Skip to main content

Our conversation with Eros Poli starts after a long ride, as many conversations here do. Three hours in the mountains, to be precise.

It’s his first ride back in Italy after spending the week before leading his final California tour of 2023 down the coast, and he’s just getting over the jet lag and a bit of a head cold. But at 60, Eros isn’t showing any signs of slowing down except maybe on the longest climbs.

If you’ve been considering a cycling tour and want to ride with a legend on some of the most iconic roads in the US, mark your calendars for one of inGamba’s March tours in California with Mario Cipollini’s lead-out man, Eros Poli. He’ll give you tips on bike handling that were previously reserved for the pros, plus plenty of intel on which wine to order at dinner. And bonus: at 6’4″, he is the perfect man to draft behind if you’re tired on the flats.

Growing up, Poli should not have been considered a candidate for the pro cycling life: He was too tall. But he was determined, and in his early days, a family friend helped him build a bike big enough to accommodate his large frame. It turned out that his long legs could produce massive amounts of power, and once he started racing at 14, he didn’t stop. 

He got noticed. A coach spotted him at local races and advised him on bike setup and strategy. The lesson Poli remembers most? “Never touch the brakes.”

To learn this lesson and to become capable of the fearless style of riding that allowed him to lead out Cippollini, Poli headed to the velodrome to ride fixed-gear track bikes to teach himself to stay off the brakes and hone his sprint skills. He won the individual pursuit National Championship that year and said, “People start talking, asking, ‘Who is this beast, this super big guy?” 

He did his first World Championship race at 17 in Mexico City, and ‘boom!’ His career took off. He left school to focus on his burgeoning cycling career. 

“My dad told me that when I was 21, I would have to start doing something serious, but he would support me in my cycling until then,” Poli recalls. “In 1984, on August 5, I won the gold medal at the Olympic Games… The day before my 21st birthday!”

After his pro career ended, Poli tried a few different careers, including a stint as a restaurant owner, where he learned about Italy’s best food and the best ways to prepare it. (“For this, I learned how to cook and appreciate the food we produce here. I learned about the best quality cheese. The best Italian hams. And, of course, the best wins. It was a perfect wedding for me.”) 

Then, a friend asked him to lead a bike tour with a few friends. Poli agreed, and the rest is history—for the last two decades, he’s been enjoying the touring life.

But how do you stay loving the ride from age 14 to 60? For Poli, it’s about changing with the times. Hills and mountains are more challenging, so he enjoys his ebike more and more often. And when leading tours, it’s all about the connections. “Now, it makes me happy that I can ride a bike and meet new, interesting people,” he says. “I love being able to share my experience and knowledge, give tips on how to ride more efficiently, and use certain tactics.”

So, why was Poli out on a three-hour jaunt in the mountains the morning we spoke? Not only is the Italian countryside in Verona gorgeous in November—good to know if you’re contemplating an Italian cycling tour!—it’s how Poli works off the jet lag from his last trip. 

And, at his age, he says with a laugh, he still loves wine and all the best Italian foods, which require a lot of riding to work off! 


Would you like to find out more about what our different destinations can offer? Book a call with our team now and get some personal advice on the best inGamba adventure for you.

“I have a big problem,” he says with a wink. “I’m 60 years old. I live in an amazing, beautiful area where the food is amazing, but the wine is even better. I don’t know if you love red wine, but if you do, we live in a beautiful area for it. There are grape vines and olive trees everywhere here. And so, I keep training.” 

While Italy offers plenty, Poli still loves riding in California in late fall and early spring. He most recently led a coastal California tour and says it’s a lot of riding, but it feels like a party with old friends the entire time. “Good riding, good food, good wine,” he says. “There’s so much support, and I feel like I get spoiled! Every day is a meal and a massage with the ride.”

Italy and Spain have coastal views and quaint seaside towns, but Poli says there’s something so expansive, so huge, about the Pacific Ocean and the views of it from the Pacific Coast Highway.

“My first trip, I was amazed when we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco for the first time,” he says. “We headed toward Monterey and rode from Carmel to Morro Bay; the views were huge. That’s the only way I can describe it. It was so expansive. In Italy, we have the Amalfi Coast, and in Spain, we have Costa Brava, and they’re amazing rides, but this is something different, something much bigger.”

Parts of California even remind Poli of Italy, with their tough, sustained climb, low traffic roads, and views of vineyards as far as the eye can see. 

The more important question we had to ask Poli: How does the California wine stack up against the fine Italian vintages he’s used to?

It’s all about the Pinot.

“I love the Pinot Noirs from California,” he says. “In Italy, we have great cabernets and other reds, but we don’t have a perfect Pinot Noir. The California ones they’re powerful. Very, very strong wine. And I love that.”

Don’t wait any longer – secure your dream trip now!

Molly Hurford

Molly is the author of Fuel Your Ride, and a Precision Nutrition-certified coach. Her writing has appeared in many leading publications, including Bicycling Magazine and Outside. When she's not writing or coaching, she loves ultra-running and racing on trails, riding bikes, or hiking with her mini-dachshund DW.