What's Cool In Road Cycling

Marvelous Franco Marvulli Gets PEZ’d!

He’s tall, dark, handsome, speaks Italian, French, English and German; with fellow Swiss Bruno Risi he forms the best six day pairing on the planet – he’s Franco “Marvelous” Marvulli. Franco took time out during the recent Amsterdam Six to talk to PEZ…

PEZ: The first six you rode and the first six you won, please Franco?
Franco: My first six as a pro was Zurich in 1998 and my first win was Grenoble with Alexander Aeschbach in October 2001. The fist time is always special and in the world of six days, once you win one, you’re ‘in;’ my total to date is 23 wins. Last season (07/08) Bruno and I won three of the great sixes Zurich, Berlin and Munich – that meant a lot.

Life isn’t bad at the top.

PEZ: Favourite Six?
Franco: Berlin; Zurich is my home six, but Berlin is special. I’ve been third twice, second once and of course, we won last year; when I was starting as a young six day rider, the organisers believed in me and gave me the opportunity to ride – I remember that.

PEZ: Least favourite?
Franco: None are bad, they are all different and the racing is good everywhere; some places you might have the odd complaint about food or the hotel, but that’s all. [I should also have said above that he has the makings of a fine diplomat!]

PEZ: Best thing for you about the Sixes?
Franco: Being close to the crowd, the speed, the atmosphere, the connection between music, sport and being close to the fans – and all at a very high sporting level. It’s also fun, it’s hard racing, but there are a lot of laughs, too.

PEZ: Worst thing?
Franco: When you’re not in the best shape, but the crowd and the organisers need you to perform – you have to go out and dig it from deep within yourself, that’s tough.

PEZ: You can out-sprint Robbie Hunter in a road race, why the track?
Franco: I started doing both, but with my build – I’m tall and not lightweight – I found I was better suited to the track, and that’s where my heart is. In the ten or twenty years the gap between road and track has widened, less riders ride both, you have specialisation. I took the route of doing what I was best at and enjoyed. Besides, road racing can be dangerous, sometimes in the corners and sprints it’s very scary.

PEZ: What’s it like riding with “King Bruno?”
Franco: He doesn’t say to you, “do this,” or “do that,” but you learn so much just riding with him. So much of Madison racing is timing, not just the head and legs; I’ve picked up a great deal about that aspect of racing from Bruno. It was an honour when I first became his partner, and it’s still a good sensation to be riding with him.

Bruno Risi has been at it for a LONG time.

PEZ: How many more years for Bruno?
Franco: He’ll race this season and next; then he’ll retire.

They like cookies.

PEZ: Then you’ll be ‘the man?’
Franco: I’m not looking to be the ‘next Bruno,’ I’ll still be myself, but I’m not scared of the responsibilities I’ll have, come that time.

PEZ: Who are ‘the stars of the future?’
Franco: Lamphater, Keisse, De Ketele and the Danes Morkov and Rasmussen – but they’re not so young anymore.

PEZ: Are you still involved with amateur racing?
Franco: There are young Swiss riders I’m trying to help break through onto the circuit; I work with the Swiss Federation to bring them on. I remember when I was a young rider, fighting to get to Bruno’s level and it would be good to see these riders fighting to get to my level. But it’s a good fight for everyone and you have to learn to fight if you want to be a good six day rider.

Flyer from the Grenoble Six in 2005…

PEZ: Beijing?
Franco: We didn’t think we’d win, but we thought we’d be on the podium. Coming in to the race I had good legs – I’d done the preparation – but two days before, I began to feel very bad. In the race I was just completely ‘blocked,’ it wasn’t nerves; I know what that’s like, I simply had no legs at all. After the race I went to hospital – it was that bad – and they discovered that I had an inflamed pancreas; my digestion was bad and my system couldn’t move oxygen around my body.

It took me a few weeks to get back in physical shape, but maybe six weeks to get my mental situation sorted-out. I was just so disappointed, it was like my house falling down, the world caving in; eleventh at the Olympics – it was as if I’d been punched below the belt! The three teams on the podium, if you’d asked me before the race, I’d have said 8th, 9th and 10th, but it shows that Madison racing isn’t just about being fastest or strongest.

In pursuit racing, the fastest guy wins, but in points and Madison racing, it’s the smartest guys who win. We couldn’t move without the field being on our wheel, neither could Cavendish and Wiggins. I think that the Argentineans said; “OK, we’ll take a big risk, we’ll go early and try to hold on, if it pays off then great, if not, at least we tried.”

PEZ: Schumi and Kohl?
Franco: They’re very big idiots, ten years ago, we used to say; ‘I hope we catch them,’ but now we are catching them. In Germany people just don’t trust cyclist anymore – the Deutschland Tour is cancelled, the Stuttgart Six is cancelled, sponsors are pulling out, kermesses are being cancelled. In Germany, it’s getting that you don’t want to tell people you are a pro cyclist, it’s like saying; “I’m a drug dealer!” It’s making it very hard for young riders to get contracts, the big stars are still OK, but at the bottom of the ladder, it’s tough. Bruno was just saying that if his kid said; “I want to be a cyclist,” he’d reply; “just get a job, son!”

PEZ: The future?
Franco: I used to plan four or five years ahead, but now I take it year by year. I was so disappointed after Beijing that I seriously considered ending my career. I have good contacts in TV, radio and management; so I have plenty of options. But I still have that Olympic dream – I’ll be right there for London!

With thanks to Franco for his time and all the best to him and Bruno for season 2008/09.

Check out Franco’s website: FrancoMarvulli.ch

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