Scenes and stories from a small town in the hills of Italy's Le Marche region

"Crazy Bike Club" unites area's mountain bikers
By Elise Castle

After 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.

Biker Bits

Olivia and bike

The passionate trailblazing of Olivia Castellani is captured along the bike trails of Mount Conero.

QuickTime movie by Averyl Dunn

bike pedal

Even the shoes in mountain biking have a rough edge. With them Olivia Castellani can better manuever the area's rocky trails.

photo by Dixi Baldwin


Related Stories

Camerano's Lady Volleyball warriors

Soccer Fanatic and the "Campioni del Mundo"

No it's not rochambeau, it's Italian morra!

Pedestrians Beware! It's the Italian Driving School

Olivia Castellani
Olivia Castellani is the only female member of Camerano's "Crazy Bike Club". photo by Dixi Baldwin

She 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.

Riding with sunCastellani 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 eyes.

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.

Castellani 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.

>>go to page 2

Home | About Camerano Project | Contact Us

Arts & Entertainment | Sports | Family & Faith | Commerce | Community Life | Index

Copyright ©2006 The Institute for Education in International Media