Bortolami and Balducci
Fabio's comments on Balducci at around the same time ( Dec. 2001):
Last years winner of the Tour of Flanders - should not be discounted for
Sundays great race ....
The Tacconi Sport-Emmegi team will have high hopes on Sunday when their
two gladiators of the pave Bortolami and Balducci return to defend the
Here are a couple of early season reports by Fabio and myself on two
men of world cycling .
Enjoy - and remember to tune in for live ticker on the great race!
Born at Locate Triulzi in 1968, Gianluca became a professional in
with the Italian team, Diana. Steadily improving results (8 victories in
four years) and better teams (Colnago and Lampre) saw him sign for
The 1994 season was a major triumph. Seven victories, including two
victories in the world cup (and overall), and a stage in the Tour de
It seemed that Bortolami (then 26) would become the next legend of
one day racing.
Injury and illness then decided to step in.
Following an operation to remove a rod in his arm, after a fracture of
ulna in December 96, Bortolami said, "Stop start, stop restart ... I want
to erase 1995 and 1996." Sadly, while training for his new team Festina
Feb 1997 he tangled with a pedestrian and injured his shoulder. If not
plaster, poor ol' Bortolami has suffered everything health wise from
poisioning to unwanted cysts.
There are however, more
psychological blows to the mental state of the
pro - racer too. After his brave victory in the Coppa Bernocchi in 1997
Armstrong before him and Belli since, he raised his index finger to the
sky in memory and tribute to Fabio Casartelli. He later said "He was in
me when he fell at the Tour. A picture that remains in my mind. I have
scared since then".
With typical Bortolami luck (if he didn't have bad luck he would have no
luck at all) although not riding in the Tour as a member of the team he
dragged into the infamous Festina Affair.
This season the winning ways have returned. As a confident Bortolami
"It does prove that everytime I race I show courage. I have had four
victories this year - and I want to improve on that for next season - I
still believe I can win the World Cup. Even at 33 years old you still
almost a month between the important races - how much recovery time do
need? - I'm not that old!"
Bortolami then commented on his team mates and picked out
"He is obviously improving and has demonstrated he is able to
compete at the highest levels in the Classics. It is very comfortable,
having a team mate able to share the workload in the last few kilometres
such races. If Balducci continues to progress at this level, it will be
our mutual benefit".
Italy's Gabriele Balducci, riding for Tacconi-Sport-Vini Caldirola, is
definitely not one of the most famous stars in the international
spite of his five wins in the same number of years spent among the pros,
has often been neglected by fans and commentators, perhaps due to his
faults: the lack of experience and also a certain lack of trust in
Also the exploits of other similar, young and promising riders such as
Alessandro Petacchi (Balducci's teammate at Fassa-Bortolo last year)
overshadowed him a little. But now, at least according to what Balducci
to Gazzetta dello Sport's Fabrizio Salvio, seems the 26-year-old Tuscan
got the necessary experience and a major self-confidence, and can start
think big, hoping to hit the target he likes the most: a victory in one
the World Cup Classics.
A good help and a morale boost came from the results he got in some
Cup races in 2001: he ranked 7th at Milan-San Remo, 14th at the Tour of
Flanders, and 13th in Hamburg at the middle of August. In the opening
of the UCI World Cup, Balducci managed to catch the likes of Casagrande
Savoldelli on the Cipressa ascent; in the Flemish competition he managed
stay with the best riders until the end; in Germany he even tried to
the example set by Missaglia in the previous year: he launched a
attack with 4 kms. to go, but his legs weren't as good as Missaglia's
the poor Tuscan didn't succeed. Nonetheless all these memories of 2001
likely help him to be more hopeful and daring next year.
Balducci is perfectly aware that making his dream of a World Cup race
victory come true won't be that easy, but he told the Gazzetta's
that now he has got all the necessary "qualifications" to do well in the
races whose course particularly suits him.
But what does the man prefer ? A "home win" at Milan-San Remo or a
prestigious triumph in any Belgian Spring Classic ? The Caldirola's
racer admitted winning Milan-San Remo is one of his most important
but also said that, even if before 2001 the Italian Classic was his #1
target, this year he had the chance to take part in the Tour of Flanders
and, after such an experience, he would even prefer the tougher Belgian
to the "Primavera".
And after mentioning the Tour of Flanders, it's hard to avoid talking
about Gianluca Bortolami, winner of the Flemish race in 2001, and
Caldirola's leader for the Classics. So does young Gabriele Balducci
consider Bortolami an experienced rider that could help him, and teach
lot, or is the Tour of Flanders' winner a dangerous rival for the team's
leadership in one-day races?
"He's definitely not a
rival," Balducci said without any doubts, adding
that, "He can be of help to me, thanks not only to his experience, but
to his temperament: he's strong and determined guy, and I hope he may
part of his determination to me, I would certainly need it".
Will Balducci's dreams come true in 2002 ? Will he succeed in making
himself a little more known? Let's wait and see what happens, beginning
from February 13, when he should be at the startline of the Tour of the
Mediterranean, followed by Tirreno-Adriatico (March 14 to 20), Milan-San
Remo (March 23) and several northern spring Classics (Tour of Flanders,
Gand-Welvelgem, Paris-Roubaix, Fleche Wallonne and Amstel Gold Race,
excluding only LBL, whose tough route doesn't suit his features).
He could (not sure, though) also take part in the Tour de France, while
the August World Cup races in Zurich and Hamburg are definitely part of
programs. And finally the Worlds in Belgium, whose easy course looks
being quite appropriate for Balducci "And I want to keep riding until
October, as a spot in Italy's National team is one of my targets for
he said. Good Luck to him!
A brief Bio of the MAN:
BORN in Pontedera (close to Pisa) on November, the 3rd, 1975.
PRO since 1997
1997: CERAMICHE REFIN;
1998: SCRIGNO - BLUE STORM;
2000: FASSA - BORTOLO ;
2001-2002: TACCONI SPORT - VINI CALDIROLA;
1997: ALESSIO CUP;
1998: 1 STAGE TIRRENO ADRIATICO;
1999: Giro Lago Maggiore + 1 stage Tour of Slovenia;
2000: No wins;
2001: 1 Stage (Stage 4) Tour of the Mediterranean