Saying goodbye to competitive life after thirteen years of cycling Posted on 11/20/2012 12:43:32 PM
Time to hang up the wheels....
The Tour of Hainan was my last race as a professional rider. The first was the GP Marseillaise back in the year 2000, but I remember it like it was yesterday and just how excited I was. The weather was mild in the south of France at the beginning of February and for me was the start of a totally new adventure.Go to Blog home Edit Entry
Back then, I was used to the Under 23 racing where you do a lot of one day races and the distance is usually between 130 and 150 kilometres. The day after the Marseillaise there was the first stage of the Etoile de Besseges. My first week as a true professional rider. Racing and, after the race, have the clothes washed and get a massage: that was a dream for me.
I had the opportunity to team up with world-class riders like Franco Ballerini, Jan Svorada and Pavel Tonkov. It was an honour for me to bring them bottles and wait for them in case they had a flat tire. After all, I was racing with some of the myths I watched battling on the roads of Roubaix, Giro and Tour.
I still remember when I was a child and with my family went to watch one Tour stage in the French Jura, the stage was won by Abdoujaparov and Svorada was third. In 2001 in my first Tour I remember Jan saying to me that I was on the right path to become a good rider. These words from him kept me going forward in the hard world of cycling of the time.
I still remember the tears of happiness I shed when I entered the Champs Elysees for the first time. For me it was the best achievement of my career at that point. I remember the people waiting for the riders at the Hotel Concorde in Paris. Everybody was a hero; we had finished the hardest race in the world, the Tour de France.
You can say I was great when I took the yellow jersey the year after that, but for me I was lucky; I was strong enough to win the stage but then there was also the time bonus that helped me to scoop the Maillot Jaune. I had always desired doing that, from the depth of my heart, as for me the yellow jersey was even greater than the rainbow jersey.
My career was on the right path but then I had to cope with bad injuries that really complicated things. I was scared in taking risks in the descents and when it was needed to fight for positions.
I turned into a rider for the breakaway and I liked it: you are alone with yourself and get to pass through two walls of happy people that are there to watch you. In fact, I cannot remember how many times I was in a breakaway. However I do remember well the final stage of the 2005 Tour when in the last lap I tried a desperate breakaway to win on the most beautiful day in the season, the final stage in Paris.
That didn’t work, but it is still an important memory for me.
With cycling there was a good time for adventure, I raced on all the continents, I did very many races all over the world.
There were bad aspects, too, like the doping cases that came out over the years and the teams, media and sponsors that were focusing more on that, or a famous rider returning from a suspension.
For a period I was enjoying my time on the bike more while training than in the races , but then I joined the Androni team and there it was like being part of a family with Savio calling and motivating you every week. You had to be strong because you were part of a team that was working all together for the results of just one.
I was so happy when I won the Swiss time trial championship and got compliments from Fabian Cancellara the following Sunday (of course, he was not present at the TT). For me, that was another gift. After second place at the San Luca stage of the Giro I thought I would always be second but this victory was telling me that I was on the right way.
I spent the last two years with Team Type One, and I could race for my friends and for a greater meaning: sport is a very good way to keep control of diabetes, and I think in any case that sport and cycling is the best way to stay fit and find mental and physical wellbeing.
The next step will be teach the young riders what I learned during this exceptional thirteen years of cycling!