this has, in a convoluted manner, been a less than successful week, though if looked at from another point of view, it's been pretty darned amazing. the less than successful bit started with ned boulting, though it would be most unfair to implicate him too deeply in the situation, for he is but the innocent bystander. at track centre in the sir chris hoy velodrome last saturday eve was the first time ned and i had met face to face; electronic conversation had been the precedent up till that point. and in the course of our glasgow tete-a-tete, i confessed to mr boulting that i had, in fact, never been to a velodrome before.
it is likely my own fault for giving the impression that there are few corners of the cycling world that have escaped my personal attentions. in fact there are probably a myriad of such. ned was surprised.
but i then had the opportunity to view this rather fascinating italian cycle documentary entitled l'ultimo chilometro, a movie whose title sounds so much more authentic than its english translation the last kilometer. i don't mind admitting that i have every intention of sticking with the former. however, the movie concerns three entirely disparate individuals, one of whom is the son of francesco moser. i confess to being less than clued up on the extensive palmares of francsco moser. i do recall him being the progenitor of disc wheels and holder of the hour record set at altitude in mexico in 1984, and i believe i recall laurent fignon moaning endlessly about how the helicopter following moser in the giro d'italia was responsible for creating a hindering down-draught during the final time-trial.
all i have come across up till this point painted a less than flattering picture of the three-time winner of paris roubaix. however, perhaps not unsurprisingly, in a documentary at least in part concerning his son, he features regularly, and for me is the highlight of the whole affair. i want to be like him when i grow up, even down to buttoning my polo shirt to the neck.
ignazio moser at 20 is on the upward slope to a career as a professional cyclist, riding for the trevigiani dynamon bottoli team, still learning the ins, outs and strategies of cycle racing, but now having transferred to the bmc developmental team and, in 2013, facing his first full season as a professional. while ignazio is on the very precipice of his career, davide rebellin, now 41 years old, is pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum, still attempting to continue an illustrious and yet fallible career at the very top. though a rider who has achieved much, he was also the subject of a doping scandal that provided a consequent ban.
in one telling scene, rebellin's father, driving behind him during a training run in sunny italy, says "the cycling federation want davide to confess guilt. but what guilt? he never told me 'dad, i did this or i did that', so for me his crime doesn't exist at all". i have no idea whether rebellin is guilty as charged or not, and very much to its credit, the movie does not follow this to any length, but it is telling that both rebellin and his father seem content to bury their heads in the sand over the matter.
the other two characters involved in this fast-paced drama are italian tour de france correspondent gianna mura, who provides sagely comments about the tangible difference between the good old days and contemporary cycle racing. he, along with francesco moser provide the glue that creates the scenery in front of which this seasonal drama unfolds. and colouring this scenery from the point of view of a cycling fanatic, is didi senfit, better known as il diablo or didi the devil. he's the scraggy haired and bearded german who has been as much a part of recent tours and giros as the yellow and pink jerseys, jumping up and down at the roadside, waving a home-made trident at passing riders and team cars.
if i have a minor criticism of l'ultimo chilometro it is that switching sequences between rebellin and moser junior are often hard to distinguish, taking a few moments to realise just who is front and centre. but overall, the documentary is a singular triumph; director paolo casalis has kept his direction and narrative entirely transparent, allowing the protagonists considerable talking space to tell their own stories without secondary comment. couple that with some particularly well paced filming, interviewing and editing, and the movie's fifty plus minutes just flash by. just the way cycle racing ought to be experienced.
rebellin is a fish out of water, all the while hankering for the level of success that was once his; a man for whom you feel retirement from the sport will not sit at all easily on his shoulders. ignazio moser claims to have no wish to be judged by his father's palmares, a rather forlorn hope in such a cycling obsessed country and with such a distinguished surname. moser senior seems to have no illusion about that which sits ahead of his son saying "here in the vineyards we always need hands to work".
the riders of old often used cycle racing as a means of escaping agricultural drudgery, and it may be that young ignazio is following tradition, though it cannot be said that the trappings and surroundings during his interviews are even close to rudimentary or rustic. rebellin too seems still to enjoy the fruits of his erstwhile success, but i fear more for his future than that of ignazio moser. l'ultimo chilometro is a truly excellent window on italian cycling, commenting without making comment. if you speak italian, you can watch 'au naturale; the rest of us must make do with english subtitles.
very, very good.
the last kilometer is available on dvd for €15.90 (£13.75) direct from www.thelastkilometer.com
friday 8th february 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................