Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Checking In

Just a quick update from all the latest travels. So yesterday I had an initial meeting with a certain ex-Giro d'Italia winner who will be working with us next year. I first met him a couple of years ago in Namur just prior to one of the Belgian classics. He's a super nice guy, very motivated to get back to racing, and very satisfied with the bikes we've set him up with to date. Who is it? Stay tuned... gotta keep some suspense, right?

Anyway - after a late dinner and driving around Milan looking for a hotel to drop the boss-man off, I decided to drive home... starting at about 1:00 am. Not sure why, but if I'm under 4 hours from home and it's late and I've got nothing better to do, I'll drive home. I'd rather get home to the wife and dogs and my own bed than pay $150 for a quick night's sleep in a stinky Italian hotel. Hey, five stars or two... the only difference is usually in the price!

It must be the eight years of driving as a rep in the midwest. Upwards of 70,000 miles a year, mostly late at night, got me in shape to do stupid driving sessions in Europe as well! Long story short (if that's still possible), I got home at 5:00 this morning!

Friday, it's off to the states for a meeting, a couple of crits and some Liquigas US-racing. More to come...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Those Three Centimeters

So Benna won his third stage by a whisker. Three centimeters is what they say he won stage 12 by. Remember my previous post about Benna's custom frame? Well, three cm is how much length we added to his top tube length...

I called him the next morning to let him know he should be thanking us a little bit for that win. "If I was riding the size 56, I would have finished second!" he joked.

Unfortunately, he wasn't able to repeat on stage 13. Now it's off to the mountains. Today will be a killer stage, and by killer, I might mean my determined little ex-green guy Danilo, who lost a bit of time in the TT. He'll be determined, but so will Gibo, who is in a bit better position on GC. Of course, I'll be rooting for Vincenzo, who's not looking so bad either...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Giro Flash...

How's this for instant updating... I'm jumping in the team car in 10 minutes to follow #9 in the G.C. Franco Pellizotti for today's TT stage. Pelli is a decent time triallist and more than capable climber. This course features a slightly uphill second half, so hopefully he'll be able to do well.

Kjell and Charlie just returned from their runs. Kjell said it's tough and is changing his prediction to Contador... let's see.

Mrs. Masini is a bit smitten with Benna... with good reason, so I'm told by the other girls around here!

Numbers 9 and 10 in the classification. Pelli starts in just over a half hour, so we're off to the start line. Speaking of the start line, here's the view from the tunnel...

And finally, here's how you sell furniture... nice job, Enrico!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

And now, back to our regularly colored jerseys

Liquigas riders Franco Pellizotti and Daniele Bennati are both now green with envy of Giovanni Visconti and Ricardo Riccò as this week they were forced out of their pink and ciclamino jerseys and back into their Liquigas jerseys. With Monday's rest day and Tuesday's time trial, things will have to go perfectly for Pelli to regain the maglia rosa. Benna may have a chance to regain the points jersey in today's sprint finish in San Vincenzo but will have to beat Mark Cavendish or Erik Zabel in order to do so.

Of course, I can't forget to mention the chances of Vincenzo Nibali as well. Known as the Shark of the Strait (he comes from the Strait of Messina), Nibali is placed 10th overall and 4th among the main favorites, right behind Pelli. He has raced quietly this first week while limiting any losses. On paper, he has a better TT than Pelli, so who knows... I had the chance to pass out our cool t-shirts to Niba's fan club in Milazzo after stage three. They were out in force and all were worried about the late spill he had just before the finish. A hard chase got him back to the group in under 1 km!

Everything Matters

We've been showing these videos shot with Pippo and Benna (and me) on for about a month now. They were loads of fun to shoot, thanks to the guys giving up their time and taking directions from the masters, Don Hampton and Mark Eaton. We tried to make it fun for them as well. Benna...

Not to rub it in...

This post goes out to blog-friend carlos da jackal who recently posted about the Nalgenes he made to show support for his (and my) favorite team, Liquigas. Although quite a lame claim, I am the proud owner of this special (and rare) printed Camelback Nalgene Liquigas bottle. Here's a promise - IF I get my hands on another one of these, one's headed your way, Carl. There's just one special drink I usually drink from it...

I have to admit, when the sun finally comes to Switzerland, nothing cures my thirst or keeps me awake for a long drive, quite like an imported can of the golden elixir. Of course, I'm talking about the Dew. Not made in Europe, I've been known to pay up to $3 (or even 600 Korean Won!) for an imported can. I currently know of six places in Europe where I can buy them (3 in CH, 1 in ES, 1 in DE and 1 in NL).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Benna's Bike

Velo News just posted an article about Daniele Bennati's bike. It reminded me of when we delivered his first custom frame. We all met up at the Verona South exit and after about 10 phone calls finally found each other among all the construction and traffic. Benna was happy to finally get the custom frame and we were happy to finally have it done and delivered!

Delivering bikes to these guys and then having them win aboard them is awesome. For the green bike, it was built up Sunday night and then went on to win Monday's sprint stage into Milazzo! I have the feeling that it won't be the only Giro stage won aboard the green machine... this guy is FAST!

Pre-Giro free concert in Palermo

Well, I'm finally back home and going through some of the photos from the past couple of weeks in Sicily. Unfortunately, none are from any of my fantastic rides and spectacular crash that left me with some good rash on the old leg. I took the boat from Palermo to Genoa and drove home from there, with one stop to drop the bikes off to the team. I finally got home at 6:00 this morning after 34 hours of travel!

