Hi. I currently live in Wilmington, NC, but I spent a large part of my working life in the south of France, near the Italian border. I have two bikes -- a Colnago Mexico and a Colnago Super – both of which I built in France in the early 70s from parts purchased in Italy (Colnago frames and Campagnolo Super Record components). The only components that I’ve changed since I built them are the pedals, which I replaced with clipless pedals (but I still have to original Campy Super Record pedals).
I belonged to a cycling club in France and competed in inter-club races and rallies. The roads are mountainous there so one needed to develop good climbing and descending skills. I also kept in shape by commuting to work almost every day, year-round -- a 50-km (31-mile) round trip on twisty roads that more-or-less followed the contours of the mountains. Wonderful! Cycling was much safer in that part of France than it is here in the U.S. French drivers have much more respect for cyclists, probably because cycling is regarded as a national sport there. I still try to keep in shape on my Colnago Mexico, which always gets noticed by enthusiastic cyclists.