Monday, October 27, 2008

Armstrong's Days in Lago di Como

Celebrations at Rigamonti ice cream parlour in Como after Armstrong's victory in the 1993 world championships.

Lance lived in an apartment in Como from 1992 and 1995. His former roommates tell about the Texan, his training, love of ice cream and capuccino. The women's bicycle given to him after winning the world championships is still in his former building.

COMO, 16 October 2008 - Lance Armstrong used to live on the fourth floor of a six-storey building located at Magenta 25. First, he shared his apartment with Frankie Andreu and then he lived by himself. The apartment, located right off the elevator on the left, was about one hundred square metres and is now occupied by Andrea Rumi, a 19-year-old accounting student. "Unfortunately, I'm neither a cyclist nor a cycling fan. I own a city bike, but it's old and pretty plain. The only thing left here from Armstrong's time in the apartment is a fitted cupboard."

A TRIATHLETE - His neighbours remember it well; not the fitted cupboard, but rather Armstrong even if at that time (1992-1995, first in Como and then in a hotel in Bellagio), the future seven-time Tour winner looked like a triathlete which explains the dimensions of the closet. "I used to live on the third floor, right below him," recalls Armando Sommariva, pensioner. Armstrong used to do the cleaning, sweep all the dust and garbage and then he would throw it down... On my place, right onto my balcony." However, Sommariva didn't get mad: "He was polite and reserved. Other than his mother, I have never seen him bring a woman home."

A BIANCHI BIKE - Piero Ortelli, Armstrong's former fifth floor neighbour, added: "He was an exquisit person. He would go in and out, never bothering anyone and his Italian was okay. Some days I would come across him in the morning, on the bike, sweating, in the basement. Other times I would see him sunbathing on his balcony. When he came back home after winning the 1993 world championships in Oslo, we gave him a gift: we got him an old women's bike, all rusted and ramshackled. My daughter Daniela, who is an English teacher, had written a note: "You would have even won on this one!" The bicycle, a Bianchi Sport, is still around: the brakes are detached, the light cables are frayed, the wheels are on the ground and it's covered in cobwebs. "Armstrong left it here," said Ortelli. "Maybe one day he'll come back for it."

CAPPUCCINO - On training days, Armstrong used to go by Piazza Volta, where the day's programme would include a cappuccino at Bar Volta and the training schedule would be thrown at him by his coach Massimo Testa from a second floor balcony. "Then would come a lap around the lake; 180 Km of hard work," recalls Andrea Peron, Armstrong's training mate in 1993 and 1994 and his team-mate at Motorola in 1995 and 1996. Sometimes, practice would be at Ghisallo, Tivano or Lissolo; less in Varesotto because that was too hard. However, whenever he set a goal for himself, he gave his best: before the 1994 Liegi, where he finished second, we left at 9 in the morning, made 220 Km and finished at 3 in the afternoon in a bar watching the Roubaix race on TV."

SUITE AND SWEETS - Armstrong's Como is now Terminus Hotel: "Whenever he comes here," explained hotel manager Cristina Zucchi, "we immediately make our junior suite available to him; room 300, with a 40-square metre balcony overlooking the lake." The hotel restaurant, Bar delle Terme, "offers the following delicious specialties," highlights director Maurizio Gerosa, "steak tartare, Milanese cutlet and curry chicken with rice pilaf." He used to frequent Riga ice cream parlour, now turned into a bakery-pastry shop-ice cream shop named Golosità. "He used to wear a red plaid shirt, loved pistaccio and used to order my specialty pastry," tells Roberto Rigamonti. It's called "fishermen's bread" (pan del pescatore) but I've renamed it "ruler"; it's a combination of short pastry with candied fruit, raisins and walnuts." Rigamonti displays on the wall the yellow jersey worn by Armstrong in the 2005 Tour. He has plans for the 2009 Giro de Italia: "I will make Lance a special ice cream, zabaglione flavour but very high in fat and with lots of eggs. That would be the only way the Italians could win."

Source:; Photo by Bettini

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