Passista

Danny Pate  photo:MG/TDWSport.com/Corbis
Danny Pate, passista?  photo:MG/TDWSport.com/Corbis

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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79 Replies to “Passista”

  1. 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.”

  2. @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?

  3. @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?

  4. @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?

  5. @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.

  6. @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.

  7. @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.

  8. 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!

  9. @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…

  10. 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.

  11. @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/

  12. 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.

  13. @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.

  14. @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.

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