Monday, April 30, 2012

Rider List for 2012 Giro d'Italia

Barring any last minute changes these are the 198 riders, representing 22 teams, which will be participating in the 2012 Giro d'Italia (click on images to enlarge):

Favorites for GC among the Italian riders are Michele Scarponi (team captain for the race from Lampre-ISD), teammate Damiano Cunego, and winner of the 2010 edition Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale). Among the foreign riders the favorites include Franck Schleck, a last minute entry due to Jakob Fuglsang's knee injury (Team Radioshack Nissan Trek), Roman Kreuziger (Astana), Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), last year's 3rd place finisher John Gadret (AG2r La Mondiale), Jose Rujano (Androni) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Barracuda).

Among those that could provide some surprises in the GC are some young riders: Taylor Phinney (BMC), Peter Stetina (Garmin Barracuda), Jack Bodridge (GreenEdge), Geraint Thomas (Sky), Dennis Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) and Manuele Boaro (Team Saxo Bank).

Big names among the sprinters will make for some exciting finishes: world champion Mark Cavendish (Team Sky), ex-world champion Thor Hushovd (BMC), Tyler Farrar (Garmin Barracuda), Mark Renshaw, (Rabobank), 2011 Milan-Sanremo winner Matthew Goss (GreenEdge), JJ Haedo (Saxo Bank), Theo Bos (Rabobank), Arnaud Demare (FDJ Big Mat), and Gianni Meersman (Team Lotto Belisol). The Italian sprinters to watch: Francesco Chicchi (Omega Pharma – Quick Step), Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini – Selle Italia), Sacha Modolo (Colnago CSF Inox), and Daniele Bennati (Radioshack Nissan Trek). 

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"Italo" Sponsors Giro's Maglia Rosso

When the 2012 Giro d'Italia jerseys were unveiled earlier this month (above) a sponsor had not yet be found for the maglia rosso, the red jersey for the leader of the points classification.

Today, the sponsor for the maglia rosso was announced: Italo, Italy's new high speed train. Here one of the train's mechanics models the new jersey: explains Italo best (see all the photos here):

First Class

"Italy's burgundy red Ferrari on rails is finally going into service. Starting on April 28, the "Italo" will travel at speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour between Milan, Rome and Naples. The new high-speed train is more environmentally friendly and also cheaper than its competitors -- on both the rails and roads. 

The burgundy red Italo train departs Naples Central Station punctually at 2 p.m., with rain pouring down from the sky. Within a few minutes, it is trundling past backyards at 160 kilometers per hour, then gathers speed. By 2:14 p.m., the train is whizzing along at 200 km/h and reaches 260 just a few minutes later.

The ride is quiet and smooth, and the only indication of the high speeds at which we are traveling are the large LED signs in the cars. By 2:16 p.m., we're up to 300 km/h (186 miles per hour). The train has no locomotive and the motors are equally distributed throughout each car, making for a quieter ride. The train is also capable of traveling at speeds of 360 km/h -- the only problem is that Italian tracks aren't built to support such high speeds.
 The rain has now stopped, leaving the wet streets full of puddles. Clouds of water spray can still be seen behind cars on a motorway that runs parallel to the train tracks for a stretch. But the cars only remain in sight for a few seconds -- we're too fast for them.

As the others drive along in the rain, we sit in this Ferrari of a train reading newspapers, typing on laptops, iPads and smart phones. The train features free WiFi and also offers UMTS capacity for mobile phones. Fiberglass cables connect each car with the satellite antenna, which ensures a clear signal for communications, even as the train passes through tunnels. The Italo even features its own Internet portal, replete with information about museums, places of interest and shopping destinations at the train's next destination.

Three-Course Meals Served at Your Seat
In the last car of the train, called the "Club" section on the Italo, first-class customers sit in an area with wide seats and lots of legroom. Two compartments are also offered for families who want to travel together or where business people can hold meetings. In "Club" class, coffee is served and newspapers are distributed. Each seat has a touch screen with which the passenger can watch live television or a selection of films.

A three-course meal costs between €18 ($23) and €22. Meals are served not only in first class, but also in the "Prima" class, which is the train's business class offering. Courses are served directly at the passengers' seats. The train's developers found in studies that dining cars are no longer in fashion in Italy, where passengers prefer not to leave their baggage unattended. And passengers who would prefer a more peaceful ride can also reserve a seat in the "Relax" department, where mobile phones must be shut off. In a country known for loud train passengers whose telephone calls can seem endless, this feature could be a godsend for many.

In the "Smart" class, this train's version of coach, no three-course menus or coffee are served at passengers' seats. Instead, snacks and drinks must be purchased from vending machines. On longer trips, a movie car is also provided, although passengers must pay an additional fee to watch films on overhead flat screen TVs. But the seats are comfortable and the windows much larger than on other similar high-speed rail offerings currently available in Europe.

The private train is also easier on the wallet: A single trip from Naples to Rome can be as inexpensive as €20. A trip on the high-speed offering by Trenitalia, Italy's national railway, is slightly slower than the Italo on this particular stretch and costs nearly double that price. The only comparable price available on the national railway is on a train that takes almost twice as long. Italo is also far cheaper than driving a car the 221 kilometers from Naples to Rome, which will set a person back at least €40 for motorway toll fees and gas alone. Without any traffic jams -- and that is seldom -- the trip by car takes about two and a half hours.

Lighter, Greener and More Energy Efficient
At 2:32 p.m., the LED sign shows the train humming along at 300 km/h, whizzing past meadows and fields. Farm houses pop up on the landscape here and there, but disappear just as quickly. As trains traveling in the opposite direction pass by, you can barely hear them through the thick windows. In other high-speed trains around Europe, passing trains often create a bang, almost like an impact as they go by. But the Italo is well insulated and, in environmental terms, is on the right path. Because the train is lighter than its high-speed competition, the Italo consumes 10 percent less energy. It also travels much more quietly.

