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You missed out. Those of you who didn’t make it onto our collaboration tour, the collaboration with our friends at La Fábrica Girona, you missed out. There will be another chance or two in 2017, but you missed out on the inaugural collab.

We had a great week. As ever in Girona. Just with the added embrace of Amber, Christian and the La Fab team, at close quarters, over dinner, coffee roasting, sending Christian off on his retirement tour to Japan and generally chewing the fat on and off the bike.

The riding and coffee, of course, were was rather fine too.

So, you missed out. There’s plenty happening in Girona in 2017. We are there, front and centre, all year, every year, choose a trip and come explore the centre of European cycling culture.

 

 

On the way to the Dolomites cycling trip in July (our long read here) we made the most of our time in Italy by visiting Rocket Espresso, on the edge of Milan. Our hosts, Nicky and Andrew Meo – the driving forces and owners of Rocket – opened their factory doors, showed us around and took us for lunch. If Nick and I didn’t have the Dolomites on the horizon, we may never have left.

One of the things I admire in people is risk taking, a leap of faith in life. Think of those who we look at and say, “you’re so lucky!” and often behind that vision is a big decision, a sacrifice, that leap of faith. Nicky and Andrew left a financially comfortable and successful food and coffee business based lifestyle behind in New Zealand and chose a new path; followed their hearts and dreams of oft said ideas to change their lives, and upped and moved to Italy.

In New Zealand, their story was the successful Wellington restaurant, Pravda and roasting house, The Immigrant’s Son and – in as much as there is in such a line of work – a good guarantee of success and income. But restaurant life compromises family life, and there were those dreamlike thoughts of going to Italy. The stars perhaps aligned, right timing, an opportunity, the right connections but then they still had to do it. And so, in 2007, plans were made to take over (with friend and colleague Jeff Kennedy) the struggling Italian firm ECM – parent company of Rocket – and moved the family across the globe.

Condensing 9 years does an injustice to the hard work ironing out operational issues, filling long standing back orders from ECM, aligning and an invaluable partnering with Daniele Berenburch (the son of ECM co-founder), bringing in a bit of Kiwi cultural approaches and re-marketing, re-naming and modernising the whole brand. But therein, plus more, is the overnight success. A 9 year overnight success.

That Kiwi culture has brought open plan offices and open door policies and a new world coffee culture. Melding that with the traditional Italian manufacturing excellence and pride and its own long coffee history of repute has been part of the change and challenge at Rocket.

That crisp clean, bright and relaxed, open plan office area lie within Rocket’s understated factory – from the outside, just another of Milan’s understated factories. On into the Rocket factory itself, even when we were there in a quiet period, there is a gentle hum of organised activity; again, a bright and relaxed environment. I guess that management adage about setting an example from the top rings true. Organised, yet relaxed. And above the factory space is an in house R&D area – itself developing and growing – and a maintenance area; these keep aim to keep them ahead of the game and on top of the existing products.

Most who know of Rocket, know they are tied closely to cycling. My friend Christian Meier, of La Fabrica Girona and Espresso Mafia (see our special October trip), through whom I was introduced to Andrew, is the Spanish dealer for Rocket and it seems the majority of the pro peloton has a Rocket…well, you are faster with a Rocket in your kitchen #fact. Andrew still races his bike, and son – Felix – races in the younger ranks. Indeed Rocket supports various youth riders around the world. I am not sure who is the stronger cyclist of the two, though, Andrew, a self confessed jack of all trades, is probably losing the Italian language race though. Dealing with overseas clients largely (Rocket is a predominantly export firm; Germany, UK and Australasia strong markets), he has a ready made excuse. Nicky is perhaps better, while Felix, practically fluent, is at the head of this New Zealand escape group. Together, clearly, a formidable team.

I am all for taking risks and chasing a change of direction. It’s nice to know that, when I save up for a Rocket, I will know it’s a machine built on dreams, on a risk and on a philosophy of doing things the right way. Life is worth taking risks, Rocket Espresso is a success story as proof.

Cycling tour in Girona. I’ll keep it brief. It was a fabulous, eventful, challenging, steep roads, long, fast, exhilarating, educational, friendship re-affirming, adventurous, caffeine filled, coffee bean roasting, culture nourished, hugs laden cops and robbers trip.

A Sommet Cycling holiday!

We loved Girona before. We are now infatuated with it, is riding and it’s the people; our friends.

