Some racers — gregari and champions as Michele Scarponi – report talking to their bike during the toughest moments of a race. They always say the same thing: “Don’t give up now. We’re almost there!”
Michele Scarponi must certainly have pleaded with his bike on 24 May 2011 as he ascended Nevegal.
The thirteen-kilometre hillclimbing would mean second place in the overall classification for him in the 94th Giro d’Italia. Contador was untouchable and was all but guaranteed the pink jersey in Milan in five days time. But there’s also glory in following as closely as possible behind a champion in a state of unattainable grace.
Michele Scarponi couldn’t afford to lose more than 51 seconds from Vincenzo Nibali if he were to come in second. Yet, disaster was always possible as he raced in complete solitude with no point of reference.
So, during the steepest part of the climb on the provincial road, Michele begged his Cento1SLR to help protect his position.
After working so hard, it was unthinkable that all his efforts could be wiped out in a single climb.
One of his teammates found himself in a similar situation a year later on the road to Porto Sant’Elpidio on 11 May 2012. Miguel Ángel Rubiano had accelerated away solo at the top of the Montegranaro and was guaranteed stage victory. The four cyclists behind him could have just coasted to an easy finish. However, two members of the group — Adriano Malori and Michal Golas — were separated by mere seconds. Both were in contention for the pink jersey.
Although Malori had a three-second lead, Golas could have overtaken him if he beat him in the sprint. So, both called on their bicycles in the final kilometre, begging for help in the most important sprint of their career.
Michele Scarponi’s bicycle came through on the Nevegal. Together, they stuck close to Nibali, finishing just four seconds back and maintaining their lead in the ranking. Scarponi held onto his 47-second advantage in Tirano, Macugnaga and Sestriere. In the end, he found himself on the podium in Milan, one step below Alberto Contador.
However, in Porto Sant’Elpidio, only one of the two bicycles obeyed its rider. It was Malori’s Wilier Triestina who quickly responded to his “Come on!” and together they won the sprint for second place.
At the end of the day, Michele Scarponi waved from the podium of the Giro d’Italia in Piazza Duomo. And a year later, Adriano Malori donned the pink jersey in Porto Sant’Elpidio. However, no one in Milan ever imagined that those 47 seconds would lead Michele Scarponi to win the 2011 Giro.
It was all thanks to an intimate conversation between a man and his bicycle on Provincial Road 31 to Nevegal.