Wine trade does Giro di Toscana: day 4 – Il finale via Fonterutoli
Four consecutive days of cycling across Tuscany for charity are over, featuring extremes of weather, road surface, topography, bottle formats and personalities.
For my closing report on the Giro di Toscana in aid of The Benevolent, I’m going to tackle the last of my list of extremes first – as it was our finale that entrenched my view of the Italian temperament, or at least those we met from this Mediterranean nation.
You see, extremes in personality were definitely apparent in our fellow cyclists from the two key regions of Tuscany, where the owners of Montalcino’s Ciacci Piccolomini and Chianti Classico’s Castello di Fonterutoli mixed a laid-back charm with great sporting drive.
As previously mentioned, from day 1 we were joined by the owner of Ciacci Piccolomini, Paulo Biachini, a former-professional cyclist, who told me he’d spent 20 years riding on average 100km a day during his career of competing – and now, aged 58, retains a remarkable hill-climbing figure (see picture, below).
Both he, and his similarly-aged sales manager Mauro, cycled with us to the end, proving their extraordinary levels of fitness, and showing an excitable urge to push themselves, while at the same time appearing unfazed by the demands of life, sipping coffee and smiling between bouts of intense exercise, as though life had no downsides.
As for the representation from Fonterutoli, for the last day, a further two figures joined the peloton: owner of the property, Marchesi Francesco Mazzei and his wife Elisabetta.
And they were formidable cyclists, leading us for the entire length of day 4, which comprised short steep climbs under the shade of pine and chestnut, with long enjoyable descents on open roads that reached out into the wheat-covered valleys.
But with them at the helm, despite their age (Francesco is 60 years old), the pace was the fastest of the tour so far, while the ascent to Fonterutoli itself, which sits at over 500m above sea level, was done with the determination of time-trialling cyclists, not an aristocratic couple leading some worn-out winos to lunch.
Indeed, for the final few hundred metres of a 7km ceaseless climb to the castello, Francesco lifted himself from the saddle so he could use the full force of his upright body to sprint to the top. It was an impressive show, and he admitted after we had arrived at Fonterutoli that he had nothing more to give.
He then returned to his previous form of the mellow marchesi as lunch was served under a canvas canopy with the vineyards of Chianti Classic beneath, while their liquid produce was generously poured to us from a 6-litre bottle (which, it should be noted, contained Fonterutoli’s top expression of Sangiovese – the Gran Selezione).
Such a format had just pipped a serve from the night before – where Paolo had bountifully brought us his top Brunello in a 5-litre bottle, before decanting its delicious contents: a Sangiovese from the 2007 vintage, which was then followed by magnums from 1997.
Yes we had been spoiled, but such meals, although major in our memories, were a minor part of the four-day tour in terms of time – we had passed many more hours driving wheels round and round under a hot sun, over grit and gravel, and up varying gradients, travelling almost 400km by the end.
And the aim? That was to raise much-needed funds for drinks trade charity The Benevolent, which, with almost £30,000 now amassed between us, is the most satisfying feat of the Giro di Toscana.
So, for that reason alone, I must finish by saying thank you very much to all our sponsors – you have driven us to such extremes, and given justification to our efforts.