Inside the RHC

I meet Riccardo one day in late October, and it is still warm. He is passing through Milan for business but he cannot give up using his bike. Riccardo was at all the RHC that took place in Milan, he is just one of the few who can have such a honour. He tells me that this year was really tough, he could not qualify even if his time was pretty better than last year (on the same circuit). Maybe he could be in if only the organization did not change the
rules about repechage. Anyway, there is no problem. What really matters is to be there and have fun.
Let’s start from the beginning, from RHC Bovisa. You told me, you rode all the editions – one of the few – so what are the big differences you noticed along those years?
Every year seems to be a different world: in 2010, that friday night at the first pioneering edition, there was all the North italian underground cycling world who came out for the first time. It was like looking at the mirror after being on a desert island for months and realize who and how many we were. That was the sparks that get many current realities off the ground, such as Iride Modena which is the winner of the RHC Team World Championship. Everything was unbelievable, like being in a movie, not to mention Jon Ander Ortuondo (AKA “ortu”) winning on a Legor frame, the rest is history. Year by year all the media started being more and more interested, plenty of talented photographers and videomakers arrived and it became a worldwide event. Year by year the technical level considerably grows up, I do remember in 2011 people looking at you strangely if you used the rollers to warm-up… now everybody uses them.
The RHC is a very technical race, you have to be really skilled but it is not enough. How do you deal with the race? Do you train specifically in the previous months?
We have a big advantage here in Italy, especially in the North, we have been so enthusiast and involved that (according to a study made by the RHC organization)now we are the country – all over the world – in which you
can find the highest number of fixed gear criterium (just give us a record sometimes)! So I have to say that among several tasks I can participate at many criterium during the year, especially in the period just before the race, the second week of October.I think that the best training is riding those races to get the right skills to restart and sensitivity to stay in the peloton, which is not easy because , as you know, we are brakeless! To be more specific, what makes a “criterium leg” are the cadence variations, so even when I am training with my racing bike I try to focus on these aspects. Then, considering that I live close to the Alps, I do love climbs so it is easy to train also suffering attitude, you never forget that it will be your mind that will allow to reach certain goals. It is always your brain that keeps your legs moving.
Track bikes are really essential, but are you a “maniac” about adjustments?
I do not spend too long around adjustments, I have my position on the saddle, which is well known thanks to a good professional biomechanic, but I have to confess that I am very careful about components condition and tightening. A loose nut can make you lost a race but it can also be very dangerous for your and others safety on track, such as a badly glued tubular tyre or a worn out tread. So yes, the night before the race I check everything,
and considering how essential track bikes are, it is something very quick to do; but every details becomes a chainring, if every single one works, all the chain will work.
While watching qualifying stages, I thought about an old interview with Ayrton Senna in which he said that to get the best lap in Monza you only had to focus on one point, just before the parabolic curve, if you have the guts to enter without slowing down, you got the best lap. For some reason, looking at the bikes at the RHC, I had the same feeling. As we said before, the “leg” is important, but how much is it important to have the guts to throw yourself inside the curve withno fear? Is it fundamental to know the track to get the best lap?
I start saying that Senna is one of my favourite, a legend, so let me talk about something else. I remember someone asking Ayrton who was the most important rival of his whole career. Everybody was expecting to hear the name of Prost, Mansell or Piquet, but he surprised everyone saying Fullerton, an unknown kart driver. Well, more or less we are talking about the same story, the bike in the end is not that important in a criterium race, what is important is the challenge, the pure competition to taste the real essentialmeaning of the race without strategies or state-of-the-art materials, that is what I like the most in cycling. Going back to your question, yes, the way and the speed you get the curve is crucial, here the path is everything, you are the engine and the less you slow down the faster you will be compared with your rivals. For example, apart from Bovisa race, it happened to me to ride in a kart circuit where I took different path compared with the others, but I was able to regain many meters even if they had “faster legs” than me. I would also like to say something about hairpin turn: you have to be able to slow down quickly (sorry about oxymoron), because putting your wheels first in the curve is one of the few ways to overtake rivals, in that moment you build a lot of your success; lap by lap knowing how to slow down become tougher and tougher, harder than speed up going out the curve.
