Il bandito e il campione (The bandit and the champion)

This is the title of a song, a very well know song in Italy. Sang by songwriter Francesco De Gregori he imbrace in this story the love for cycling in 1920s and the love for the hero/bandit who live is life as kind of Italian style Robin Hood.

Tear-jerking clips in theme with the tradition of Italian fiction, an interpreter of great effect as Beppe Fiorello, a story carried the memories of the old protagonist with the always excellent technique of flashback. “The legend of the bandit and the champion”, aired Monday and Tuesday on Raiuno directed by Lodovico Gasparini, from the novel by Marco Ventura, is undoubtedly a good product for television where all the leitmotif of the friendship between two boys and then divided by life holds until the end. On the one hand constant Girardengo (Simone Gandolfo) to become the first “Campionissimo” of Italian cycling, on the other Pollastri Sante (the aforementioned Beppe Fiorello) that promise of cycling instead becomes one of the most famous band of the ’20s, with a band capable of bold strokes between Italy and France, wanted by police in both countries. The drama is enriched by the love story of Sante and the Beautiful Apple (Raffaella Rea), loved in his youth also constant, a factor that threatens to undermine the friendship between the bandit and the sample. Some historical event actually happened but then a lot of imagination.

Beppe Fiorello and Simone Gandolfo in the fiction of Raiuno
The rest of this story, taken a few years ago by Francesco De Gregori in his beautiful ballad “The Bandit and the sample is always surrounded by myth and reality. On the true story of Sante Pollastri few examples remain today, the record fascist era intended to explain to citizens the perfect face of an Italy gives little space to the criminal deeds of the bandit in his parable of the bicycle and over the years has collected many fragments, some authentic and others probably legendary, as the title says just fiction.

That the two childhood friends who at some point take different paths is almost certainly a fantasy, a poetic touch to the real story. Both were born in Novi Ligure, in 1893 and Sante Girardengo six years later, it is still a teenager in 1913 when the first part in her first Tour of Italy. In any case, if not best friends but at least acquaintances, and neighbors with a mutual friend, the trainer Biagio Cavanna, one of the most fascinating in the history of Italian cycling, the blind masseur which is enough to recognize a palpated muscles and tendons champion. At his skilled hands after Girardengo will in fact be given the greatest of all time, Fausto Coppi.

Constant Girardengo
The incident that perhaps helped create the legend has really happened in Paris in 1926, the city where he had fled from Sante Pollastri time. In the midst of a spell in Italy, when during a firefight near the French border the death of one of the lieutenants of the bandit Novi was mistaken for death of the same Pollastri. The recovered body was disfigured beyond recognition and therefore, the Italian newspapers gave the news of the death of Sante Poultry episode reported inter alia in the fiction of Raiuno.

Pollastro was instead returned to the French capital where among other things on that day was also Girardengo for the dispute of “six days” on the road.

Amid all the races, Biagio Cavanna sitting on the track of Sante recognized the whistle, a whistle was particularly known as Novi Ligure “cifulò. Novi only one to be recognized by a fellow countryman in a foreign land would have run to perfection and Cavanna did not take long to figure out who was the Novi area of Paris. The master of cycling and his former student then met again in France and shortly after the same Girardengo Cavanna and met the bandit. Sante made an appointment to the two neighbors in Novi, but never arrived there. It was in fact arrested again in Paris in 1927 by men of the Commissioner Guillaume, betrayed by an informer tipped off the police. Following constant Girardengo was called to testify at the trial of Pollastri where there was talk of that famous encounter took place during the “Six Days.”

Sante Pollastri
He was sentenced to life imprisonment but was pardoned in 1959 by then President Giovanni Gronchi. He spent the last twenty years of his life in Novi Ligure, where he was the business of street vendor, where he died in 1979, a year after the disappearance of Girardengo.

“It was old suffered an injustice or poverty, to make the boy a fierce bandit, De Gregori sings in its composition. Sante Pollastri has taken on because his criminal career have been floated several versions. Among these, to justify the hatred of the young bandit against police there is the killing of a relative on their part or that of a brother taken to present the call to arms, although seriously ill and died at the barracks. Another story, taken from the key rather than imaginative fiction and romance with other side dishes, about Sante’s sister, Carmelina, who was raped by a military weapon. Sante, then 19 years old, killed the policeman and then you would be given to the bush. In the television miniseries was Carmela’s future instead of the bandit lover, usurer raped the country and then ran away and found to be constant in a luxury brothel in Turin. None of this hypothesis is still supported by documentation and are mostly born of legends around the figure of Sante Pollastri the war. Famous in France in fact, was almost unknown in Italy, except in the north where his criminal exploits were prominently. The complaint that severely limit the fascist crime. In fact Sante Pollastri embodied the figure of the rebel authority in a time when it was formalizing an authoritarian turn and the move from democracy to fascism. In this sense became a heroic figure for the world and the nascent anarchist anti-fascist movements.