The work in developing Italo began four years ago. At the time, Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo (hence the nickname) and luxury shoe king Diego Della Valle of Tod's and a handful of other prominent Italian industrialists and financial institutions founded Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV). French national railway SNCF, which operates the TGV, also holds a 20 percent stake. The trains to be used by NTV were then developed and built by the world leader in high-speed trains, France's Alstom, which developed the TGV, and is for the first time introducing its successor, the AGV, in passenger service with the Italo.

"We have brought an end to one of the longest monopolies in the history of our country," Ferrari and NTV Chairman Monetzemolo said on Monday. "Finally, Italian travelers and tourists can choose."

Service from Milan to Naples
Seven trains have already been produced and 25 are expected to be built by autumn. They will be deployed on Italy's most important north-south train line running between Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples. Some trains will also travel to Venice in the north and Salerno in the south. In total, the company plans to offer 50 trips a day, attracting between 8 million and 9 million passengers a year and breaking even by 2014.

"We have the best Italian food on board, great films and a car for relaxing," Monezemolo said. "I have never seen a train like it before."

In addition to using the most modern technology available throughout the train, at the crux of the concept for the new train is also highly individualized options for comfort and price. Passengers can choose between luxury on the trip between Milan and Rome at €130 or they can choose more Spartan seats and amenities at €45 euros. The trip takes three hours and 11 minutes, plus an additional 13 minutes from the station used by Italo to the city center. In both Milan and Rome, the train uses alternative stations that are still located close to the main attractions.

On this highly popular route, state railway Trenitalia's trains are faster by a few minutes, but considerably more expensive, with the lowest ticket price at €79. Alitalia still flies between Milan and Rome for €214, but high-speed rail has made the route an unprofitable one.
 At 2:41 p.m., the train passes a stone quarry at 300 km/h before driving at full speed through a tunnel. The train remains quiet. At 2:42 p.m., the running gag of this trip has returned, with the next appearance of a motorway on the right, where the cars look like absurd snails in tin shells as we whiz past.

At 2:50 p.m., the Ferrari on rails starts slowing down, and within three minutes we're back at 200 km/h. At a speed of 180 km/h, we travel past the La Rustica and Togliatti train stations in suburban Rome. Finally, at 2:58 p.m., and even a few minutes early, we roll into Rome's Tiburtina station. It's actually a shame the journey has come to an end, less than an hour after it began."

To stay abreast on NTV service visit
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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ivan Basso Will Race Giro d'Italia

Ivan Basso, delaying his decision on whether or not to race the 2012 Giro d'Italia depending upon his Tour de Romandie performance this week, announced this evening that he will race the Corsa Rosa which he has previously won in 2006 and 2010. Ivan Basso is currently 33rd in the Tour of Romandie with one stage, a 16.5 km individual time trial, remaining. In the recent Giro del Trentino, April 17-20, he finished 22nd.

The announcement from Liquigas-Cannondale: 

"The first official step has been made on the road to the Giro d’Italia. This evening, after a meeting between Liquigas-Cannondale’s management and Ivan Basso, the decision about his presence was taken: the team and the captain will fight for the third pink jersey of their respective history.

Beside Basso, the experienced trio of directeurs sportifs Stefano Zanatta, Alberto Volpi and Mario Scirea will lead the team of five climbers and three rouleurs through the twenty-one stages: Valerio Agnoli, Eros Capecchi, Damiano Caruso, Cristiano Salerno and Sylwester Szmyd, plus Maciej Bodnar, Paolo Longo Borghini and Fabio Sabatini.

"I decided to dispel all the doubts one day early," affirms Basso. "Because the feelings during the Tour de Romandie were what I expected and. I made many efforts to prepare this event, working a supplementary work that only now gave me the confidence to fight for the pink jersey: I’m really happy to announce my presence".

"In terms of athleticism and character we’ve got the best possible line-up to manage a difficult race like the Giro." Zanatta explained. "All the guys are in terrific condition but above all they’re highly motivated to race as main contenders. Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed how they have a massive desire and are very proud to be part of this team. Today we understand that Ivan is in form: we will support him in the best way. The Giro has always been the main race in our season, and we’re aware of the pressures and expectations. We know they’ll leave the task of managing the race to us in many cases so the group’s unity, cohesion and camaraderie will be crucial factors. Riders like Szmyd, Capecchi, Agnoli, Bodnar, Longo Borghini and Sabatini guarantee us experience on the climbs as well as the flat; Salerno has proved he is reliable on the mountain stages, as has Caruso: he’ll be invaluable support for the captain and have the chance to grow and improve the quality of his riding. We’re backing Sabatini for the sprints: unfortunately Viviani won’t be racing and this is a great loss."

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Scarponi to Wear Number 1 at Giro Start

Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) will be starting the 2012 Giro d'Italia wearing the number 1, identifying him as the winner of last year's edition. Scarponi will be awarded the winner's pink jersey in a ceremony on May 3rd in Denmark, two days before the start of the Giro.

In February of this year Alberto Contador was  handed a two year suspension by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for the presence of clenbuterol in his urine sample during the 2010 Tour de France. The suspension meant that Contador lost race results for the 2010 Tour de France and also the 2011 Giro d'Italia. As a result  Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) became the winner of the 2011 Giro d'Italia with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) moving into 2nd place and John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) moving into 3rd (Andy Schleck became the 2010 Tour de France winner).

How Contador was even able to start the 2011 Giro d'Italia and the concerns the Giro had about his participation were covered here in these two stories last year:
The Giro and the Contador Problem
The Giro and the Contador Problem, Part II

It's nice that Scarponi will be recognized but it isn't quite the same as standing on top of the podium in Milano is it? And, because the race starts in Denmark this year that recognition will necessarily take place there. However, I would suggest this to Michele Acquarone: present the pink jersey in Herning, and take the Trofeo Senza Fine from Milano for one day to present it to Scarponi in Verona when the race returns to Italy.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Trofeo Senza Fine Awaits in Milano for Next Winner

Thirty days from today the winner of the 2012 Giro d'Italia will be presented with the Trofeo Senza Fine (trophy without end) in Milano on Sunday, May 27th. At a ceremony today the trophy was installed in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milano, it will remain there during the race.

