The Latin soul that cycling can’t betray
Though I was born and lived in the misty Val Brembana, I’ve always considered myself a person and an athlete of Latin soul. Despite my shy nature, I have always been in love with the climate, the atmosphere and the ways of Mediterranean people. When I was a professional rider, I preferred the classic races in the South and I ran them always with great inspiration, surrounded by a human warmth that I never forgot.
At that time, I was relying on thousands of fans in Southern Italy: I’ve never missed the tribute of their affection. Even today, I am often in Rome, Naples, Sicily. I feel very close to these places, as well as to Puglia, Calabria, Sardinia, all in all the centre-south of Italy. We live in a magnificent country, unfortunately split in two sides and I always thought this being a big handicap. Southern Italy has a wealth of resources, creativity, talents which is not properly exploited: what a shame.
How does it fit with Granfondo 2018? Indeed, it is the point, not least because we are celebrating my victory at the Vuelta Espana with a vest whose colours – yellow and red – exude Mediterranean passion, but also heart and warmth. I have a clear memory of that victory, without shadows: I raced the Vuelta once and I won it.
Spain gave to cycling many great champions. Before me, Bahamontes and Poblet. Then, Ocaña and Fuente. A tradition continued in recent times, like a scale from Indurain to Contador that will continue for some years to come. Spanish cycling is characterized by hot challenges and a lot of climbs. Spain is a lucky land for me: I won Vuelta and World Championships there.
The ltest to carry over this tradition – Alberto Contador, indeed – finished his career in his own way at the Vuelta a España: like a matador who hypnotizes the arena by winning his last bullfight on the Angliru, what a terrific day! This is the cycling’s Latin soul, courage to be brave, a flair for great exploits exceeding our own limit. It’s instinct instead of expediency. That’s all everyone, even the most icy one, should carrying with them while riding. Bike is fantasy, not maths.
Let’s keep it in mind, once on the Bergamo’s starting line, to enjoy an even more beautiful day.