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Classic jerseys: No.12 Salvarani

18 Apr 2019

This article was originally published in issue 85 of Cyclist magazine

Words Giles Belbin Photography Danny Bird

It was only five days before the start of the 1965 Tour de France that Salvarani’s first-year pro, Felice Gimondi, got the message that would transform his life.

Gimondi was in Forlì, northern Italy, for a 77km time-trial when he was told he was needed for the Tour because one teammate, Bruno Fantinato, had injured a knee, and another, Battista Babini, had been struck down with fever.

Gimondi came second in Forlì, two and a half minutes behind five-time Tour winner Jacques Anquetil, then dashed home to Sedrina, just north of Bergamo, to pack a bag.

Three days later he was alongside nine teammates on a plane bound for Frankfurt, on his way to the Grand Départ in Cologne.

Gimondi didn’t want to ride the Tour. He was only 22 and thought the 4,188km race would be too hard on his young legs.

Still, the Italian had pedigree – he had won the Tour de l’Avenir, the de facto amateur Tour, the previous year and had managed third for Salvarani in his first Giro d’Italia earlier in the month.

Besides, he was there to ride for his leader, Vittorio Adorni, the man who had won that Giro and who was aiming to emulate both Fausto Coppi (1949/1952) and Anquetil (1964) by securing the Giro/Tour double.

Things didn’t go quite as planned.

Gimondi won the sprint into Rouen on Stage 3 and took the yellow jersey. He lost the lead four days later but as the race headed into the Pyrenees he remained nearly three minutes ahead of Adorni, well placed to help his leader.

Then disaster struck Adorni. On the slopes of the Col d’Aubisque he collapsed, complaining of stomach problems.

He wasn’t the only one. No fewer than 11 riders abandoned in dubious circumstances, including race leader Bernard Van de Kerckhove.

The mass withdrawals raised eyebrows and led to allegations that doping was becoming prevalent.

The result was that Gimondi reclaimed the race lead and assumed leadership of his team. Over the next two weeks the neo-pro came under repeated attacks, most notably from Raymond Poulidor, who was seeking to profit from the absence of his great rival Anquetil, who had opted to sit out the race.

On Mont Ventoux, and with Poulidor up the road, an exhausted Gimondi ground to a halt, remaining upright only because he managed to grab a parked car before being pushed on his way.

He lost more than a minute but held on to the jersey. By the time the peloton arrived in Paris the man who didn’t want to ride the Tour had collected three stage wins and had the yellow jersey on his shoulders.

He’d been a pro for just six months but already he had collected cycling’s greatest prize.

Cooking up a storm

Gimondi’s win at the 1965 Tour had crowned a fantastic few months for Salvarani. In MarchAdorni had finished second in Milan-San Remo, unable to work sufficiently with fellow Italian Franco Balmamion to prevent Dutchman Arie Den Hartog from taking the sprint.

After the finish Adorni bemoaned his frequent second-place finishes in big races: ‘Unfortunately I am collecting important second places, at the World Championships [1964] and here in San Remo. It is destiny that I must always find a stronger opponent in the sprint.’

Shortly after that he found winning ways. He won the Tour de Romandie in May and followed that with a tremendous victory at the Giro, securing three stages and the pink jersey.

Adorni’s winning margin was over 11 minutes as he brought the team its maiden Grand Tour title.

The Salvarani cycling team had started life two years earlier. The Salvarani family manufactured kitchens in their factory in Baganzola, near Parma.

The brothers all enjoyed sport and formed a group to sponsor various clubs, indulging their passion as well as enhancing the profile of their company.

After first sponsoring a football team they entered the world of cycling in 1963, taking on the sponsorship of the former Ghigi team.

Salvarani tasted success quickly, with 1961 Giro winner Arnaldo Pambianco claiming the Tour of Sardinia early in their first season.

But it was the arrival of Adorni in 1964 and then Gimondi in 1965 that transformed the team. The year after his Tour win Gimondi claimed the team’s first Monument, Paris-Roubaix.

Gimondi made his move on the (then) cobbled Pas-Roland ascent to the Mons-en-Pévèle sector of pavé, before riding the final 40km alone to record a four-minute winning margin in a manner that drew comparisons with Fausto Coppi’s great exploits.

Towards the end of the year, Gimondi added the Tour of Lombardy to his growing palmarès, joining forces with Adorni to claim the sprint finish from a small breakaway that included the likes of Poulidor, Anquetil and Eddy Merckx.

With Gimondi now Salvarani’s undisputed dominant force, Adorni left at the end of 1966 for the Salamini team (he would return to Salvarani in 1971 as manager).

His loss was compensated for by the arrival of Dino Zandegù in 1967 and Rudi Altig the following year, both of whom won Monuments in their first seasons with the team – Zandegù winning the Tour of Flanders and Altig Milan-San Remo.

Zandegù had actually attacked in the final moments of Flanders under the instruction of Gimondi, who was hoping to force a reaction from Merckx, but then held on to win when Merckx opted to stay with Salvarani’s leader.

Paris-Tours, GP des Nations, Paris-Brussels and the Tour de Suisse were among other races claimed by the team over the years.

Gimondi would add two Giro wins and a Vuelta to his Tour title before Salvarani bowed out after the 1972 season. Other notable riders to have graced the jersey include Gianni Motta, Walter Godefroot and Marino Basso, who won the rainbow jersey in the team’s final year.