A cyclist's soliloquy

Gianni, Montelabbate-Pesaro, 1974

EXTRACT from the book: "40 years of amateur cycling in Fermo (and a little before)" by Euro Teodori - Capodarco Fermano Ed. 2005

Dear Euro,

you are a very lovable, courteous and cultured person. With that imposing but discreet presence of yours, you reveal the man who has not let his life slip by him, but who has grasped it by the horns and tamed it. This is probably the secret for that bewitching personality of yours that makes conversation with you a particular pleasure.

For this, I thank you, because you are a rare commodity, difficult to find on the market, but it does not give you the right to take advantage of the people who become bewitched by your pearls of wisdom You can not. It is not fair that you go around stealing emotions and memories, striping away mementos of a life lived. You should have asked me for something else, maybe what I do for a living; what are my political preferences; how much is in my bank account, if I am linked to some Masonic lodge. Anything but not that question. It is too intimate so intimate to become meaningless or it requires an indefinable answer No, I don't want to answer you. Why should I? I do not want to open my memory chest for you I would have to make an imaginary flight over my past life, but you teach me that such journeys into one’s own past, bring out not only the beautiful moments, but everything, including the less pleasant experiences, the facts and the situations that trace the furrow on which a child will sow his own life.

Why must I remember that in exchanging stickers between playmates, I gladly gave up on Sivori, Altafini, Rivera (I only made an acception for Mora, Riva and the poor Gigi Meroni) in favour of Zancanaro, De Rosso, Mazzacurati, Bailetti, Bariviera, Deprà, Lucillo Lievore, Pifferi and all the others I needed to complete the group of Gimondi, Adorni, Motta, Dancelli, Bitossi, Zilioli, Chiappano, Balmamion, Stablinski, Sels, Junkermann, Van Springel, Janssen, Planckaert, Van Looy? It was exciting to have in my hands those riders who spurred my childhood imagination, those same faces that were used, also, to play the hilarious “ tappitti” matches (a type of home-made marbles)

We took the metal caps from the bottles, heated them with a candle to detach the cork (the best cork was that of San Pellegrino orange juice, with the low and squat bottle), then the image of the riders was cut out from the card, covered with nylon and stuck into the cork. All places were suitable for playing, from the white marble stairs of the church to the pavement in front of the front-door: all we had to do to mark a track with a tuft of grass and our imagination took us to the Milan-Sanremo race, the Giro d 'Italia, the Tour…

Carpegna maggio 1974Giro d’Italia, Carpegna, May 1974 – Giampiero, “Lu Moru”, “Colonna”, Dino and Gianni

Why must I remember the track like races of the professionals on the hard ground of the San Paolo Hippodrome? Why must I gift you my emotions on seeing Anquetil pulling his track bike out of the trunk of the car, or the monumental Altig who, smiling, took me with one hand and lifted me like a stick, simply because I was there, staring at him with the same eagerness of a child in front of a pastry shop window.

Why must I remember when in the town, in the 1960s, on the occasion of the patron saint's day, an important race for amateurs was organized? I was always there, overjoyed to see the riders getting dressed, inflating the bikes, preparing the refreshment and the bottle that they kept in the pocket of their shorts. The most suggestive sensation was smelling the acrid and pungent odor of camphor oil mixed with Sifcamina (the massage ointment). Not to mention the joy I felt when a rider gave me his hat: I have kept it for years, like a relic. For many the names of De Martino (he always pedaled with the cross of the chain in his mouth), Giuliani, Lezzieri, Mancini, Pierini, Pisauri, Linardelli, Ceccarelli, Calcabrini, Urbani meant little, for me, however, even though still a child, they were the riders to be spotted at the races.

Why must I remember that every Monday morning, at the time when the daily newspaper "Stadio" was still published, I used to run to the bar to read the results of the amateur races that had taken place the day before throughout Italy?

