to return to the Doge’s prison. They parted ways with Casanova fleeing to Paris, where he engaged in the creation of the French state lottery, finding himself wealthy and enjoying the charms of high society once more.

“I then turned and looked at the entire length of the beautiful canal, and, seeing not a single boat, admired the most beautiful day one could hope for, the first rays of the magnificent sun rising above the horizon.”  Casanova

Steeped in myth, what is the truth regarding Casanova? Was he as risque as history describes him? A legendary memoir penned by Casanova, conveniently named Story of My Life, has been kept in private hands until just recently. Stay tuned as I explore the unsuspecting contents that will amaze and surprise you about Giacoma Casanova in my next post.