Elia Viviani, Italy’s top sprinter, suffers from a common affliction in pro cycling.
It is thought that as many as 99.94% of all pro cyclists, in fact, are affected. An otherwise unhumanly fit and healthy man, Viviani has a chronic case of not being Cavendish, Kittel or Greipel.
It’s a debilitating condition that he’s had to manage for many years.
Symptoms include a lack of Grand Tour stage wins and persistent disrespect from cycling fans. A guy like Viviani, who’s won a ton of medals on the track (including Olympic Gold, in 2016), can only wonder just how glittering his career might have been had he not been a sufferer.
It’s a cruel blow.
But in life, success and failure are often dictated by the company we keep. In this year’s Giro d’Italia he is sharing the road with a peloton packed with fellow sufferers, levelling the playing field somewhat.
And on a level playing field, he’s the class act.
He won stage two, on the run-in to Tel Aviv, and again today on stage three he shrugged off his challengers to win again. He was bumped by Sacha Modolo and barged by Sam Bennet (very nearly ending up in an untidy tangle with the safety barriers) yet stayed cool and won with room to spare.Embed from Getty Images
In 2017 I saw Viviani in the flesh at the Six Days of Ghent track event.
He was confident and charismatic, and carried the aura of a world class cyclist around the tight boards of the Kuipke stadium. He worked the crowd, played the fool, and dished out several spells of devastating wattage.
One of those occasions, close up, that reminds a rank amateur like me just how many rungs up the ladder a guy like Viviani really is.
For fellow sufferers of not being Cavendish, Greipel or Kittel, the man is an inspiration.
And as the race rolls on to Italian soil for Stage 4, what’s the verdict on three stage Israeli excursion for the Giro d’italia?
Honestly? From the perspective of an armchair fan? Watching cyclists on wide, major roads, against a barren backdrop of deserts landscape, through the gloom of a near sandstorm?
Roll on Sicily.
(Top Image: via http://www.altoadigeinnovazione.it/fercam-sponsor-giro-d-italia/)