Italy has long been one of the world's most passionate cycling hotbeds, a country where the sport is embraced by all ages, on every sort of terrain. The birthplace of some of the sport's greats, from Pinarello to Pantani and Coppi to Cippolini, there's always an Italian at the forefront of pro cycling, and always an Italian public supporting them with gusto. With the Giro now upon us, we thought we'd give voice to this cycling universe, and celebrate all things red, white and green with a spotlight on the Italian brands that power this passion, and make the Giro d'Italia possible for the pros.
Barrelling through the small towns, meandering over mountains and speeding through the industrial heartlands, the 100th edition of the Giro celebrate's the best of what this Mediterranean country has to offer. With some of cycling's biggest brands calling Italy their home, we have taken a closer look at just some of the key products they offer.
When it comes to bikes, Italy offers perhaps the broadest and best selection that the world has to offer. Two names though particularly must be called into contention, the first of which is Pinarello. Setting stall in Treviso, this brand started making bikes in the post-war period, and was soon a favourite amongst the world's very best.
With the Pinarello Dogma F10 Dura-Ace Di2 Road Bike drawing upon the advances made by its predecessor, the F8, this road bike is a crafted and perfected machine, conceived in the pursuit of speed. The bike of choice for Team Sky, this frameset is optimised in all aspects, from carbon fibre composition to precision geometry, and angled aerofoil tubing, giving this frameset its sweeping, mercurial looks.
The second name in Italian cycling? No list could ever be complete without Colnago. Based in Cambiago, in the Milanese suburbs, this company has been making some of the world's finest bicycles since 1952. Starting in an age of steel and always moving with the times, Colnago often force the changes that have driven cycling to the heights and speeds we are now accustomed to. This company, the child of the great Ernesto Colnago, supplied bikes for Merckx in his glory days, and continues to be ridden at grand tours each year. Paying homage to the Giro's 100th edition, their Colnago Limited Edition Giro d'Italia Dual Routed C60 Frameset is a supreme choice for any rider looking for a slice of cycling's ever growing history.
Scarpe italiane - Italian shoes. Of course, anyone with even the slightest knowledge of shoemaking will have some appreciation for the fine art and tradition of Italian shoemaking, and it's one that lives on in cycling. The biggest name in this realm, Sidi, has established a reputation for hitting the highest levels of practicality, performance, and precision engineering, a fact that has seen Sidi shoes being worn to victory in numerous grand tours, most notably by the likes of Chris Froome.
With their latest release, the Sidi Shot Road Shoes, they've developed claims to be the stiffest, most efficient and well-ventilated cycling shoe ever created. Worn by the likes of Vincenzo Nibali, Bahrain-Merida's team leader, this brand, based in Maser, in the region of Veneto, has been in operation since the 1960s, and is lauded not only in the world of cycling, but also in the motorcycling universe as perhaps the finest fitting, most easily adjusted shoe manufacturer out there.
The Sidi Shot Carbon Road Shoes benefit from a uni-directional carbon sole interspersed with ventilation holes, is lined with a breathable mesh and features an ergonomically shaped plastic mount on the tongue, housing a dial closure that assures one touch adjustment for a moulded and perfect fit around the foot.
Responding with comfort, whilst remaining a lightweight perch that places the rider in just the right position to let their power flow freely, through the years, Italian saddles have gained a reputation as the considered choice of dedicated road cyclists. Selle Italia, Selle SMP, and Prologo all stand out as saddle dedicated brands, but this category has come in recent years to be dominated by the slick, and supremely comfortable saddles made by Fizik.
The Fizik Arione was amongst the first models produced by this Italian brand, and it was an immediate hit. Quickly found adorning the seatposts of the pro-peloton, this saddle drew plaudits for its flexible shape, allowing for comfort in a variety of positions on the bike, rather than being forced to stick with one alone. Still hugely popular amongst the pro riders, expect to see the Arione being ridden up the Dolomites and all the way into Milan.
Scaling mountains, speeding down hillsides, and riding in the bunch, we all know that the thrills of cycling do not come without the spills. The Giro offers some of the most technical descents in Europe, with Italy being the birthplace of Kask, a brand that carries off a rather unglamorous role in a quite impressive level of style.
Coming from their headquarters in Chiuduno, on the outskirts of Milan and in the shadow of Bergamo, the Kask ethos has always been to deliver best in class safety whilst delivering a high-performance, aerodynamic and breathable external layer that provides a more fitted and flattering profile. Chief among their star products is the Kask Protone Helmet. Stylised with wide front vents that allow for fantastic ventilation, whilst retaining a good level of aerodynamic shaping for a slicker path through the air, it is no surprise this premium helmet is the choice of amateurs and professional riders.
If you're looking for the best in Italian cycle clothing, then you are in luck, as there are a plethora of products to keep you looking cool and performing at your best. Castelli have dominated cycling clothing by means of their numerous innovation, from the first Lycra cycle short in the 80s to the widely admired Gabba just a handful of years ago. Which piece in the range should you go for though? Well, with the climbs on the cards in this year's Giro, we'd hotly tip the red scorpion adorning the Castelli Climbers 2.0 Short Sleeve Jersey. Supremely lightweight at 83 grams, and with mesh fronting allowing for superb breathability and UV protection on the searing climbs of the Appenines, this top layer is sure to have you well equipped, allowing you to make gains when the gradient kicks skywards.
When it comes to your lower half it's perhaps preferable to go for something a little more substantial. The Castelli Premio Bib Short assures you a fantastic degree of protection by means of a dense chamois pad and compression Forza fabrics. This allows you to remain both cool whilst completely containing your performance in a controlled and comfortable manner.
Italy though isn't just fine style and beauty. A country of quality engineering, this is the land that shot brands such as Ferrari, Maserati, and Ducati into the international arena. Modern componentry integrating the highest level sensors and allowing the rider the hugely desirable insight into their time on the bike, FSA and their latest range of Powerbox chainsets give the user the ability to visualise their effective power output in real-time.
Finally, what would an all-Italian selection of products be without mention of food? Having brought pasta, pizza, and plenty of sweet treats to the world, Italy is a proud of its heritage, which is distinctive in every single region, town, and village. Remaining well fuelled on the bike though requires a good deal of alfresco dining, but, without stringing spaghetti into a jersey pocket, how can the rider enjoy some natural, homemade comfort food? Well, with Veloforte, there's another way. Using a traditional Italian recipe dating back all the way to the Romans, their range of small bars are 100% natural, and use a blend of nuts, fruits and spices. Tasting fantastic and powering you around your ride, what could be better when anticipating a challenging day by bike? Our favourite taster pack is certainly the Veloforte Natural Energy Bar 70g Mixed Flavour 3 Pack, offering a good blend of classic flavours.
So, with the Giro departing for its lap of Italy, and now with your mental kit list neatly condensed, you can enjoy the spectacle of this historic 100th edition race.