Talking about strategies in such a race can sound ridicolous, you only have to ride fast and faster, but what are the things that pass through your mind lap after lap?
I think this is the most difficult and personal question…I do not think there is an answer, you are focused 110% on the race and on people at your side, concentration is very high and it happens not to hear anything of what they say along the circuit, even if especially here in Milano, hearing friends shouting your own name is something that give you an impressive boost, I mean it!
In one of the photos I took this year, there is you with a no doubt expression about your competitive attitude. I think I can say that you did not come to Milano to win, how can you describe such a passion?
Well, thanks for the photo firs of all! It tells a lot about what happens in the rear of the peloton, something that who come for the first time for curiosity misses. Cycling is made by very few winner and many many domestiques,
in the end it is thanks to them if the first one are glorified. This is my condition: age and build just allow me a certain type of performance, let us say a 60 out of 100, so here it is the competitive attitude and being deeply into this passion makes that 60 becoming 70 or sometimes 75. That hidden last option that brings out a performance even you could not imagine possible, this is – in brief – riding a bike.
You attended all editions, what are the moments you remember as the most pleasant? On the other side, the biggest disappointment?
Well, let’s start from the end, the biggest disappointment at the moment has been when decided to cancel the “last chance race” at this edition in Milano. I was sure I could do a great race, I had great feelings about it and even if I would not be one of the best 10 who could get the final, it would have been absolutely exciting because I had to race against people at my level, it would have been challenging and the result was not taken for granted at all. About great memories, there are a lot, the 2010 edition because it the first one and you cannot forget it, in 2011 because it was totally a close the gap race with someone who is a good friend now, Paolo “Bludado” Bravini now in the Cinelli-Chrome Team, in 2012 I was even put in the RHC website as one of the 20 potential winner and last year I was in the final despite the difficulties of qualifying laps. But above all, what really shakes you in the bones are the seconds just before the start, when your heart beats so fast even if you are still standing in the grid, yes, that is the deepest emotion you can feel.
This year you also were in Barcelona, you take part at CX races, alleycats, criteriums, you go up climbing mountains, on track…How much time do you spend on your bike? What is your favourite discipline? Even if I expect you will say all of them!
You are asking me if I love the most mum or dad, how can I answer to this quesion!? What I think important is taking the bike all year long, road or CX or just going to work, if mums with children do that in Copenaghen, we can do it in Italy, no excuses, you just have to be prepared and you can always ride! Honestly I dedicate a great part of my life to cycling, which is my favourite way of moving in town – as you saw – and I do not think about the bike just as sport, it is just a way of living and that is way there are so many people enthusiast about cycilng, if you try once you will never stop.
Did you always love bicycles? When did you stumble upon your first bike?
I still have my first 1998 MTB even fi now it has a child seat and I use it to go out with my children…I had a long period as a motorcyclist, I do not regret and if I have some skills as a driver, I think I have to thank that period, but we can say I have been faithful to bicycles for ten years now, the only wheels that I use have myself like the only engine.
Now the usual stupid question: do you also believe that the perfect number of bikes is n+1?
Well, I cannot say that. I do believe that for every discipline you need the right bike and that there is no better discipline, it can be track, CX, road or city bike. The nice thing to do is also to mix everything and doing crazy thing like climbing Izoard with a track bike or going to a mtb marathon on a singlespeed. At the moment I have seven bikes and I have to say I am really satisfied, but I do want to tell you that 6 out of 7 are made of steel, a really up-to-date material which can give a lot to those who really like riding.

Just after the coffee Marco arrives, with his helmet and his Gaggiano team jersey. He is around for delivering, he can count more than 1000 km in a month, in Milano, just for delivering. In such sunny days I feel a sort of good envy. Just before say goodbye I think about something Riccardo told me. He still misses the RHC in Brooklyn, NY, he says it could be the perfect gift for his 40 years birthday. I just think a little and I realize that it would be for my 45th birthday as well, I am pretty sure I could die on a hairpin turn brakeless, but for an instant I have the same idea. It is just a moment.