Lo Sceriffo

Lo Sceriffo

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In May, Velominati wake up too early, brew espresso and open laptop computers to watch small streaming videos of the Giro d’Italia.  We notice how different the Giro is from the Tour de France. It’s more colorful, more vibrant, more full of life. If Hinault somehow represents the TdF, Moser would represent the Giro. Lo Sceriffo, The Sheriff, Francesco Moser––it’s hard to get a grip on these older riders as we just have still photos and some short bits of film, if we are lucky, to take their measure. In the Paris-Roubaix film, A Sunday in Hell, late in the race, the winning break has gone away, it is Moser who appears out of the dust. He is in his Italian Champion jersey, hunkered low over his bike, flying down the edge of the road to catch Merckx and Roger De Vlaeminck. He is cooler than Eddy.

Moser was one of the few people who dared take on the Hour Record. He beat Merckx’s 1972 record but it was on a much more aerodynamic bike (and some extra red blood cells, a new and then legal practice ). His stroke defined magnificent and his position on the bike is something one could only aspire to: in the drops, upper torso low and flat, he is all legs and forward motion.

To call him the Fabian Cancellara of his day would be more accurate when Fabian wins yet another Paris-Roubaix, a few more classics, the World Championship road race, a Grand Tour and continues to kick ass for another five years. As racers they share many similarities; they are big powerful men, tough Classic racers, excellent time trialists, both Passistas with a capital P.

Obviously I’m a big fan of his. A big powerful Italian who excelled on both cold cobbles of Northern Europe and stage racing in Italy, a World Champion and a Giro winner and he still is fit and whips his old rivals at cycling events. What’s not to love?

“Francesco Moser, who won, was at his pinnacle. He was the most macho macho-man you ever met in your life” -John Eustice, who was on the very first American team to ride in the Giro, 1984

This quote thrills me. Moser seems not to have been the pugnacious prick that Hinault was. I suspect he was just as intimidating but a look was all that was required. To a skinny young American pro like John Eustice, finally riding in the european pro ranks and rubbing shoulders with Francesco in Moser’s home Tour, it must have been extremely humbling. When “lo sceriffo” says the peloton rides piano, everyone rides piano. Moser probably made him shave off that sweet ‘stash too.

 

 

// General // Nostalgia // The Hardmen // Tradition

  1. WE had his hour-record bike in a shop where I used to work. It was truly amazing to have in front of you, a true piece of cycling history.
    And that rear disc was massive!

  2. @Pedale.Forchetta
    Thanks for confirming, PF. So jealous right now.

  3. A few years ago I was lucky enough to come into possession of a Benotto Modelo 3000, which bore world champion rainbow decals on the top tube and a small sticker commemorating the 1977 worlds in San Cristobal, Venezuela, where Moser won. At the time I had no idea who Moser was, and now I like to imagine that in the years following his triumph he rode a bike just like mine. Now the Columbus masterpiece hangs on my wall.

  4. @Dashiell
    Nice. I looked on eBay for Moser steel frames and they are scarce. Yours might have to come off the wall.

    @frank

    rumours like the one that the race organizers robbed Fignon of a Giro win and crap like that. But that’s just on side of the story.

    How else was Moser supposed to win a Giro? With all those climbs? We are talking Itay after all. I believe the Giro Moser won was heavily weighted toward flatter stages and flatter time trials just so he would have a chance. The climbers should not get all the Grand Tours, no?

  5. I just finished riding one of my F.Mosers in honor of this great post. Apparently, Francesco and Vic Haines are attempting the Tandem Hour Record this August. The Sheriff rides again. :)

  6. Gianni:
    @Dashiell
    Nice. I looked on eBay for Moser steel frames and they are scarce. Yours might have to come off the wall.

    Like this?

  7. Great Post: What I find amazing about the video is that these guys were too tough for head protection, even when riding on the stones…but in this short clip you can see a few guys crashed and ended up with big gashes on their heads. These guys have all paid attention to Rule #5.

  8. Nice one Gianni.

    That quote by Eustice sums up everything I know about Moser. He was very cool both on and off the bike. Great that you’ve used a current photo of him as well. Still looks as cut as his Pro days. Awesome

    Some of my favourite shots of him on

    and off

    the bike.

  9. jnunberg :
    Great Post: What I find amazing about the video is that these guys were too tough for head protection, even when riding on the stones…but in this short clip you can see a few guys crashed and ended up with big gashes on their heads. These guys have all paid attention to Rule #5.

    These guys didn’t pay attention to Rule #5, they are why Rule #5 exists!