The Galleria is named after Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. It was originally designed in 1861 and built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877.

The Giro begins May 5th in Herning, Denmark.  Details about the first three race days in Denmark, and the practice times for the riders on the day before the race starts is here.

Photo (lower):

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No Giro for Petacchi, Lampre-ISD Team Announced

The Lampre-ISD team for the 2012 Giro d'Italia has been announced and sprinter Alessandro Petacchi is absent. It was only a few years ago that it was thought that Petaccchi might be able to break Mario Cipollini's record for most Giro d'Italia stage wins. Cipollini has 42 stage wins (he broke Alfedo Binda's record in 2003 that had stood since 1933) and Petacchi stands at 22 wins.

Michele Scarponi will be the team leader. General Manager Saronni explained the roles of Scarponi and Cunego as such, "The Corsa Rosa is a top target for Michele Scarponi: the team supports him in his choice of competing in the Giro (he had considered not riding it in order to prepare for the Tour de France) and will support Michele fully during the entire three weeks of the race in order to try to battle for the overall standing. Cunego’s presence will be very significant because Damiano will be important on the tactical side. This won’t preclude him to be free to act in some appropriate situations. All the other blue-fuchsia cyclists were chosen for the guarantees of quality they’ll assure".

The Lampre-ISD team member descriptions as provided by the team:

- Matteo Bono: born in 1983, pro since 2006, 4 victories in career. Fourth participation in Giro d’Italia. His generosity is huge as his skill in analyzing in a clear way all the race situations.

- Damiano Cunego: born in 1981, pro since 2002, 46 victories in career. Eigth participation in Giro d’Italia. The 2004 edition winner (in addition to 4 stages), this year won one stage in Giro del Trentino, obtaining also the second place in the overall standing: he approaches Giro d’Italia relying upon an increasing condition.

- Adriano Malori: born in 1988, pro since 2010, 2 victories in career. Debut in Giro d’Italia. The Italian time trial champion will be the point of reference for the team time trial in Verona and he’ll have the chance to make the assault to the time trials of Herning and Milan.

- Przemyslaw Niemiec: born in 1980, pro since 2002, 14 victories in career. Second participation in Giro d’Italia. He’s a climber that can set an irresistible pace and in 2011 he was one of the best domestiques on climbs. He trained hard in the first part of the year in order to be ready for the Giro.

- Daniele Pietropolli: born in 1980, pro since 2003, 9 victories in career. Fifth participation in Giro. Traditionally he’s very competitive in the early part of the season, but in the 2012 he showed an outstanding fit also in the Ardenne Classics. He’s very competitive on mixed courses and he’s quite fast in the sprints.

- Daniele Righi, born in 1976, pro since 2000, 2 team time trials victories in career. Fourth Giro d'Italia for him, the wisest cyclist of the team. He's very useful in order to approach every difficulties.

- Michele Scarponi, born in 1979, pro since 2002, 24 victories in career. Eight participation in Giro d’Italia. He’s the defending winner of the Corsa Rosa and he chose to accept the challenge of trying to conquer again the Giro d’Italia after that he received the 2011 title after it was stripped from Alberto Contador.

- Alessandro Spezialetti, born in 1975, pro since 1997, 1 victory in career. Fourteenth cap in Giro d’Italia. Lampre-ISD can’t renounce to the experience that Spezialetti assures to the team, in order to have a solid base for the Giro.

- Diego Ulissi, born in 1989, pro since 2010, 6 victories in career. Second participation in Giro d’Italia. As rookie in the Pink Race, he obtained immediately a stage victory. Thanks to his versatile class, he’s the surplus value of the team.

Photo: 2012 official team photo, click on to enlarge

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Contest CLOSED for "The Story of the Giro d'Italia" Book Set

The contest is now closed as we have a winner for the  autographed book set of  "The Story of the Giro d'Italia".

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2012 Giro d'Italia "Madrina": Giorgia Wurth

This year's "madrina" (godmother) of the Giro d'Italia is actress, and presenter, Giorgia Wurth.

Photo: from upcoming issue of  Sportweek.

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Contest Open for "The Story of the Giro d'Italia" Book Set

The Italian Cycling Journal contest for an autographed book set, Volumes One and Two, of  "The Story of the Giro d'Italia" is still open as no one has submitted all the correct answers to the 10 questions. The winner will receive an autographed set by the author. The rules are simple: first 10 correct answers (which Bill McGann has provided) receives the books. Email replies to my address below, do not leave answers in Comments. Past contest winners excluded. More information about the book set here. With the Giro just around the corner, starting on May 5th, this would timely reading. The books can also be purchased through  Amazon and Barnes&Noble, and are also available as e-books for Kindle.
1. What is the name for the highest point in a Giro d’Italia?

2. Who holds the record for Giro participations?

3. 1972 Giro d’Italia: What gearing did Eddy Merckx use in the two Forte dei Marmi individual time trials?

4. Why was Michele Dancelli expelled from the 1973 Giro?

5. What famous bike company owner was assassinated by the Red Guards?

6. RCS Media Group owns the Giro. Who founded the parent company that became RCS?

7. Why didn’t Giovanni Battaglin and his Inoxpran team start the 1974 Giro?

8. The controversial cancellation of what mountain pass in the 1984 Giro caused some to level accusations at the Giro organization of favoring Francesco Moser over Laurent Fignon?

