"The Dolomites are as hard, or harder, than the Alpe d'Huez in the
Alps...take the Zoncolan - I doubt they could even find a road that steep in
France to run a race over." So starts the film The Quest, Phil
Liggett commenting on the idea that the Tour de France is harder than the Giro.
Ably narrated by Mr. Liggett, The Quest is the story of the Saeco Team in the 2003 Giro d'Italia,
the second Giro Simoni won after having been disqualified the year before, and which
some believe should have been his third Giro win, not his second. This film not only follows the race that year,
which was epic by various standards, but it is an intimate portrait of the
Italian team that came to win a race, and did.
Photo courtesy Spinning Wheel Productions.
This was the Giro of changes and a most uncanny edition for Greg St. Johns,
Russell Elder and Jonathon West of Spinning Wheel Productions to chronicle.
Cycling-mad Italy waits in breathless anticipation for the month of May, and
whereas they witnessed a scandal-rocked 2002 edition, this year they were
treated to an Italian spectacle. They would see Sprinter King and World Champion
Mario Cipollini meet his match in fellow Italian Allesandro Petacchi. The Giro stage record El Rey
Leone came to beat, Alfredo Binda's, stood agonizingly unbeaten for too many
days as Cipo could not cross the line first. Finally having beaten it, an
injured (and undoubtedly morale-wounded as well, courtesy of his team's Tour de France
exclusion) Lion King retired from the race.
Garzelli was also coming back from a tainted 2002, and the film is dedicated to
Il Pirata, Marco Pantani - this is the last time we saw him race. The
youngest rider in the race was a certain Damiano Cunego, hesitant and full of
hope. And a young protege of Ernesto Colnago, Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych,
fought his way onto the
podium in Milano.
It had already been a solid comeback year for Saeco. But more than anything, here was a Giro in which Simoni attacked and attacked
and attacked, showing just what kind of climber he is.
You are treated to a synopsis of each stage, including Stage Ten, the
day that pundits thought Directeur Sportif Giuseppe Martinelli had made a
horrible tactical mistake: Leonardo Bertagnolli attacked, and then Simoni
bridged up to him with "too many" kilometers left to go... It was not
a mistake, but a well-laid plan. The surprise was that no one
could follow Simoni, and on that day, Gibo took over the Maglia Rosa from
Garzelli, wearing it all the way to Milan. (Martinelli's answer to the press as
to why Bertagnolli had gone up the road? An innocent "I don't know." Indeed.)
Yet, this movie, for its excellent job encapsulating a very exciting Giro,
shows us also the heart of the Saeco Team. Interviews with the riders, mechanics, doctor, soigneurs, team director,
Simoni's director and the team manager show just how closely a team
needs to work in order to take on a race of this caliber. The daily routine is detailed from all angles - from how many team cars carry a spare bike for Simoni,
to why the staff act almost as parents to the riders, every
single detail taken care of for them.
There are extraordinary interviews - Simoni's best friend and training
partner Bertagnolli, whose love and respect for his team leader is so apparent, the Saeco
driver who has particular stature amongst the other teams' staff, the soigneur
who knows the exact mental and physical condition of his riders by the feel
of their muscles, a young Cunego riding his first three week race, old hand
Polti man Fabio Sacchi, the appointed shepherd for the riders. The understanding
with which Martinelli and Team Manager Claudio Corti handle their riders is
patient, fatherly and wise beyond measure.
Then there is Gilberto Simoni. He chronicles his early years, falling in love with
the bike and racing (spurred by the win of a man named Moser when Simoni was 13), his amateur racing and move to professional racing,
a transition which he explains was
difficult. In spite of a sometimes-expressed perception among tifosi
that he is arrogant, here is a quiet and honest man who talks about his mistake
in 2002, his primary and secondary motivation in this Giro, and his
responsibility as leader to his team.
The team mechanics secretly put together a special TT bike for
Simoni - they sent it off to be painted pink a few days before the final Time Trial. He never pre-rode it - they could only
test it when he was warming up on it before the time trial.
Photo courtesy Spinning Wheel Productions.
As a race fan who had never watched the Giro live until 2005, the race
footage in The Quest is an extraordinary treat in itself, to see some of the best climbers in the world
battle between themselves and against the mountains, the
best sprinters flying like the wind, the incredible triumph and tragedy that is
bike racing. As Phil Liggett says, "But this is Italy,
where nothing is too difficult for a true champion to conquer."
Above it all, viewers will gain an extraordinary perspective on the work and
detail required to participate in a Grand Tour. For that reason, The Quest is a film you will definitely want in
your collection (if you haven't a collection, make this your start), and is also
an excellent film with which to introduce your friends to the sport. It is
available for purchase online at The Quest website here.
Spinning Wheel Productions, presented by Cannondale
Running time: 1:44