Pescara; Trofeo Matteotti, September 22, 2019. Cycling race.
The group is multicolored and almost 200 skinny men, with their brand new lycra outfit, push their (carbon, gorgeous, pedal artwork) bicycles to do 50 km per hour.
Someone is more interested in the result, and others take the chance to stretch their legs before the last commitments of the season. Others, exponents of smaller teams, try to show off.
The winner will be Matteo Trentin: thoroughbred cyclist, powerful motor, former European champion and team captain for the next cycling World Championship.
Of those who take part in the competition with few needs, instead, some reach out and take an “arrosticino” (grilled lamb or mutton skewers) on the fly. We are in Abruzzo, and the trophy is also – and for some, especially – this typical delicacy of the region.
Colombian and Belgian, British, Japanese or Romanian riders, Australian, Kyrgyz and American team managers: all, from the team cars or pushing on the pedals, extend their arms to those who offer them this roasted scepter.
There has never been a dish less suitable for a cycling race. However, there has never been a more romantic dish. There is no Bartali nor Ercole Baldini, the Forlì locomotive. But there are the arrosticini and a legendary cycling spirit.
In short, there is the Trofeo Matteotti, which is folklore, Abruzzo, and a real race. The most southern Italian classic.
We have been there, and we are going to tell it to you, for once turning from what is our usual narration.
The Trofeo Matteotti
The Trofeo Matteotti, which has just ended, is now in its 72nd edition. It is not only the most southern classic in Italy, but it is also one of the oldest races of the Uci Europe Tour. The race was born in 1945 to honor Matteotti, assassinated twenty years before by Mussolini’s orders, and celebrate the end of the war.
The winners’ list boasts the greatest champions in the history of Italian cycling. Once it was held in August and, for three editions, it awarded the title of champion of Italy. It happened in 1965, 1975 and 1995; the winners? Three legends like Dancelli, Moser, and Bugno. Today, the race has been definitively moved to September, to be a preparation for the World Championship.
And in this sense, the Trofeo Matteotti is truly indicative. Trentin, who won on Sunday and will lead the national team in the Yorkshire World Championship, will be pleased to know that six racing cyclists won the world championship after triumphing in Abruzzo (Ercole Baldini, Marino Basso, Felice Gimondi, Moser, Moreno Argentin and Gianni Bugno). Even the two-time World Champion Paolo Bettini won this Trophy.
In addition to them, giants like the “Homme de fer” Gino – Ginettaccio – Bartali or like Roger De Vlaeminck, “Monsieur Roubaix,” four times first at the Paris-Roubaix have triumphed. And then – more recently – great cyclists like Frank Vandenbroucke, Pippo Pozzato and Danilo Di Luca.
Stefano Giuliani, the Abruzzo’s cycling Grand Master
The manager of the Trofeo Matteotti is Stefano Giuliani, a monstre sacré of Abruzzo cycling of the 80s and today sports director of the Giotti Victoria Palomar.
Father and guide for his boys, all very young to launch or re-launch, Giuliani was one of the creators of the Italian-Japanese association Nippo Vini Fantini, and he has always helped the new generation of Italian cycling growing.
As a cyclist, he won two stages at the Giro d’Italia and experienced the era of the rustic Saronni-Moser duel, siding for the latter as they were teammates from 1983 to 1988.
As a manager, he also worked for the Cantina Tollo and the Mobilvetta. As he says, he was able to do so much with little and would dream of doing much more. Meanwhile, however, what he touches always evolves. It is happening with his former team, Nippo Vino Fantini, and the same happens with the Giotti Victoria Palomar, Continental team that he designed and which, this year, won – among the various European victories – a stage in the Giro di Sicilia with Stachiotti.
And the Trofeo Matteotti with his supervision is also evolving, and the entire Italian national team presented itself on Sunday. Or rather, a sketch of what will be the Italy of the Yorkshire World Championship (Stacchiotti raced with Trentin in blue).
The Trofeo Matteotti is a 15 km circuit to be repeated 13 times (195 km total) inside Pescara and the surrounding hills. The finish line was on Piazza Duca Degli Abruzzi, and Matteo Trentin crossed the finish line first after a breakaway of 157 km.
A four-way breakaway started after 38 km from the start and soon turned into a three-way race.
In the last meters, finally, the former European champion has easily adjusted the rider of Movistar Amador (second place) and Daniel Savini.
But in addition to the group and the fugitives, where the immense talent of Trentin emerged (with the Van Der Poel phenomenon, Trentin is the main favorite of the next World Cup), the show was given by the spectators and by the staff of Stefano Giuliani. It is here that the Abruzzo foodie tradition has colored a sport that has a popular spirit, but also an incredibly sophisticated technic and physical preparation methods.
The Trofeo Matteotti 2019 looks the 1949’s one
To be clear, the only similarity is in the desire to compete and in a genuine atmosphere, where super smoothies, desserts, and gels are side by side with the Abruzzo tradition and cuisine. And it is not that the latter is an example of lightness. In the race, especially to the managers in the team cars, arrosticini, meatballs, stuffed peppers and Abruzzo lasagna (timballo) were offered. In short, you easily understand that this type of food does not belong to the usual diet of athletes who have to break down their fat mass.
For a man with the ideal weight, the fat mass is around 16-18%. For the cyclist, this percentage can go down to 4-6% (to avoid serious health problems, it should never reach 3%). Froome, the white Kenyan who has dominated the big races in recent years, is 1.86 m tall and weighs around 69 kg in the race (it’s not an incredibly low percentage since it is close to 9.8%).
Once, in the Trofeo Matteotti, racing cyclists drank cognac, wine, or sodas, water, and beers. And then they ate sandwiches (sweet, with butter, or savory).
Today, during the race you eat bananas and small sandwiches with jam or cakes in general. At the beginning of the race, you can often see soft drinks, as they are very sweet (a Coke has around 300 kcal).
Arrosticini, however, should never be eaten. In fact, meat proteins are very suitable on the day following the race, but they are not recommended while cycling.
Meat proteins, on the other hand, are decisive for rebuilding muscle fibers the day after effort. The same applies to the other Abruzzo dishes offered. On the other hand, can you imagine to cycle for 200 km with stuffed peppers on your stomach at a frequency of 80-90 rpm?
In conclusion, the Trofeo Matteotti honored modern cycling (with the victory of a luminous talent and one of the world’s best cyclists like Trentin) and the legendary one. That of Bartali, who was used to drinking wine, eating steaks and smoking before the race (in training, he used to bring a sandwich stuffed with chard and omelette).
In short, the history of a popular sport has been honored, capable of being both technological and romantic at the same time. Indeed, to the beat of the pedals.
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)