CCC’s Alessandro De Marchi Gets PEZ’d
Rider Interview: Alessandro De Marchi is one of those guys who has been quietly building up a fine palmarès and the admiration of the other professionals as a strong rider to have along-side you in a break. Our PEZman in Spain, Alastair Hamilton, managed to have a word with Alessandro at the CCC team early season training camp.
Leading Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2019
I had wanted to ask Alessandro De Marchi about his win on stage 11 of the 2018 Vuelta a España, as he crossed the line he looked less than happy, not what you would expect from a Grand Tour stage winner. Alessandro is a tough rider and a hard worker – In 2014 he took the Tour’s overall combativity award to go with his five Vuelta stage wins (two in the TTT). Alessandro’s luck has not been the best, with a few bad crashes, the most recent, and maybe the worst, happening in the 2019 Tour de France stage 9, where he sustained a broken collarbone and collapsed lung. The image of him lying on the road with blood streaming from a head wound was shocking.
We met up in Spain for a long chat:
PEZ: How do you feel now after your big crash?
Alessandro De Marchi: I’m okay, I’m back and I’d say almost 100 percent recovered. It has been longer, but… Yeah, in the beginning we understood that it was quite serious. Then we had some issue with the collarbone, so we decided to take the time we needed because otherwise we would just do the things fast and maybe not in the best way. I had a really bad plate, so until I had the plate removed, I didn’t really free moment. Now I’m okay.
PEZ: I was writing the PEZ race report when you crashed and you could see it was really, really bad. Did you remember what happened?
I really don’t remember the situation. The last flash I have is that I hit the rider from AG2R and I could not break and avoid it and then I went over and I don’t remember. I had concussion and I don’t really remember what happened.
2019 Tour stage 9 crash
PEZ: Let’s talk about nicer things. You were seventh in Amstel and also King of the Mountains in the Dauphiné, your early season was good.
The season was going was going well. The plan was to be really at the top from the tour until the end of the season. And that was the situation and unfortunately the crash stoped this progress. I was coming from a really big end of season, the year before, with a win and in the Giro dell’Emilia. I really felt I was ready to change, something was maybe changing, and so I was looking to bring this new approach into the season and until the Tour de France I was on that path. Now really the goal is to get back to that point and not to lose that. The path was the right one and I was going in the right direction, really it’s just a mental approach, but it can make a big difference and the plan is to keep with this approach.
Vuelta’14 stage 7 podium
PEZ: So, which is your favourite race?
This is a big question. Difficult to say because there’s so many races with many, many different situations and for sure I have a really nice memory about the Tour de France and maybe all the system brings you to that race. It is the biggest race. I think I really like the different situations you have in the championships and of course in the Olympics. So these are maybe the two moments that I really, really want to enjoy again. Then during the season, for example, I rode a few time the Giro and especially when I was at the beginning of my career and it was really nice to be there.
PEZ: The Giro must be enormous for an Italian, like riding Sanremo.
I will say that I have ridden a lot of normal races, but to ride in the National jersey is something a bit more special.
De Marchi plunges into a ravine in Paris-Nice
PEZ: The worst race? That could be the Tour de France as well.
It could be… no the worst is the race you don’t have the legs and you get dropped. I don’t have a worst race, really. I usually really enjoy every race I’ve ridden and I can’t think of a bad one.
PEZ: Your happiest moment in life?
For sure there are two: When I got married and when my baby was born one year ago, are really the best moments.
Vuelta’15 stage 14 – win in the fog
PEZ: What about on the bike?
Again it is difficult to put my finger on one. Maybe one of the really best was in 2014 when I when I had The honour to be on the podium on the Champs Élysées for the for the red number. That was also a moment that I think was a marker in my career. So from the emotional side it was something I really have in my heart. Maybe another one, but it is about the Italian jersey again, it was my first World Championship, again in 2014 in Ponferada. I was really close to get a medal. We were still out with three K to go, we were still out front in the break and (Michał) Kwiatkowski came, so for that moment I had the opportunity to touch a medal. Maybe I’m really forgetting other moments. I think it’s a job that brings you a lot of emotions. So it’s really hard to say this one and not that one. I will say that every year you have a lot of emotional days and maybe then you don’t remember… this is why I love this job.
Vuelta’18 stage 9 celebration
PEZ: When you won the Vuelta a España stage 11, you didn’t look very happy.
That day was really emotional because I had come through three season almost, that I had not won and I was missing that feeling to be really close to the Victory be really close to fight for something, something really big. So at that moment the finish was a really big, big relief. So that’s why, maybe I just look relieved.
