Perché no? just recently became ¿Por qué no? Actually, correct that, it became Per què no?
Those translations, all of which read Why Not?, are Italian, next Spanish, and lastly the wild child dialect of Catalan.
I find myself back in Girona, Spain here in 2013 and I’m thrilled to have returned. Having spent the previous two years in Lucca, Italy, I’ve been asked recently why the change. My answer: Per què no?
For a quick back story, when I first jumped the pond to the European peloton in 2009 I spent a very lonely month in the pastoral Swiss countryside before being magnetized to my two-wheeled brethren in Girona. I’m a social dude and hanging with people of my ilk seemed like more fun than hanging with a herd of Swiss cows and aging farm wives named Gertrude (with, of course, all due respect to both Swiss cows and middle aged housewives named Gertrude). Girona has been a cycling hub and destination for decades and in the past few years it really hit its stride. I spent two extremely fun years there through the end of 2010.
I then signed for Liquigas-Cannondale for the 2011 season and without any real roots anywhere, I recognized that transferring to Italy would be an uplifting social experiment as well as a chance to hone my Italian – a wise move as I moved to a team that speaks exclusively Italiano. It is worth pointing out that I went to Italy on my own accord. People often assume that as cyclists we’re living in a bunker as an entire team, but that’s far from the case. I was on my own, as is the case for probably 98% of the pro peloton. Those rare instances where cyclists find themselves at team-owned housing is for a quick weekend escaping bad weather or traveling through out of convenience for an early morning departure to the next race on the team bus located at the service course.
So the past two seasons based in Italy were chalked up as a success. My Italian is now a high level of “functionally fluency” as I call it; I (nearly) always know what’s being said and can (nearly) always say what I want to say. Socially edifying? Absolutely. I made some great friends, learned a thing or two about Chianti Classico, found some outstanding training grounds all throughout the country, and will surely return a dozen years post-cycling with every sight and sound pulling at my heartstrings. Yup, 2011 and ’12 mark two excellent years.
When cyclists are looking for a European cycling HQ, there are a quadruple of requisite bullet point items. I will now bullet point them for you:
- a nearby airport
- a variety of roads – by that I mean, abundant roads and ideally roads with little or no traffic
- ample terrain – pancake flat is nice and all if you’re a farmer, however we want a healthy variety of hills, mountains, and flats… plus everything in between
- amicable weather – by that I mean weather that doesn’t suck
Boom, that’s it. A lot of other secondarily important factors are certainly desired, like friendly people, Michelin starred restaurants, a fun, social atmosphere, nice markets, a lively downtown, and so forth. But in reality the above four bullet points are a magnet for those latter items. Given the first four, you likely find everything you’d ever want in a cycling town.
Towards the end of 2010, a few friends and I did some rough calculations (we call it adding) and came up with about 45 professional cyclists in Girona. Now more than two years later, that number is into the 70s! Clearly, Girona has something people like with Garmin setting up their service course here, as well as lots of GreenEdge, Blanco, UnitedHealthCare, and random smatterings of Sky, Lotto, Saxo, NetApp-Endura, and of course everyone’s favorite, Cannondale.
The first week I back in town in late January and early February, I continually found myself with an ear to ear grin. For whatever reason, Girona has what I was looking for. While Lucca is a phenomenal cycling hotbed and one of the finest places I’ve been lucky enough to call home, I didn’t realize how much I missed Girona until I was back.
A lot of it is simply personal taste; I found that for everything I really liked in Lucca, I found its Catalan partner in Girona. There are some indisputable differences to go along with the subjective ones. Certainly there is less traffic here in Girona, it takes less time to find yourself on sparsely traffic’d training roads, there are more cyclists (for better or worse – this is actually the chief complaint from a lot of cyclists and surely motorists here in town), the climbs are less steep but longer, the roads are wider and are in generally better condition.
Additionally, the Catalan lifestyle is a bonus in my book, as things here just seem más tranquilo. You want something shipped to you? Then do it and it won’t be banging around in customs for months on end. You want to mail something? Then go to the post office and you won’t wait seven hours to buy a stamp. Care to use your cell phone inside? Then I encourage you to do that (…whereas in Italy, cell reception doesn’t penetrate neither a two-inch piece of dry wall nor a two-foot thick stone wall). You need to go to the store? Well then go any day except Sunday! (…comparatively in Italy, they celebrate an inordinate number of random mid-week holidays, unbeknownst to the American cyclists, so that things are seemingly inexplicably closed on a startlingly regularly basis.)
These examples do show that it’s all relative, though, to the Americans living here in Spain since I’ve found that my cohorts think that things operate at a frustratingly sluggish pace here! Meanwhile, I’m basking being back in a country that seems to operate, how do you say… as it’s supposed to. Again, don’t get me wrong, because there’s something charming and novel about the pace of things in Italy. The energy of life is palpable there, whether you see two dapperly dressed, elderly gentlemen on a street corner arguing about surely something as trivial as cheese, or the Fiat 500 that whizzed by you on the road built for the width of just one and a half cars.
Anyway, it’s time to go to bed. It’s only 11pm, so I’m not quite in sync with the Spanish dining lifestyle. I think I can hear my neighbor waking up from siesta now and are thinking about dinner and a trip to the disco. But to answer the question, why am I back? Why not.