  10. @Gianni

    Great post Gianni, and a top choice of photo. If his arms look like that, imagine what condition his legs still must be in. He could still tear half of today’s peloton a new one I’d say.

  11. Just to show that there were ‘mericans other than LeMond and Bobke around here is Eustice – at the US Pro Championships – back in the day…

  12. Oops! Sorry!

    Eustice…

  13. @James
    One of my Mosers? Oh you must send some photos so we can drool. One of my Mosers indeed, don’t toy with me, friendo.
    And the tandem hour record?! What the hell is that crazy talk? Find the toughest guy you can, and take a one hour tour deep into the pain cave, no flashlights. How about Jens and Fabooo on a tandem, Fabs in der stoker saddle?
    The tandem hour record. I am duly intrigued.

  14. @Durishin
    He looks better after Francesco made him shave off the ‘stash. He looks mean.

  15. @Gianni
    We (in Italy) are very lucky from this point of view!
    On Sunday I’ll be at The Giro, let’s see if the Sheriff still has his star-badge!

  16. @1speedlos
    That rear wheel looks like it’s putting down enough V that it’s bending the planking!

  17. jnunberg:
    Great Post: What I find amazing about the video is that these guys were too tough for head protection, even when riding on the stones…but in this short clip you can see a few guys crashed and ended up with big gashes on their heads. These guys have all paid attention to Rule #5.

    Yeah the hole in the forehead of the guy who’s crashed at 1:30 is pretty epic!

  18. @Gianni: Teriffic stuff. Even today, Moser still oozes class. Not an ounce of suffering on that face or frame. Compare, though, with the Gypsy:

    Mr. Paris-Roubaix looks great, but those hands, those eyes, and that body have been through the wars. You wouldn’t know that by looking at Moser. I don’t actually know where I’m going with this, and I don’t mean to diminish either of these champions. RDV looks as though the cobbles and the cult of Belgian cycling are still coursing through his veins. Moser: more the romance and sunshine of a grand tour.

  19. @Pedale.Forchetta

    On Sunday I’ll be at The Giro, let’s see if the Sheriff still has his star-badge!

    See if he can write you a note that says something like, “Don’t Obey Rule #5. Be Rule #5. “

  20. @Gianni
    This is what I had heard also, but the course selection was only part of it:

    On the final time trial stage from Soave to the Roman Arena in Verona the TV helicopter flew between Moser and Fignon, who’d started last; its rotors allegedly creating a tailwind for the Italian and a headwind for the Frenchman.

    I also have read that years later Moser admitted this to le Professeur and apologized.

  21. @Gianni
    Here’s a few in the project queue…

  22. @James
    At least a few of those look to be 59/60/61cm frames. I know where you can unload one if you’re looking for a new home for them.

  23. @frank
    Right on, you are correct on the sizing, and you might just get your wish if I’m forced to relocate in a few months. Any way, my old, fillet-brazed Leader AX remains my favorite bike to ride.

  24. @James
    I am almost as tall as Frank and more than happy to provide accommodation to another one. It’s what a mate would do.

  25. @James
    @G’phant
    I wasn’t going to be such a vulture about it as some of the folks here, but if you’re moving and needing to get rid of them, if you could put one through a hot rinse cycle and shrink it down to a 56, I’d be happy to take it off your hands…

  26. @Steampunk
    Great photo! I had to stare for a moment to recognize him. Maybe it’s the general diet of Italians versus the Belgians (frites and mayo) that tells the tale.
    Like Brett said,

    If his arms look like that, imagine what condition his legs still must be in. He could still tear half of today’s peloton a new one I’d say.

  27. @James

    my old, fillet-brazed Leader AX remains my favorite bike to ride

    Chapeau my friend. This is quite a nice stable of select frames you have. Can you still get decals? That always is a show stopper after a nice repaint. Good on you.

  28. @Pedale.Forchetta
    Buon weekend at the Giro. Say hello to Francesco for us.

  29. @Gianni
    Thank you, I’ll do for sure.
    And buon week/end to you too!

  30. I always liked Moser, up until the point he beat Merckx’s hour record. Back in the day, I felt if you were to beat Merckx’s record, you rode a similar bike in similar conditions. First you proved you were better than Merckx in the hour record, then jump on the newest UCI Italian approved equipment.

  31. @mauibike
    yeah, it’s not the same record at all with two disc wheels and one being the size of…of…of…something really big. That is a really good idea though, first you have to better the athlete’s hour record before any aero/wacky arm position hour messing abooot. That would have dissuaded nearly everyone after Eddy.