9. Why was Wladimir Belli ejected from the 2001 Giro?

10. Who broke up a fight between Francesco Moser and Giambattista Baronchelli in the 1978 Giro?

Here is a trailer Bill did for the just released Volume Two:

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Stories for the Italian Cycling Journal about rides, granfondos, touring, having a good time cycling in Italy, Italian cycling history, etc. are always welcome. Contact me at There are more than 2,400 stories in this blog. The search feature to the right works best for finding subjects in the blog. There is also a translate button at the bottom so you can translate each page . 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Officina Edoardo Bianchi Opens in Bergamo

The "Officina Edoardo Bianchi" store had its grand opening yesterday in the Portici del Sentierone in Bergamo. The store is a new concept for Bianchi where both passionate and recreational cyclists can find and buy the full Bianchi range of bicycles, parts and accessories, and clothing. The three level store was designed by architect Mario Rossini. All Bianchi fans will now have to visit Bergamo!

Grand opening photos:

RAI's Cassani, Salvatore Grimaldi,  Felice Gimondi
Gianni Bugno, Salvatore Grimaldi, Felice Gimondi, Bob Ippolito and Moreno Argentin  

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A Talk with Felice Gimondi, "Il Campionissimo"

The following used by permission of, always a very informative website.

A Talk with Felice Gimondi, "Il Campionissimo"

By Valeria Paoletti

Setting up an appointment with the great Felice Gimondi, Italy's last Campionissimo (champion of champions), was not very easy. This very distinguished man was the last truly complete Italian rider capable of winning all the important races, which at that time required beating Eddy Merckx. Today he works for Bianchi and runs an insurance business. His work for Bianchi involves traveling not only all over Italy, but also out of his home country, such is his international prestige.

In planning my trip to see Franco Bitossi, the other great Italian champion of the 60s and 70s, and to visit two bike museums in the North of Italy, I had really hoped I could meet Mr Gimondi as well. But ten days before my departure he told me that, unfortunately, he couldn't see me.

Ten days later I was in Tuscany to meet Mr. Bitossi. I was in the middle of my interview when my mobile phone rang. Mr. Gimondi had his appointments cancelled and had thought to call me to tell me he could see me the day after. What luck!

The day after, the 18th of February, I arrived at the business office of Mr. Gimondi, in Bergamo, a beautiful city just east of Milan in Northern Italy. I had arrived some minutes early and while I waited I started to feel some awe in anticipation of meeting such a great man. But when he arrived with his daughter that feeling of anxiety completely left me. Gimondi is a gracious and elegant man, tall and easy-going. With a big smile that made me feel comfortable, he invited me to take a seat in his simple and functional office. He seemed keen to tell me about his career. I just needed to ask him my first question to break the ice. He immediately took me back 40 years, to 1965, when his amazing professional career started after his victory in the 1964 Tour de L'Avenir, the "Mini Tour de France" for young racers. 1965 was the splendid year of his Tour de France victory.

Valeria Paoletti: It looks like you had a busy 1965 spring for a young man of 22. You were second in the Fleche Wallone, fourth in the Tour of Romandie and third in the Giro d'Italia. Did you feel like it was a tough start for your pro career?

Felice Gimondi: No I didn't feel like that, I was very calm. Actually, at the beginning I was supposed to ride only the Giro among these big races. But then, during the Giro della Toscana which finished in Montecatini Alto, we took it too easy in the Salvarani Team. Only [Vittorio] Adorni and I finished it. Our boss then said that if we had not started to work hard he wouldn't have paid us.

VP: That motivated you!

FG: Of course. We went to Belgium to race the Fleche Wallone, and Roberto Poggiali and I were first and second in the sprint. With 5 km to go Poggiali broke away on the pavé. I didn't go with him immediately because I wanted to wait for the reaction of [Tommy] Simpson, who was famous and experienced. When I realized that Simpson didn't have the strength to chase Poggiali that day, I took off on my own to close the gap to Poggiali. I was hoping I could beat him in the sprint, but Poggiali beat me.

VP: What happened then?

FG: We went to the Tour of Romandie where I did well from the start. I was third at the first stage at Martigny, while in Crans Montana I was second behind Vittorio Adorni [thereby earning the overall lead for two stages]. By the end of the Tour I was fourth in GC.

VP: Then you went to the Giro d'Italia. Were you sent to the Giro to help your team leader, Vittorio Adorni?

FG: Yes, of course I was there to support him.

VP: What were the dynamics within your team and what was your relationship with the Team Director Luciano Pezzi and with Vittorio Adorni ?

FG: I listened to what they advised and thought. They had a great deal of experience. And of course it was part of my job to do what they said. I remember the stage of the Giro to Madesimo (295 km), with the Sempione and the San Bernardino climbs. I was in a break with five other riders and we had a two and half minute lead on the peloton when Director Pezzi came to stop me because Adorni was the Pink Jersey and was behind.... I had to adapt to the circumstances. That day Adorni won and I arrived sixth behind the best riders [Taccone, Bitossi, Feretti, Zilioli then Gimondi].

VP: Do you think you would have been able to beat Adorni and wear the Pink Jersey if you had been given your freedom that year?

FG: That year the roles in the Team were well defined and I thought it was fair to follow the Team's decision.

VP: At the end of the Giro you were third. Were you satisfied?

FG: You know at the beginning of each competition I was always thinking that I would have been happy with just with a high placing, but then I always wanted more. I was always looking ahead. When I was very young I dreamed to be an amateur. Then when I was an amateur I dreamed to take the 'Maglia Azzurra' [the blue jersey of a member of the Italian National Team] and so on....

VP: The appetite comes with eating!

FG: Yes, it was like that for me.

VP: After the Giro there were a few weeks before the start of the Tour. What happened in that interval?

FG: I was not supposed to go to the Tour. In fact, I took part in the 80 kilometer Time Trial of Castrocaro (Tuscany), a classic of that era [run from 1958 to 1979]. That year it was on June 17 and I came in second to Anquetil by 19 seconds. Returning from this race and going up to Bergamo, Luciano Pezzi stopped me in Imola [a city on the way to Bergamo] in the evening and invited me to dinner. Our 'Patron' Luigi Salvarani was also there and they asked me, almost in a shy way, if I wanted to race the Tour.

