Remember when Danilo di Luca was the sexy playboy of Italian Cycling? Remember how his hair used to look fabulous, his wide grin filled with awesome shiny teeth, his entire persona reeking with style and vainglorious ego?
Yeah, that’s way over now.
Di Luca still has great hair, gleaming teeth and the sexy Italian bike racer look down, but he simply ain’t the EPO’d rider who won the Giro back in 2007 (doping but never caught) and was second in the 2009 Giro (caught and results wiped out.)
He just signed for his third team in three years and the post-doping slide into oblivion continues. After his suspension, Di Luca was literally cast out into the frozen wasteland, signing a contract with the Russian Katusha squad. He did nyet that season, then did a forgettable year at Acqua & Sapone (since folded) and now he’s signed up for Vini Fantini-Selle Italia.
The man is 37 years old and will never be a factor in a stage race again. On some level, we almost feel sorry for Di Luca — and we still want his hair, shiny teeth and classic Italian good looks. Despite his fall from grace — and results — we suspect he still has a Ferrari in the garage and an impossibly sexy Italian wife and his house is most likely paid off.
No worries for the self styled “Killer.” He never had to pay the 280,000 euros he owed the UCI, either.
Di Luca can retire at any moment and always wander into any Italian bar and score himself a few drinks. The old men toasting and nodding that Di Luca did what a man does in those circumstances — the syringes and blood doping, the lies, deception and cynicism. It’s just an Armstrong-Lite kinda story.
We will never forget Di Luca’s claim that his doping positives were the result of some “conspiracy;” nor will we forget the comedy of his tearful confession to a church full of school children, done at the suggestion of his celebrity priest Don Marco Pozza. And what pro cyclist could ever top Di Luca’s plan to return to racing disguised as Danish film actor Mads Mikkelsen? That was good stuff and Riccardo Ricco would have picked up a few drama pointers from watching Di Luca milk the sympathy vote.
We were curious to see what Di Luca could pull off in a bike race once he came back from his doping bust. The answer was, not much. He went from superstar to high priced domestique and that’s got to be hard when your ego is so used to the spotlights, champagne and podium girls.
We half suspected that Di Luca would simply move on to a new supplier, new preparations like Denis Menchov or Pozzatto or Visconti. He was too much rooted in the doping culture to truly ride on bread and water. But it seems that in his mid thirties, he perhaps grew weary of the doping regime. Who knows what is going through his head — we’re sure he never told the priest.
We expect that at some point this season, we’ll read Di Luca’s name in a race report. He used to be a “protagonist” but now he’s an old bit player with great hair and wonderful teeth.