Tomas Regalado, King of the Mountains?
No, Miami’s mayor hasn’t exactly raced a bike up Italy’s most challenging peaks. But he was “presented’’ with the ornate winner’s trophy from the Giro d’Italia — the second-biggest bicycle race in the world after the Tour de France — in his office last week.
The occasion: The launch of the Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia Miami-Coral Gables, an all-comers bike tour of southern Miami-Dade County that will take place Nov. 11 under the sponsorship of the famed race’s organizers.
It’s a publicity coup for Miami, so Regalado gamely hoisted the heavy trophy, in the shape of an unspooling gold ribbon and engraved with the name of every Giro d’Italia winner since the inaugural race in 1909, for a photo op with local ride organizer and bike-shop owner Gustavo Walder.
“This is very cool,’’ said the 65-year-old Regalado, whose closest brush with athletic prowess usually comes at the ING Miami marathon, where he fires the starter’s gun. “I go every year and, boom, I shoot the gun. That’s it. I do like to ride my bike, though.’’
The Giro organizers, an offshoot of one of Italy’s largest media conglomerates, are looking to increase the race’s U.S. profile by latching onto the fast-growing domestic craze for gran fondo rides, Italian-style bike tours in which recreational cyclists can pedal along with retired pro legends.
The 2012 gran fondo will offer rides of 25, 55 and 100 miles starting in downtown Gables and ending at Miami City Hall. A previous edition in Miami last year, under different sponsors, attracted 1,400 riders from around the world and reams of coverage in Italy, grabbing the Giro orgzanization’s attention. Walder said 80 people in Italy have already registered for this year’s ride.