An Informal Question and Answer Feature with Retired World-Class Italian Bike-God, Art Critic, Philosopher, Musician, Epicurean, and Narcissist, Rocco Vaselino
Greetings, my American friends, and, especially, you road biking enthusiasts. Since moving to Southern Utah a few years ago, I must say I have enjoyed riding in the fine weather, exploring the many interesting chip sealed roads, gasping through thick traffic, playing SUV-slalom, and meeting you strange but likable Southern Utah cyclists.
Riding with this eclectic crew has taught me many things, and I find that the combination of raging endorphins and $7 bottles of Chianti (that cost $26 at your state liquor store) cause me to have peculiar and vibrant dreams when I sleep. For example, I have this recurrent dream that I’m on Jeopardy! and I am in third place going into the Final Jeopardy! round. The subject is “Epic Poetry”, but I bet the farm, anyway. Alex Trebeck postures… “This epic poem, heavily steeped in allegory, contains the famous phrase ‘splendor in the grass’.” I smile confidently as the tick-tock Jeopardy! music plays, and I fumble with that stupid pen and blue board. I scrawl “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”, by Wordsworth. Unfortunately, the other two contestants get it right, too, and I leave, still in third place, with a year’s supply of Alpo and a cheesy home-version of the Jeopardy! board game. Just then, a nun on a red De Rosa rides by, singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. What does this dream mean? Nothing, but Rocco has made you think…and this is a good thing.
Since coming to America, I have had to learn to make the most of a busy schedule. Things need not take as long as they did in the old country. My bicycle training now consists of intense short rides, rather than the Herculean 200 mile rides through Calabria, dodging crazed locals in Fiat Abarths. And I am more fit! I have found that the same work can sometimes be accomplished in much less time. For example, Michelangelo wasted years and years painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Ha! My cousin, Vito the painter from Cozensa, could have finished the job in three days… two coats…including the trim!
But I digress. Now, on to your questions.
Lou Scravel, Ivins, asks, “I am a pretty good climber, but I would like to train my climbing skills more. Unfortunately, where I live, there are only downhills. I need uphills. I am desperate. What can I do?”
Rocco: I have the same problem, only in reverse. Where I live, there are only uphills; no downhills. I suggest we trade places for one week every month to take advantage of our particular terrains. Do you have HBO and Showtime? Good wi-fi? Is your house stocked with an assortment of tasty snacks? Does your wife snore? Does your dog bite? Get back to me, as I sense this could be a “win-win.” (Include a picture of your wife and your boat, if you have one, please.)
Art Rothscopic, Hurricane, asks, “I am a time trial specialist who uses 185 mm cranks, a 58-tooth chainring, and I generally maintain a cadence of 25 to 35 rpm, with a pulse average of 170 bpm. I do four days of hill-repeats each week in my 58×14. Lately, however, I have been experiencing some knee pain. What gives?”
Rocco: Hmm. I’m stumped. If any readers can figure out the cause of the knee pain, please share it with Rocco. It is unlikely that it is your training regimen, which seems quite perfect. Hmmm. Don’t know…Sorry.
Peter Mead, Round Lake Beach, IL asks, “Rocco, I have studied your articles on sprinting and have adopted your training regimen, to no avail. My sprint still looks like an NBC slow-motion replay of grass growing. How can I ever develop a terrifying road sprint, such as yours?”
Rocco: First of all, Peter, you must learn to set realistic goals. Stop dreaming. You will never play the guitar like Segovia; you will never be mistaken for Rob Lowe, you will never possess Bill Gates’ wealth, and you will never beat Rocco in a sprint, unless, of course, Rocco’s body is still soaked with vino from the previous evening, in which case, your sister could beat me. (In fact, have her call me next time she’s in town, if she has yet forgiven me for “the incident.”) But do not despair; there are other more cerebral ways of winning a sprint. You are a smart lad; use your wits! Here is an example of creative tactics from Rocco’s glorious racing past:
Just before the pack sprint in the 1980 Giro d’Linguini, I found myself, quite luckily, sitting next to feared del Tongo Colnago sprinter, Guiseppe “Bepe” Saronni. With three hundred yards to go, in front of thousands of spectators, I yelled, “hey, Bepe…your fly is open!” With typical Italian vanity, his face turned crimson as he looked down to assess his apparent fashion-faux pas. In the instant it took him to realize his Lycra shorts in fact had no fly, I was off in my 12, sprinting to glory. I hope you have learned a lesson from this. That lesson is, “You don’t have to be fast, as long as you’re a sneaky bastage.”
Rusty Cables, Cedar City asks, “In order to be well-rested on the bike, I have been allowing three-month intervals to lapse between my rides. Although this unorthodox training has been very effective, can you give me a tip that will make my training schedule become even less strenuous?”
Rocco: I applaud your brilliant, innovative technique. It is more ingenious even than Grant MacFarlane’s three consecutive years of intense carbo-loading. (He’s still faster than Rocco.) The only cyclist who trains smarter is Luigi Antonio Morganelli, crafty former Illinois Master’s racer, who has accumulated enough wealth that he now pays a guy to do his training rides for him. The kid gets time-and-a-half for gym workouts and intervals, to boot. Consider this option, if you have “the financial wherewithall.”
Arms Lancestrong, no address given, asks, “I love to hunt Strava segments and try for KOMs. I use the usual techniques; having someone drive me into a 40 mph headwind for 20 miles with my Garmin off, and turning it on as I turn around on the bike; doing uphill segments while driving my truck, etc. I also have entered my weight as 400 lbs. so Strava shows I can average 700 watts for miles on end. What else on Strava can I do to earn the respect of my fellow cyclists?
Rocco is impressed that you have utilized most of the available shortcuts to look good on Strava. A KOM on Strava is as impressive as actually winning Paris Roubaix. I also suggest posting your most ridiculous rides on Facebook, because you will attract scores of women, mostly adoring libertines. Showing that you can average 28 mph while ascending a 2-mile, 8% grade will have them swooning. Or, you might forget all this and just use Strava as the useful training tool that it can be. I’m guessing that you also own a big, black pickup truck with a light bar, brush guards, an 8” lift kit with real big wheels and huge Dirt Dawg tires, amirite? You stud!
Well, that’s all the space they gave me this time. Until next time, remember…if you’re not lucky enough to have been born Italian, you can always buy a fancy Italian bike. Or a big, phony nose. Or fake an Italian accent like that kid in “Breaking Away.”
Lei non potrà mai essere veloce come Rocco su una bicicletta!