My first World Championships was in Mexico, 1980. It was also my first time with the Italian national team, it was actually the first time I’d even been on a plane.
The year before had been a good one for me on the track. In my age group I won the provincial individual pursuit championships, the Veneto championship, and the Italian championship in Ferrara, setting a new Italian record.
The manager of the Italian team asked me if I’d be interested in moving to road racing, and I agreed. Back then, I did both anyway, and the opportunity to join the national team was too good to pass up. I started training more for the road and joining up with the national training camps, with another 12 or 13 guys trying to make the team.
I remember being the biggest guy there, anyone who knows me now knows that I’m tall, well I was the same height when I was 17. My mamma always fed me well! They actually told me to lose a bit of weight when I got to the camp because I was eating too much.
The first few days, they were hard, but I kept at it and did my work. And after a few days, I started getting stronger. The other ones who arrived skinny, by contrast, started to go slower. So by the end of the training camp, I was the strongest. The youngest, but the strongest. So I made the team.
That year, I was faced with three choices. I could get a job at a big power plant on the Adige river because my school had recommended me, I could keep going to school to continue my studies and become a mechanical engineer… or I could go to the World Championships in Mexico.
School began in September, but the Worlds were in October, so I couldn’t do both. I said to my dad: “Papà, let’s forget about the first option right away. I don’t want to work at a power plant. The second option is ok because I like studying, but I can’t miss out on Mexico.”
He told me I was old enough to decide for myself, and then warned me: “But listen, you better work hard. Cycling is tough, it’s the hardest sport in the world.” He knew, because he’d raced a bit when he was younger, but gave it up to work and take care of the family. His dad had told him that his bike was only for riding to Verona to work and riding home with the money, not for racing. “See how you get on,” he added, “and when you’re 21 there’ll still be time to get a serious job.” As it turned out, I won a gold medal in the team time trial at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, on the fifth of August, a day before my 21st birthday.
I’m really happy that inGamba works with Castelli, because my real cycling journey began wearing their kit. I can still remember pulling on that Italian jersey in Mexico, it was all in wool, a beautiful blue, with that little scorpion logo on the shoulder. My mother still has it, with the numbers pinned on the back. Their logo was there again when we won gold at the 1987 World Championships, and later in my professional career when I rode with Mercatone Uno.
The new kit is fantastic, I especially like the blue one, and I get lots of comments on it. It’s everything you’d want, aerodynamic, light, I think the cut is great too. I’ve been riding a lot lately – maybe that helps in the looks department because I’ve lost a few kilos – and it’s really comfortable, it feels like a second skin. It looks good when you’re wearing it, too, and that’s not always easy when you’re a bit older. And it makes me think back to those early days, with so many fond memories.
Check out the full range of our new Castelli clothing over in our store!