Speaking of Palermo, the Giro opened up with a free concert by Italian blues guitarist Alex Britti. If you're able to find him, check out any of his music... you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hard at work... Giro Stage 2

We headed to the start of stage 2 in Cefalu on the Northern Sicilian coast. Shook a few hands and took some photos for a change. I had a chance to talk up the bike on some random Italian TV channel. After that, I had a brief chat with Magnus and then whoever I could find riding by.

After the start, we had to get to the airport to send Mrs. Masini on her way back home, then pick up what I like to call the Big Wigs. From there, we pulled over to a TINY village to watch the stage finish. When I say 'tiny' I mean this place belongs in the film "Kaos" by the Taviani brothers. We had great beer and local antipasti, followed by Pelli winning the pink jersey! After that, we were in quite a good mood, so the bosses challenged the 20 or so kids from the town to a few games of foosball... We got back to the car and HAD to go back and hand out Liquigas t-shirts much to the delight of the locals.

All in all, a great start of the Giro for us... with more to come!

Me and my bikes...

Maggie Bäckstedt looking thin, strong and happy.

Hey... quit picking my nose whilst I'm on TV!

Giro TTT, stage 1

And they're off... the Giro departed today in Palermo with a team time trial. Only problem with that is that our hotel was located INSIDE the turnaround point in Mondello. They closed the streets QUITE early, so we were stranded about 10km from the start/finish. The locals were a bit pissed, and we tried in vain to 'escape' from Mondello, even getting into it with the chief of police (not recommended in Palermo). Oh well, I've seen races before and quite honestly, you see much more from TV coverage. In addition, we took to opportunity to fly Mrs. Masini down, so we had a nice day away from the race.

Another problem was that Jeff, Steve, Stefano and Rosario (Cannondale people and our Sicilian distributor) were all down at the start. Seems there were some folks looking for me! No worries, there were and are plenty more chances to do work with racers, sponsors and potential sponsors.

The Liquigas boys did quite well (fourth), even with the stray dog or two on the course. Barloworld did amazingly well also, starting fast and finishing in fifth. Once I met up with Chris Fisher from Barloworld, I couldn't help but take the photo below. This year, we're competitors, but still good friends (the same for the BW riders and team staff).

Sunday, May 4, 2008

How Safe Is YOUR Hotel Room?

I arrived in Sicily with the bikes last night... 1700 km of driving from Basel! While Sicily may be my favorite place in Europe, it's probably not the kind of place where you decide to trust leaving five Team Liquigas bikes in your van that clearly states "Come Steal Cannondales Here" on the side! No garage means that I had to make a number of trips to my room with these on my shoulder. Let's see... I'll trade you a Bertagnolli for a Franzoi.

I'm in Caltanissetta, right in the middle of the island. I'm here to deliver these five beauties to some stores in Palermo to display the week before the Giro d'Italia, which starts next Saturday. On the highway leading here I passed what may be one of the more spectacular cities on the island... Enna. It was built on a high ridge that technically could be called a mountain. I'll try to ride up to there later today and grab a photo or two.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Big Assed Night of Bikes

One of my favorite radio shows (Ron and Fez show now heard on XM) once promoted a boxing match that they called the Big Assed Night of Fights. Big A.S.S. was short for the All Secret Society, kind of a fan club (my card is number is 14324). Anyway, I started my trip to Sicily by staying in San Dona di Piave, where the LG warehouse is. I have to pick up some bikes for display. With nothing on the Slingbox to watch in my room, I decided to go for a walk. I know the town pretty well, having stayed there numerous times. For some reason, everywhere I looked reminded me just how important cycling is to the Italians... hence, I present the Big Assed Night of Bikes... 

This "don't lean bikes here" sign made me laugh... why would I pick up my bike, cross this pebbled garden, and lean my bike against this tree? And doesn't the sign itself kind of take away the effect of the 'beautiful' display anyway? And isn't that same zen kind of cheapened by the two garbage cans greeting you at the entrance of said garden?

I'm sure somewhere there's a blog that shows cycling team sponsors caught in the wild. The beginning of each season there's always a list of cycling teams and what each sponsor makes or does. In San Dona alone, I saw a Castorama store (remember those guys with what was recently written up as one of the worst team kits ever?), a Liquigas tanker, a store selling Saeco machines (as well as Caffita coffee capsules) and this Aqua & Sapone store...

And this guy has seen better evenings. I guess he really wanted to be a hero by riding his bike home drunk... can anybody say "RAGBRAI"? The great thing about this is that some ad exec thinks this is the perfect way to sell jeans! Actually now that I look at it again... he was actually drinking while riding his bike. I'll repeat myself... RAGBRAI?

Oh Those Crazy Italians

Last year's Liquigas team bike colorway was a polarizing kind of thing (personally, I love it - nice job Kramer!). Seems Italian brand Shock Blaze (I know...) liked it as well, as evidenced by this low-end knock off. You have to give them credit though, it's pretty hot for a cheap bike. All alu frame, oversized head tube, team graphics and only € 830. They even have the look of the Mavic Ksyrium ES down.

On a similar note, The same shop window had this Bianchi "knock-off" of a HeadShok fork. I think this is probably that ball-bearing or even bushing design that's been out for a while now, certainly not the performance mtb fork attempt back in the 90's. You know the old imitation/flattery thing, right?

The same shop window brought me back to my youthful days growing up in Iowa and dreaming about this bike...

Pantographed C-Record (some in Century finish), celeste leather tape and pedal straps, chrome Silca pump, even celeste tubular sidewalls! Check out the high-flange hubs - I had a set once laced to some ultra light aero tubular 24 holed hubs... light and stiff. Yep, those were the days!