VP: And did you want to go to the Tour?

FG: To them I said I would have needed to discuss it with my father, but deep inside I knew I wanted to race the Tour! The advice of my father was just an excuse to have some time to answer them but the thought of the Tour made me really enthusiastic.

VP: Did you feel ready for it?

FG: Yes. During the Giro I had been feeling better and better every week. And I had a talent for the long stage races.

VP: What did you do to prepare for the Tour?

FG: Nothing special. Between Giro and Tour there were only 3 weeks and during those 3 weeks there was, as I mentioned, the Castrocaro time trial. I just kept on training to stay in condition.

VP: What was the Tour's impact on you?

FG: It was a big thing. You know, until that moment I had spent most of my time in the little team of my parish recreation center so it seemed that I had entered a completely different world. I remember the bustle and the photos they took of our team at the start. It was all new for me.

VP: What were the roles in your team this time?

FG: Even here I had to help Adorni, the captain. They told me to race 'from day to day', without worrying about the rest.

VP: Did the fact that you had nothing to lose, being a very young neo-pro, help you? I mean, you didn't have a lot of pressure on you. This must have been favorable. I ask you this because your Tour and your victory in Paris seemed so easy and smooth.

FG: On one hand this is true, I had no pressure on me for the General Classification, but during the important stages I was there, fighting for a high placing and I did feel the pressure. I did well from the beginning of the Tour---I was second on the pavé at the second stage in Roubaix. I won the third stage in Rouen---and this put me in the 'eye of the storm' very soon. With my successes early in the Tour, the stages that followed started to be important for the GC so I was always there among the leaders. Like at the time trial in Chateaulin, were I was only seven seconds behind the winner, Raymond Poulidor. My rivalry with him had already begun.

VP: So you weren't that happy-go-lucky.

FG: I was in the sense that every evening I was gratified for what I had done during the day.

VP: In terms of gratification your psychological situation was much easier than Poulidor's. He needed and meant to win the Tour that year, after his defeat in 1964, when Anquetil wore the Yellow Jersey in Paris.

Felice Gimondi stopped telling his story for a moment. He knew that I am not a journalist and that I have another job. It was clear that I was not even born when all this happened. He asked me, 'But how do you know all this?? And when could you study?' He referred in particular to my knowledge of Poulidor and Anquetil's duel in the 60s. I told him that having to prepare for his and Bitossi's interview I had to go through everything that happened between 1965 and 1968. I did it during my train rides to work. His expression was one of happy surprise.

FG: Yes, in 1964 Poulidor lost in a bad way. There was a breakaway of ten or twelve riders. He had a problem with his wheel and had to stop to change it. While he was changing it with the mechanic something happened and he lost one and half minutes to Anquetil [this was on stage 14, from Andorra to Toulouse. In pushing Poulidor to get him back up to speed, his mechanic caused him to crash].

VP: I am curious to know more about your first Tour victory, at the 3rd stage from Roubaix to Rouen. You outsprinted one of the finest sprinters in the history of the sport, Andre Darrigade. Can you tell us about the sprint? You won it with both hands up with a good gap to your rivals.

FG: I was in a break with others, only ten seconds ahead of the peloton and we could not slow down. We were all redlined. Before leaving that day I had written some numbers on my doeskin gloves: on one glove I had written the numbers corresponding to the sprinters and on the other I had written the numbers of the riders racing for the General Classification. In this way I had things under control. You know I didn't know all the riders yet. Knowing that Darrigade, who was in the break with me, was a dangerous man in the sprints I tried an escape with 1 km to go and I won with 4-5 second lead.

VP: Darrigade was looking for a 25th stage victory to tie the record of Andre Leducq, the great French Tour winner of the 1930's. How did he take it?

FG: Well, all the great riders came to congratulate me. I remember that the day after, during the stage, Jan Janssen [1968 Tour winner] congratulated me for having two great days in a row.

VP: I think they were starting to see your talent, your stuff. And at the Stage 5, a time trial at Chateaulin, you beat your team leader Adorni and as you said, you were only seven seconds behind Poulidor.

FG: Chateaulin is in Brittany. This is an area that really loves bicycle racing. I remember 30,000-40,000 people yelling for their idols in a village whose shape made it very much like a big, natural stadium. So it was more difficult for me, being an Italian.

VP: At that point the man to protect in your Team was not Adorni anymore, correct ? It was you....

FG: There was a Yellow Jersey in the Salvarani Team now and it had to be protected. A Yellow Jersey in our team was first of all good for 'Patron' Salvarani, because it meant a lot of publicity for our team. That doesn't mean I already had all the team on my side, but some riders with more experience, such as [Diego] Ronchini and [Arnaldo] Pambianco, helped me. Ronchini had won the Giro di Lombardia and had worn the Pink Jersey and Pambianco had won the Giro d'Italia. They saw in me a young talented rider who needed support and advice.

VP: How about Adorni?

FG: During Stage 7 to La Rochelle, a rainy day, there was a crash that involved Adorni and even though I was Yellow Jersey I stopped to wait for him, together with the rest of my team. That made me miss a break and lose my Yellow Jersey.

VP: It's not very common to see a Yellow Jersey wasting time to help his teammates.

FG: I knew there would be more chances for me to get it back.

VP: Stage 9, from Dax to Bagneres de Bigorre was important and dramatic. Many riders including Bahamontes, and the man to whom you had relinquished the Yellow Jersey for 2 days, Van de Kerckhove along with Vuelta winner Rolf Wolfshol as well as your team leader Vittorio Adorni quit. It was a very hot day. L'Equipe thought it might be a sign of doping. Do you have any theories as to why so many fine riders abandoned that day?

FG: It was way too hot. At that time there were no anti-doping controls, so we were free to take what we wanted. The anti-doping controls started the next year, in 1966 [Anquetil led a rider's protest against them that year].

