Friday, December 16, 2011

More Tommasini Love...

And here are some scans of the Tommasini 1992 lineup.

Meeting Tommasini

While studying abroad in Florence WAY back when, I had my dream bike with me. One long weekend in January of '92, I took the train to Grosseto to meet il Signore. That was the name given to Irio Tommasini in an article I stripped from its issue long ago. I had been a fan of Tommasini since I had started riding, the name sounding as sexy and utterly Italian as the wild-colored bikes he produced. Of course, the late 80's in rural Iowa was not the best place to learn about Italian cycling masterpieces.

with Irio...

Daughter Barbara met me at the train station and I proceeded to stumble through as much Italian as my submersion class could give me in just three weeks. The family was so welcoming. After touring the factory, I ended up having lunch with them before spending a good part of the afternoon with Irio in his office and then doing a bit of shopping before getting down to the business at hand... I wanted my Racing repainted in a pearl white with the tricolor as bands.

I managed to snap as many photos as I could of the Monte Amiatas, Velocistas, Diamantes and Super Prestiges before heading back to Florence with my empty bike box.

Just three weeks later, I was back in Grosseto to pick up and reassemble my trusty steed. It turned out great. Unfortunately, it's in need of another repaint again... I'm thinking the original red/white/yellow motif would suit me again!

Since then, I've run into Irio, Barbara and others from the factory, most recently at last year's l'Eroica. He's always remembered me as the Cannondale guy when we've bumped into each other at the trade shows, even though I was still a year from landing a job when we first met... way back in '92!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Galmozzi Cambio Corsa is Finished!

Ciöcc finished the work on this quite a while ago, but I just now finished it to the point that I was ready to take it to the studio for photos. I'm real happy with how it turned out. There have been a lot of Galmozzi's popping up lately, but still none this early.

Once again, here's the video of the restoration and a little bit at the end with Angelo Galmozzi.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Binda, Girardengo, the Torpedo Affair and the Five Hundred Lire

It's well known that Binda and Girardengo weren't the best of friends. Many racers were actually at odds with Binda actually, even if Gira dominated the scene earlier but stayed in the graces of those he beat. But what began the malumore of the two? Ventura explains in il Campione e il Bandito.

"The 1927 World Championships signaled the start of the hostility between me and Binda," Costante recounted. "Before the start, the four of us on the Italian team agreed that if one of us should win, we'd split the ten thousand lire prize into equal parts." Of course, Binda won, but talks of splitting the spoils didn't take place. In fact, attention was focused on another affair... both Binda (Legnano) and Gira (Wolsit, a sub brand of Legnano) had mounted Torpedo rear hubs with coaster brakes by Sachs to their bikes to the tune of a one hundred twenty thousand lire sponsorship! The pact was that any publicity would never appear in Italy, to not endanger their bike sponsorships. When one Italian magazine ran a full feature on the use of the Torpedo, it was Girardengo who would have to change 'houses'. After all, Binda was the World Champion and rising star. But in departing, Gira wouldn't forget the broken promise of Nurburgring.

The next year at the start of a rainy Milan-San Remo, Gira took the line even after telling his Maino bosses that in case of rain, he wouldn't race. With a delicate wrist from earlier accidents, Gira toed the line with a long pair of gloves that reached up his arms. "It was one of the hardest and most competitive San Remo's I had ever done."

Incredible racing indeed. Gira passed through his hometown of Novi in the lead, profiting from a Binda puncture. Binda rejoins. The rain turned the snow into mush and the roads into mud. Then an attack from Giacobbe and Papeschi, then Binda. Gira loses contact but rejoins by the Turchino. Incredibly strong on the climbs, Binda attacks but is brought back. A change of wheels after Capo Berta (Negrini states they rode from Milan in a 44 x 18 and at Capo Berta flipped the wheel to a 44 x 16) sees the pair stretched out along with Negrini until the entrance to San Remo. "Let's divide the winnings," promises Binda to Gira. The campionissimo agrees, lets Binda attack from too far out, and takes him at the line by two lengths.

Some days later, Gira gets his winnings. Binda comes for his part, two thousand lire. "'No way' I tell him," recounts Gira. "It's you who owes me five hundred. Twenty five hundred from the World Championships, less two thousand from San Remo."
They didn't speak again for two years.

The True Story of 'The Champion and the Bandit'

So in the interest of expanding the knowledge base and preserving cycling history through translation... time for another book report!

