Oh, it’s there alright.
Buried in the UCI regulations is a clause only a few cycling historians know exists. It’s doubtful that even president Patrick McQuaid has heard of it. It’s not necessarily a secret, simply an obscure three line item that’s never brought to light. It goes by the innocuous Article: 378.7B-11 and states there must always be “one flashy egotistical Italian in the peloton at all times.”
Monday allowed us to see the inner wisdom of the UCI and the adherence to the spirit of 378.7B-11. Italian Danilo di Luca suspended just as Italian Riccardo Ricco returns from suspension. Life in balance, wheels turning without effort. The flashy self-absorbed climber finishes his 20 months of banishment just as the flashy egotistical blowhard Di Luca goes into forced hibernation. In and out, whimper and bang.
There’s an inherent poetry and the chronological symmetry almost makes Ricco and Di Luca brothers. The Cobra and the Killer. The obscure UCI article is a fundamentalist throwback to the wink-wink days of doping and was written as a gift to the loyal Italian tifosi. Somewhere in Heaven the Pirate smiles.
There must always be a hero to cheer, a reckless, dashing and hot-blooded Italian that attacks at a moments notice. A rider who speaks of honor and character and writes his own legends. In the modern era, that means riders like Pantani, Cipollini, Bartoli and our two current CERA injectors, Ricco and Danilo di Doping.
There is much smart thinking behind this UCI article. Despite our distaste for Di Luca’s colossal hypocrisy and the mundane quality of his lies, we’ll miss the feisty rider. There’s no denying his talent and his passion for racing and he impressed us with his never-say-die efforts to beat Denis Menchov in the 2009 Giro. The man rode himself inside out and left; he left his blood on the road to Rome. And by golly, he looked stylish doing it, like he had a blow dryer and gel in his jersey pocket.
The same can be said for Ricco the rocket. Cycling fans appreciate men who don’t ride like accountants, endless re-calculating the odds but never acting. No Hamlets in the peloton! Ricco’s insane attacks in the mountains of the 208 Tour de France thrilled everyone. Even if you questioned the legality of his power output, you had to give the Cobra his due on pure, exhilarating spirit.
Every Italian knows that spectacle is part of biking racing — it’s Roman gladiators, tigers, blood and a Fellini-esque orgy of podium girls and circus show freaks in lycra. Kinda sorta. Cycling requires an out-sized personality with Latin panache.
Having a flashy egotistical bike racer to cheer on is an Italian birthright along, along with superior Tuscan red wine, good leather shoes, hand rolled pasta and women is tight dresses. Take away all those things and what do you have? Belgium, that’s what. Another cycle-mad country but with nowhere near the same sex appeal.
We here at Twisted Spoke support the vision behind UCI Article 378.7B-11. See you in a few years Danilo, three cheers for Ricco. Italy welcomes you back to the races.