Such is the way that a song can often accompany a road trip to later form the flag to memories when it’s heard out of the blue years later on the radio, I’m always transported back to Pinarello’s headquarters in Treviso for the launch of a new bicycle and an excursion to see a stage of the Giro in the rain, when I hear Phoebe Killdear’s Fade Out Lines.
I heard it today and was immediately taken back to discovering Treviso, a town I have since crowned the best place in Europe to buy glasses. But at the time it was a wet place to see the pink cycle race and I’ll always remember focusing in on that tune as a pleasant sidetrack of comfort and warmth as I heard it through a loudspeaker with a wind and raindrop accompaniment.
Watching the Giro set off from a few metres to our right through driving rain as we huddled drinking light summery prosecco pretending it was last week’s blue skies instead, was something else. The power and conviction dedicated to the tarmac by these riders made the weather irrelevant in their quest. The rain getting soaked into my socks from the stitching around the toes of my desert boots sidetracked my concentration to an extent but the drive here from the hotel earlier that morning had left two stark images of Giro in my mind. Pink balloons pinned to trees everywhere en route a charming reminder of the religious like persuasion of cycle racing in Italy. And old mattresses tied round tree trunks and lamp posts on corners of what would become descents after lunch also a reminder of the harsh reality of racing a road bike down what would have been until a few minutes earlier, a busy rat run with any street furniture ending barely even an afterthought of town planners decades earlier.
Somehow for a while even sounds of foreign conversation and the same records and advertisements playing over a PA system aren’t overwhelming through the rain and cheering of the soaked through but not yet bored faithful penned in behind barriers waiting for their crumbs from the table when the caravan meanders past feeding the needy with paper hat and packeted tat.
One of the things that happens in these situations of mutual interest confinement seems often friendships are made. Here I met people that have gone on to become friends and clients alike. And I heard a song that would follow me through life on road trips always reminding me of a pink day in the rain.
One of the expected things for a town hosting a national event like this is local shops popping racing paraphernalia in the window perhaps. But I didn’t expect quite the level to which residents would go to fly the pink flag from homes and places of work. That interest and inclusion in a cycle race was likely a simple sense of pride no doubt but somehow it spoke volumes to me as a cyclist from a place that tends to frown on cyclists.
After the initial flurry of rider after rider whizzing out past us still 75% dry had died down we headed off for lunch and the Pinarello store in the picturesque streets of the old town with it’s drilled Campag chainrings on the known Pinarellos of the famous owners framed on the walls above them and some icons of velodromes and podiums alike before heading back to a duet of local cycling factories. Pinarello’s own modern basecamp then Giordana’s new abode.
Pinarello’s out of town HQ was a healthy mixture of being alive with the signatures of the past and a commitment to the present and the trophies that bridge the two seamlessly. The archival heritage store was the perfect nod to the baton handover of seeing Fausto Pinarello whizz around a factory floor in between racks of top tubes being decorated with the tallies of Team Sky challenges past in paint booths present.
I’ve probably inhaled enough bicycle paint over the years to finish off my lungs, or at least finish them off in gold leaf fade, but there’s always something tantelizing to me about watching an awkwardly shaped object like a bicycle frame incomplete and out of context go from being a bare material finish to a glossed plumage that will stand out and make sense and statement when adorned with components. My bikes are usually conservative in appearance but I do like to see the the cycling equivalent of a mandarin sitting amongst all the dreary everyday ducks on the local pond. I suppose that harks back to growing up with the era of the Klein Moonrise or Gator Fade in the early nineties and the Cinelli Multi Flouo and Kona splatters at the end of the decade before. Whisked away before my paint could dry, we headed to see a new Pinarello be presented to the world with the help of it’s creator in the presence of it’s forefathers and some of its new generation of godfathers at Team Sky.
As I sit waiting for Brailsford and Porte to tell the roladex of cycling amassed around me, that same tune of earlier finds it’s time in a playlist and I get the chance to hear it properly and decipher the lyrics enough to retrieve it later on my return home. In good timing it’s the last track played before focus turns to new bikes and one with seatstays that offer comfort and having ridden softails off road for a long time, I bdidn’t discount the sales patter of new old wisdom here that increased comfort equals additional speed.
Although in the early fixtures and fittings stage of becoming a home for a cycle clothing brand made by hand in Italy to be ridden all over the world in that way the Italians do so naturally in a still manual expression despite an increasing digital storm, these huge rooms were thrumming with garment people doing garment things as I imagine happens at Armani or Gucci on a Friday night.
This is where I first saw someone’s jersey and arm warmers carefully peeled off a sheet of paper like material in cut outs like a toy figure’s outfit change and handed to someone else to sew together and create a sleeve or a gilet or a pair of shorts. Like the paint room, it’s now a scene so magical I can’t not watch if I’m present. A flat packed team kit brought to life between two work tables and a printing press by some skilled Italian mums chatting about last night’s dinner or a favourite tv show while producing a professional’s next podium demonstration as if multi tasking is just a natural part of the genetic make up of the Italian mum.
Rolls of designs and material that will become a squad immediately recognisable in a peloton stood awaiting their turn to be unpacked into this new and as yet unfurnished but fully operational space station.
I have been back to this factory a few times not least because it’s a preferred place for a coffee and a catch up on the way to work in Milan and family in Garda along the A4 and every time it’s felt thrumming with an energy of a positive workforce doing something engaged in cycling. It feels a happy place as it did that time in the early days before they’d even unpacked the furniture. The boxes marked with worldwide destinations gave a sense of gravitas and a pride in the term ‘handmade in Italy’ against the current of a globalised tide of a product of unknown origin for a price point.
There have been many classics over time from this house of design, half my last decade of cycling jerseys no doubt (of which there have been many) but sitting there in this factory to be, drinking the coffee and breathing in the freshly printed atmosphere I don’t know if my career highlight might not have happened though a bit early on for my liking, barely without even my noticing. I glanced across at Giorgio’s cellphone after it rang and was left to voicemail and a missed call list with three names. Julian. Gus. Lance. Where do you go from there? To the coffee machine seemed appropriate.
After dinner that evening huddled round a tv to drink a beer while catching up on the news of the race and see how our soaked gladiators got on after they turned the corner from view this morning and started their timed rituals, I watched the great and good of the cycling page assembling their notes and forging their friendships alike as I sat talking with Giorgio and Julian Andretta of Giordana not about cyclists of old but the cars of today. That conversation uncovered an illustrated vehicular history worth a book in itself and sparked a long term joint project that continues today. As conversation flashed up mutual friends’ names it re-itterated my belief that cycling is pretty rare a discovery in that it is simply more of a family than an industry to find yourself working in. And aside from hand making quality cycling clothing and understanding good cars the Andrettas would go on to become friends and contenders for my unofficial ’Nicest family in cycling’ award a few years later. A nomination cemented when they rescued me mid photographic mishap and drove me concussed to Verona Hospital for an evening of scans and X-rays. More on that another time but suffice to say as it so often does in cycling, their decency shone and I’ll never forget it. Much like the song I remember playing in the hospital waiting room that night.