Back to the Roots
The birthplace of my experience as an isolés was in Tuscany. I fell in love with the place on gentle climbs surrounding San Baronto, a sense of newfound independence and individualism that rose with the grade. A dream of mine had brought me to Italy, as I was selected to ride for the Finauto Yomo Sport Team U23 Squad.
For a young rider with lofty aspirations, Tuscany was a fairy-tale landscape. While I struggled with injuries early that year, I relished the opportunity to ride solo for 5 to 6 early morning hours while the team was away racing. I got to know the roads and the Italian countryside. It was my first exposure to the sensation of being out on my own on the bike.
One of my early teammates from those days, Giovanni Visconti, went on to achieve massive success on the road, including three Italian Championships and 28 victories throughout the course of his long career. My career waned after my time training in Italy. The injuries lingered and a lack of talent became apparent after comparing myself to the likes of Visconti and Nibali.
Talent differentials aside, Visconti and I share many of the same passions in life, as well as a deep attachment to the roads of Tuscany. To celebrate the launch of an isolés collection inspired by those roads, we reconvened, meeting at a our old café - Bar Indicatore and discussing the recent Liege-Bastogne-Liege over espresso before a ride.
We head out for an easy, conversational roll. I take in the sensation of familiar roads under the wheels: the dappled light through the trees, the olive trees, fog, and the smells of herbs wafting through the valleys. I’m not entirely sure what so firmly plants the place in his memory but as I ride with my old friend, I’m awash in nostalgia.
We catch up on life: Giovanni’s racing, kids, family, old teammates, my cycling apparel design (all with materials sourced from Italy). We’ve been busy, and our kit summarizes our divergent paths. He’s in the Bahrain Merida team jersey, adorned with sponsors and won titles. I’m wearing my new collection, with its Scandinavian minimalism and colour blocking.
We talk about how fast the sport has gotten, how distinctly professional the air of it all. I wonder if it’s moving away from what we both love about the sport. As we remember old times, we realize how much we still have in common. That which draws us to the bike is the same after all these years. Of course, the fame and triumph have left their mark on my old training partner, but I realize it’s the sensation of isolés that keeps him on his bike. It’s the same feeling I get when I head out for a solo ride and find myself on a lonely climb, silently making my way through a dramatic landscape.
There’s a distinct nostalgia that comes with remembering one’s early days in cycling. It’s rife with the melancholic sensation that for all our chasing we may never have more than a glimpse at that same purity and oneness.
This is the beauty of isolés. No one owns it and anyone can have it—kids, men, women, old-timers or pros. This is the feeling you have when moving through space on your own, completely connected. This is what brings Giovanni and me together, and as we ride together, I realize we share it once again.