All posts by The Sac

Rockville 2014

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In 2002, a group of friends sat at a bar in Cremona, Italy, a small city located along the Po River only 45 minutes east of Milan.
They discussed the new 24hr mountain bike race that was going to happen that April and decided to race it on single speed bikes.
To the best of anyone’s knowledge, these friends were perhaps the first single speed mountain bikers in Italy.

For a country of tradition, single speeding on mountain bikes was certainly a change.
As the years went on, single speed mountain biking began to grow and grow in Italy and eventually the Mountain Bike Single Speed Italian Nation Championship race was created to help bring riders from around the country together.

Thanks to the website singlespeed-italy.com, created by Stefano Spedini, a single speed enthusiast and one of the members of the original 24hr team, Italian riders had an internet platform available for them to reach information and find events through.

It was in 2006 that a local rider posted photos on an Internet forum showing a Cross Crusade Halloween race, asking, “When will we have something like this in Italy?”
Stefano Spedini replied, “How about January 6th?” A venue would be needed of course, but Spedini already knew the perfect location.

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In a small farming town not far from Cremona, a rich family had a huge villa built in the 1700’s. It’s a massive structure with countless rooms, halls, servant quarters, towers, and terraces.
Evidence of the visionary characteristics of the original family can be still seen on the grounds.
There are the ruins of a greenhouse and in the gardens, plants from all around the world are still thriving; cedar trees can be found in one area of the grounds and bamboo in the next. Various owners have inhabited the villa throughout the centuries (the last owner being the Bishop of Cremona), but by 1980, the villa was deserted completely.
The building was simply too massive to be reasonably taken care of and was entirely out of place in the small town of Villarocca. Since the 80’s, the villa has been looted and thieves have gutted the interior, taking even statues that once guarded the outer doors from their posts.

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To the group of single speeders from the Cremona area, Villarocca was a part of them. They had played in the villa in their youth, exploring the rooms and witnessing the decay of the once powerful building. The sprawling grounds and gardens of the villa provided a perfect venue for a cyclocross race and it didn’t hurt the villa’s structure would provide an impressive backdrop.

On January 6th, 2007, 40 racers showed up in Villarocca for the first Rockville Cyclocross race. While some people showed up on serious cross bikes for the singlespeed cyclocross race, a large majority rode on converted bikes.
The bikes ridden at Rockville have changed over the years, but the spirit of the event has not.

The race is largely a social event, people travel all from all over the word to meet up here once a year to see old friends and catch up.
Respect is given to the riders who race to win, it’s not easy to win Rockville; the course is tough, and with racers coming from all over the competition is always steep.
Riders meet up at a nearby farm pre and post race; breakfast is served to racers in the morning and lunch after the race lasts for hours.

If you come for the Grand Fondo ride the day before you can eat dinner at the farm. In true Italian fashion, the quality and quantity of food is of upmost importance, with a minimum of a three-course meal with wine and beer most riders leave satisfied.

This year was the 7th Rockville race. 133 riders lined up at the start line, representing nations from all over the world.
People came from the U.S.A, England, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Denmark, and, of course, Italy. Although 133 people on one course sounds like a traffic jam, the course was wide enough and long enough for racers to spread out and to pass with ease.

Riders found that the trail, a once fast and twisty track that wound through trees, over small creeks, up and down hills, and spiraled through a lawn, had become a mud bog. Four days of continuous rain turned the trail to slick muck.
The day of the race itself, however, was blessed with sunshine.

The general atmosphere on the course is one of a party. Riders cheer for one another and even passing around bottles of wine. In the men’s category, Isaac Burleigh mashed pedals and ran through the mud to take the win, while in the women’s category, Elena Martinello had victory, continuing her domination in the Italian Single Speed Cyclocross Series.

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In its 7th year, the spirit of Rockville remains the same as it was in its first year.
The celebration of friendship and comradery shared between riders continues to grow, just as the Italian single speed community grew out of a small group of friends who decided to race differently.
As Stefano Spedini puts it, “Our main goal with Rockville is that riders leave happy and want to come back next year.”
This has certainly been the case.

The growth of Rockville was never planned: it has never been promoted with more than word of mouth and on Facebook.
It has truly grown only because it’s a great race.
People come, they love it, and they bring more friends next year.
Sponsors continue to show support because they trust the passion of the organizers and understand what the event is about more than people racing in a circle, its about the friendship, the community, and the shared love for cycling.

