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Passista

Passista

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My first article on Velominati was to introduce one of my favorite cyclists, Eros Poli. I refered to him as a domestique on the Mercatone-Uno team. This faux pas was properly pointed out much later by @KaffeineKeiser, a commenter who suddenly surfaced and unfortunately submerged just as quickly, like Das Boot in the Straits of Gibraltar.*

I do take exception to you calling him a “domestique”. Eros was a “passista” of the highest order. A team position no more or less glamorous than the former, but one that certainly warrants its own designation.

To der Keiser, calling Eros a domestique was to call him a mere bottle carrier. I was completely unfamiliar with the term but in debt to der Keiser for setting me straight. Poli was an Olympic gold medal winner in the four man team trial. He was engine number one on Cipo’s Mercatone-Uno original lead-out train. He raced Paris-Roubaix. I’m sure he carried his share of bottles. Everyone carries bottles up from the team car when necessary. Poli was a passista first, a domestique second.

More light was shed on “passista” when Pez published the excellent Italian for Cyclists a while back.

Passista (pahs SEE stah) – Francesco Moser fits the bill here. The passista is a big, powerful rider able to maintain 50 km/h for an hour at the front of the peloton. Their strength and toughness make them naturals in the northern classics.

By that definition, Jensie Voigt is a classic modern passita, our own Frank Strack too. Tom Boonen is absolutely one judging from the work he has been doing this week at the head of the peloton in Paris-Nice. Boonen’s elbow infection foiled his usual preparation for the Spring Classics so he signed up for a week-of-beauty spa called Paris-Nice. Need some fitness? Ride from Paris to the Mediterranean at ass hauling speed, do hour sessions at the front of a professional peloton. On the rainy cold days, do even more.

Passista is a type of rider rather than just a job description within the team. I don’t think there are designated bottle carriers these days. One can’t be really good at just riding back and forth to the team car. A friend who has done it told me how damn hard riding back to the field at high speed towing an additional seven kilos really is. No one makes it to the pro ranks on their bottle carrying savy. The fact that one is on a team for a particular race means one is a badass, except for the newbies who are just hoping to finish and gain some race experience (like Andy Schleck). If this is their mission, then either they are future badasses or their team lacks any depth and therefore sucks. Julian Dean may have carried bottles during each stage during the Tour but he still had to man up for the last twenty km and be faster than everyone except his team’s designated sprinter. He was the lead- out guy.

If I had chosen my parents perfectly, I too would aspire to be a passista. Pure climbers- too small, pure sprinters- too crazy; who wouldn’t want to be a big cobble crushing beast that can can just ride people’s legs off when required?

*Yes, for you Das Boot fans, I know that was an imperfect metaphor.

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// Racing // The Hardmen

  1. @Barracuda

    Stu O’Grady = Passista Australiana.

    +1

  2. Team Sky has a virtual monopoly on these guys.  Stannard tops the list for me…

  3. @ChrisO

    Kiriyenka in Paris-Nice seems to be a passista in the making – 30km on the front including reeling in the breakaways.

    Speaking of badass, have a look if you can at the coverage of Tirreno yesterday, or photos. Not often you see pros WALKING up hills – even Sagan and the climbers were having to zig-zag across the road to keep their speed on a 27% gradient.

    Apparently the entire grupetto decided to abandon the race, which left poor Taylor Phinney to do 120km on his own, because he wanted to do the TT today. But he missed the time cut and was eliminated.

    I’m in two minds – it was a good stage because it produced some decisive racing, and it is a rare thing to see a breakaway finish group consisting of riders like Nibali, Sagan and Rodriguez. On the other hand a stage where 50 riders abandon is not ideal – maybe partly to do with timing. If today had been a sprint stage they would have had something to stay in for.

    I agree.  Too tough.  Didn’t they do the climb three times too?   At least the race director was good enough to admit as much immediately afterwards – which was acknowledged by none other than passista-veloce,  Mr F. Cancellara.

  4. @ChrisO think the problem may have been scheduling the stage before a final very short TT stage. No point in team riders continuing. I think it was abeautiful stage -and could have been improved by scheduling it a day before team riders were needed.

    Sagans effort was nothing short of extraordinary. A

  5. And very interesting to see Evans working hard in the second group. Doing favors on a rainy day for another rainy day. Or just training when it’s raining?

  6. Thanks, Gianni for bringing a new word into my velolife! Very cool. I have a question – can someone under 175 cms be a passista or does the job require being a bit of a hulk?

    ChrisO – I was able to catch the last 50km of T-A yesterday. It was great to watch as it made me feel much, much better about the times I’ve had to zig-zag across the road on a particularly insane climb. The toughness of the climb, the walking, and the admission by the director all bring up an interesting point in light of all that has/is going on – is including such a wild parcours the type of thing that forces racers to seek out “help” or is it just part of the job of a PRO? Sagan, Nibali, and Lil’ Prince all seemed to handle it.