Progetto casa ciclismo

Since coming back to cycling in 2008 I’ve gradually change my plan from just racing to coach…and now I’ve this idea to create an academy style team.

Back in 1979 I was part of a team called Lema mobili based near Bergamo north Italy, and the team was very famous to be the only one were rider were living in a house toghether for a season.

“La squadra” was very well organized and 10 out 12 got professianal contract within 1979 and 1981, 4 of us were racing with “azzurri” nat team.

More team followed the “Lema” style over the years, but our direttore sportivo Domenico Garbelli was something special, was living, train, dine and get to the races with us.
Was our surrogate father…very strict father.
Every morning he will check our weight and blood pressure and after breakfast follow us with the team car or the scooter.
Very ofter we would have a second training in the afternoon (just after a power nap), then dinner a bit of tv and then bed time…always at 9pm!
More to follow…..

Climbing training for Alfredo Binda

Training back in the 80s was pretty simple, we use to meet in Gallarate near Malpensa airport at 9am all the pro in Varese area and strong amateur (dilettanti) normally about 15/20people and off on the road on row of 2 at very good pace…..

View from Passo del Cuvignone

One of our favourite ride was to go around the lake Maggiore climb up from Cittiglio (Alfredo Binda’s born village) up to Cuvignone 12km between 8/12% radiant and then down to the valley to climb again 2 more passes and back home by 2/3ish.

Passo del Cuvignone

But the interesting story is about Binda’s style of climbing training and obviously the Cuvignone. He use to tied behind his bike a big bunch of thin branches for burning on fireplace and pull it all the way to up the top of the mountain which was at the time small passage with gravel and stones.

Alfredo Binda

I guess the training suits him as he become probably the the strongest rider of his time and for a long period of time.

Cavendish’s Direttore Sportivo….. Signor Valerio Piva

An old friend of mine, Varerio Piva, who has now moved from Italy and is living in Belgium after marrying Danielle, a successful hoteliere (Hotel Malpertuu in Riemst)

I was an amateur with Valerio in 1980 with team Lema/Mobili. Of the 15 riders in the team, 14 turn professional before 1984 winning more than 60 races in one season, including international races and stage races like, Settimana Bergamasca, Giro Val d’Aosta, etc. 4 riders racing for national team either on road or track. All this under the guidance of mythical and possibly the most famous and successful direttore sportivo in history DOMENICO GARBELLI.

Valerio had a long serving career where he raced and worked as “gregario” for many captains in the strongest teams. He become very popular for his quality of team player and of course team “rouler”. He now enjoys cycling from the team car…

Alfredo Binda the legend

Alfredo Binda

One of the greatest riders of the 20’s and 30’s was born on 11 August 1902 in Cittiglio, a small town in the Varese area of Northern. Binda’s story is simply unique: not only could he win, all the most important races in Italy and abroad, but could, in his capacity as coach, help bring triumph to other athletes. Athletes with the calibre of Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi. His palmares as a rider include, 4 Tour of Lombardy, 4 Italian championships, 2 Milan-San Remo, 3 World Championships and 5 editions of the Tour of Italy, with 41 stage wins. It is said that because of his extraordinary superiority, in 1930 he was paid approximately 22,500 lira by the organizers not to take part in the Giro that year…
The name of Alfredo Binda opened the roll of honour at the World Championships. The man from Varese is took victory in the first edition, which took place in 1927, he also achieved a further 2 victories in his career. His record of 3 wins still stands to this day. In 1936 he left the athletic activities of racing and became coach of the Italian national team: leading to victories at the Tour de France with Bartali in ‘48 and Coppi in’49 and ’52, and also the rainbow jersey of the world championships with Coppi in Lugano in 1953.

below one of  Coppi’s legendary climbs at the Giro d’Italia’s, Passo dello Stelvio with Alfredo Binda in the car…