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The brakes squealed under my feet as I attempted to regain control while racing down the hill. I started to panic and clenched the handlebars with the Vulcan death grip.

Fighting the powerful wind, my eyes watered uncontrollably. My hair flapped wildly. Goosebumps lined my arms in rows like the grape vines in the backyard vineyards to my right.

I succumbed to the freedom that swept away my body and my mind as I rocketed to the bottom of the hill, finally halting with the brakes. Completely surrounded by mountains on all sides, I stood mesmerized and overwhelmed by the scene, straight from a watercolor picture.

I yearned for that rush of adrenaline again. It felt like a newly blossoming relationship where you simply can’t get enough of someone, and it quickly escalates into an absolute obsession.

Admittedly, I became obsessed with cycling after that day.

Now I understand why people in the Marche (mar-kay) region of Italy cycle almost daily — the experience is perfectly overwhelming.

The area’s continuous, rolling hills peak in the mountains of the Apennine range, blanketing the landscape in rich tones of greens. Le Marche is home to bountiful wildlife and many national parks. Several smaller rivers cut through the mountains, providing a calming, soothing atmosphere for cyclists.

The mild, favorable climate and steep hills are the two reasons why cyclist and bicycle shop owner Walter Basili thinks both locals and foreigners favor Le Marche.

“Summer is the best season to cycle. But, because of Italy’s nice weather, everyone cycles throughout the entire year,” he said.


Basili lives and trains in Le Marche, a relatively unexplored, less populated region that attracts thousands of local and international cyclists each year.

Although Basili has never competed in the famous Giro d’Italia, he has participated in and won numerous competitions in Italy as well as other European countries.

“The most memorable thing about these races is the experience of cycling with foreigners and forming friendships,” said Basili.

He received the silver medal in a race in Manchester, England, and now proudly displays the medal above the cash register of his shop.

Basili is the captain of a cycling team that includes 40 participants in Cagli, a small city in Le Marche.

Road cycling races vary in duration and number of competitors. Some, like the Giro d’Italia, are demanding, and take several days or weeks. Others are purely for entertainment.

The Giro d’Italia covers over 200 km and attracts more than 10,000 cyclists from around the world, similar to the Tour de France. The lead cyclist at each checkpoint of Giro d’Italia receives a pink jersey to wear during the following leg of the race. This year, the Giro d’Italia began in Reggio Calabria and ended in Bologna, as it does every year.

In order to place well in these races, cyclists like Basili must train relentlessly for two to three months prior to each race.

The typical training that competitive cyclists endure is intense, requiring much dedication and perseverance. Basili said that he and his team train two to three hours per day, covering at least 70-80 km on routes extending from the mountains in Cagli to the beaches of the Adriatic Sea. Cyclists also eat strict diets, consisting mostly of protein-rich foods, and they also supplement their diets with several types of vitamins.

In this region, though, cycling is mostly recreational rather than competitive. The picturesque scenery in Le Marche and nearby regions of Umbria and Tuscany has attracted cyclists from around the world. These three regions of Italy are the most popular cycling sites in the country, and among the most favored in the world, according to Cycle Italia, a web magazine devoted to the sport.

Not only does Le Marche’s scenery appeal greatly to road cyclists but the region has also become a popular area for mountain bikers because of the trails throughout the mountains.

Salvatori Tommaso, a local mountain biker who lives in the region of Umbria, comes to Cagli regularly because he is a member of the Basili cycling team.

“The scenery here makes Le Marche a great place to cycle,” said Tommaso. “This is why I come here so often.”

This region provides a peaceful environment for cyclists because it contains less populated towns, allowing cyclists to explore the winding roads without the threat of motor vehicles — a nice change from the chaotic cycling experience in the United States and larger European cities.

As a sport, the popularity of cycling has increased thanks to icons like the United States’ Lance Armstrong and Italy’s Marco Pantani, both of whom have inspired many Italians to develop an obsession with cycling.

Pantani, who recently died of a heart attack, was the last man to win both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia in the same year.

“Pantani is the idol of Italy because even though he didn’t always win the way Lance Armstrong did, he put on a show in each of his races. It was exciting to watch him,” Basili recalled.

I felt the excitement in Basili’s voice as he idolized Pantani, and I recalled my cycling trip through the mountains. The watercolor picture refreshed again in my mind.

“I can see why cyclists from around the world travel here just to cycle,” Tommaso said. “It is the perfect environment.”

I could not agree more.