    I’m still hoping Fabian mans up and attempts it towards the end of his season. That would be cool.

  32. In the context of the time, Moser’s record was regarded as fully legit – the aero bike he used was simply (if dramatically) taking the technology up a step. Merckx’s bike actually was regarded similarly when he set his record. Barely anyone questioned Moser’s record as a result of the machine, but everyone marvelled that he’d taken it over 50km.

    Also, I wonder if some of you are getting mixed up between his initial hour record machine that he set his 51.151km record with in 1984…

    …and his crazy big-ass wheel bike he set his indoor hour record with in ’88.

  33. @Oli
    Oli, I’m glad you brought that up, I was starting to think I was nuts. “I thought he was aboard a dreamy silver machine…”

    As for the record, I think it’s a shame the crazy-aero effort has lost prestige; I thought the 1993-9…7? excitement was one of the greatest eras in cycling. Everyone took a stab; Obree, Boardman, Indurain, Rominger. It was a great, time.

    As you say, Merckx leveraged the maximum tech they had to offer, and if you watch The Impossible Hour, Ole Ritter was also using the maximum he could get. It’s part of the game. That said, I appreciate what the Athlete’s Hour goes after and I think they should keep it around. I’m just saying it’s a shame that to that end, the no-holds-barred record has lost interest.

    But that big-wheeled bike! Look at how it splits the seat tube! It’s bonzo!!

  34. @James
    My new best buddy…..

  35. @James
    Drool, Drool, Drool, Drool!
    I’ve just restored a F Moser Alluminio ‘Sprinter’ frame and find it very ‘twitchy’ to ride!
    Today’s ride I found myself, in the rain, and inspired by ‘A Sunday In Hell’ tucked down in the Moser position with pointer 5 from Look Pro, Part VII: Sur la Plaque, Part Deux, another application of Rule #5!
    Getting back to drool, man, The Sheriff looks awesome!

  36. @sthilzy
    I too was getting my Moser on yesterday, tucked low in the massive 50 tooth big ring, chasing down my…wife. He is a good reminder to stay low to go fast.

  37. Didn’t Eddy set the record on a basic road bike for the most part, an orange number if I recall correctly..?

  38. No, it was a track bike. And pretty trick for the time too, with helium in the tyres and such.

  39. My mistake, I meant track bike… Didn’t know about the helium though, that’s pretty wild. It was more or less a standard bike though right, no aero extensions or wheels or anything like that?

  40. Correct, hence it being the template for any bikes being used to set the “Athlete’s Hour” nowadays.

  41. Anyone looking to have a crack at the hour record???

    Ebay – Moser hour record frame

  42. How freakin AVVESOME would it have been to show up for a little local bike race and walk right smack into this?!

  43. @MJ Moquin
    Isn’t that story Amazing?!?! Just love it. Dude is incredible. And hearing Obree say that he really likes him and all the stories about him, seems like a pure class act (fixed Giro’s with helicoptors not withstanding–although no one ever claimed that Moser was behind that, just the Italian cycling organizers)

  44. Moser — smart with KASK helmets. (flattering image, really!)

  45. Great Moser image (here).

    And great Moser image (here).

  46. @MJ Moquin
    I would just love to know what was going through his mind as he was easily keeping pace in that group as an old man. Unless I was part of that peloton, perhaps better not to, ahem, know. But what a cool moment! Wow.

  47. @gaswepass

    That’s kind of a no-win situation for the field. If you drop him; congratulations, you just dropped a 61 year old man. If you don’t; good job, you got schooled by a 61 year old man.

    Personally, given those two choices, I’d relish the opportunity to ride with a legend and maybe get my ugly mug in a picture racing alongside The Sheriff. Which, the way I see it, is the ONLY way you win in that situation!

  48. As long as we are talking about retired Italian Champions, check out this excellent interview with Felice Gimondi.

  49. @MJ Moquin

    @gaswepass

    That’s kind of a no-win situation for the field. If you drop him; congratulations, you just dropped a 61 year old man. If you don’t; good job, you got schooled by a 61 year old man.

    Personally, given those two choices, I’d relish the opportunity to ride with a legend and maybe get my ugly mug in a picture racing alongside The Sheriff. Which, the way I see it, is the ONLY way you win in that situation!

    well said.

  50. @MJ Moquin

    @Nate
    Thanks for both stories. They are both amazing. That Moser still can race is cool and that Felice is such a squared-away gentleman, who can talk in detail about his races so long ago.
    Seeing Museeuw was a thrill, I’m not sure how I would have reacted to having Moser to lunch. Badly, obviously.

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