Is this what a pro feels like?
Ali had just handed me some new Parentini Test Team kit, bright and jewel like in their clear plastic wrapping. Excitedly I quickly opened them. Which is probably not what a pro does, used to being handed free kit left, right and centre, they probably throw the packets into their kit bag, ready for when they need them.
So 5 mins later, there I was, stood in the entrance to Epoca Cycles factory in Rosa, close to Bassano del Grappa in Italy’s Veneto region, holding in my hand – socks, mitts, a pair of bibshorts and what appeared to be a very lightweight and thin short sleeve jersey. All resplendent in the Parentini Test Team red.
Parentini’s Test Team kit, is part of their Team & Club collection. This range is available for any team or club to customise, and offers a great range of clothing, including 4 types of jersey. So before opening the packets I didn’t know which one of the striking red tops I had. I was pleased to find out I had in my hand the C1033 P.Race Extreme Jersey. This is the top of the range and is an aero race cut jersey, completely figure hugging and sporting laser cut, ‘longer sleeved’ short sleeves. Anatomically cut, the jersey features Parentini’s ‘T-cut’, where a panel runs from the neck, along the top of the shoulders and down the arm. This design stops the material bunching up at the back of the neck, which can often happen with other jerseys. I slipped it on, and was glad I had a light breakfast. This jersey doesn’t suffer overweight fools! I wear a Medium in Parentini tops, and I was worried that I would need the next size up. But slipping it over my head (it features a ¾ length hidden zip) it fitted perfectly – the expertly tailored thin fabric hugging my every contour. It looked tight but didn’t feel tight, and was light as a feather. I felt like a pro – especially with the longer sleeves that finish just above the elbow. Laser cut edges to these sleeves and the rubber soft touch zip logo detail add the finishing touches to this superb looking jersey.
Ali, who works for Zetta Distribution (the guys who look after Parentini in the UK), is passionate about the products he represents, and excitedly explained the technical details that go into this jersey. It’s made with two versions of elastic fresco fabric, that utilises Carbon Aid technology. The carbon has two purposes – it speeds up the evaporation of sweat, keeping a good constant temperature, and also has anti-bacterial properties, making the jersey more hygienic and reducing odours! The majority of the jersey uses a close knit version of the fabric, with a more open ‘pore’ style used on the back, to dissipate heat quickly and speed up sweat evaporation.
So it sounded like the perfect jersey for the ride I was about to embark on. I’d travelled over to Epoca with a romantic notion. To pick my new bike up and give it it’s maiden outing on the iconic and challenging Monte Grappa.
Ali and Peter (also from Zetta) had been to Monte Grappa once before. That time it’s upper slopes had snow on them. Which was a striking contrast to Sunday’s 20+ degrees. It was gorgeous weather – sunny, with just a touch of wind.
Joined by two friends of Valentino (who is the head honcho at Epoca), who were to be our guides, we set off. It was great having some local Italians along for the ride, even if they did look like ex-pro’s, but to be honest you don’t need them in this area. Monte Grappa looms large in the distance. You can’t miss it.
Rosa and Bassano del Grappa sit on a flat plain nearly at sea level and apart from a false flat as you leave Rosa to head for the climb, you arrive at the bottom of the mountain at 132 metres above sea level (434ft) and immediately start climbing. No little rises or foothills. Just flattish road then BANG.
There are about 10 routes up this beast. We went up the longest one which starts in Romano d’Ezzelino. 27kms of climbing – up to 1775m. This was going to take a while.
As I suspected, as soon as we hit the slopes, the two Italians didn’t slow down and taking Ali with them, off they pedalled. One of them in the big ring. All the way up. For some extra training.
Not knowing the climb, and on a new bike, I took it steady, trying to get a feel for the new frame and set up. Keeping my rpm as high as possible, after a couple of ‘tornate’ , I suddenly knew what it was like to be a bottom dweller in the sea, as, like a giant Manta Ray, a large shadow slowly moved over me. I looked up to see a hang glider silently floating over on its way to land. It seems that Monte Grappa isn’t just a playground for cyclists.
On I went, glancing to the left to see the view, and revel in how much elevation gain I’d made in such a short amount of time. The sun beat down, and I was glad of the lightweight Extreme jersey. I didn’t feel hot, although I knew I was sweating. More tornate ticked off, it dawned on me how comfortable this jersey was. Gianpaolo Parentini has a mantra – “there’s something not right if you feel your cycling kit on”. He’s got it right with this jersey. It didn’t feel like I was wearing it, it’s light weight and well thought out tailored cut, fitted perfectly. I could just concentrate on turning the pedals up the 27km climb, and not keep fiddling with my jersey, which I’ve been prone to do with other brand’s tops. For me, that’s the sign of a well designed product – if you forget about it, it’s just there doing its job quietly and efficiently.