Why must I remember the legendary stages of the Giro, I used to watch on TV? Polidori who in 1968, at the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, was caught up by the "Cannibal" 500 meters from the finish. OR the TV show “Processo alla tappa” (post stage commentary) of Sergio Zavoli, where Taccone used to argue with everybody; Adorni commentated the stage with his refined eloquence, typical of an educated man (which was actually quite unusual for the cycling world of the time); Motta bold and exuberant, Bitossi with that nice Tuscan accent, Zandegù rude and messy.

Why must I remember that fabulous time trial in San Marino (1968) won by Gimondi on Merckx in the pink jersey?

Why must I remember that memorable day in May 1974 on Monte Carpegna? We climbed it on foot (the path was closed in advance) immersed in a thick fog and under a light drizzle, with the heavy bags crammed with food on our shoulders, up to the top. Ten kilometres with thousands of other people, like in a pagan procession. In those moments you realize that the passion for cycling, unlike other sports, has a great miraculous power, transcending every political and religious ideology, it unites people, united by a single interest and knows no nastiness. I have never seen fans fighting on any of streets of Italy. Never I remember with pleasure, however, the camps on the lawn waiting for the riders, the drinks and the gargantuan "binges" together with Saronni’s fans, obviously I was for Moser. The only concession was the cheerful teasing between one faction and another.

Ten kilometres of hike just to experience the moment the riders passed by, a picture that becomes fixed in the memory. A long walk "just" to see the slender Spanish climber Josè Manuel Fuente (he always wore a handkerchief under his left sleeve) using an impossible gear, very hard for those slopes. Fuente uphill was the only bogeyman for Merckx, who arrived after a couple of minutes, hunched over on the bicycle, with froth at his mouth and a tragic grimace of pain in his face: he swayed conspicuously with his shoulders trying desperately to limit the delay.

What a show! Unique and unrepeatable moments!

Why must I remember that I also tried to emulate those champions? It was inevitable. I started with the Youth Games. I remember the first race, in Lido di Fermo, they fixed my date of birth because I was too young, I wore a “Bianchi” shirt that was almost to my knees, long socks and the shoes I had on the day of my confirmation; two of us finished: I was second. Then was the time of the races with the amateurs. It was the early 1970s, (1971 to be precise), we were the pioneers of a beautiful movement which, unfortunately, has become irreparably damaged over time. At that time meeting up on a Sunday was a party, everything always ended with great joy. Finally, the races with students and amateurs. I was an accomplished rider but I didn't understand why I was going slowly everywhere. As Totò said: “Being a gentleman is acquired from birth and I was - modestly speaking - born it!” So it was for me: “Being a duffer is acquired from birth and I was - modestly speaking - born it!”.

Giro d’Italia, Carpegna, maggio 1974 -

Giro d’Italia, Carpegna, may 1974 – “Colonna”, “Lu Moru”, Dino and Gianni

It was a great friend of mine, unfortunately passed away, a profound connoisseur of the cycling "World" (from him I heard the word "Tiralento" for the first time) who, with a ruthless diagnosis, made me understand why devotion such as mine never achieved appreciable results. He told me that, in cyclist speak, I had contracted “Trainite”, a rare and serious form of disease, still incurable and contagious today, for those who were born and raised and lived in a certain area of my village.

Contrary to Oscar Wilde, who knew how to resist anything but temptation, despite having another 30 years of memories available, I will go no further in justifying to you my refusal to answer your question. As in the life of a couple - this is one of the metaphors that this passion offers us - if the relationship is solid, the initial falling in love and attraction inevitably change over time: falling in love becomes harmony and attraction becomes respect. In the same way my love for the bicycle and its world has never waned. Indeed my thirst for knowledge, the desire to continue that introspective journey - an inexhaustible source from which I have always drank in order to have the mental energy to take life "by the horns" – today makes me live this passion in a morbid way. Visceral but with a disenchanted and ironic lightness

Over the years, I have combined cycling with photography, my other ancient weakness. Another suggestive discipline made up of sensations, impenetrable, complex and markedly inspired, capable of freeing from the unconscious even the most hidden emotions. Immortalizing something important to you in a split second means setting in stone your mood at that precise moment of your life.

