This picture of Maurizio Fondriest is one of my earliest memories of professional cycling. His stoic determination and grit seemed to radiate out of the photograph. The splendor of the Alfa - Lum (with World Champion stripes) kit flirted with the wondrous green and white of his Legnano with orange tape.
And those eyes! That fixed gaze off camera was conquest in it's rawest form. He seemed to say "I will take this competition and shit it out my ass!" My long search for a role model had finally ended.
This was true poetry in motion. In my mind, the photo became a flowing canvas that was alive and strangely animalistic. It breathed, suffered, ascended, descended, sprinted, and won and lost. I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be like Maurizio Fondriest.
Maurizio Fondriest stunned the world in 1988 when he snatched victory in the World Championship Road Race ahead of a crash involving the two would be 1-2 podium finishers of Claude Criquileon and Steve Bauer. Regardless of where your alliances lie, Fondriest certainly wore his new stripes well in the years that followed.
If 1988 was a foreshadowing of things to come, 1991 was confirmation. That was the year Maurizio won his first World Cup. His consistency as a professional in the european peloton was duly noted and Fondriest found himself a marked man.
1993 Blessed Fondriest's palmares with a dizzying 23 professional victories including Milan - San Remo, Fleche Wallone, GP du Midi Libre (3 stages and overall), and a stage in the Giro d'Italia. His dominance that year was repayed with a second overall victory in the World Cup.
In 1995 Maurizio was at it again when he claimed victory in a Giro d'Italia stage and finished second in Ghent - Wevelgem, Milan - San Remo, Fleche - Wallone, and Tirreno Adriatico overall.
Fondriest was one of the classiest riders of the peloton and one of a handful that truly inspired me to ride my bike. For that, Maurizio gets Mad Props 2x.