Photos by Sirotti Photo
Words by Giuliano Ragazzi and Beppe Conti
Alfredo Martini, the famed head coach of the Italian national cycling team, has left us. He was 93 and had been ill for a long time. Alfredo was an icon, a symbol in the history of cycling. In a cycling world that is changing, we offer you a remembrance written by our Founder Giuliano Ragazzi together with Beppe Conti.
Alfredo Martini, the famed head coach of the Italian national cycling team, has left us. He was 93 and had been ill for a long time. He didn't make it this time. Alfredo was an icon, a symbol not only in the history of cycling but of all sports. It is not necessary to state other things, to say that he was a rider and director, head coach or honorary president of the Italian Cycling Federation. No, name and surname are enough: Alfredo Martini. And we have said everything. Not only to cycling fans, but also to those that follow other sports and to everyone. From Sesto Fiorentino, he was born on February 18th 1921. Soon, Alfredo made the bike a symbol of his life, his passions and efforts starting in the 1930s. Racing on a bike was really magical at that time. It was an adventure full of charm and hopes. On the Florentine roads, he soon met a person who would later become a sort of acquired brother: Fiorenzo Magni, another legend. They became inseparable friends despite their opposing political views in a cruel period: Alfredo was supporting the left party while Fiorenzo the right. However, friendship helped overcome every ideology in that case.
Alfredo showed promise among young riders. He became a professional with the glorious Bianchi team during wartime, even before Fausto Coppi arrived. In the presence of such great champions - the biggest of all time - like Coppi, Bartali, Magni and the great foreigners, he willingly and intelligently accepted remaining in the shadow of those stars, bonding a lot with the friend of a lifetime: Fiorenzo Magni. Martini won important races such as Giro del Piemonte and Giro dell’Appennino. He arrived third behind those two wonders - Coppi and Bartali - in the most spectacular and legendary Giro d’Italia stage of all time: Cuneo-Pinerolo 1949 where Coppi broke away alone for 192 km climbing the Maddalena, Vars, Izoard, Monginevro and Sestriere Passes and arriving at the finish line in Pinerolo with an advantage of more than eleven minutes on Bartali, almost twenty minutes ahead of Alfredo. Martini stopped racing in 1957, one year after Fiorenzo Magni. He left cycling for a decade. He was quick and intelligent also in reverting back to everyday life. He opened a beautiful boutique of designer clothes for men in Sesto Fiorentino, still run with great care today by his daughters and grandchildren. The lure of the bike and the charm of racing couldn't help involving him. And here he was sat in the team car towards the end of the '60s, ready to manage talented Tuscan teams: Ferretti, on top. In that sports group, he was able to bring the pink jersey to a Swedish rider, which was very unusual at the time. It was 1971. Gosta Pettersson won the Giro also thanks to the advice of wise Alfredo.
The federal executives of the period quickly understood that Martini was the right person to guide the Italian cycling team: a difficult but prestigious role in a sport that rallies the great national protagonists only once a year. Martini was the natural successor of Alfredo Binda, the other great Italian head coach who was able to make Coppi and Bartali agree on various occasions. Thanks to his wisdom and diplomacy, Martini too managed to overcome a difficult challenge: the strong and proud rivalries in another very important period for Italian cycling marked by the duels between Moser and Saronni. Those Italian teams were full of leaders: not only Moser and Saronni, but also Argentin, Visentini and Baronchelli. In 1978, Martini also had the audacity to relegate two legends to the role of reserves in the World Championship: Felice Gimondi and Franco Bitossi, at the end of their careers. And this thanks to his innate charisma. As head coach, from 1975 to the end of the '90s, Alfredo Martini was able to give world success to both Moser and Saronni, but also Argentin, Fondriest, Bugno twice, in seasons when the Italian national team was the reference point for all the foreigners who wanted to gain the title. It was almost natural, unavoidable and fitting that Alfredo Martini became honorary president of the Italian Cycling Federation. Recognition for a fantastic career in a moment when some people also wanted to elect him senator for life as flag and symbol of the most beautiful sport.
I appreciated your humanity that day in Stuttgart when, from the Italian bus, you were helping the late Ballerini bring Paolo Bettini to victory with your notebook full of notes and your polite attitude. It was an honour and privilege to know you. Goodbye Alfredo.