Until next time! Thanks friends…

Now, we are not a cycle race review or report site, but as this is one of our local cycle races…

I didn’t get to the stage yesterday sadly, as it headed up into the mountains of La Molina and I would have loved to. However, as you know we have good friends around here and one of the La Fabrica Race Team that we sponsor and I shoot for, is a fine photographer and he went to the stage.

Meet Jordi Carruana. The bearded one of La Fab Race Team. (Perhaps to them as Geoffrey Soupe? is to Cofidis this year – third shot in the sequence…).

He was at the start in G-Town and then up at La Molina for the finishing throws and has been gracious enough to share some images with us. Muchisimas gracias amigo, nos vemos pronto. Find him on his Instagram and maybe cross paths with him on a G-Town trip…! (Warning, he is strong on the pedals as well as on the shutter release!).

Just a very small set of shots from a single spot on a lovely climb out of Girona as La Volta passed through on Stage 2.

I was a little selfish and a little pre-occupied. Riding around beforehand, grabbing a coffee and breakfast in La Fabrica, then doing some work on the bike with our La Fabrica Race Team and doing some shots with a few of them after. Which left just a little time to choose one spot and get these.

A rather nicely balanced day.

 

A little late, but I have a good reason in that I could barely function yesterday after hanging on to Christian Meier’s wheel as he motor paced me around 100+km of stunning Girona countryside. It didn’t help that I tried to stick with him on his hill reps. I managed the shorter ones, but as soon as it got serious…gone. Even the Haribo didn’t save me. Anyway, that’s my excuse for putting this up today.

So, on from last week’s Telegraph Cycling Podcast suggestion, if you are like me a good coffee would go nicely with that listening pleasure. I thought I would pop into this little slot, Rocket Espresso machines, of Milan. They are simply the business. Sadly we don’t have one, yet (hint hint, Andrew!), but I have seen plenty of them and read plenty about them and tasted plenty of coffee from them. And, in case you didn’t know, “with a Rocket Espresso machine in your kitchen you will be faster #fact”. Confirmation I need one.

They are the coffee machine of the Pro cyclists.

Pre and post that wonderful suffering on the bike I was lucky enough to have spectacular coffees from two different Rockets. An Ethiopian from Espresso Mafia’s brand new sparkling white Rocket (I was in Girona for the launch of Espresso Mafia, a whose who of ex-pat Pro Cyclists; Christian and Amber’s latest coffee haven) – then a Nicaraguan from the Rocket in good old La Fabrica. Both made by Christian.

If you can’t get a Rocket for your kitchen, give us a shout and we will get you on the road in Girona via a Rocket coffee from Mafia or La Fabrica. It’s not your kitchen so we can’t guarantee you will be faster…

Sommet for the Weekend. Enjoy Milan Sanremo.

If proof was needed that we support and are supported by the areas where we take our journeys then this is a good start. We are proud to announce that at the start of this year La Fabrica Coffee Works launched their very own cycle race team. La Fabrica Race Team.

La Fabrica is part of our Girona trip as it will fuel us with caffeine and goodies each day. It is run by Christian Meier, of Orica Greenedge, and his wife Amber and I have been drinking coffee their since the very first day having been their photographer from the start. That relationship has developed and I now call Christian and Amber friends and I have been invited to extend the photographic connection to be the photographer for the Race Team and we have been able to become co-sponsors of the team – along with some very prestigious local and international brands.

Not only is it pretty cool to see our name alongside other fancy names and not only is it great to be helping out a local bunch of really talented young riders, but we hope it will garner some interesting trip options. We have our standard Girona trips – which are far from standard, they are special in their own right. But then we are hoping to add in some Girona options to ride with the guys on the team on a couple of days of a long weekend Escape. These guys are good riders, I mean, really quite strong riders. So this would be a trip to push yourselves hard. And it will prove that Girona has more than enough hurt potential in her locker for anyone out there who thinks they need massive mountain ranges for epic challenges. Anyway, one for the back burner, let us know if you fancy some hurt though.

That said, these guys – along with Christian – are super nice kids. They just love riding bikes. So while they might be able to hurt us mere mortals, they get the ethos of riding with mates. It’s high time I got back an hour up the Autopista and rode with them and took a few shots for them and to share here. Always a pleasure.

Stay tuned for regular updates of the Team and also for opportunities for those extras on a Girona trip in 2016.