VP: What do you remember about that day in the Pyrenees?

FG: It was a hard stage. On the Tourmalet I was in a break of five or six, including [Julio] Jimenez, [Gianni] Motta and Poulidor. A little behind us there was Pambianco. He saw the easy way I was pedaling and he beckoned me to attack.... I accelerated a little and Jimenez counter-attacked immediately. He was not dangerous for the Overall so at the top of the Tourmalet he was first and Motta and I just followed him.

VP: Then on descent of the Tourmalet you flatted.

FG: Yes, as soon as the descent started. I had to wait for the car that was quite a bit behind.

VP: And Poulidor could catch you....

FG: Poulidor passed me and then reached Motta. But then I flew on the descent and I caught them with five kilometers to go.

VP: How was your relationship with Poulidor?

FG: Good. There was a fair competitive rivalry and respect between us. Just before the last stage, the Versailles-Paris time trial, I went to greet him while he was about to start, 3 minutes before me. I was warming up and I saw him leaving. It was instinctive for me to wish him good luck and this was photographed.

VP: You beat him by one minute and twelve seconds during this time trial. Did you have him in sight?

FG: No I couldn't see him, but I could read my lead with respect to him on a blackboard that my team showed me on the way.

VP: Some odd memories of that Tour?

FG: I remember the Stage 11, from Aix les Thermes to Barcelona. It was so hot that the asphalt used at that time melted and the tubular types left a mark on it!

VP: Franco Bitossi, whom you know I met yesterday, told me that at the end of the day you were all dirty with the asphalt.

FG: In the evenings you had to clean yourself with fuel.

VP: When I interviewed Celestino Vercelli about the Tour of 1971 he told me they couldn't sleep because it was too hot and they were staying in dorms.

FG: Of course there was no air conditioning. In Barcelona we were in a very nice hotel, but it was very hot. I shared my room with Ronchini. We kept both the windows and the room door open. And still.... Ronchini found two ice chests, he filled them with ice and slept with his hands in the ice. Sometimes, as you said, they sent us to dormitories.

VP: And you couldn't say no.

FG: No, first you were notified and then disqualified. In Briancon we were all together in a big room. The teams were separated only by some closets. The mattresses were on the floor. To have some darkness we nailed the blankets to the windows...

VP: Do you remember the gearing you used on the mountains?

FG: 42/24 or 42/25 and 5 or 6 gears in the back. We didn't have 10 gears like today, so you had to make a clear choice of what you wanted. Usually I mounted 3 gears for the flats and 3 gears for the climbs.

VP: Let's go back to the stages. Poulidor announced that stage 14, from Montpellier to the top of Mount Ventoux, would be where he would strike his first blow to gain the Yellow Jersey.

FG: I usually needed some time to warm up, to work on the climbs. I preferred to have some smaller hill before a big climb. And that day it wasn't like that. I couldn't take the sudden change of rhythm of the race. I started to over-sweat and I understood I had to let the others [Jimenez, Poulidor, Motta, Anglade and others] go. I went up the mountain at my own speed, in a very regular way. This allowed me to catch almost all of them after some time, except Jimenez and Poulidor. I lost more than one minute to Poulidor but I kept my Yellow Jersey.

VP: Poulidor pulled to within a half-minute of you in the GC after gaining the time bonus for the stage win. After that, there were four alpine stages scheduled.

FG: Yes, I wasn't very lucky in the Stage 16, from Gap to Briancon. I didn't need to attack and I didn't want to run unnecessary risks, but I wanted to chase [Joaquim] Galera, who was in a break, at least in the final kilometers. I was with Motta and when I changed gear to speed up my chain came off. I leaned against a car and people noticed that. They pushed me a little and the chain became re-engaged. Now I could make it up to the Poulidor group again, but Motta was already ahead. I tried to chase Galera and Motta but at the end I was third, winning the field sprint that in Briancon is uphill.

VP: Poulidor announced that he would use the final stage of the four Alpine stages, Stage 18, the individual hill climb time trial up Mt. Revard to take the overall lead for good. But you won the stage and took 23 seconds out of Poulidor plus you gained a 20 second time bonus.

FG: Mount Revard is not far from Italy so that day there were many Italians and even 'Patron' Salvarani watching. They were there to console me. They thought Poulidor would beat me for sure because he was a specialist in that kind of stage. I told them to wait and see what happens because I had been able to beat hill climb time trial specialists in the past.

VP: I guess they were assuming that even if you were having a great Tour until that moment, you wouldn't have been able to wear the yellow jersey in Paris. Too young, too inexperienced for that.

FG: And instead I was very determined to come in first in Paris.

VP: And you had a mechanical problem. What happened to your bike?

FG: I had mounted three gears for the flat and I had an 18, 19, 20 for the climb. The 19 broke, so I climbed with the 18.

VP: With the tallest gear of the three... . How could you make it?

FG: That day I had the legs!

Gimondi smiled with 'gusto'. Clearly, He was clearly enjoying recounting his adventures to me.

VP: A picture of you on Mont Revard shows that your front brake quick-release (you had Universal centerpull brakes) was open. Accident?

FG: During the time trial I wanted to keep the brake release as open as possible to avoid being slowed down by the friction. I didn't need to brake!

VP: On a hill climb time trial like this, was there any special equipment used on your bike? Did you use the same gearing as in the normal stages in the mountains ?

FG: No, we used a tougher gearing, because we had to give our best in just a few kilometers. If in a normal mountain stage of 240 kilometers I used the 22-23, in a hill climb time trial I had the 20.

VP: At this point you had a minute and twelve second lead on Poulidor and over eight minutes on third-place Motta. Did you feel at all comfortable with that lead knowing there was one more time trial to come?

FG: I felt relatively comfortable, but I knew that the situation could still change. With the final time trial to come, one minute and twelve seconds are not a very big lead if you remember that Poulidor was a time trial specialist.

