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Interview with Massimo Strazzer
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 10/21/2002
Interview with Massimo Strazzer


A month ago I met Gaetano Dall'Ora. Gaetano is a vice president of Telmec and major sponsor of Team Telmec, an elite cycling team, as well as S.C. Verdellese junior team in Italy. (Soon we can look forward to an interview with Gaetano Dall'Ora on Team Telmec and S.C. Verdellese.)

As we communicated about cycling in Italy and around the world, Gaetano told me that in the next week or two he would be riding with his friend Massimo Strazzer and asked me if I would like to have him ask a few questions of Massimo when they met. I of course leapt at the opportunity. This is the interview Signore Dall'Ora was so kind to do with Massimo over dinner one evening last week (in the photo, Gaetano holds a copy of the Daily Peloton he printed out to show Massimo). Of note is that yesterday, 20 October, Massimo won his third Millemetri del Corso.

Interview with Massimo Strazzer by Gaetano Dall’Ora

In the beginning how did you become interested in cycling and racing? A familial connection, seeing a race as a child? At what age did you start racing?

Everything started because of a relatives of mine. An uncle of mine liked cycling very much and pushed my brother (Giovanni Strazzer) and me to try. I was 5 years old and Giovanni was 9. At the beginning it was just play, but one year later I started racing. I was 6. Now I am 33 ,this means 27 years on the bike! I went through all the categories from the young riders up to the professionals.

Who were your heroes as a young man?

My hero was Phil Anderson. I always watched him on TV. But there was another important man that I have admired more on personal level: Adriano Baffi. He was really a number one for the dedication and the strength he put on this job and I learned this important lesson from him. He was an example to follow.

Who do you most admire of the riders you have ridden with?

No questions: Adriano Baffi, he was the one.

Did you have a fortunate start or did the wins come as you worked and trained with persistence?

I always won very early in all categories,but I have always seen that as a consequence of a very hard work. Nothing is happening by chance in this sport.

As an amateur you among others represented GS Opel Vighini and at that time you were a part of the young new Italian guard; which also included, just to name a few, Fabio Baldato, Andrea Ferigato, and Gilberto Simoni. This must have been an exciting time. What are your favorite memories and reflections on this part of your young career? Any reflections on some of your fellow riders that share this bit of history with you? Funny stories?

I was proud about that, but I always worked by myself and frankly speaking I did not get very much help from the others.

In 1990, the year before you turned pro, you represented the little Italian amateur team GS Opel Vighini, the same amateur team as another fast man, retired professional rider Giovanni Strazzer. Are you related to Giovanni? If so could you tell us some about him? in 1987, how was your final amateur year?

Giovanni Strazzer is my brother. He has been my reference for a long time. In the U23 he won much more than me, but then in the pros I won more. He did only 5 years as a pro and then retired. He raced for SIDI, the SIDI-COLNAGO and then his last year for ZG in 1993.

In 2001 you won the points jersey in the Giro beating Mario Cippolini; not only this, I am told that you won the Intergiro and the Combative Prizes also. Was this your goal when you started the Giro, or did you gain strength with each attack?

No, the goal was to win a stage, but then stage after stage, we thought that this could have been our best goal to achieve. Few people realize how difficult it is to fight for these jerseys. You have always to be in the front of the group. Every single day.

You have always two sprints to do and sometime the sprint is just before a climb, so you have no time to recover. A lot of pain! Very tough and energy consuming!

This year you have won six times including three stages in the Circuit de la Sarthe, and won the intergiro Azzura Jersey. Both in 2001 and 2002 you had excellent results and many top ten placings also, which are unfortunately often overlooked; but all reflect your strength and speed. Are you happy with how this season went, and your multitude of victories?

I am very happy about this season. Results have been beyond expectations. And my team is also very satisfied.

Is one victory more special or memorable for you personally?

This year the most memorable has been the first, Almeria Classic. This was the first victory for Phonak.. It was memorable also for the level of opponents I beat.

I would think winning the 2001 points jersey might be very special; how did you feel after this great win?

Yes, it has been really special and great because it has been the result not only of a physical training, but also a training for the mind. To be there on the first row every single day and have to fight for the points you really need to be psychologically prepared. And I have worked a lot on this. To be convinced to never give up and persist every day to achieve your goal regardless the problems that could arise, that was the key.

In 1992, your second season as a professional, in a short time you achieved your first professional win in the Settimana Siciliana (The Tour of Sicily). How did it feel to raise your arms in victory for the first time in your Professional career?

One of the most exciting memories of my entire life. Impossible to describe. You raise your arms and you can touch the Heaven.

