Thursday, December 13, 2007

1961 World Championships


Bern-Bremgarten, Switzerland. September 3, 1961

Distance: 285.252
Time: 7h 46m 35s
Average Speed: 35.861 km/hr
Conditions: Cloudy, September temps
71 riders started, 32 finished

Results:
1. Rik Van Looy (Belgium)
2. Nino Defilippis (Italy)
3. Raymond Poulidor (France)

There are very few items remaining from my father's youth. Over the years, most of his keepsakes were either tossed, lost, or left behind from his move to the U.S. from Argentina. Because very few cycling pieces remain, his cycling experiences are mostly confined to memory.

A few years ago while cleaning up, my father came across an envelope containing a few small things he had collected on a trip from Buenos Aries, Argentina to Bern, Switzerland to view the 1961 World Road Championships. The trip comprised of travel by ship, train, and car to meet up with his mentor and friend, Bruno Loatti. Bruno was an Italian track and road racer who had traveled to Argentina to participate in six-day races and road events. My father had served as Bruno's mechanic throughout his stay in South America.

In 1938, Bruno had won a silver medal in the Amateur World Championships in the Sprint event and had stayed involved for many years after, racing and eventually coaching.

Digging into this envelope was a special moment for me. As his son, it provided me with a glimpse into my father's life and, as a cyclist, it was a door into the past. My father and I sat and drank Stellas as we recalled his trip and the sights and sounds of the World's. As a guest of Bruno's, it meant that my father had an "all-access" pass that gave him access to the course, and because of Bruno's continued involvement and love for cycling, he was also treated to the hospitality of the PROs, the Italian, South American, and even the Belgian, riders. My dad recalls the enthusiasm in both the Italian and Belgian camps, excitement that one of their countrymen would finish the day in the rainbow stripes. He recalls Rik Van Looy's confidence and sitting with the Belgian team as they sipped tea at 11:00 p.m. at the local cafe, too jacked up on adrenalin to sleep. He smirked as he described the crowds laughing at the Japanese team's breakaway in the 20th KM of a 285 KM race.


My dad talked about the drive home from Bern to Milan where he and Bruno smoked tax-free cigarettes at elevation, making both of them lightheaded and dizzy. We chatted about how the Alfa station wagon labored to cross the Swiss passes, and even the Swiss World's team still on their machines passing the car on the descent as they rode back to the hotel.


It was obvious to me that my dad was enjoying telling the story as much as I was enjoying hearing it. Unfortunately, because most of my dad's cycling memorabilia has been lost, the people and places are just a memory. For this very reason, it makes the 1961 Worlds even more special for both of us.

16 comments:

Jason said...

RF, another excellent post. Love those few tidbits that were in the envelope. Keep it up

BLUEIF said...

You sir are a very lucky man to be able to share such things with your father.

Anonymous said...

That is so kick-ass on so many different levels. Thanks for sharing.

Tim Jackson- Masi Guy said...

Great post and great memories. I hope to somehow leave something like that for my kids- if they get into cycling especially.

Awesome to be able to share something like that.

Colton Liberacki said...

Awesome post.

Although not the same, the envelope reminds me of digging through my aunt's basement and finding her Coors Classic Musettes and race numbers.

Radio Freddy said...

Thanks for the comments and for taking the time to read. I began writing this post back in January and it took on many different forms. The trip from BA to Milan was a story all its own - the boat ride was a three week adventure. It was tough to keep it 100% cycling centered. - RF

Niels Hoolgenshoten said...

AB is the man! The 20km breakaway was my favorite bit.

Anonymous said...

everything old is new 'long-board' style:

http://www.gitaneusa.com/images/racing/
Renault-Elf-Gitane,-cycling.jpg

Anonymous said...

AB is the man. Your post was really moving for me. Thank you for sharing these moments, especially for those of us that can relate to your fathers feelings and your being able to share those emotions. I had a similar expierience with my Dad watching footage from a road race in Argentina. Thank you,
Ed N.

Anonymous said...

Freddy, did your dad tell any of these stories while still dressed in the WC Edition LEDERHOSEN from the party following the race?

Radio Freddy said...

Anon - Unfortunately the WC Edition LEDERHOSEN was among the items lost during my father's moves. He did comment that they were very itchy, especially when soaked with champagne from the podium.
- RF

Anonymous said...

Freddy - great but i thought that wool was the choice material of Old Skool euro's ? Keep up the great work im really digging this site :) Love from Canada

Radio Freddy said...

Anon - The WC Edition LEDERHOSEN were of course, the scratchiest of the wools. Ol Skool style. Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment. - RF

another freddy said...

Very cool post. I shared similar stories with my father but mostly about baseball. I hope someday my children will reflect upon me telling them a cycling related story as you just did about your father. Thanks from Baltimore.

bikesgonewild said...

...i think 'blueif' just about said it all...i do honestly hope you will express our thanks to your dad...

...a wonderful tradition of passing the torch...

greenjersey said...

Very interesting post. I'm not sure it would be Adrenalin that was keeping the Belgian team awake although it likely began with an A. This was 1961 afterall.
There was nothing strange about an early break despite the length of the race. Just three years earlier Baldini won from a race long four up break and in 62 Stablinski won from a very long break as indeed did Simpson in 65.
I suspect that the source of the amusement was the fact that the in the breakaway was a Japanese rider. These days it is hard to comprehend just how Eurocentric road racing was in 1961.