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18th Firenze-Pistoia ITT. A Preview
 
By Fabio
Date: 10/25/2003
18th Firenze-Pistoia ITT. A Preview
 

Do you think American victories on European soil are just a recent thing ? Sorry, you are ill-informed. You probably don’t know that the first-ever cycling race on Italian territory, dating back to the days of … 1870 (!!!!), and coming not a long time after the first ever contest in Europe (Paris-Rouen in France), had an American winner.

Indeed reports say that on the Second of February, 1870, a teenage boy named Rynner van Heste, son of the American consul in Florence, was the fastest participant to a velocipede race (against the clock) covering 33 km. between the same Tuscan city and the nearby town of Pistoia.

It took 2 hours and 12 minutes for young van Heste to cover the route, averaging a speed of some 15 km/h (!!!! again). Not exactly comparable to Lance or Jan, but enough for him to dominate a field of 23 participants. After that triumph the name of Rynner, certainly not a “professional” rider, got lost in history, and we don’t know much about him (although gossips dating back to that time said that the boy, a favorite of many Florentine ladies, got his biggest successes … ehm … OFF the bike. But that’s a whole different story).

And also Italy’s most ancient race got lost until one of the nation’s most outstanding cycling personalities, Loretto Petrucci (winner of two MSRs), thought that it would be a good thing to reinstate it. And he did: 115 years after his victory, Van Heste had to surrender his status of “reigning champion” to Germany’s Rolf Golz, winner of he second edition of the Firenze-Pistoia ITT, held on October 19,1985, in occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Italian Cycling Federation.

Thanks to the sterling efforts of Petrucci and others, the competition has continued since, with 15 more editions held (the race didn’t take place in 1997 and 2000), and several World-class winners, including 4-time champion Toni Rominger, as well as Italy’s Francesco Casagrande, who smoked opposition twice (1995 and 1996) on home roads.

Last year “Big House” came close to score the hat-trick, but eventually lost by 17” to fellow Tuscan Fabrizio Guidi. He’ll try again on Saturday, in the 18th edition of the race (now organized by the “Gazzetta dello Sport” paper, and also renamed "Memorial Adriano De Zan", as tribute to a famous former Italian TV commentator.

The 18th Milano-Pistoia will be a “last time” in many different aspects. First of all, it will be the very last pro race of the 2003 road season on Italian soil. Secondly, it will be the “last time “ for World Champion Igor Astarloa to ride for the Saeco Team.

And it will also be the last time on a bike (as a professional rider) for one of the oldest guy in the peloton: 38-year-old (39 in Mid-December) veteran Roberto Conti. Seventeen years (yes, S-E-V-E-N-T-E-E-N) after making his debut with the Santini-Conti-Galli squad, the man from Faenza made the decision to hang up his wheels, and chose Firenze-Pistoia as last race.

In his career spanning over 18 seasons Roberto Conti (who will be the only Mercatone Uno-Scanavino rider at the start line on Saturday) was a sensational and loyal domestique, giving a fundamental help to all of his team leaders. But he can also count some big success on his palmares, the most outstanding being, without any reasonable doubt, the great solo win he got L’Alpe d’Huez in the 1994 Tour de France. Also winner of the 1999 Giro di Romagna on home roads, the man was even awarded the Tour of Italy white jersey in the 1987, a time when the Young Rider Classification was still part of the race tradition.

Among the 22 starters will be another man from Faenza, Italy’s National ITT Champion Giampaolo Mondini (former USPS, now at Domina Vacanze-Elitron). Other riders to watch out for should be a former Gold Medallist at the World ITT Championship, e.g. Serhyi Honchar of Ukraine, plus Italians Ivan Basso, Giuliano Figueras, Stefano Zanini and Filippo Simeoni, as well as Swiss specialist Jean Nuttli.

The first rider to compete will take the start at 14:00 hours (local time), although not in downtown Florence, but in the nearby city of Prato, just to meet the finish line 33 km. later in Pistoia’s “Piazza Duomo” (Cathedral Square). World Road Race Champion Igor Astarloa (probably not wearing the Rainbow Jersey, as this race is a Time Trial after all) will be the last one to get on his bike, at 14h31’30”.

The “Daily Peloton” will deliver news and results of the race. In this site you can also find Report (click here) and Results (click here) of last year’s edition of the race. And below is the complete Palmares of the Competition:

RECENT (AND NOT SO RECENT) WINNERS

1870 - RYNNER Van Heste (USA)
1985 - Rolf Golz (Ger)
1986 - Lech Piasecki (Pol)
1987 - Helmut Wechselberger (Swi)
1988 - Tony Rominger (Swi)
1989 - Tony Rominger (Swi)
1990 - Lech Piasecki (Pol)
1991 - Tony Rominger (Swi)
1992 - Tony Rominger (Swi)
1993 - Maurizio Fondriest (Ita)
1994 - Francesco Casagrande (Ita)
1995 - Francesco Casagrande (Ita)
1996 - Marco Fincato (Ita)
1997 - Not held
1998 - Marco Velo (Ita)
1999 - Marco Velo (Ita)
2000 - Not held
2001 - Nathan O'Neill (Aus)
2002 - Fabrizio Guidi (Ita)

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