Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Teammate "Without A Bike"

Story courtesy of Elite:

"There are really many curious meetings that take place along the roads of the Giro d’Italia. For example, on the roads of Liguria in stage 4, Novara-Novi Ligure, you could run into the president of the Association of Professional Masseurs in Cycling. We’re talking about the masseur for Team Katusha Michele Del Gallo. Born in 1974 in Cinto Caomaggiore, Veneto, he’s been a professional masseur-physiotherapist in the world of cycling for years, standing next to Italian champion Filippo Pozzato ever since he turned pro in 2000. The president of an association is already at work on the road, in the heat of the race he’s always close behind the bicycles, so close to the riders that he can feel their fatigue and breathe the aroma of their efforts.

The masseurs’ main responsibility is to look after the athlete’s muscles before and after the rigours of the stage, but they also have the delicate task of organising team logistics and providing assistance to riders in refuelling phases during the race. It’s up to the masseurs positioned at the pit stops to provide riders with water and food. So the masseur becomes a kind of “support rider without a bike”, the extra player, the one who can sometimes make a big difference.

“Here’s McEwen - says Del Gallo - our jet man for sprints”, water bottle delivered. “Here’s Mazzanti, Pippo’s faithful point man whose job it is to recuperate the water bottle for his captain.” The package is delivered. “Here come the Russians Petrov and Ignatiev who accompany Karpets, our man on the big climbs.” One by one all the riders from Team Katusha zip by. “There are those who just want fresh water - explains Del Gallo - then there are riders who prefer tea or an energy drink. Every rider has his preferences.”

The refuelling process is a perfect mechanism, everything happens in fractions of a few seconds. The group arrives at a furious pace, the riders scan the side of the road for their masseur, who is recognizable by the team uniform he’s wearing; they reach out their hand and grab the water bottle - it’s an all pink water bottle made especially for the Giro d’Italia by Elite for Team Katusha - and then they’re off once again, everything as fast as the passing of the torch between members of a 4x100 relay team."

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