VP: Well, we know how it went in Paris.... I am curious about your attitude in racing. Anquetil generally won his stage races in a particular way. He would dominate the time trials and then contain his rivals in the mountains. This gave him the luxury of riding economically without having to expend energy attacking on road stages. Your 1965 Tour has this feel. Did it just happen to come out this way or you tried to model yourself on Anquetil ?

FG: I followed my instinct. But even successively in my career I have never been a shrewd man like Indurain. He didn't seem to be Spanish in this regard. Anquetil was the first to have such an attitude and I think he was the finest and classiest rider of my era. He started to win time trials when he was 19, when he won the 'Gran Prix des Nations'. You know, the classic Time Trials of my era were the 'Gran Prix des Nations', 'Lugano', 'Castrocaro' and 'Baracchi'. I didn't win a lot of time trials, but still...I won 5 Castrocaro, 2 Gran Prix des Nations, 2 Lugano and 2 Baracchi.

VP: You've ridden both the Tour and the Giro several times. Which did you prefer?

FG: I have no doubts, the Tour. The competition was more open and wide. At that time, when the race was far less tactical than today, the Tour meant: 'Pronti, Via, Battaglia [Ready, Go, Fight]!'. And I felt it closer to my way of being. The harder the race the more I liked it and felt that I could express myself.

VP: In the 1965 Tour there was only one day with two stages on the same day. In later years, the Tour organizers finally tried to get away with even three stages in one day [something they had done in the 1930's]. Any thoughts about the conditions you rode under in those days? What did you do between one stage and another?

FG: Well, what could we do with 40° C (104° F) outside? They put us in big tents to wait and gave us prosciutto and cheese to wait for the second stage.

VP: What did you eat for breakfast? When?

FG: In those years they used to give us rice and a steak for breakfast, three hours before the start. So, during the stage to Madesimo of the 1965 Giro d'Italia, when the start was at 7 a.m., we had to have breakfast 4 a.m.....

VP: What is the biggest difference between your era's and today's riders nutrition?

FG: They have a normal breakfast plus they eat spaghetti. The meat has been greatly reduced. Then they have many other special sugars today that we didn't have. During the last years of my career we got a sugar from Finland that helped us. But the philosophy was still the same: a filling and substantial breakfast.

VP: You were the 1973 World Professional Road Champion. May we step back to that race? To this day the arguments seem to never cease. It was in Barcelona, on September 2. The race was 248 kilometers. 87 riders started. In the final laps of the race there was a break formed of you, Freddy Maertens, Luis Ocana and Eddy Merckx. For 31 years Merckx has accused Maertens of failing to give him a proper lead-out, thereby costing him a sure Rainbow Jersey.

FG: Yes, Eddy still says that. I met Merckx lately at the end of August and he still believes he was cheated by Maertens. He thinks Maertens started the sprint by going too fast.

VP: And by doing so Maertens left Merckx too far behind him to give him a proper lead-out ?

FG: Right.

VP: Sorry, I know your relationship with Merckx is very good, but in saying that he lost only because Maertens cheated him he seems to somehow cheapen your accomplishment.

FG: He can't admit it but the reason for his defeat that day was not Maertens. Eddy didn't have the legs.

Gimondi draws me pictures of the different phases of this sprint 'of discord' in a very detailed way. He shows me that as soon as Merkcx "got some wind" by coming off the Maerten's wheel, he got stuck.

FG: When Maertens started his lead-out I could follow him without problems and, you know, I was not the best in speed changes. If a rider like Eddy couldn't fill the gap it was only because he didn't have the right legs. On any other day Eddy would have won a sprint like this with one leg.

VP: If Maertens had sprinted for himself rather than acting as a lead-out, do you think he could have beat you to the line?

FG: Yes, if he could have sprinted for himself, without exposing himself to the wind from the beginning of the sprint, he would have beat us by a length of 2 cars. Maertens was still very dynamic in the last 50 meters of the sprint, he was even elbowing. I had to elbow back.

VP: Did Maertens slow down to let Merckx pass?

FG: No, you never slow down in a sprint. It was understood that Eddy would have passed him. And everybody knew that he would have 'sacrificed' for Eddy. I saw them talking about that before the race. Eddy was Eddy, Maertens was still a little boy.

VP: And Gimondi was there?

FG: The last 5 km were quite narrow, I drafted Eddy without passing. It was not a flat sprint, it had an incline, 3-4 %. And you needed good legs after 240 km at 40° C . If you weren't in perfect condition, this little incline at the end could get you stuck, just like with Eddy.

VP: Well, it wasn't his day...

FG: Thank goodness!! Era ora! [It was time!] It was a big surprise for everybody, even for me! I had thought that at the best I would have been second. This victory was also good in that it saved the face of my manager, De Filippis, who had preferred me to Motta.

VP: From what I read I had the feeling that between you and Gianni Motta there was some tension.

FG: We were very different, and yes, there was some friction. It was not easy for De Filippis to leave Motta at home but I was sure that without Motta I would have all the team riding for me. Our racing characteristics were different. I needed to work during the entire race and make it hard for the others. In contrast, Motta was faster in the sprints and so it was dangerous to have him near in the last part of a race.

VP: Looking at your career as a whole I see that you were on top of the world, probably the finest rider alive in the mid 60's, with victories that were stunning: 1965 Tour, 1966 Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Brussels, 1967 Giro. Then things weren't that easy anymore. Then in the mid 70's you came back to win Milan-San Remo, the Worlds, and the Giro? What happened in between?

FG: Nothing more than the arrival of Eddy Merckx. He won five Giri and five Tours. This happened during my best years. I would have been able to win much more than 3 Giri and 1 Tour.... Then there was the physiological difficulty of racing against him. I had to change a lot of my way of racing.

VP: How do you think he affected you?

FG: Eddy didn't forgive the slightest mistake. First of all you had to avoid being dropped by him, then you had to be able to actually stay with him and at the end you to find a way to win!

VP: It was psychologically very draining.

