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 (9:10 into the clip). 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. @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.

  2. @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.

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

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

  5. 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.

  6. @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.

  7. 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.

  8. @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!!

  9. @James
    My new best buddy…..

  10. @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!

  11. @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.

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

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

  14. 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?

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

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

    Ebay – Moser hour record frame

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

  18. @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)

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

  20. Great Moser image (here).

    And great Moser image (here).

  21. @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.

  22. @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!

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

  24. @MJ Moquin


    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.

  25. @MJ Moquin

    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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