NON SOLO BICI: RICCIONE

May in Riccione is equivalent to any Monday in Italy; a day to ease into the work week. On Monday, stores open around noon, avoiding the slap in the face of an early morning after the weekend.  For cyclists, especially for those of us from colder climates, May in Riccione is a rebirth, full of the smells of summer. It is a time to discover new roads and old friends, to test the legs and to set some goals for the months to come. Christopher Balogh explains the attractions of Riccione's Bike Hotels; Paul Wright supplied the pictures.

Riccione is a great base to ride from and boasts some of the best bike hotels and grandfondos in Italy, it truly is not only about the bike. It has a welcoming atmosphere and the quiet season allows visitors to enjoy it together, almost in secret. Walk aimlessly on the long stylish boardwalk. Wander into the most “in” stores and pinch yourself.  The seaside bar and restaurant owners are very available, and the unhurried atmosphere gives rise to conversations and exchanges that could never happen during the frantic summer crush of vacationers.  Somehow, the lycra wearing invaders signal a gentle wake up for what is to come.  

 

The Riviera Romagnola has been a popular and trendy seaside retreat since the 1930’s. Even Benito Mussolini had a villa built in Riccione in 1934. It is known for its great nightlife and also attracts many families in the summer months. Nightlife and theme parks? How exactly do cyclists fit into this formula you may ask? 

Cycle tourism has injected valuable business into the tourist industry.  More than 20 years ago a handful of hotel owners saw the potential to attract more cyclists, who headed inland to experience far off places like San Marino, Verucchio, and Gradara on their racing bikes.  Part of the draw that existed for the early groups of cyclists was the fact that nearby Cessenatico is the home of the great Marco Pantani and also the start town of the largest granfondo in Italy, I Nove Colli ( the nine hills ).  The early groups were from Germany and France,  which still take the top two spots in terms of number of visitors. Number three however is a bit of a surprise considering the distance…. Canada.

For Terrabici, the consortium of Emilia Romagna bike hotels, spring did not always bring this boost in business.

 

“It was not always funny. At first I did it because I had to do it.” explains Stefano Giuliodori, the owner of the popular Dory Hotel and president of Italy Bike Hotels, the extension of the concept which began in Riccione.

 

“I had to take some risks twenty years ago, and now I do it because I enjoy it.”

 

Giuliodori’s  Dory Hotel Experience offers a fully equipped bike room with mechanics, wash stations and high-end rental bikes. The Dory receives riders from all over Europe, the UK, Canada, Australia and the USA. Having hosted the Italian U23 National team’s training camp and several pro teams in preparation for the Giro, the Dory has definitely built a reputation as a cycling mecca. It is not rare to see Romagnolo ex-pro and cycling commentator Davide Cassani moving about the Dory’s mezzanine or to notice the Dory sponsored kits at every granfondo in the region. It did not happen overnight as Stefano explains. Observing him in action, it is easy to see that it all trickles down from his insatiable desire to share the experience of his region.

On an average day at the Dory Hotel, in Riccione, four different guided rides roll out after the famous Dory breakfast. Different distances, average speeds and totally different destinations make for great conversation when the Dory brunch is laid out for the returning cyclists at 3pm. After a few beers, shuffling the 200m to the beach for a soak in Adriatic is exactly what the doctor ordered. 

The Dory Guides ...... are a very special hand-picked lot who know every bump in the road, exude the essence of Italian cycling,  and like their boss, love to share their knowledge with guests.

For those who want to ride with like minded riders, and avoid the minutiae of how to get an early breakfast, which route to ride and how to get your bike back in the box, the Riccione bike vacation awaits you.

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