Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Good Madonna sends help

After my 26 year hiatus from racing in Italia, and my season opener back in May in Robbeco d’ Oligi, I quietly put my tail between my legs and headed home to Crema.

Week after week I fronted up amongst the glamour boys of Northern Italian cycling desperately trying to carve out a name for myself. Each week they slapped me around the ears, kicked my ass and sent me home, my head hanging lower than a scolded dog.

Yep, it was going to be a long season, and with each start I was becoming more and more dejected.

Lodi, June 2008. It’s unbelievably hot, my fan club of Nicky and Felix has been boosted by the arrival of my Mother. Things are looking up, three supporters this week. I am in great form. I’m ripping the legs off everybody, that is, until I miss the break again. Man, I’ve never missed so many breaks in my life. Week after week, what is it with me. I even thought I was quite good at this bike racing, but now, I think I’ve lost it.

Lodi, June 2008. About 50KM away, in the hills behind Como,
the Madonna Ghisallo, the patron saint of cycling, clearly heard my cries of anguish and decided to answer my calls. The good Madonna sent help, the good Madonna sent Giuseppe from Capergnanica.

Giuseppe, 78 years old, on the bike every day, more wires coming out of his chest than the Terminator, after his recent heart attack, strode into Lodi. Giuseppe from Capergnanica looked doubt in the eye and sent it packing.

Now given my spate of average performances, Giuseppe could see something that I was beginning to doubt, existed any longer.

So, now it’s the that guy from New Zealand that keeps missing the breaks, with his 78 year old Director Sportif. Yeah the circus is coming to town.

Our act is all set for centre stage in the big top after the August vacation, yeah they’re going to laugh us out of town again, alright.

Ombriano is my first race back, Giuseppe’s there waiting when I arrive. It was fine disappointing myself, but now I’m about to disappoint an old man as well, yep its getting better and better. Well bugger me, I’m in the break and we don’t get caught. I get 6th. Giuseppe’s ecstatic and I’m introduced to every old boy at the finish line. Yeah, I’m the new guy in town. I even get my post race Coke and espresso chaser paid for in the bar, this is more like it.

Pianengo; Now I’m the break again, this time with my new idol, Angelo Denti, a power house of Italian racing. Today I’m suffering like a dog. Angelo is putting me under so much pressure I crack like a plate at a Greek wedding. Back into the bunch, yep that scolded dog is back in town, head hung low.

But giving up is for sissies, so two laps later, I’m in another move and bugger me, we are catching the front group and smug old Angelo. 8th, good old Giuseppe’s as pleased as punch. Me, I’m just trashed.

Bertonico; Monday afternoon, I deserve a half day to go racing. Everbody deserves a half day to go racing when they live in Italy, or so it seems, as there are about 80 on the start line. I’m on fire, in the break again and we stay away. I can only manage 4th. I’m estatic, Giuseppe’s estatic. Not the podium, but I’m on a roll and with every race I’m more and more confident.

Saturday, Mullazzano. In the way home in the car, all Giuseppe has to say is Madonna, Madonna, over and over again, clearly my placing did not please him. Today you should have won he tells me. 5th I was quite happy, not my Director Sportif though. In order to placate him, I tell him I’ll race again, tomorrow. We’ll win tomorrow I tell him, Madonna, Madonna..

Forty Six years old, and I’m racing back to back days. After I drop Giuseppe off the whole idea is starting to sound incredibly stupid. Bike racers can’t just call in sick, it’s a hard mans sport, you crash you get up. A couple of quite hail mary’s to the good Madonna is what's needed here.

Barbata. I pull into town and it’s seething bike racers, the circuits 7km in length, 10 laps. Great, just what tired legs need, is a short tight course, it’s going to hurt today.

Two laps into it, I jump across to a small group that’s just off the front. We really drive it, 7 of us, I’m feeling pretty good all in all.

The bunch aren’t letting up, and through the corners I look back to see them strung right out in the gutter…sure sign they’re chasing hard. I’d say we’ve got 15 seconds, you can almost feel their breath on the hairs on the back of your neck. Bastards, we aren’t going down without a fight.

Two to go and we’ve started to crack them, we’re out to 20 odd seconds.

Well bugger me, I’ve won the bastard.

Well it took a 78 year old man, before I managed to get it right, yes the good Madonna’s a powerful woman.


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