In your eleven years as a professional you have represented big team like Alessio, Cantina Tollo, Roslotto and Mobilvetta. This season you signed with the Phonak team under the wings of the experienced Team Director Alvaro Pino. What motivated you to choose Phonak?

When I met Mr. Freuler and I had the chance to see their organization, their objectives and the way they wanted to achieve them, I had no doubts that that was my team.

How is Phonak different from some of the other Italian teams you have ridden for in your career?

Very different! As I said, their organization really impressed me and the decision was really easy. In fact we found the agreement almost immediately.

Alvaro Pino, a distinguished rider himself, what is he like as a director?

Alvaro is a great director and above all is a great man. A person you can trust.

Tell us as well about Urs Freuler, a ten time world Track Champion who ruled through the decade of the 1980's, 21 six day races and a winner of the points jersey in the Giro as you. Could you tell us a little about this accomplished gentleman? ( I would love the opportunity to meet and interview Mr. Freuler)

He is the man behind the team. It's unbelievable the charisma he has. Also what impresses is the humility he still has despite the quantity and quality of victories he accomplished.

Perhaps a few comments of their "style" to bring the best out of the riders? Their knowledge of the races and competition?

Only one word to explain: “Professionalism.”

Perhaps you could tell us a bit about your teammates if time permits.

Sven Teutenberg: Good sprinter. He's leaving Phonak next year.

Benoit Salmon: Very unlucky this year. Good for stage races.

Alexandre Moos, the current Swiss Road Champion: Very good and a great friend!

Oscar Camezind: Great rider,everybody knows him , but also very unlucky this year.

Martin Elmiger: The future! High class for this rider: exceptional mind control and an exceptional engine.

Bert Grabsch: The power! Very very strong. Unbelievable physical strength.

Others of note?

Yes, Juan Carlos Dominguez. Good rider, but first of all a great guy and a friend. He has been the Maglia Rosa the first day at Giro 2002.

Many of their names are familiar to those of us who watch the results. Who is the funniest? Who do you train with most frequently?

All of them are funny and great friends. We do not train very much together because we are really a pan-European team. We live so far from each other.

You had a great ride in the Giro. Is there a chance we will see you riding in le Tour or Vuelta next season?

We do hope for the Tour. Our team is working for that.

What race is your favorite? Stage race? One day race or Classic? And which race would you truly love to win next year or in the future?

I'd like to win a Classic like Paris-Tours, Milano-Sanremo. I prefer stage races anyway.

Most of your successes are in the early part of the season. Is this your goal or the part of the team plan?

It depends on the goals the team wants to reach. I get ready quite early and this is a characteristic of mine. Next year for instance, if we know we have to go to the Tour, I will slow down during Winter to be ready later on during the year.

Is there some guidance you could offer to an amateur that would help him attain your skill and power in the sprint or at least to improve their sprinting ability? Some advice to those who wish to accomplish the great feat of becoming a professional rider? We have many young readers who are now starting to train and race – is there some advice and guidance you could give them as they start their young careers as cyclists?

There many suggestions of course. You must know that doing this sport on high level , you push your body to the limit. This means that everything must be perfect. So besides an appropriate training that has to be tailored for each one of us, there are many other aspects to take care of.

 For instance I have dedicated a long time and a lot of work in balancing my body and have a perfect right-left balance. I have worked a lot to have the best movement of my legs to be able to transfer 100% of the power my legs can develop.

The position on the bike is essential. A good position lets you use the best of your power. Unfortunately I see that most of people have a wrong position on their bike. They can go much faster than they do by just changing their position.

 It is a very long and difficult discussion that can not be summarized in a simple answer. Several aspects have to be combined together to achieve high results: the position, the training, the movement of the legs, the balancing of the body, the nutrition, the psychological aspect of supporting long and hard training as well as hard races...and others. They must be all parts of a common project to let you bring the best out of you.

 Unfortunately I have found a lot of ignorance in this field.

 What I want to do when I will retire from racing is to open a cycling school where I can teach all these important aspects. Maybe we can open a school also in the USA!

 What other sports, hobbies or other interests do you pursue or do in the off season, when you are not racing or training?

I love flying. I will get my license to fly soon. I like fishing and also scuba diving. And last but not least I am a good DJ.

Acknowledgements: Grazie to Gaetano for the interview. Salut Massimo, and grazie for your time and thoughtful answers. Thanks also to Manny Samaniego, Jakob Duma and Fabio for their insightful information and questions.

Related Articles
Massimo Strazzer: Riding in the Path of Giants
Italian News Round-up: Pro Riders and Young Guns

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