Did you see this suicidal 37 year old little-known Italian go off the front on Giro stage 7?Alessandro Bertolini is Lance Armstrong's age, and although a good cyclist, at the tail end of his career. He won a rainy stage 11 of the 2008 Giro, a win many attributed to luck and the misfortunate accident of his more reknowned breakaway companion, Fortunato Baliani, who crashed within sight of the finish.
This year, Bertolini staged a solo attack on a steep descent 20k before the finish line. The peloton took the descent at a snail's pace, for good reason--it was treacherous and slippery. Bertolini, kabob-ed on his top tube, seemed hardly to notice. On a ten minute descent, he gained 2 minutes on the chasers.
Meanwhile Universal Sports' boob-headed crew asked polite questions of Chris Carmichal, on the phone from Colorado, about another 37 year old's fitness. They did little more than give us Bertolini's name. Here was a guy with a story, a family, and adamantine cajones, and we're watching his life hanging by a threadissimo, and we get three guys on the phone talking about lactate threshold?
What did they see in the swarthy dude from a minor Italian team humping his front fork at 60 mph in a blinding rainstorm on switchbacks?
Some old Italian going fast.
Bertolini didn't win (a 22 year old from Columbia-High Road, Edvald Boassen Hagen did), but I'll remember Bertolini and his crazy downhill attack, and I hope he gets another chance.
Yesterday at Conestoga Road Race, Tim Rugg, 23 years old, couldn't contain himself. He launched attack after attack. I was in the field trying to hang on. I managed two laps, then bagged it. I watched from the sideliness as Rugg came by with one rider on his wheel, 12 miles and 2000 feet of climbing to go. The chase group of eight followed, a minute later, and that was all that remained of the field.
The two grades of over 20% had sorted things out.
By lap three, the peloton was down to 8.
Tim was alone with one other rider, a 35 year old, who got the win.
The difference between a 23 year old and a 37 year old. The difference between a mad Italian dropping down a mountain and a 23 year old kid who drops up a mountain. The difference between the 37 year old domestique with one shot at glory and the 37 year old 7-time Tour winner whose every move is glorified.
There are many ways to differentiate ourselves. We don't want to be the 37 year old who has to put balls to pipe and court death for 10 minutes just to get some air time. But for most of us, that's what we have to do. When that time comes, hopefully the announcers will be paying attention.