I just finished Marco Ventura's il Campione e il Bandito, a well-researched account of the relationship between Costante Girardengo (Italy's first campionissimo) and Sante Pollastri (Italy's most wanted man in the late 20's, also written by him as Pollastro). My first long read in Italian, the book was a bit of a challenge at times, but proved well worth the effort.

Ventura's work was the inspiration for RAI's fiction of a similar name, a two-part foray into how far one can stretch the truth for dramatic effect. I won't go too far into criticizing it, but the main issues for me were the non-period correct bikes, class-breaking language, non-location correct settings and three main diversions from the truth: that Pollastro and Girardengo were close childhood friends; that Biagio Cavanna was some sort of upper class talent scout; and the final showdown and end of Pollastro. Aldo and Paolo, both from the Novi Ligure area, give further in-depth reviews of this on their blogs for the Italian-speakers who are interested. In addition, you can watch the entire thing on youtube in pieces, starting with the first part, below.

So back to the book and 'true' story and a quick translation that sets the stage of the early lives of the protagonists.

Their adventure begins in an Italy of misery. They were both sons of extremely poor farmers. One doesn't know for certain if they were friends, certainly they would have known of each other, because they were linked by a common passion for the bicycle: a vehicle of freedom for both of them. If in fact Girardengo would become a myth of cycling's greats, Pollastri would become the most famous bandit of the twenties. - Corriere della Sera's Costantini Emilia.

Sante was not only a fan of cycling, but tried his hand at a racing career as well. Gira's teammate Negrini is quoted as saying he even raced against Sante. But he evidently didn't have 'the stuff'. The bicycle would change from a ticket out of misery into a getaway car. A great deal of time is spent on theories and events leading up to why Sante turned to a life of crime, interspersed with the racing developments and growth of Gira, who was ten years into the most successful cycling career to date by the time Sante graduated from home robberies to his first cold-blooded murder. On July 14th of 1922, while robbing a transfer of money of the Bank of Tortona, the cashier Casalegno was murdered by a member of Sante's gang. The law was led to Sante by a switch-up in getaway vehicles. Sante's Maino was left behind by a member of the band as they hurried to get away after their unexpected killing. This began Sante's life as a bandit and a long run from the law that wouldn't finish until 1927.

This also leads me to two details for the vintage collecting set. Aside from the great detail of Gira's racing and private life which have been referenced by other authors as being some of the best-researched accounts of 1920's racing, Ventura brings us information about the Novi area's famous bicycle brands.

The first of these revolves around another "good bandit" or Robin Hood type. One hundred years earlier in the same area around Alessandria, Giuseppe Mayno della Spinetta (Monte Spineto being a mountain where he hid from the law), in protest of French inscription, began a similar career of banditry. While Mayno was an anti French guerrilla, Pollastri fell more into the thinking of anti fascist anarchists. Somewhere hidden in these pages is the explanation of how Cicli Maino is actually a descendant of this Robin Hood, the spelling changed to further distance it from its seedy roots!

The other is of course the start and growth of Cicli Girardengo, started in the forties with sons Ettore and Luciano. In 1964 assembly was transferred to the prison in Alessandria and was supplier to Maino (without the 'y'). After the death of Costante, the firm changed hands and eventually closed in the eighties, 'the second death of Girardengo' wrote Le Monde.

The book goes into great detail about a meeting on September 25, 1925, between Pollastri and Girardengo, who was racing at the Vélodrome d'Hiver against the Pélissier brothers, Bottecchia and Binda. By all accounts, Sante whistled a cifulò, which only Novi locals would recognize, to his old friend and Gira's masseur, Cavanna. The three met. Sante finally met his cycling idol and gave Gira his account of the circumstances around one of his cop-killings. Sante's condition to this was that Gira only tell the authorities should he be killed. The resulting rumors were enough to call Gira into court at the first of Sante's trials!

The second half of the book recounts Sante's time in prison and his heroics when he led the resistance to an inmate revolt and armed other inmates while protecting their jailers! His good behavior would set him free in 1959 after 32 years in prison. He spent his freedom selling various items around Novi (via bicycle) and staying within the law.

Woven throughout the book is the lyrics to a popular song about the legend of the bandit and the champion by Francesco De Gregori (written by his brother Luigi Grechi). Video below.

I found my interest change from the racing insight and biography of Girardengo to the incredible story of the bandit Pollastri. By the end of the book, I had almost forgotten the link to cycling's pioneering years; however, Ventura's level of detail and research is something that goes way beyond the typical content of most Italian cycling books... birth of the Giro - Girardengo - Binda - Guerra - Bartali/Coppi - end of the golden age.