PEZ: I remember watching you and thinking ‘you should be really happy’ but in the photo I remember, you just put your hands out.
As I said it was just really hard to get there. Get back there and yeah, at that moment I really realised that you need to train, you need to do a lot of things but this is just the one part, the other part you have to really believe in yourself. Believe in yourself and make you relax. Yeah, really enjoy the job you are doing, believing in the things you are doing and be patient with the situation. Sometimes you fight against the win for nothing, and this system sometimes doesn’t help you, so that was really the meaning behind the way I was at the finish.
PEZ: I have to ask you about the car incident with the stupid driver. Have you heard any more since?
No. But the thing is, that was wasn’t something strange. Speaking for the Italian situation, what we really need is the culture, the culture of respect of the other in each situation. I mean in normal life, in the job in everything and then you come down also to the road with all the weakest people on the road; the pedestrian, like the cyclist, they are the same and this is what really I wanted to share with that post is that really we have to respect each other because with that approach you could really hurt someone. This is what we miss in Italy, maybe we miss some rules, some laws, but this is something that comes after. What you should really, really focus on is education on this kind of culture. Unfortunately, this is and example the situation is just the photography of our social situation in Italy. Maybe everywhere, but I have the feeling that in Italy we are going in a really bad direction.
PEZ: But Italy didn’t used to be like that. Italy always loved cycling
That’s true, but on the on the social situation we are not improving, but we are making some steps backwards and then this is the reflection of the situation. Probably this is true, because if I remember, 10 years ago when I started to be a pro things were better.
In the break again in 2020 – Valencia
PEZ: Talking about Italian cycling; also, there are no team like before. There are a lot of ProConti teams, but no WorldTour teams. Is that all because there is no money?
Yeah, money and then again, it is a difficult situation. A general situation. It’s true, we have a lot of a lot of people involved in cycling at the highest level, but they are really all over spread all over. And I cannot really answer and say there is a reason why we don’t have teams anymore, because, honestly it is difficult.
PEZ: Astana and Bahrain were Italian run teams with many Italian members of staff. Now Astana is now very Kazakh and Bahrain is British.
Maybe the problem is that in Italy we are missing the long plan. I mean in everything, like in politics, also in a really demanding World now like cycling, if you miss this approach it is difficult to have a project, a nice blend of progress. So this may be why we are missing a really strong team.
The Worlds’14 in the blue of Italy
PEZ: Next year? We already spoke about.
I want to be back to how I was at that moment on the 13th of July. It has to be like I stopped yesterday on that stage, so I really want to start from there and we have some ideas and we are talking about the race programs. We have a small idea and we are still discussing because I would like to race to try to fight for a place for the Olympics. I know that the Italian coach, Cassani, has said that the team will be chosen at the Giro. I still need to understand if the team is okay with that. Probably after Valencia I would ride the Italian races, looking towards the Giro, but I think we will need till after January to decide. That is what I would like.
PEZ: Did you have a hero when you were a kid? Cyclist or non cyclist.
There is only one from my generation. It was Pantani. I grew up watching him and when you grow up you understand that it was a really hard moment for cycling. Remembering the images of Pantani, those brought me to cycling. It really shook the Italian people and after him you could feel that there was a different feeling and maybe this is also what we are missing.
Alessandro De Marchi leads Gregor Muhlberger and Julian Alaphilippe during stage 6 of the Criterium du Dauphiné Libéré 2019
PEZ: What is your favourite food?
I will say…. I love pizza always. I’m really classic, but you can’t beat a good Pizza, but it must be a good one. Once you have tried a proper Italian pizza, it’s clear you can’t go back to some ‘normal’ pizza.
PEZ: What about your future, do you have plans?
I would like to race for a lot of years more. I don’t feel tired about this job. Okay, when you have a boy and a wife it does get harder. I really love this job and after the crash and during the recovery, at that moment I really felt that I was missing that feeling of the cycling world. So I would really try to focus on and really enjoy the next… I don’t know, six, seven years. I really like it, I really love it.
Tour’19 stage 8 ‘break of the day’
PEZ: There are a lot of young guys at the moment, but there’s a gap between these new young guys and the older riders.
Maybe my generation will be one the last that is able to still race at 40 years old. Now when the guys start to be pro at twenty years old, it’s a long time till you are forty.
PEZ: Remco Evenepoel?
It’s so different.
PEZ: Maybe the brightest candle burns the shortest time?
Yeah, maybe. We’ll find out.
Valencia’20 stage 2 finish
# Thanks to Phoebe and Amy at the CCC team for setting up the interview and good luck to Alessandro. #