My eyes flutter open. I hear birds chirping outside; a hazy beam of golden light shines across my bed, illuminating enough for me to discern the position of the clock’s hands. 9:30!
Have I forgotten how to read these things? A quick check of my phone confirms it. Trying to remember the last time I slept so deeply and blissfully, I open the blinds, and the Tuscan sunshine now overflows into the room. The rolling hills of Chianti, covered in vineyards, orchards, trees vibrant in their springtime glamour, and ancient properties unfold below me, and I feel it.
My stomach rumbles rather unhappily, a quick walk down to Borgolecchi will undoubtedly see this fixed. I’m greeted warmly in Italian: “Ciao Adrien! Buongiorno! Come stai?”
“Molto bene, grazie Inga! E tu, come stai?” My Italian is still extremely rudimentary, but I see a smile creep across her face; I know the effort is appreciated.
The breakfast spread is a sight to behold; I try to stick to my usual cereal, yogurt, and eggs, but the freshly baked cake is too tempting; a slice ends up on my plate, quickly followed by another.
With a full belly, I sit back and discuss the infinite route options with the other guests trickling down from their rooms in the B&B. As I recommend the climb up to Castellina and the roller coaster road down to San Donato, or the beautiful, yet challenging loop through Dudda and Monteluco, I feel the anticipation tingling deep in my legs and up through my body.
Those who know me know I’m not setting any world records when it comes to getting kitted up to ride, but here, I’m almost tempted to pull out a stopwatch one day and set some new PRs. I feel it.
Down at the service course, my steed is patiently awaiting me. In the hands of José, the mechanic, my bike looks newer, shinier, and feels crisper than ever. Sampaio gives me a few panini for the ride, I coordinate massage time with Benji, and after a few jokes and jeers in a very Portuguese version of Spanish, I’m clipped in. Down the hill from Lecchi, through the hairpins, the morning air is still fresh, but out of the shade it hints at the warmth of the day ahead. Spring is in the air. I feel it.
All day I ride up and down these Tuscan hills. The vineyards give way to pine trees, I see Vald’arno in the distance as I climb higher. The countryside unfurls before me; my rhythmic pedal strokes match my breathing, the kilometers tick by. Empty roads, sweeping bends, a new experience beyond every corner, my mind drifts far away yet my whole existence is simplified into this bike ride.
In Radda I pass pink banners with “Radda in Chianti Saluta Il Giro,” shops sell “Il Chianti Classico” shirts, and I follow the “vai, vai, vai” painted on the roads, giving me goosebumps. I’ve caught the pink fever; La Corsa Rosa passed through a week ago but its soul lives on, the passion of a country of tifosi, fans of cycling, vibrates deep in the roots of the local culture. I’m more than feeling it now.
I make my way back to Lecchi in an impenetrably good mood. Even my Italian seems to have improved.
“Buon allentamento oggi, Adrien?” Paolo checks in from his enoteca across the street.
“Questo non è allentamento… è divertimento! Che bellissima giornata..” I reply back, hoping that was coherent enough to describe my day.
A few quick moments later I’m out on the terrace with a glorious plate of spaghetti carbonara before me, trying to immortalize the moment by eating as unhurriedly as possible. Those who’ve spent any time in Chianti can attest that this is a real feat. Setting my feet up, rolling up my shorts to erase the persistent tan lines, I bask like a lizard… they’ve really got it all figured out!
Benji walks by and summons me for a rub.
His muscular hands soon dig deep into my tired muscle fibers. He works my legs like dough; with a masterful combination of knuckle, elbow, and fingers, swooping side to side, up and down, until my legs are so loose they feel like they could be rolled into a pizza. The energy flows out of his hands, into my legs, slowly refilling my body. I fantasize about tomorrow’s ride before quickly dozing off.
The rest of the evening flies by; a succulent dinner with a glass or two of Castello di Ama and I start to hear the bed screaming my name. Another day in Lecchi comes to a close, and in an unfortunately rapid manner, this pattern repeats itself and my departure date sneaks up and the only way I can keep prolonging the experience is by working on this article.
What do I feel? I feel my passion for cycling. I’m twelve years old again, impatiently counting down the minutes in class until I can step onto my bike and be free. I love the wind in my face, the limitless places to explore, the encounters to be had, and the stories to be shared.
My whole existence is once again simplified into, as InGamba so eloquently puts it, “mangia, beve, bici.”
It has been a long (and no doubt successful) spring of living and racing in Europe with the US National Team and my trade team, Axeon-Hagens Berman. As cyclists we’re always unconsciously inside “the bubble;” cycling dominates your every thought, every conversation, every action. We rarely take the time to relax, to enjoy the little things in life.
Our mentality, as is the case for most hardworking people, is that more is always better. It’s easier to head out on a 5-hour ride than to hang the wheels up for a day of rest.
Off the bike, we are so focused on recovery, nutrition, and general strengthening that it’s easy to lose the bigger picture. We forget why we started riding bikes in the first place; what gives fuels the thrill, the enjoyment, the passion. I think most people inevitably feel similar lulls in their own lives and routines, and recognizing them is the first step in maintaining the energy and inspiration that allow us to accomplish so much.
After finishing the arduous Rhone-Alpes-Isere-Tour in France, I simply needed to get away from it all; to take a step back, breathe, eat, and sleep well. When I called up InGamba’s founder, (who occasionally doubles up as my agent) João, and got the opportunity to disappear in Chianti for a week, I booked my Ryanair tickets in a heartbeat, without second thought.
And now, as I prepare to tackle the cobblestones of the mythical Paris-Roubaix and to finish my spring racing campaign in Europe in a strong way, a renewed energy pulses through my body. There’s nothing I can’t do. Even though its the (slightly manure-stinking) Belgian air pouring into my hotel room along with my hazy beam of golden light, and I need to slap on a neck warmer before the ride, and the cake is ominously lacking from the breakfast buffet, I still feel it. I’m inspired to go out on my bike, to pour every last ounce of energy into the pedals, pushing my limits physically and psychologically. My mind drifts back and I feel the tranquility, the serenity, the laid back pace of life I discovered in Chianti that invites you to lounge in the sunshine and do nothing. Invites you to simply be thankful and happy.
And when you’re happy and doing what you love, there’s nothing more powerful. So next time I start to feel my feet dragging behind me and the embers starting to dim, I’ll remember that oftentimes, a small dose of “mangia, beve, bici” is enough to get the fire roaring again.
Adrien Costa is just 18 years old, but he’s already well-known as one of the brightest prospects in American cycling. He currently rides for UCI Continental Team Axeon–Hagens Berman. In 2014 he was US Junior National Time Trial Champion and last season he came second at the Junior World Time Trial Championships. This season he won the overall classification at the Tour de Bretagne Cycliste, one of Europe’s leading events for young talent.
If you’d like to experience our Tuscan HQ for yourself but can’t make it on one of our calendar trips, Borgolecchi is now also available for self-guided stays with different options to create a custom vacation that suits your needs. Find out more here!