4 Aug 2018

Italian 'fab four' celebrate track cycling gold despite training in Beatles venue

Italian track cyclists discuss training facilities and competing at the Glasgow 2018 European Championships.

The historic Vigorelli velodrome in Milan may have played host to the Beatles during their only tour of Italy, but all the Italian track cycling team competing at the Glasgow 2018 European Championships want is a ticket to ride in their modern training facility, which was closed down on police orders last month.

"We have this big issue in Italy where we can't train in our indoor facility any more," endurance rider Liam Bertazzo said after Italy won gold in the men's team pursuit on Friday. "We have to train at the Vigorelli, which is a much longer 400m track than here - and it's outdoor."

As well as hosting a Beatles concert in 1965, the Vigorelli was the venue for the hour record set by Fausto Coppi (ITA) in 1942.

It is an iconic venue for cycling in Italy," European Cycling Union (UEC) press officer Stefano Bertolotti (ITA) said. "It is like [Boca Juniors stadium] La Bombonera for football. It has hosted most of the important riders in the history of cycling. 

With the Vigorelli falling into a state of disrepair, the national team moved in 2009 to the new Montichiari Velodrome, built about 16 kilometres from Lake Garda in northern Italy.

"There was some problem with that velodrome regarding some papers, some bureaucratic thing, some signature was missing, and the national authorities said, 'OK, we close it'," Bertolotti (ITA) said. 

Francesco Lamon, a member of the Italian team pursuit 'Fab Four', said training outdoors on a recently refurbished Vigorelli was a "real disadvantage" for his team.

"Training on a 400m track while you compete on a 250m one just makes this more difficult for us," he said. "After three or four days of training we eventually managed to adapt to this new condition."

Italy have nevertheless made a successful start to the European Championships, with their women's team pursuit squad also making the final on Friday before falling short against a powerful Great Britain quartet.

"We managed to reach this final despite all the issues we had with our facility in Italy," Silvia Valsecchi (ITA) said. "The British team can count on two indoor velodromes in their country; we don't even have one now. So we are already happy with what we did today."  

In fact, Great Britain can count on four indoor velodromes - Derby, London, Manchester and Newport - in addition to the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow, which was opened ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

"Our only hope now is to get back to our own velodrome," Filippo Ganna (ITA), the reigning world and European champion in individual pursuit, said. "This sport is getting bigger and bigger in Italy and the results we have been getting proves it."