Mantova • Campo Canoa
june 7-9 2024

Mantova • Campo Canoa
june 7-9 2024

Punching the wind

Thursday, 25 May, 2023

vènto s. m. [lat. vĕntus; sign. acceptations from Spanish viento]. – 1. a. In meteorology, movement of atmospheric air masses that occurs horizontally, from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure

“when you meet those who do the Pamir highway coming from Europe, pedaling with the wind behind their backs, you get a little pissed off. They don’t know what fatigue is. I tried to punch it, the wind.” Alessandro Gallo, back home from Shanghai by bike, explains to me that cycling back to Europe from Asia means doing it against the wind. A wind that blows in the desert, that knocks you off your feet, that is worse than a climb. Wind that blows all the time, that lets you do only a few kilometers a day and dries your face.

For those who have traveled by sailboat, the wind is a kind of science: you know its names, its timing, its direction.

There is the Meltemi, the wind of the Greek islands; the Mistral, which becomes a wall in the Straits of Bonifacio; the Sirocco, which brings high water to Venice; the Trade Winds, which pushed the first ships to America; or the Ora and Peler, which is precise as a bell tower and make surfers play on the Garda lake.

For cyclists, winds have no name, they are not studied.

Making a list of them is easy, because there are only two kinds: those that are ignored, when behind their backs, and those that are blasphemed, if they blow in their faces.

Polesine cyclists ride the empty roads of the estuary using the wind as if it were a climb: you go 20 km h, you come back at 50; better not vice versa.

Never start downhill, in the Polesine it means “remember to start into the wind.”

The wind of Iceland

Roberto Gazzoli is someone who uses a bicycle to cross the world. On one of his first trips, to Iceland, he was told by a local that cycling on the coast could be “pretty windy.” “Now I don’t know if it was my still stunted English or the eagerness to get there, but of that “pretty windy” I understood only the “pretty” and set off on a beautiful sunny day. Like every day, within a few minutes the weather changed, a terrible wind came up from the ocean and it began to rain. The wind was so rushing that I could not tell if it was raining or if it was the ocean water coming perpendicular to the road. It was as if someone was aiming the jet of a fire hydrant at my side. I continued like this for a few hours, constantly leaning to the left so as not to lose my balance, which would punctually fail when a car passed me or the wind suddenly dropped. After several falls I was approaching a small town when I was overtaken by a bus. My mind clearly saw the end of the adventure; I reached the bus just in time, bought a ticket and arrived soaked in the Icelandic capital, comfortably seated.”

The wind in your thoughts

Michele Boschetti, whom many in the bike and mountain world know as Nure, is a reference for those who love bikepacking. “My wife told me a beautiful anecdote one day. She told me that her high school teacher told her one day that she was biking because the wind in her face put her ideas in order. At that moment I realized that if I think of the bicycle, the air in my face comes to mind. The kind of air that keeps you company, that goes straight into your lungs and makes you breathe, that makes you ride, that air that makes us feel alive. And that settles our minds.”

As one who sits on the bike, as one who does not speak

Dino Lanzaretti has cycled all over the world. Last year he became the first man to cycle in the Siberian winter without coming to the (bad) end of the two previous travelers. “In Patagonia, in California, in Pamir, in Turkmenistan, in Mongolia. Always had the wind against me. I don’t know what I did wrong; I am destined for the wind against me. So when someone asks me for advice, I always tell them to go the opposite way from me.

The wind is like having someone sitting on your bike, pulling you back, not talking. The cold, the heat, the snow transform the landscape, making it green, dry or white, but the wind doesn’t change anything; it freezes you, invisible, cowardly, without showing itself.”

Talking to the wind.

“is a monster that you don’t see in your face; the rain, the snow, the sun, they are solid, you see them around you, in the landscape. Not the wind, it is a faceless enemy, pushing you back,” says Alessandro Gallo. “Even if you are in the most incredible places, like the great Asian highlands, the wind is a beast you fight with. When you get to the evening, again you have to fight to pitch the tent, to light the fire. You live by the monster: the wind.

Your eye, though, eventually returns to the real, to the beauty. And somehow you make peace with it.

Only once, in Iran, during the winter, I didn’t make it.

That day, with the bad weather and the wind, even my eye had no vanishing point. It didn’t have the sun and the landscape.

I shouted at the wind. I insulted it. And then, finally, I realized that I was talking to the wind. Like in proverbs.”