"This is a horse sport, we are called horses. They give us blinkers and tell us "go". Do not think, do not look around, do not to try to understand. But, on the contrary, I think, and I look around and often, I don't understand. And I wonder: what is that for? This is before feeling the cross around my neck, beating my face and dancing as I am riding ". - Pavel Tonkov, 1996
I watched the 1997 Giro d'Italia the other day and witnessed Pavel Tonkov go to battle against Ivan Gotti for the honor of the Maglia Rosa. Tonkov perpetually attacked Gotti, a friend and training partner, for the better part of the final week. Tonkov never gave up and continued his massive commitment to achieve a second Giro win even though it seemed a forgone conclusion that Gotti was able to match any effort mounted to unseat his control of the race. Tonkov finished in second place 1:27 down on Gotti.
Fast forward to the 2004 Giro d'Italia. Tonkov was toward the end of his career, and after some trying times, thus was no longer considered a threat for a stage win. That changed on stage 17, a 153km jaunt from Brunico - Fondo Sarnonico. After a long break, Tonkov dropped Alessandro Bertolini at 15km to go. Tonkov finished 2:15 up on Bertolini and crossed the line with his arms locked in the above gesture. When asked about the meaning of his actions Pavel said "It was only a gesture of rage against the journalists, that did not consider a protagonist in the Giro any more."
I like riders that dig deep within to prove the critics wrong and have the moxy to rub their faces in it as well. Mad Props, Pavel!