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Francesco Moser interview

Francesco Moser
Ollie Gill
11 Dec 2015

Only four riders have won more races than Francesco Moser. We talk to the Classics man, Giro D'Italia winner and ex-Hour record holder.

Cyclist: You had many successes throughout your career. Which ones really stand out for you?

Francesco Moser: The Giro d’Italia in 1984 was special of course, but I’m also very proud of the Hour record. Then there was the win at Il Lombardia in 1978 and what it meant in terms of the Pernod Super Prestige [the season-long points competition that ran until 1988]. I’d raced most of the Classics that year as well as the Giro with the focus on winning the Super Prestige, but I was behind Bernard Hinault in the rankings going into the Lombardia. I knew I only needed to come third in that race to take the Super Prestige, but it was even better that I won the sprint for the line.

Cyc: Who was your biggest rival during your career?

FM: I had several high-profile rivals, but Giuseppe Saronni was the biggest of them. This wasn’t because he was necessarily the best rider I rode against, it was more that he was Italian as well. This made it a special rivalry and one that the press built up. It seemed to divide the whole nation in terms of who the general public supported.

Cyc: Despite all this success, you only rode the Tour de France once. Why?

FM: It was really important for the team and the sponsors that I rode the Giro above all else, which made it very hard to ride the Tour de France as well. We did ride it once in 1975 when the team skipped the Giro. I won the young rider’s competition, as well as two stages, but it caused some friction between the team and the Giro organisers. It was always my intention to do the Tour de France again at some point.

Cyc: But you didn’t…

FM: You have to remember that for me Grand Tours were, in general, of less importance than the Classics, so fitting it in was always going to be tricky. And I wasn’t going to turn up at the Tour de France to take part and not try to win.

Cyc: Do riders have it easier today?

FM: It was different when I was racing, not necessarily harder or easier. For a start the season was longer when I raced, and stages were generally longer as well. The Classics are pretty much the same, but we didn’t race at the same intensity that the peloton does now.

Cyc: Nutrition is a high priority for riders today. What was it like in your day?

FM: In Italy, diet has always been important and the Mediterranean diet gave me an advantage over my rivals. These days, riders take a lot more supplements which means, nutrition-wise, it’s a much more level playing field as they all have access to them. 

Francesco Moser interview

Cyc: Which of today’s professional riders do you most identify with? 

FM: That’s a hard question. In my day, we rode every event to win. Cancellara is someone I can identify myself with because of his successes in the Classics. But then he doesn’t necessarily come to the start line of Grand Tours with the intention of winning them. So if we take someone who can win both Classics and Grand Tours, I would say Valverde is probably more like me in that regard.

Cyc: You grew up in a big family on a farm. Did that help your cycling?

FM: When I was young there were always family members around me on bicycles. As for the farm, our vineyards have steep sides, and in those days we had no machinery and needed to work with our hands. This made me very fit from an early age. I quit school at 14 and worked on the farm until I was 18, when I started racing properly as an amateur. Even then, for the first couple of years I continued working on the farm. Farming is still a hard life, but at least now there are machines to help you out.

Cyc: As a former holder of the Hour record, what’s your view on the UCI’s decision to allow more aerodynamic bikes?

FM: Well, they seem to have gone back on many of the restrictions that they put on bikes. But there are still limitations that don’t quite seem right. Take Wiggins, who is a tall rider. He would benefit from a longer bike, which he can’t have – so the rules benefit shorter riders. I think that bike geometry should be based on rider size.

Cyc: What do you think about the boom in British cycling? 

FM: The growth of cycling in the UK is great for the sport, but it’s not only happening in Great Britain. In Italy there has always been considerable interest in cycling, but in the 1970s and 1980s there weren’t that many people actually doing it. These days I see so many more people in Italy out cycling. It’s quite an incredible sight. More importantly, there are a lot more women taking it up than ever before, and this extends across all disciplines, not just road cycling.

Cyc: When you aren’t on your bike, what other sports do you like?

FM: I love skiing in the winter – where I live in the Dolomites is a fantastic location for it. I used to do a lot of cross-country skiing as that would be great for training, but now, for me, it’s all about downhill skiing. I’m good friends with [ex-pro ski racer] Gustav Thöni and it’s great to get out on the slopes with him. We also have Norwegian skiers to stay on the farm when they are training. Aksel Lund Svindal [downhill ski racer] comes over and enjoys the cycling too. Other than that, there’s golf, but that takes too long to get good at. I’m just not that patient!

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