I was riding back into town when I passed an old bloke on a Bianchi. I'd clocked up a few hundred kilometers riding solo at Wilsons Promontory the week before so was keen for a chat. It turns out this guy is about the same vintage as my partners dad , Peter, and used to race as an amateur and professionally. We were talking about riding in that era when I asked him if he watched the Olympic road race in Broadmeadows. The 1956 Olympic road race is a bit of a passion of mine (watch out for more about it on this blog), helped along by the fact that Peter grew up nearby, watched the race, and did a lot of training and racing in that area. Not only did he watch the race, but as a recent Italian migrant he hung out with the Italian team, and bought the bike of the second placed Italian (7th overall) for 50 pounds after the race. Baldini, an Italian, won the race in a solo break, but he didn't buy his bike because Baldini was a very big bloke - well over 6 foot - and he bought it to ride, not as a museum piece.
He invited me back to his place and I checked out the bike in his garage. A Legnano frame, with original leather saddle, aluminium drink bottle, wheels (Ambrosio) and drivetrain (Campagnolo). Handling the bike that was part of that race was a fantastic experience - a physical connection with that day over 50 years ago. I was actually surpised at how 'modern' the bike looked and felt. You could easily ride the bike today without too many people giving it a second glance. The aluminium drink bottle is probably the biggest give away that this is a genuine vintage machine.
He raced the bike himself after buying it, so it's not as pristine as it would have been on race day 1956. For photos of a similar bike in mint condition, check out this website, which also gives you a bit more background on Legnano frames: http://www.theracingbicycle.com/Legnano_1958.html. Also part of his bike museum cum garage were a very nice 1970s Bianchi, as well as the carbon Bianchi he now rides.
We also had a look through some of his old photos and start lists, and sure enough, Peter was listed on the start list in one race in 1958. It was a handicap raced at Tullamarine - Peter off second scratch and my new friend a few minutes ahead. He rode for the 'Collingwood International Cycling Club' (the international part referred to the number of recent Italian migrants on the team). I now live in Collingwood, so I might have to revive the club, or at least get some replica jerseys made up.
The final twist in the tale is that when we got back to Melbourne I showed Peter the photo I'd taken of the start list. His face lit up and he dug out some clippings from the Sporting Globe proving he won - he remembers it because it was his first win after graduating from the junior ranks.
It's a small cycling world, and I love it!
|Collingwood International Cycling Club, late 1950s|
more details on the 1956 road race here http://cyclingtips.com.au/2013/12/riding-through-history-the-1956-olympic-road-race/