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At Night Add Gelato

– With May comes a focus on Italy, and with Italy comes the delight of crostata -- possibly the most versatile food of the pro peloton. Like all good food, it shines in its simplicity. It’s a little pastry filled with mixed berries. It’s served at breakfast; at night add gelato and it’s dessert; and regardless of the pallet’s worth of space-age gels, blocks, and bars present in the team service course, crostatas wrapped in aluminum foil are a feed zone staple, sure to be found in every riders’ mussette in the Giro.

Don’t mistake a crostata for a summertime fruit pie. It’s smaller in diameter, a slice holds together okay in a jersey pocket, and its sweetness is more subtle. This is a good recipe, primarily because you make your own pastry. A frozen pie crust won’t do the trick -- they’re too big and, once cooked, too oily. Give it a shot, and the morning after cut up pieces, wrap them in foil, then hand them out pre-ride to your teammates. Rather than being PRO, you’ll be SOIGNEUR, which is a worthy calling for sure.

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about cooking it, slicing it, or packing it -- your only enemy with crostata is runny fruit. Once you wash your fruit, dry the heck out of it. And note the need for instant tapioca. It’s not boxed Jello pudding mix! They’re crystalline balls and you’ll find them bagged at the grocery store. It’s part of the recipe because it’s a thickener for the fruit. (Am I making the non-runniness issue clear enough? I’ve washed blood, dirt, grease, GU and who knows what else from my jersey -- yet I live in mortal fear of having to do the same for pulverized fresh berries).

And, a question as an aside here: If hands-and-a-mixing-bowl is downtube shifting, is a Cuisinart Di2? Or just STI?

– Matt Rendell’s book about Pantani was a good one. Very much looking forward to checking this one out.

– I just read ‘Put Me Back on My Bike’ -- a 2003 biography of Tom Simpson by William Fotheringham. The biggest liability of this book is the fact that Fotheringham wrote a biography of Fausto Coppi in 2009, an essential text of English-speaking bike racing history called ‘Fallen Angel’. It sets the bar supremely high -- a bar that didn’t yet exist when he wrote the Simpson book.

Fotheringham’s subtitle is ‘In Search of Tom Simpson’, which gives warning that upon random occasion the book will be strewn with 1st person accounts of Fotheringham’s own experiences in the penumbra of Simpson. The diary-like use of 1st person is infrequent and unpredictable, and it’s awkward in what’s otherwise standard biographical technique. They’re little literary landmines -- unpleasant in their disruption of the stylistic flow, while revealing nothing substantive about Simpson himself.

It doesn’t help that Fotheringham is limited in his source material: Most of the press of the day was sycophantic; many of Simpson’s contemporaries were old or dead at the turn of the century; and other Simpson-specific archival material is limited in scope. Fotheringham does the best he can with his clippings & accounts, but despite Simpson’s pioneering palmares -- 1 day in the Yellow Jersey, Paris-Nice GC, World Champion, Milan San Remo, Tour of Flanders -- he can’t overcome the fact that Simpson’s star shone sporadically and only briefly.

The meat of the book is in its last third, where Fotheringham dissects in overabundant detail the fateful day when Simpson died on Ventoux. It’s as though he tries to dispel any rumor or additionally unsavory bit of innuendo ever uttered about Simpson. The minutiae overwhelms, yet by the end we know with absolute certainty what was already evident by a glance at his Wikipedia entry: He died because it was ungodly hot that day, he was dehydrated, a bit drunk, and drugged like Jimi Hendrix. Fotheringham’s ‘search’ does nothing beyond confirm conventional wisdom.

On an anecdotal level there’s some good reading here. The account of the first attempts (in the early 60’s) to institute doping controls is fascinating. The way he documents Simpson’s obsession with money explains, to a large extent, the why of Simpson’s ongoing doping regimen. But a book-length overview isn’t what the subject needed. Like so many modern books, we get 200+ pages, when a long article could’ve accomplished the same.

– Since folks have asked, a quick travel tip if you’d like to do some riding in the Dolomites: Your best bet for a home base is probably the town of Edolo since you can attack so many great climbs beginning there. To the east is the ‘easy’ side of the Gavia and Tonale. To the west is the Aprica, two different ways up the Mortirolo, the Santa Cristina, and the ‘hard’ way up the Gavia. And a third way up the Mortirolo starts right there in town. Best of all, Edolo is the low point of the surrounding area, so no matter where you ride, your day will always end with a ~15km descent back into town. It’s a sub-3hr drive from the Milan Malpensa airport, making it that much better. Good coffee, excellent food, and spectacular scenery & architecture abounds there.

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– New to me: The Fondriest Renaix 88 frameset. It’s a lovely one, no? The Lampre era aluminum Fondriest frames from the early 2000’s were sweet and they were amongst the first pro-quality Italian bikes we ever sold. I can still remember how buzzed we were in ’02 when Rubens Bertogliati grabbed the yellow jersey at the Tour and we were pushing his very bike.

Alas, with young fiery love comes young fiery heartbreak. We were cash poor back then, operating on 10-mile-high financial tightrope. (We had 4 employees in 2003, compared with our 50+ now.) The US importer, an outfit called P4 Group, demanded a commitment at the beginning of the ’03 season that was, at the time, overwhelming: 15 frames. And as soon as we took delivery and the check cleared, P4 Group announced that they were abandoning their dealer network and effective immediately were entering consumer-direct sales. They slashed prices and their marketing keyed in on their direct sales model. Our morale was devastated, our inventory seemed poisoned… But it’s been 7 years, and P4 Group long ago self-destructed. I have a crush on the Renaix 88. I think I can love again.