Getting on his bike to explore new markets

Pictured is Gian Bohan owner of Nonnas
Pictured is Gian Bohan owner of Nonnas
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Some people just instinctively know when something is right.

They catch the mood of the moment and don’t just see the writing on the wall, but are daubing their signature while the rest of us are still trying to understand what the hell is going on.

Gian Bohan, co-founder of Nonnas restaurant on Ecclesall Road, is one such man.

He knew what he was doing when he opened his Italian restaurant 17 years ago with friend Maurizio Mori and he’s perfectly aware that he’s created a new kind of cool hangout.

But rather than it be another place to eat fine food it is a club that people are quite literally getting on their bikes to join.

La Squadra cycling club is where 46-year-old Bohan’s latest passion lies.

A club borne out of a new found love for a sport that has captured the imagination of the public through the feats of Sir Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy and the Manx-Missile Mark Cavendish.

And with the Giro d’Italia currently making its way around the country that inspired Nonnas, Bohan is keen to share his enthusiasm.

La Squadra’s motto is ‘It’s not always about the bike’. It’s a sideways swipe at disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong who’s first book had a very similar title, but it also sums up the ethos that Bohan is trying to create.

“With La Squadra we wanted to create something different,” he said. “There are lots of cycling clubs around the country, indeed around the world, but our aim was to give the feel of what a being part of a cycling club should really feel like.”

With the help of fellow founders, designer Tim Hubbard and businessman Nick Cotton, Gian is enjoying the freedom that cycling gives him to explore new markets.

“It’s kind of a cliche but cycling is becoming the new golf,” he said. “We’re taking calls from all sorts of people who want to get involved.

“The Tour de France is starting in Yorkshire next year and will have a stage finish in Sheffield. The opportunities for the sport and for the city to showcase itself to the world are massive.

“Our restaurant manager Marco Mori first got me interested and I was the typical first time cyclist that didn’t have a clue what bike to buy or about cycling etiquette lanes and things like that. But now I see there’s a real chance to use the sport to get great benefit for people - not least the healthy aspect of it.

“Now I can’t get enough or find out enough about cycling’s history and its traditions.”

Gian has converted Nonnas Cucina on Hickmont Road, just around the corner from the main Nonnas restaurant, into a clubhouse for La Squadra.

Open to the general public the space is dedicated to cycling with work from local artist Pete McKee and Lincoln’s Peter English, a library of magazines, memorabilia from races across Europe and a widescreen TV showing the latest Grand Tour.

He said: “It has proved so popular that we’re hoping to open during the day, every day.

“It’s the perfect place to call in and have a coffee - we even provide a chain so your bike is safe. It’s another little thing we wanted to do when we were creating our ideal club.

“For example when you go on sportives (organised rides) you often turn up, cycle for A to B and then go home again.

“Our La Squadra Hot 100 has more of a social element where we all get together and have a pasta party in Nonnas or in our Chesterfield restaurant.

“We had some guys in who are part of the Rapha squad and we asked if they fancied a ride with us. One who came out was Ed Clancy, a triple Olympic gold medallist.

“He was just one of the lads and we had a great day. That’s the thing about cycling, you can ride alongside the pros, on the same roads - but maybe not as fast!

“Both Russ and Dean Downing, cycling legends in these parts, are very supportive and Ben Swift, who is a colleague of Bradley Wiggins, celebrated his world track title with a pizza from us.”

With Wiggins hoping to add the maglia rosa (pink jersey) at the Giro to the yellow one he won last summer in Paris there’s no doubt that Britain is now a world leader at the sport.

Culture wise the country still lags far behind the French and the Italians, though.

Gian was enchanted by L’Eroica - a retro Italian race that begins each October from Gaiole in Chianti.

He said: “It’s a fantastic experience. 5,000 riders on pre-1986 bikes and equipment making their way from village to village and sampling the local food along the way.

“Marrying the sport and the culture is something they do really well in an event such as this. It would be brilliant to have an ‘L’Eroica’ over here. I’m sure it would be popular.”

For now La Squadra want to spread their message far and wide.

“We want little satellite clubs in London or Rome or Barcelona,” said Cotton. “So wherever you may be you’ll be able to call on someone.”

And who’d bet against them making it happen?

The La Squadra name has even piqued the interest of designer Paul Smith.

Smith has this year crafted the Giro d’Italia’s famous maglia rosa (pink jersey), which is awarded to the overall leader of the race.

Gian said: “We went to the launch of the maglia rosa in London and had a chat with Paul. Hopefully we can work together in the future.”

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