    I’m of the mindset that it’s still exciting, no matter how slowly they’re going up a hill. Just curious how others feel.

  7. @PT

    @ChrisO

    Kiriyenka in Paris-Nice seems to be a passista in the making – 30km on the front including reeling in the breakaways.

    Speaking of badass, have a look if you can at the coverage of Tirreno yesterday, or photos. Not often you see pros WALKING up hills – even Sagan and the climbers were having to zig-zag across the road to keep their speed on a 27% gradient.

    Apparently the entire grupetto decided to abandon the race, which left poor Taylor Phinney to do 120km on his own, because he wanted to do the TT today. But he missed the time cut and was eliminated.

    I’m in two minds – it was a good stage because it produced some decisive racing, and it is a rare thing to see a breakaway finish group consisting of riders like Nibali, Sagan and Rodriguez. On the other hand a stage where 50 riders abandon is not ideal – maybe partly to do with timing. If today had been a sprint stage they would have had something to stay in for.

    I agree. Too tough. Didn’t they do the climb three times too? At least the race director was good enough to admit as much immediately afterwards – which was acknowledged by none other than passista-veloce, Mr F. Cancellara.

  8. @Skinnyphat

    Team Sky has a virtual monopoly on these guys. Stannard tops the list for me…

    I read someone describe them as Skyborgs the other day.

  9. @ All This is what @chris was reffering too.  You tube at about 42:30  (Tirreno – Adriatico 2013 – [30%] FULL RACE stage 6 – Porto Sant’Elpidio “º Porto Sant’Elpidio)  .

    Tirreno – Adriatico 2013 – [30%] FULL RACE stage 6 – Porto Sant’Elpidio “º Porto Sant’Elpidio

     
  10. @freddy nice, Bauer was a hardman and always on the cusp.  I wish he had just a little more in the tank at Paris-Roubaix…

  11. Speaking of Ted King, anybody remember him pulling for just about the entire Tour of Cali last year?  He was on point for huge amounts of time.

  12. Passista….I love it and a new term to me, thanks Gianni.

    For current riders, I was thinking of Lotto’s Adam Hansen…..completed all three grand tours last year (only 32nd person in cycling history), rode a long breakaway (failed to finish it off with like 400m) in the tour, protected JVDB, rode lead out for Greipel, raced over 100 days for 2012.  A hardman.

  13. @VbyV

    Speaking of Ted King, anybody remember him pulling for just about the entire Tour of Cali last year? He was on point for huge amounts of time.

    That’s because he’s from New Hampshire (I’m biased by living here too).

  14. What about the big, bad Bernie Eisel?

  15. @Dr C

    +1 for Vasily Kiriyenka – anyone who stops to put all their teeth back in after unnecessarily hammering off the front down a slippy descend mid race, should be granted a day of rest – but not Mr V – awesome pull down to Nice – everyone sat behind him, almost as if afraid to go past in case he went faster

    Yes! Beast. I guess he has been around the peloton for a while but Sky was very wise to pick him up. His leading the field for  hours into Nice was amazing. Sky looks like the strongest team this year, by far.

  16. @Tobin

    @freddy nice, Bauer was a hardman and always on the cusp. I wish he had just a little more in the tank at Paris-Roubaix…

    Jesus, how do you beat a guy like Eddy Planckert. Look at his legs, then look at his face! The man was hard as nails.

    I saw Bauer a few years a go in New Mexico, he was leaning against his SpyderTech team car, by himself.  I am a massive pussy for not chatting him up.

  17. @Gianni Bauer may have been able to shave a few ounces if he wasn’t wearing a Specialized Beer Cooler on his head… looking at Planckert it is probably just as well, he looks about two seconds away from going full on Hulk.

  18. Sorry, tried linking the article and the text and link disappeared.

  19. Lest we forget, Eros stood 6’4.5″, and slogged that carcass up Ventoux on Stage 15 in ’94 for the win.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxTnLaH3gVA

  20. @Dean Abt  Indeed.  Click the link on Eros’s name in the first line of the article, too.

  21. Perhaps not quite a passista, but sorry to hear that JaJa had an accident. Hope all is well and on the mend.

  22. so, is a passista the same as a flahute?

  23. Ahem…

    “Forecasters are calling for a high of 5 degrees Celcius and snow on Sunday in Milan. Sanremo will not be much better, climbing to 10 degrees, but raining. This could be the first inclement Milano-Sanremo since Claudio Chiappucci won in 1991.”

  24. @il ciclista medio Stephen Hodge was Jaja’s passista!

  25. @Gianni That you are.  Bauer is first class in a humble package.  And when prompted, a wealth of valuable cycle knowledge.  With the list of dopers growing by the minute, Steve’s name is conspicuous by its absence.  He was the ‘real deal’ and who knows how many Tours he could have won?

