Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mad Props Vol. 13

Claudio Chiappucci leads Gianni Bugno and Miguel Indurain.
Sestriere, France 1992

In the mid 1990's, I remember seeing a photo of Claudio Chiappucci in La Gazzetta Dello Sport or some other uniquely Euro newspaper of the sort, where a peloton, silhouetted far ahead among the heat waves on the horizon, seemingly teased the struggling champion as he tucked his head under his right shoulder and vomited along a particularly lonely stretch of road. The image conjured forth a sort of kaleidoscopic mirage of madness. A world in which the misery and futile desires of a defeated warrior were forever tantalizingly close, yet perpetually 400m ahead. It froze the story of Chiappucci in time so that even the most casual observer could understand his story. I stared at that photo for a long while and thought "Hell yeah, Claudio. Hell yeah."

"Il Diablo", as he came to be known, was a scrappy little terror from Uboldo, Italy. He was a persistent thorn in the side of the peloton because of his contentious, swing at the fences riding style and gritty determination. Claudio's approach to racing was simple: Attack. If that doesn't work: Attack again. This was both a gift and a curse for Chiappucci. His cagey style won over the tifosi and kept his rivals off balance and constantly on edge, however, he might have padded his palmares with quite a few more wins if he employed a more calculating approach to his craft. Still, for a man that was not as inherently gifted as some of his contemporaries, Claudio undoubtedly made the most of his abilities.

That photo in the forgotten newspaper summed up Claudio in a way that I hadn't seen since. It moved me. I was already a fan when I saw the image, yet, I came away respecting him even more after having seen it. The thought of it occasionally even causes me to reminisce about the tacky blue jeans look of his old Carrera kit back in the day...almost.

Mad props, Il Diablo. Hell yeah.

Some Chiappucci Links:

French punk rock band Jetsex with their song "Claudio Chiappucci"

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