I was chatting with a shop owner in Verona one day and he tells me that the coffee bar near Piazza Erbe is owned by an ex-professional rider. So, I eventually go there and meet Eros Poli.
Before turning pro he was both an Olympic gold medalist and World Champion. His pro career is best remembered for being a leadout man on Mario Cipollini's SAECO train, and more importantly, for winning the Mont Ventoux stage in the Tour de France of 1994. That victory is a story for another day but it was so unexpected, and beautiful, that Eros was given the name of Monsieur Ventoux by the French press.
Today was a miserable day...chilly, misty, raining, and windy. The streets of Verona were virtually deserted so I went over to Eros' place and over some wine he told me good stories about riding in the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Paris-Roubaix and other one day classics. I couldn't help thinking how on TV it's hard to grasp the amount of suffering and pain a pro cyclist endures in a race.
I met Eros last May and since then we've become good friends. In July, 2006, Eros organized a ride of Mont Ventoux and I went along with a busload of Veronese. It was a fun trip and climbing with Eros was the best part. Thankfully, he didn't put the hammer down. Later on in the year I went to the Milan Bike Show with him and the owner of the Chesini bike shop (Chesini has been in business in Verona since 1925). Everyone knows Eros and I was able to meet Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi, Mario Cipollini, the Pinarello and De Rosa families. In the future I'll write in detail about these experiences.
Photo: Eros Poli on Mont Ventoux, 1994. The day was a furnace, 107 degrees +.