  26. @Ron

    Ahem…

    “Forecasters are calling for a high of 5 degrees Celcius and snow on Sunday in Milan. Sanremo will not be much better, climbing to 10 degrees, but raining. This could be the first inclement Milano-Sanremo since Claudio Chiappucci won in 1991.”

    A split peloton perhaps?

  27. @Tobin

    @Gianni Bauer may have been able to shave a few ounces if he wasn’t wearing a Specialized Beer Cooler on his head… looking at Planckert it is probably just as well, he looks about two seconds away from going full on Hulk.

    The beer cooler helmet and the massive shoe tongues! What the hell are those?

  28. @il ciclista medio

    I’ve had this photo on my desktop for a while. I think the caption that went with it was to the effect…So French

    I own this pink ONCE kit, just so I could look cool like Jaja.

  29. @ped

    so, is a passista the same as a flahute?

    I think flahute is Eddy Planckert

    Passista is Francesco Moser.

    Flahute being more Northern European Hardman, eating cobbles for breakfast, never wearing gloves or leggings, leaving the bike by the stove before going out just to keep it warm and happy. Never riding in the small chainring, ever.

  30. @Gianni

    JaJa. Fucking LOVE’d watching that guy. Sprinter, turned all-a-rounder. Kinda reminds me of a certain Slovak tearing it up right now. Sorry, got a bit of bromance for Sagan:

    A who’s who of sprinters right there, and he can go uphill.

  31. @Gianni I was trying to figure that out too…maybe these?

  32. @scaler911

    @Gianni

    JaJa. Fucking LOVE’dwatching that guy. Sprinter, turned all-a-rounder. Kinda reminds me of a certain Slovak tearing it up right now. Sorry, got a bit of bromance for Sagan:

    A who’s who of sprinters right there, and he can go uphill.

    He da man right now! Got a great double act with Moser as well, I love the way he rides which is exceptional,

    his bike handling skills and raw power are special. That shot is fantastic that finish was awesome, look at who he’s blown away.

  33. @Gianni

    museeuw, too. big ring up kapelmuur, nearly lost his leg for his art, true hero

  34. I am a passista in training, I can maitain the speed on the flat for about 1 minute or I can maintain it for an hour….downhill.  I still think there is room for improvement…cue banned emoticon!

  35. @Gianni

    Good article, interesting insight into some riders that are clearly hard as a coffin nail. Channelling passista thoughts got me through a particularly unpleasant turbo session the other night – hopefully it will improve my ability to drag the pack round like in my last race…

  36. Q:  What do you call a Passista that is past his prime?

    A:  A Clydesdale.

    All hail the Clydesdale!

  37. All hail the Clydesdale! *

    *now with more interweb skillz

  38. The more steeped in cycling culture and lore I become, the more I appreciate these men.  Thanks for the article.  Coming of age and learning to appreciate cycling in the era of LA, it was the Grand Tours and the riders that starred in them that first captured me with their spectacle and longer narrative.  Now though, the hard men of cycling and their ancestors are the main source of inspiration for me.

  39. @therealpeel

    The more steeped in cycling culture and lore I become, the more I appreciate these men. Thanks for the article. Coming of age and learning to appreciate cycling in the era of LA, it was the Grand Tours and the riders that starred in them that first captured me with their spectacle and longer narrative. Now though, the hard men of cycling and their ancestors are the main source of inspiration for me.

    Welcome to the fold. You can get started over here: http://www.velominati.com/the-works/

  40. @Cyclops Love that photo. The look of glee on your face compared to the one of terror worn by the guy behind you is brilliant! The Goldilocks Principle may need revisiting though.

  41. what do you call a rider like De Vlaemininck? He could lead from the front like a passista and was the definition of a flahute, after all, he was the first to win PR four times. He was a proper hardman.

  42. @zalamanda think you nailed it with your last sentence…

  43. @Gianni, Thank you for the article, I love the way you describe this type of rider, and yes it is the kind of rider I would love to be.

  44. Great to see Taylor recognized in the mainstream media!  Passista indeed!

  45. @teleguy57 So inspiring!

    Where do I get a TP wristband?

  46. Unturned fantastic image while researching Tullio Campagnolo. 1930s

  47. @zalamanda +1.  Hard man indeed!

  48. @Dr C

    correction Vasil Kiryienka….respect

    As well as hammering on front of the bunch Kosta is also strong enough to win mountain stages in the Giro del Trentino as he did today,  Vasily with a capital V.

  49. @eenies

    @Dr C

    correction Vasil Kiryienka….respect

    As well as hammering on front of the bunch Kosta is also strong enough to win mountain stages in the Giro del Trentino as he did today, Vasily with a capital V.

    Kanstantin Siutsou maybe?

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