You see my dear Euro, all this and other sensations, like taking a bicycle ride in perfect solitude; listening to Miles Davis' magical trumpet; watching a sunset knowing that it will never be the same as another; tasting the most subtle, savoury aromas of a good wine; or – shocking emotion - seeing the affectionate gaze of my two daughters, are the reasons why it is worth being here. I am deeply grateful to those who gave me the opportunity to enjoy all this, just as I harbour the hope that tomorrow someone will be able to enjoy these same feelings.

And it is certainly nice to be able to materialize these moods, perhaps together with those who are tuned into your wavelength. It is for this reason that with carefully selected friends, old and new, I founded a cycling company, baptizing it with the name of “Tiralento”, the umbilical cord that binds fifty years of life. When we can, we meet for some exuberant outings by bike, though if I must confess that the "gatherings" around a spread table are even better.

Someone in the group also tries to experience the ephemeral thrill of the race, while remaining, however, always rational, conditioned by the "first article" of our "Code of Ethics": before going out on a bike you have to do your "duty at home". Someone in the group is slow on the uptake, some others are afraid of being questioned, in the end everyone goes over the lesson several times. Result: in the past year we have made a good contribution to the demographic growth of the country.

Our competitive rate, on the other hand, is purely virtual, with messages via smartphone ". But that's okay: we have that healthy knowledge of doing the right thing and with the right spirit. The cycling "career" is built in twenty years. Nature teaches us: every season has its fruits, so it seems ridiculous and childish to us to be "riders" in the amateur field, especially at forty plus.

Unfortunately, for some years now the cultural limits of many individuals who have arrogantly plunged into our entourge, without having the minimum knowledge of cycling culture, has contributed to populating the movement of "fools, dwarfs and ballerinas" with the irreversible depletion of that genetic heritage inherited from the "pioneers" of this movement, a small group to which you too belong, my dear Euro.

Mondo, Prati di Tivo, 1975

Giro d’Italia, Prati di Tivo, 1975 - Mondo, the thought leader, who first coined the words “Tiralento” and “Trainite”

Among cyclists, the practical sense of things has been lost, the wisdom no longer exists. There is a sort of collective delirium, at the races you see runners with radios, ex mediocre amateurs who rise to the roles of champions, people who pass from one company to another attracted by more lucrative contracts, people who, at forty, traded their family life for a "promising" amateur cycle career. By bike, they also travel 15-20 thousand km a year: for work reasons I use the car a lot and, I confess, I get very tired covering 80 thousand of them comfortably seated!

These "weekend warriors", from Wednesday to Sunday evening, do not fulfil their husbandly duties, leaving their wives perplexed. There are those who compete at two races in one day, and those who become angry in the race - perhaps due to a missed gear change Not to mention those who train up to 150 km to face 60 km races or those who criticize the award received because they judge it not to reflect their athletic performance. Finally, those who speak as if they had a degree in pharmacology. The same people who, during a race, at the news of the doping control at the finish, preferred to "take other roads“ "On that occasion, those in the group who did not have a guilty conscience shouted - naively - to the" champions "that they were going the wrong way. "Champions" who spend considerable sums to keep their athletic performance high with a reckless use of drugs, obviously prohibited, then saying that others are doped. Someone who ended up in the emergency room for strange illnesses or, worse, for pathologies we don’t match with those who practice healthy sports. So how can you not agree with the old adage that reminds us that the mother of imbeciles is always pregnant.

Sometimes my mania with healthy sporting practice renders enlightening concepts that leave me incredulous. One of the last concepts is that there are two categories of "practitioners", I do not say fans so as not to confuse them with fanatics: "those who are but do not believeto be" and "those who believe to be, but are not".

Let everyone identify himself how he sees fit.


Dedicated to “Mondo”, the man of diagnosis…

P.S. An infinite thanks to you, Euro, scoundrel who, knowing which strings to pluck in the human being, forced me to undertake a journey through my never dormant emotions, to a task I was no longer familiar with.