This year, sponsors included various bike shops from around Europe, Biciclista, three European bike companies (Legor and Zullo of Italy and 8 Bar of Germany), Cinelli, Chris King, Levi’s, and the good folks at Cyclocross Magazine to name a few!

As the event grows, riders and promoters both share the idea that as long as the spirit stays the same the event will continue to happen.
It is a single speed cyclocross event that brings together an international community of riders joined together by friendship, good riding, and of course excellent food.
By the looks of it Rockville will be around for a long time.

Thanks to Claudio Angelini for all the great photos.

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Milano HighwayCross

Photo Cred: Emanuele Barbaro

People were slipping and sliding, falling on their hips, and shedding blood all before the race started. Getting into the bottom of the skateparks ramps was hard enough, everyone was wondering how they were going to get out! Any rider who found themselves in the wet skatepark on this freezing morning in Milano already knew that Italian Single Speed events are always done with this flair and had expected nothing less.  When the start came riders climbed out of the bowl, sliding and falling just as they had to get in, and ran on foot to their bikes to race on.

Emanuele Barbaro
Photo Cred: Emanuele Barbaro

The Milano HighwayCross took place on Sunday, December 15th at the beautiful Parco Lambro. The park provided perfect cyclocross terrain with huge grassy lawns, hills, and fast gravel sections. Riders where forced to shoulder their bikes to climb a huge stair case before taking a sharp steep descent with challenging turns.  In another section a short steep up at the bottom of a hill provided a jump for some while others decided to keep the rubber side down. Without a doubt BMX Pro, Federico Ventura, was the champion of this small kicker, riding with style throughout the whole race.

Fede Ma Mo
Photo Cred: Ma Mo

Fallen down trees provided natural barriers, some proving to higher and harder than others.

Photo Cred: Emanuele Barbaro

The race began with a group of seven riders up front, this group stayed largely together for the first 2 laps until riders were slowly dropped from the leading pack. In the last 10 minutes the lead group had been reduced to three riders, in the last lap the three was reduced to two riders who battled until the end. Paolo Bravini proved to be the champion and took the win with a powerful sprint.

Paolo Emanuele Barbaro
Photo Cred: Emanuele Barbaro.

In the womens category Elena Martinello continued to dominate over the competiton and took another win. This is Martinello’s third win in the series!

Elena Martinello Giovanni Drago
Photo Cred: Giovanni Drago

Another great Sunday of cyclocross racing in Italy, congratulations to the winners and see you all again at Rockville. Don’t forget that registration is now open here at SingleSpeed Italy!

Vigno Cross 2013

 Phot Cred: Claudio Angelini
Phot Cred: Claudio Angelini

For the second race in the italian Singlespeed Ciclocross Series we found ourselves in Piacenza at Parco Della Galleana. A beautiful park made of long grassy lawns and a small forest with a tight network of singletrack. Dog owners were scratching their heads in wonderment as riders converged on the park on this fridgid morning. Why would anyone want to go outside wearing thin lycra to ride their bike in circles in freezing temperatures and fog?

Guido Campana

The course for Vigno Cross was a compilation of fast streches of grass and gravel roads, mixed with tight single track sections that had riders weaving between (and under) trees, and racing along side the ruins of a 300 year old fortress.

Ropes Course.Photo Cred: Il Baldo
Photo Cred: Il Baldio

The two most memorable sections of the course were the run-ups that Vigno Cross is infamous for. The steepest one being so steep and slippery that ropes are used to assist riders as they battle the hill. The second run-up is rideable but only when you are alone, have the perfect line, and sufficient momentum. Naturally this perfect combination is hard to come across during a crowded race!

Photo Cred: Il Baldio
Photo Cred: Il Baldio

The pack of this years race was spread out with riders Andrea Pirazzoli (winner of Coppa Cobram) and Isaac Burleigh. Burleigh and Pirazzoli traded places through out the race giving spectators a good drama to follow throughout the 45 minutes. In the end Burleigh pulled through to finish in first place.

Guido Campana
Photo Cred: Guido Campana

Elena Martinello crushed her competition in the women’s category and took first place with a comfortable lead.

Photo Cred: Guido Campana

Another great Italian Single-Speed production! Hope to see all of you again next week in Milan for the third race in the series: “Highway Cross.”