Bike Club" unites area's mountain bikers
By Elise Castle
work, four to five days a week, Olivia Castellani, 35, makes her
way from Osimo to Camerano, to the foothills of the Parco Naturale
del Conero. The back seat of her tiny car is filled with her dismantled
mountain bike, the front wheel on the floor with her shoes and pack.
Olivia Castellani is the only female member of Camerano's
"Crazy Bike Club". photo by
will spend the next couple of hours, until the light fades, climbing
the steep, rocky pitch of the mountain, shifting gears when necessary,
and pedaling with strong strokes. The downhill descent is the
prize after reaching the top, and she enjoys a much faster ride, heavy
on the brakes and poised over her seat for maximum balance.
“It helps me to relax,” says Castellani,
describing the Zen state she enters as body and mind reach a harmonic
balance between exertion and meditation, fueled by adrenalin and
endorphins. “There’s no traffic, no cars,” she
says, “and I can hear the birds and smell the trees.”
She rides in all kinds of weather-- chasing the
fading light in the winter, discovering the first wildflowers
in the spring, catching the late sunset in the summer.
races down the trails of the Parco del Conero.
photo by Dixi Baldwin
||Castellani is almost
self-deprecating when describing her skill, but it is clear she
has a natural ability for the sport, and her body bears witness—toned
and muscular, with faint scars from the inevitable crashes that
occur when hurtling down a mountain while balanced on two wheels
on rocky terrain.
Mountain biking as a sport is an import to the country,
as is Castellani, who moved to Italy from Australia when she was
10, after her parents died in a car crash. “I’m an Italian,”
says Castellani, regardless of her blonde hair and striking blue
Apart from occasional visits to Australia, she has
made her life in the Marche region, as well as a name for herself
in the mountain biking scene.
belongs to the Crazy Bike Club, a loosely organized team of riders
of various ages and skills who frequent the trails of the Parco
del Conero. Of the 60 or so members, she is the only woman—a
diamond in the rough in a sport that is largely dominated by men.
“It is a hard sport,” she admits. “Most
young women here prefer to get their hair and nails done.”
Other sports, such as volleyball and soccer, have more female participants,
but mountain biking has yet to catch on with women in central Italy,
although northern Italy has seen more women joining the ranks of
riders in the past few years. When she rides, however, Castellani
looks past the gender differences, enjoying instead the camaraderie
and competition of other bikers. “When I ride, I am one of
them,” she says.
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