article by Nicholas Pucci
Put yourself in the shoes of a speedstercertainly of excellent lineage but not exactly the strongest of the lot, show up on the finish straight of the Milano-Sanremo located in Via Roma, and be the first to race across the finish line anticipating champions of the pedal that respond to the name of Giuseppe Saronni, Jan Raas (reigning world champion), Sean Kelly, Roger De Vlaeminck and Francesco Moser. It was the year 1980, and Piermattia Gavazzi accomplished such a featknown as Pierino, a 29-year-old Lombard from Provaglio d’Iseo who wears the shirt of Magniflex-Olmo directed by Franco Cribiori, and if this isn’t really an anthology sprint, you tell me what it is.
Effectively 1980 is the golden year of Pierino Gavazzi, who has already won three times at the Giro d’Italia in his career (1974 in Taranto, 1977 in Conegliano and 1978 in Milan) and in 1978 he wore the Italian Champion’s tricolor jersey. Obviously he is not the most popular of the 71st edition of the Classicissima, 288 kilometers that on March 16 calls 228 daredevils of the pedal to the challenge. At the start of the Sanremo the big favorites are in fact Beppe Saronnienfant prodige, already second twice (1978 and 1979, always beaten in the sprint by Roger De Vlaeminck), and Francesco Moser, champion of Italy, fresh from his victory at the Tirreno-Adriatico and destined to win the third consecutive Paris-Roubaix in a few days. Also on the way there is also the champion of the last two yearsprecisely “Mr Roubaix” Roger De Vlaeminck, who also won in 1973, and Jan Raas, the world champion, already first in 1977.
In Certosa di Pavia, after only 19 kilometers of racing, on the initiative of Tullio Bertacco from Vicenza, a trio also made up of Angelo Tosoni and the Belgian Etienne De Beule takes the lead. The three soon accumulate a considerable advantage, over 12 minutes over the peloton, and a few kilometers from Capo Berta, when the advantage is still around 5 minutes, Bertacco and Tosoni, probably in the throes of an attack of fatigue, touch each other and carom to the ground. For Tosoni the fall takes away any possible wish, while Bertacco manages to recover and catch up with De Beule, in the meantime left alone in the lead.
At the top of the Berta, the two treadmills still climb the hill with 3 minutes on the group, but their attempt from afar has now come to an end because a few kilometers further on, after having traveled alone for about 250 kilometres, they are reabsorbed by the platoon. In Arma di Taggia a bottleneck causes a gigantic fall involving about fifty runners (including Battaglin, Knudsen and Knetemann), many of whom are forced to stop.
Before the Poggio and on the same slope, the winner of the 1977 Giro d’Italia, the Belgian Michael Pollentierwith its awkward ride (one of the ugliest in history), tries to oppose the probable sprint of the first part of the groupor the one that remained in command, after the bottleneck of the fall of Arma di Taggia. He gains a hundred meters, takes the lead at the top of the Poggio but is reached at the entrance to Sanremo.
The decisive sprint, more fluid and correct than usual, sees Raas start full throttle on the right, while Moser, in the centre, before delivering the lunge, is anticipated by the dash of Pierino Gavazzi who is close to him (as his sporting director Franco Cribiori had suggested before the race). The thirty-year-old runner from Brescia, in front of everyone in the last thirty meters, he then manages to contain the return of Saronni, to his left, with a perfect backstroke. He wins an Italian, certainly not the one most awaited by the insiders, putting the rookies in the bag to those who, in Italy, can’t see further than Moser and Saronni. And in fact, the two, with the usual post-race controversy and the equally usual poisonous phrases, they give further life to that dualism, sporting and dialectical, which has characterized the cycling of the peninsula for a decade.
Pierino Gavazzi, author of a truly anthology sprint, smiles, thanks and takes home the victory that is worth a career. Like a true champion of the sprint.