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No Watercarriers Here: Stars at Interbike 2003
By Staff
Date: 10/17/2003
No Watercarriers Here: Stars at Interbike 2003

Article and photos by Casper Casparian

For the large players in the cycling industry, the annual Interbike trade show in Las Vegas is not only the spot to sign up super-size retail orders, but also to get the big payback from the star riders they sponsor all year. The celebrity athletes give back to their backers by meeting and greeting their many tifosi among the Interbike crowd; signing autographs, posing for pictures and generally being agreeable about doing it.

Interbike 2003 was predictably star-studded, as dozens of celebrities lined up at their sponsors’ booths to sign autographs and mug for photos with adoring fans, retailers, reps and others who managed to swindle an entry badge to the trade-only event. I managed to get time with a few of them:

Alessandro Petacchi

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First up to bat, at 10:00 a.m. on the opening day, was champion Fasso Bartolo sprinter Alessandro Petacchi at the GITA/Pinarello booth (Petacchi, the press notes state, rides a Pinarello Dogma, hence the connection). A large crowd strung out to get his autograph on a poster celebrating one of the great Italian sprinter’s 24 victories in 2003, 15 of them in Grand Tours (making Petacchi the first rider in 45 years to achieve stage wins in the tours of Italy, France and Spain).

After giving his arm a workout with the gathered crowd, Petacchi sat down with his lovely girlfriend, Anna Chiara, while GITA President Giorgio Andretta kindly translated.

“For me, the last 5km of a race is easier than signing autographs, shaking hands and having my picture taken a dozen times. But I like it.”

“I am definitely looking forward to the end of the season. I’m going to the beach for two weeks, in Antigua. And no, I won’t have a bike, but I am bringing my girlfriend.”

“There are a lot of things I can’t [eat] during the [racing] year. The first thing I did when I got [to Las Vegas] was to have a big breakfast, in real American style: an omelette, with bacon and potatoes.”

“Usually, I take some time off the bike at the end of the season, and I get itchy to start training again after about 2 weeks. Some years I have taken off up to 40 days but it will be different this year.”

I asked Petacchi whether like Erik Zabel, his Team Telekom sprint nemesis for most of the year, he plans on keeping a museum of the bikes that he has ridden throughout his career. He also commented on Herr Zabel as a competitor. “No, I don’t have any attachment to the bikes I’ve ridden [as Zabel does.] I have nothing but the highest esteem and regard for Zabel. He is a great athlete and a fast sprinter. I am very proud to have beaten him several times this year, and I look forward to doing it again next year, if I can.”

Gilberto Simoni

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Next up, and the second-hardest-working man in the bike business (after the relentless Tyler Hamilton) was Saeco star and 2003 Giro D’Italia winner Gilberto Simoni, who shuttled between the Selle Royal and Cannondale booths.

I caught up with him at the Fi’zi:k display. Massimo Fregonese, the marketing director for the saddle maker, offered translation services. Simoni was probably the slickest-dressed individual in the cavernous Sands Expo hall, if not all of Las Vegas itself. The champion Grand Tour man, who gladly took ladies up on the offer of un bacio on each cheek, is a resident of Trento, nestled high in the Italian Alps.

Although very different from Trento, Las Vegas offers charms of its own. “Vegas is an incredible city,” Simoni said. “I can play roulette, blackjack here… but just for fun. “

As for his plans for the off-season, like all riders, Simoni sounded excited about unplugging for a while and resting his tired body. His plans for the next few months: mountain biking, vacation and skiing.

He also commented about his experience in the Tour de France this season, after a dominant performance in the Giro: “My performance in the Tour de France didn’t change my mind about the Tour. I finished because I wanted to show that I could do what I promised to do. It’s easy to say I could have won, but of course, it’s harder to do. When you have two off days, you lose time and it makes it difficult to recover.”

Casper interviewing Gibo. Richard Pestes left, Casper center, Simoni right.

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