Dreaming of gelati
My first cycling magazine had the most memorable front cover. It was Spring 1981 and the picture was of Giuseppe Saronni somewhere in Northern Europe, resplendent in the Italian national champion’s jersey, astride a beautiful wine red Colnago Super. The champion had ventured out of his comfort zone, turning his back on the warmer climate and smoother tarmac of his homeland, in search of glory in more brutal conditions. His immaculate bike, brightly-coloured kit and tanned legs were in stark contrast to the infamous cobblestones and monochrome hues of the classics.
I absorbed all the information from that cover like a sponge. Every detail was noted from the white cloth bar tape to the water bottle with insulated jacket. How the brake cables were routed, the type of rims used and how the toe straps were fed through the pedals and terminated – it all jumped out at me from the page.
The concept of sponsorship had never registered, but as I was drawn closer and closer to the European racing scene, odd foreign-sounding names became etched in my mind.
One Sunday, pressed up against the window of Tony Butterworth’s shop in Sheffield, I saw my first Colnago, and things would never be the same again. I wasted no time. It would be mine – how I was going to afford to buy it was another matter altogether – and I would not only need all the bits to build it, I was going to need a new wardrobe, too.
In a sea of random jerseys and jackets at Butterworth’s just one stood out, as much for its simplicity and clean design as for its relevance to my steed-to-be, the white woollen body contrasting with red and blue flocking stripes. “GIS GELATI” emblazoned across the chest, “Campagnolo” down the sides, and the cloverleaf logos sealed the deal. I immediately thought of Saronni on his Colnago.
My first trade jersey was a source of some amusement to my mother, though. “Gelati!” she said. “I bet you don’t even know what it means.” “Ice cream,” I replied indignantly, much to her surprise. “Why do you want to ride around advertising ice cream?” she asked. “In fact, why do you want to ride around covered in writing, full stop?”
I did not bother to justify myself.
I loved that jersey and still do. It reminds me of how much each outing in it meant. As I pedalled around the Peak District on my fully kitted-out Colnago, just like Giuseppe’s, my mind would wander, and I would be transported to a climb in the Giro and dreaming of a life as a pro. After each ride I would insist on my favourite jersey being washed, ready for the next day, and I lost count of how many times I wore it. Although wearing a bit thin, it has held up surprisingly well considering it is 26 years old. I am just not so sure I could get in it these days, but there’s no harm in dreaming.
Sir Paul Smith remembers Fausto Coppi and the distinctive jersey that were key parts of his adol