Catching The Big Fish
This post could also have been titled as an Anatomy of a Photo or Awesome Italian Guys-Guido Bontempi or The Hardmen.
As an Anatomy of a Photo…where do you start? All these sprinters and no one but Van Poppel is even wearing a helmet. What could go wrong? And back there is Sean Kelly, his thought bubble would be something like, ahhh for fuck’s sake, then a long string of unintelligible Carrick curses.
As an awesome Italian guy, Guido Bontempi could just flash this photo at the awesome guy hall of fame and walk in. He wore the Maillot Jaune, won multiple stage in all three grand tours and was a badass. I remember him as more of a passista than a pure sprinter. When I think back to his racing in the Tour and the limited coverage us in the USA were fed, two memories stand out. One was him in a break, either solo or with one other unfortunate soul and Bontempi, face flushed red with exertion, hammering and hammering away at the front. Hammering is not even a strong enough word for what he was doing. If they had power meters back then he would have broken his. The other was a Tour finish where he was up against some faster finishers so he just opened up a sprint from 800 meters out and just powered his way to the line. The pure fast-twitch riders just couldn’t burn it from that far out. It was an amazing show of bravado.
He also was not afraid to go up to Belgium in the Spring and win Gent-Wevelgem a few times. These old school riders who battled in Belgium and Northern France in the Spring and then kept it going through the Vuelta and beyond, that is a good way to get into the Hardman category too.
My friend and owner of my old LBS used to do a phenomenal mime of a sprint finish using just a set of loose handle bars that were lying around the shop. There would be much throwing of bars back and forth, faster and faster, then the bars drop and the arms go up, hands outstretched, “I caught a fish this big!” Every time I see a sprint victory photo like this I can’t help but think of the big fish.
Epilogue: In researching this photo just now, I thought wikipedia had missed Bontempi’s 1987 Tour win, stage 7 from Épinal to Troyes. Maybe I should correct this? No, don’t bother Gianni. Bontempi failed doping control at the end of this stage and the win went to Manuel-Jorge Dominguez. FFS, do I scrap the whole article? Oh cycling, you are a cruel mistress. If I scrapped this one I’d have to scrap a lot more than this one. I still say he is a badass, for these glasses alone.