FG: Yes. During some long and hard races, like World Championship, after something like 280 km it was usually just Eddy and me in a fight for the victory. Sometimes there happened to be a third rider. You never knew when Eddy would decide to launch his attack and if you let him take off for a moment you could never catch him again.

VP: Do you think you affected Merckx in his way of racing?

FG: Nobody could affect the way Merckx raced. He was like an enormous tank full of fuel, very competitive in every kind of race: prologues, time trials of 50-60 km (after 60 km it was harder for him I think), climbs and sprints. I remember back when I had to skip a Paris-Roubaix because I had crashed a few days before in Belgium. I watched the race on TV. When I saw him breaking away it seemed like the others were just letting him go. I mean, on TV you could not realize and see all the efforts that the others were doing to be with him. And despite the efforts sometimes you had to resign yourself to see him flying away.

VP: Do you follow the races today?

FG: Yes I do. Unfortunately on TV it's not possible to see all the details than you can see when you are there. For example I could understand how my adversary was feeling in terms of strength by watching the veins on his legs.

VP: What is the victory that you remember with the most pleasure?

FG: The 1965 Tour because I was young and lively and I raced instinctively. But in my heart there is also my victory of the Giro d'Italia of 1976. I was 34 and I was considered an outsider and not a possible winner. We started from Catania. I won the stage in Bergamo beating Eddy Merckx. In the penultimate curve I elbowed with Baronchelli to get on Eddy's wheel. On the other side there were the men of [Francesco] Moser's team working for him. Eddy wanted to surprise Moser and launched his attack early. I drafted him and was able pass him at the end. It was very nice to win in the heart of Bergamo, my city. The day after, during the time trial at Arcore, I took the Pink Jersey and then won that Giro.

VP: Is it true that both you and Franco Bitossi retired from racing on the same day ?

FG: Yes, during the Giro dell'Emilia [of 1978]. It was raining and we had both lost all of our motivation. When it's time to stop you feel it inside. We watched each other and said: 'We don't want to get wet again, let's stop here'.

This hour with Felice Gimondi went very fast. I felt dazed by all the details he could remember. I thought he would love to see the pictures that Franco Bitossi had given me the day before. They were black and white photos from the races of the 60s and 70s with all the protagonists of that era, including Mr. Felice, of course. While going from one picture to the other and commenting upon them I could see the delight his eyes. He wanted to give me some photos too but he could not find them in his office. Then he remembered that he had given them to a person who is writing a book about him. But he showed me the little books that every rider gets before a stage race like the Tour or the Giro and that describes the characteristics of the stages (distance, gradients and villages). We went through the 1965 Tour book and I could see how for each stage he had written down the winner and his position. He is a very precise man. 'You see' he said 'every time the gradient started to get tough, I was among the leaders that year.'

I noticed a beautiful yellow jersey with a lot of signatures in a frame that hanged on the wall. Gimondi explained to me that this was the jersey that every Tour de France winner had for the centenary of the Tour, with the signatures of all the living winners.

I had somebody waiting for me outside Gimondi's office but he wanted to offer me a coffee and to introduce me his daughter, a very nice girl of my own age looking unmistakably like her father. I exchanged a few more words with the Gimondi family, I kissed Mr. Felice on his cheeks and I left with a big smile and a very pleasant feeling.

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Stories for the Italian Cycling Journal about rides, granfondos, touring, having a good time cycling in Italy, Italian cycling history, etc. are always welcome. Contact me at There are more than 2,400 stories in this blog. The search feature to the right works best for finding subjects in the blog. There is also a translate button at the bottom so you can translate each page .  

Monday, April 23, 2012

2012 Il Lombardia, Honoring Felice Gimondi in Bergamo

The 2012 Il Lombardia (formerly Giro di Lombardia) will be starting this year in Bergamo to honor the the 70th birthday of  bergamasco Felice Gimondi, his birthday coinciding with the race date of September 29th. The 106th edition of the race will finish again in Lecco.

The race, one of the five "monuments" of the one day classics, is also known as the "Race of the Falling Leaves" ("classica delle foglie morte") as it is normally held in October. However, this year the race has been brought forward to the weekend following the UCI Road World Championships to allow riders to directly benefit from their World Championship form.

Gimondi won all three of the grand tours: Tour de France (1965, his first year as a pro), Giro d'Italia (1967, 1969 and 1976), and Vuelta a España (1968). He remains one of only five cyclists to have done so. He also won the World Championship in 1973, Paris-Roubaix (1966), Milan-Sanremo (1974) and the Giro di Lombardia, among other races, in  1966 and 1973.


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Stories for the Italian Cycling Journal about rides, granfondos, touring, having a good time cycling in Italy, Italian cycling history, etc. are always welcome. Contact me at There are more than 2,400 stories in this blog. The search feature to the right works best for finding subjects in the blog. There is also a translate button at the bottom so you can translate each page . 

Bikes: Lamborghini, Maserati, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo

Lamborghini has in the last few days joined the names of other Italian luxury marques that now have a bicycle associated with their brand.

The Lamborghini is based upon the BMC "Impec" model:

In 2009 Maserati bikes were unveiled on March 5th at the Geneva International Auto Show. They were made by Milani Cycles of Gallarate (MI), Maserati branded bicycles also existed in the 1970s (see here.)

There was also a Maserati made by Cicli Montante,, in 2010:

For many model iterations now there have been the "Colnago for Ferrari" bikes, the latest being the CF8 model (the CF7 is pictured below):

A not often seen bicycle is the Alfa Romeo "Competizione":

Have I missed any Italian car/bike brands??

Follow on Twitter: ITALIANCYCJOURN

Stories for the Italian Cycling Journal about rides, granfondos, touring, having a good time cycling in Italy, Italian cycling history, etc. are always welcome. Contact me at There are more than 2,400 stories in this blog. The search feature to the right works best for finding subjects in the blog. There is also a translate button at the bottom so you can translate each page .