Which was ironic. My kit and bike were working well and efficiently, it’s a pity I wasn’t. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve ridden up long climbs, the last one being Le Semnoz near Annecy. And that was ‘only’ 18km and 1160 metres. So I was a bit out of practice at riding these long hauls. Still, it wasn’t a race, and I was supposed to be enjoying it.
After riding over an hour, I rode through a flattish section, on a road that curved around a mini meadow and came across some buildings and stalls. Ali and our two guides were waiting next to a bar. So once Peter arrived shortly after, we downed some Coke’s. I don’t know what it is about this sickly sweet liquid, but the only time I ever want to drink it is at the top of some mountain.
So setting off again, we started descending. Great I thought, that’s Monte Grappa ticked off then. We dropped for a little while, then hit a wooded section that dragged up a bit, and the Italians started putting the hammer down. “So this must be the sprint for the summit”. I could handle this pace on this gradient, so I sat on their wheels. Then we hit a sharp right, the gradient increased and I heard one of the Italians say “Cima. Dieci chilometro”. Even with my limited grasp of this beautiful language I understood what he meant.
There was still 10kms to go.
“Is that true Ali” – I asked. “Yep, and it gets steeper near the top”.
My head went. For the next few kms, as we climbed out of the tree line and entered a different, granite strewn landscape, I struggled. My speed dropped and I started cursing this mountain.
Peter caught me up, and we chatted for a few tornate. Then I started speeding up again. It might have been the coke or the conversation, either way I started feeling good again and climbed a little quicker, bit-by-bit making my way to the top. The air was clearer up here, the scent of pine had disappeared with the last of the trees and the temperature had dropped with the sun having decided to have a siesta. Green pastures were punctuated by grey, granite, outcrops. It was difficult but stunning up here.
Then around a gentle curve I could see the summit, a few buildings sat there along with the impressive Monte Grappa War memorial to the left. A few more minutes turning the pedals and I was diving into the cafe at the top. It was here where I cursed having a light breakfast. I was starving. Apple strudel was never devoured so quickly.
I stood with Ali and Peter admiring the spectacular view – the flat plains of the Veneto spread out in front of us, as far as the eye could see. Which on a clear day was pretty far. I was sure I could make out my house back in Yorkshire. I started telling the Zetta boys how impressed I was with the Extreme jersey. They told me how I’d be even more impressed when I wore it with the right type of base layer. I was wearing a polyester short sleeve. Ali had a Parentini sleeveless layer on made of polypropalene. I was warm but whereas my jersey was wet, his was completely dry. The different base material transporting the sweat far more efficiently. My base layer was keeping hold of it for far longer, the Extreme jersey doing it’s best to get rid of it.
Which meant for the 17km drop (down a different route) I donned my K-Dry gilet. Hitting speeds of nearly 40mph, it’s windproof material kept the wind chill off my chest.
This is the beauty of suffering up big mountains. You’re rewarded with great descents, that can take up to half an hour to complete. The route we took down Monte Grappa was superb. The views of open pastures at the top suddenly gave way to hairpin after hairpin, hidden within the aromatic trees. Slowly but surely, I got used to the new bike and new wheels, and started getting more confident and consequently – quicker. The Epoca was so stable, and went where you pointed it, it’s neutral steering instilling great confidence. The full carbon clincher Miche SWR RC wheels were stiff and accelerated quickly after each hairpin, helping to get back up to speed. And knowing they’d been developed for a few years, I was confident that the brake surface could handle the hard braking into each corner.
It’s something you don’t notice as you climb a mountain slowly, but descending at a far greater speed, you’re acutely aware of the changes in temperature, especially when we plunged into the tree line, and the sun shone through again. This was bliss – flying down, the sun’s warmth counter balancing the wind chill, and the various scents filling your nostrils on the way down.
All too quickly it was over. I then had the pleasure of the false flat in our favour as we made our way back to Epoca. The speed started to increase, and I could test out how the R60 transferred leg power. Pretty well it turned out. The immense down tube and bottom bracket does a great job of not wasting any energy, and propels you forward. Getting low on the drops, the Parentini Extreme jersey didn’t flinch. It was as comfortable in this position as it was climbing the Grappa. Thanks to its figure hugging, anatomic cut there was no excess fabric flapping in the wind – the jersey helping to maintain the increasing breakneck speed as we headed onward to Rosa and Epoca’s factory.
Coming to a halt in the factory car park, I realised that I was one lucky guy. There’s not many people could pick up brand new, premium quality equipment and kit up at the manufacturer’s factory, and then instantly test it to the extreme on an iconic mountain. But that’s what I’d just experienced.
Yep, I imagine this is what it must be like being a pro.
The C1033 Extreme jersey retails for £80. Pro quality at a great price.