Sacha Modolo’s motivation, rooted in his history, differs from most of his rivals.
“What drives me? A desire to break out. I came from nothing, I had nothing,” he says. “The sprint is a thing of fury. For me, who had many difficulties in life, it’s an outburst. That’s what pushes me forward.”
When he was three months old, his father walked out on the family. (He subsequently tried to reconnect over the phone 25 years later when his son became famous; Modolo didn’t want to know.)
Raised by his labourer mother Sonia and grandparents Carletto and Ida, they lived a hand-to-mouth existence, often counting their pennies at the end of the month. “But they didn’t leave me wanting for anything, from clothes to games and my scooter,” Modolo says.
He has had to confront life’s ugliness more often than most. In January 2011, his paternal uncle Fabio Rosolen was found hanged at his home, having fallen into depression and spent a year unemployed. “I loved him like a brother,” Modolo says.
Nobody saw the years of scrimping, driving around in a battered Alfa Romeo or eating bread and sausage with his family. Modolo is justifiably proud of being able to buy his own house at the age of 23 and the few perks he allows himself – the white Range Rover parked outside the restaurant and his beloved Vespa collection. His sporting career is the mark of a self-made young man.
“I wanted to earn a living with cycling. If before it was a passion, now it starts to become a business. Still, I realise now that my cycling career is wrapped in parentheses. Once it’s over, so is the money you earn. I’m looking for a way to invest in things to help my future… Money is nice, but it can ruin people. Especially those like me, who came from nothing.”
His earnings mean that he can help his mother Sonia too. “She’s a bit proud and never asks for it. I’m the same: if you know me and what I need, you can help. But if you expect me to ask, it’ll be a long wait. I’d rather die of hunger than ask for food.”
Sprinters are habitually posited as the sport’s big characters: impulsive, cocksure, tempers as quick as their muscle fibres. It’s usually more complicated than that.
“I give this impression of self-conviction to people and always say ‘fear nothing, respect everyone…’ I seem so sure of myself, but ultimately I’m not. Perhaps I can be a little paranoid. I’ll say ‘ah, that rival is stronger than me, he’ll beat me.’ I’m working on this side.”
This is an extract from issue 62 of Rouleur, published in April 2016