Pansèrs invade London

Photo: Sabrina, Leonardo, Rodolfo, Maddalena, Nadia, Giovanni, Patrizia and Marco. The Pansèrs arrive in London in tour kit. Pansèr is the nickname for La Centinarolese. It’s a play on words using the Fanese dialect name for stomach (pansa). Pronounced “Pan-sair”. It has nothing to do with German tanks.

Four wonderful days of fun. The second twinning event between Islington Cycling Club and the Pansèrs took place over the long weekend.


Friday 15th

“No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy” (Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, 1800-1891). So it proved even before the Pansèrs arrived. David and Catriona were there to drive the Pansèrs to their hosts. Catriona stepped in at the last minute as her husband David had to go to the doctors that morning, so very kind of her. I was there with a van to collect their bikes and drop them off at each hosts. They were then supposed to put their bikes together and meet for a short assimilation ride in the afternoon.

The plan changed again as they announced that they only had one set of tools, and expertise, to put the bikes together. Marco would do them all. So began a five hour driving marathon to drop off pairs of bikes at a time, put them together then on to the next host. Abi, David, Cliff, then finally us.





Our plan to meet at 15:00 also needed changing. David cleverly suggested the six completed bikes head off on the planned route and we, the last bikes to be put together, would ride the course in reverse and meet up. The ride started at The Woodman pub and ended at Ally Pally. By the time Marco, Nadia and I got through the London traffic we met the rest just as they arrived at Ally Pally.


We had no choice but to head to the pub and take in the views across London. I briefed the Pansèrs on the procedure for Saturday morning’s laps of The Regent’s Park, including group formation, speed and change procedures. Some wag decided to capture my explanation of  ‘change two’.

For dinner the Pansèrs had exactly what they asked for. Fish and chips. Naturally enough they had never heard of mushy peas, nor the process of putting vinegar on chips then salt to stick to the vinegar. All part of the cultural exchange. Gio liked it so much he ate it twice. First, cod and chips, then plaice. I think we’ll call him Gio “2 fish” Mare from now on.


At our place we finished the night with a moretta fanese, a drink usually only available in Fano. It was an exchange after all.



Saturday 16th

Every Saturday morning, outside the zoo entrance in The Regent’s Park you’ll find ICCers ready to complete and hour of laps before heading for coffee and chat. This week was to be a special Italian edition. I announced the Italian riders presence and they received a cheer and a round of applause by way of welcome. The Pansèrs introduced themselves in English. [My name is Marco, I am from Fano]* I say the Pansèrs, it was a very Italian affair as half of them were late. In Italy, lateness is so common that they would have just waited until everyone was there, but this is London. Everyone headed off for laps at the appointed time. Once the latecomers arrived we had enough for two groups with ICCer’s Abi and Sero in one group and me and Hannah in the other.


It didn’t take long for more Italian style to emerge. Despite explaining that we leave the sprinting to the last lap, Gio decided to attack the group on lap two. [My name is Marco, I am Italian]* We strung out until he got tired and reformed for a few final laps followed by coffee, cake and chat.


On the way home we stopped for a great photo of riders from both clubs.


That afternoon Jan and I became tour guides as we walked the City of Westminster taking in Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, The Mall, Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park, Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster and the Thames. The highlight was of course the pub. Each spring I take out a different English beer for the Pansèrs to try. This year I took Spitfire. In the Westminster Arms they enjoyed a pint of it on draft. [My name is Marco, I am from Fano. I no drink for 5 minutes, I am very appy]*


That night, we were joined by a ‘9th Pansèr’. Peter, a Londoner living in Fano happened to be in London this weekend so joined us for the dinner and Sunday’s ride. The ICC Committee hosted a dinner for the Pansèrs in, you guessed it, a pub. The Pansèrs enjoyed a meal that they’d never had before at The Cellars.

  • Prawn cocktail
  • Roast lamp rump, sweet potato gratin & bobby bean
  • Mixed berry and raspberry meringue, lemon curd drizzle
  • British cheese plate

TIJ dinner

The formalities included speeches and exchanges of gifts for each club to commemorate the weekend.

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Sunday 17th 

The Italian Job. A 107km ride to and from Finsbury Park, stopping at the Italian deli Filippetto’s half way round, hence the name of the ride. Naturally, we started with espresso. [My name is Marco, I am Italian. I no drink for 9 hours]*

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It seemed only fair they should experience some London rain for the start, but at least it didn’t last for long. As honoured guests, the Pansèrs were the first wave of riders to be released.

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We had agreed the night before that we would take our time so that they could relish everything they saw. We realised that everything was different and interesting for them. Amazingly this was one part of the plan that did survive contact with the enemy. It was such a great ride. [My name is Marco, I am from Italy, I not drink for 12 hours]* Easy pace, sociable and accident free.

On the way round Abi showed Rodolfo how we do energy bars.

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Maddalena was less impressed by the country air as she road over the M25.


The half way point was at Filippetto’s at Little Chalfont. So used to asking me questions some of the Pansèrs started to ask me what food was available!

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One of the Pansèrs asked me “Where is Chilli?” I was completely confused. “Chilli, where is chilli?” I had no idea what they were on about until they said “Where is he?”. I realised that they hadn’t quite learnt Cliff’s name and thought it was Chilli. From that moment on Cliff became known as Chilli. If you see Cliff, I suggest “Ciao Chilli, come stai?”

Here’s Nadia’s assessment, in English, of her fellow Italians:

Nadia had an ice cream almost as big as her. From now on we’ll be calling her Nadia “3 scoops” Valentini.


English country cottages just aren’t the same as Italian homes.

For the last 20km we agreed to split into two groups to negotiate the London traffic. At Finsbury Park we re-united to finish the last 300 metres together. [My name is Marco, I am Italian, I not have a drink for 16 hours]* They sang an Italian song as they crossed the line. I have no idea what it was but I did join in when they belted out the Italian national anthem, “Fratelli d’Italia”.


As we were preparing to leave the park, one of the guys spotted some young police officers. They just had to have a photo with them. So Italian.


That night the Pansèrs insisted that they pay for the hosts meal and gave us Pansèr polo shirts to say thank you. We then headed for The Queens pub. They were all really tired but we had concocted a plan between us that we wanted to stick to. After a few pints it approached 11 o’clock closing. Gio was outside but he walked back in at 23:01 so we all sang Happy Birthday to him. David had cleverly designed the plan as it was now 00:01 in Italy and the 18th of June. Buon compleanno Gio. We gave him a bottle of our olive oil with a special edition label.

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Monday 18th

Gio’s birthday was spent on a walking tour of the City of London. We guided them and told stories about the City taking in the Bank of England, the Royal Exchange, the Gherkin, Lloyds of London, Leadenhall Market, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and lunch at Borough Market.


Jan took them on a Thames Clipper to Millbank on the way to Harrod’s whilst I picked up all the bikes in a van and headed to Heathrow.


They had such a great time thanks to their hosts Abi, Chilli, David and the Committee and members of ICC.

They have since messaged me that they really want to come back to London again.

London’s Calling.

*Just like the weekend, this blog is randomly populated with Marco practising his English.


Year to date

7,318km / 68 rides / 107.6 km average per ride

72,887m elevation gain (8.2 Everests)


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