There are cyclists who have intertwined their history with the places where they were born, where they started pedaling and where, even once they became world champions, they never stopped doing it. Moser in Trentino, Pantani in Romagna, Nibali in Messina. And Felice Gimondi, between Bergamo and Brescia. Following the wheels of the champion of Sedrina, Giacomo Pellizzaria graduate in Philosophy, a writer on cycling and a devoted practitioner of this sport which is also a bit of a religion, has chosen eight routes winding through the Alps, Pre-Alps, lakes, and he recounted them in a book entitled «Itinerario Felice. From Bergamo to Brescia, along the streets of Gimondi». It will be presented at Book Pride in Milan on 12 March at 2.30 pm. And in Bergamo on April 4th at the local Bike Fellas at 9pm, with Norma Gimondi.
Pellizzari has chosen this champion from Bergamo as a guide, pedaling and weaving together places and episodes that follow the story of someone born in Sedrina to a truck driver father and a postman mother, and became winner of the Tour de France at 23, in 1965, just a few months after turning pro. These areas have now changed and some, for once, even for the better: a network of cycle paths is being woven along the disused railways that is almost unique in Europe. The one between Bergamo and Brescia, the two cities that are together Capital of Culture 2023, will also be open shortly: it winds through the countryside passing by Lake Iseo and the castles of Franciacorta. With a route of 75 kilometres, it touches three Unesco heritage sites (the Venetian Walls of Bergamo fortified city, the complex of San Salvatore and Santa Giulia, and the archaeological area of the Capitolium) and allows cyclists to admire castles (such as those of Val Calepio and of Franciacorta), monasteries, villas, historic centres, villages and farmhouses.
Giacomo Pellizzari, also following the suggestions of «Nuvola Rosa» with his imagination, as Gianni Brera had nicknamed Gimondi, in its “Happy Itinerary” does not miss the detours, going up to the passes of Vivione, San Marco and on the coasts of Garda. He redid practically all the «vie di Felice», which became famous because they were the open-air gym where the champion from Sedrina trained. And the advice to deal with them in the right way seems to be dictated by him, even for those who nurture a healthy competitive spirit. History teaches that this is a land that is in tune with cycling, perhaps because it is inhabited by people who educated themselves and grew up with hard work. «Once in a Tour de France there were eighteen people from Bergamo at the start. Eighteen, you know?». Words of Paul Savoldellithe “falcon” born in Clusone, so called because he won races more downhill than uphill, including two Tours of Italy.
He was a mechanic and friend of Gimondi throughout his career Peter Piazzalunga, born in Seriate and called Pinza d’Oro (it was the prize that was awarded to the best mechanic of the year and he had conquered it as a nickname). Gimondi is the example of a champion who has won so much because he never gave up. Norma Gimondi recalls what her father thought about challenges with Merckx, the strongest cyclist in history, not surprisingly called “the cannible”: “I’m not the first of the losers, but I’m the last to have given up”. His goal was to be the first of humans. The two rivals were friends and “the Eddy” was unbeatable. In that article before the name there is perhaps everything, even the spontaneity of a champion who entered the Olympus of sport, and remained the boy from Sedrina who went by bicycle to deliver letters to mountain villages, where the postman mother did hard to get there. After the Tour he won three Tours of Italy, a Vuelta of Spain, the world championship, Paris-Roubaix, Milan-Sanremo and two Tours of Lombardy.
Giacomo Pellizzari met him and Norma in 2019, at the presentation of his book entitled “Italians at the Tour de France”. “I was struck by the frank and sincere way they looked into each other’s eyes.” Father and daughter often went out together on the racing bike. «At the beginning he was in front and I trudged» Norma Gimondi told Sportweek: «I was 20 years old, dad wasn’t the type to wait for you or cheer you on, in fact he took me to the limit. I never dreamed of telling him “I’m tired”, or “I can’t do it”, it would have been unthinkable. When he understood, by himself, that I had reached the limit, his sentence was: now go up steadily, but don’t stop, don’t put your foot down. Then, over the years, I also began to change him. For me it was a pride to shoot for Felice Gimondi».