It’s late morning on a beautiful sunny September day and I have to pinch myself. I’m riding along the banks of the Tiber river with 50 bartenders, Martini ambassadors, and select media on my way to the inaugural Roma Bar Show. It’s the final few kilometres of the second annual Martini Racing Ciclismo ‘La Classica’ ride.
This journey to Rome began two days earlier and some 301km further North in Arezzo where, fully kitted out in fabulous Martini Racing branded kit from Rapha Custom, on a variety of expensive machinery, we rolled out onto the damp Italian roads. We were a two-wheeled peloton of excitable lycra-clad riders ready to push themselves. For those few days, we forgot we were bartenders, reimagining ourselves instead as cyclists. We encouraged each other up hills, supported one another through the pain, and celebrated together at the end of long days in the saddle.
The group was a mix of experienced speedsters, regular commuters, first-timers and returners, some getting back on the bike for the first time in years. We hailed from as far and wide as Oslo and Sydney. One thing common to all was a determination to get up every climb, enjoy every decent, and proudly ride victoriously into the Roma Bar Show.
Split into four groups (Bitter, Ambrato, Rosato and Fiero), Day 1 was 130km of mostly flat roads with a climb towards the end big enough to test everyone’s fitness levels. The reward? A fast, twisting descent to the finish. The worst of the weather held off for all but the final group, whose poor bedraggled souls rolled into the finish just outside the beautiful hilltop town of Orvieto in the middle of an epic thunderstorm. The weather raged throughout the night, leading to some extensive damage to the surrounding countryside, including knocking out the water supply at our hotel for the second night!
Thankfully, we woke to both dry weather and a hearty breakfast the next morning, including the traditionally terrible Italian coffee. There were beaming faces, sore bums and stories of adventure from the day before. There were 100km of rolling roads ahead of us, including a big climb and a reward of more (terrible) coffee and good food at the top. The pace was fast, with Merlin Griffiths imploring ‘Stop sprinting up hills!’ from the back of the fast ‘Bitter’ group. The day ended with cold showers, an Aperitivo, some well-deserved awards, and a night of high-spirited karaoke.
It was an early start on Day 3, the hotel shrouded in a heavy fog which made the big climb of the day an eerie one, particularly through the orange ‘Tuscan’ tint of my glasses. Once over the top, it was downhill into Rome (although there were a few stressful kilometres through the outskirts of the city with Italians racing their way into work). We took a quick water break at the start of Rome’s cycle path, the sun at its magnificent autumn best, and it was a wonderful, casual roll along the Tiber and then smooth tarmac into the centre of Rome. There was a wonderful welcome for us at the bar show, along with a very well deserved-shower, food and then a cocktail.
Regular exercise has been a core pillar of Healthy Hospo’s message since day one. To see so many industry professionals beaming from ear to ear while pedalling through the Italian countryside really brought to life not only the importance of regular excise for the body but also the enjoyment, companionship and positive impact on mental health, too. As Eddie Rudzinskas put it, with the biggest smile on his face: ‘My body might feel broken, but my mind is very, very happy’.
I’ve been on a lot of brand trips during my time in the industry, and Martini’s La Classica is easily my favourite of the lot. Not just because I get to combine my love of cycling with friends in the industry, but because of the positive impact it has on people’s lives – an impact that lasts long after the saddle sores are forgotten and tired legs have recovered.
Massive thanks to Clive, Danielle, and the rest of the Italy Bike Tours crew for getting us all to the end safely, and to the team at Lab 5 for organising everything so seamlessly. A final special thank you goes to Roberta, Marc and Davide from Martini for making it all happen, and for inviting me along again on this most incredible of experiences.
All film credits go to the incredibly talented videographer, Marco Noe.