Out of His League

Italian cycling legend Francesco Moser crashes a Brooklyn club race

Francesco Moser, 61, won a lot of races during his pro career -- 298 of them, in fact, including the Giro d’Italia and three consecutive years (1978-80) of the Paris-Roubaix. One race the former world champion didn’t win, though, was Saturday’s Lucarelli & Castaldi kick-off, the first race of a local club series in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. But who could blame him? It was only his fourth time on a bike this year.

Moser, known during his prime as “The Sheriff,” was at a Brooklyn restaurant last week to promote his winery, Cantine Moser. Wine flowed freely and, at some point in the night, amateur racers invited him to join Saturday’s race. According to Jules Roazen at Cycling News:

The former Giro d'Italia champion demurred, citing the need for a bicycle he was familiar with, papers for racing, proper shoes, pedals, his age, jet lag and other excuses well known to racers of all ages and accomplishments. We persisted in good humor, hoping to at least secure his presence on the starting line.

Their persistence paid off. The next morning, il signore contacted the amateurs. He wanted to race. A bike and jersey were arranged and, come Saturday at 6:15 am, Moser lined up with the Pro/1/2/3 gang. He rode well, leading the pack up the hill at points in the 44-mile race, but sitting up to avoid the sprints. “The sprint can be dangerous if you don’t have the fitness,” he told one rider.

Afterwards, Moser signed autographs for local cycling fans and posed for photographs, still a champion at heart. True, he didn’t win the race. But he certainly won over a few hundred lucky New Yorkers.

Check out cyclist/photographer Marco Quezada’s slideshow of the race.[slideshow:505]

For the full telling, see Jules Roazen’s account.