Tirreno-Adriatico: Stage 4 – Montalto di Castro to Terminillo
It takes a certain quality in a rider to repeatedly join doomed breakaways, and somehow make it fun to watch. Alan Marangoni has this quality, bike racing’s ultimate breakawayeur.
The signs were there earlier in the season.
On Stage 1 of the Tour of Oman Marangoni was in the break, on a parcour that doubled back on itself. It meant Marangoni could see the peloton coming at them on the other side of the road. So as they rode by he ditched the usual demeanor of intense focus, and instead waved to them. I like to think he called out a cheeky comment about their manhood as he did so.
It’s for these reasons that Marangoni doesn’t fit the head-down-tongue-out stereotype of the pro cyclist. He likes to break the fourth wall instead. If he’s going to suffer for 180km in a doomed break, you’re coming along too.
He knew the odds were against him, literally in the case of Stage 4, which finished on an eight per cent gradient. While others will push on, able to read clearly the handful of seconds scribbled on the timer’s blackboard, but not the writing on the wall, Marangoni –never shirking the work – talks to the camera, gestures, grins, shrugs; yesterday he raised a bidon to viewers as he took advice from his team car, assuming (rightfully in my case) you’re watching at home with a beer.
It helps that he rides for Nippo Vini Fantini. Their Pro Continental status means the UCI requires they employ as much fluorescent colouring in their uniforms as possible*. For Nippo Vini Fantini (who also have a name that is enjoyable to repeat) it means a blur of garish orange, which only serves to make Marangoni stand out even more as he fights for screen time.
Marangoni might be without a pro win in a career spanning nine years, but if that’s something that bothers him it doesn’t show. Instead his attitude on the bike suggests he’s relaxed and having fun. If he didn’t have to consume all those gels during the day he’d probably be chewing gum.
His value is not just in crossing the line first. He knows how to hang out front for vital sponsors air time on a Saturday afternoon. For viewers watching from home, it means we get our money’s worth too. Doomed to fail? Who really cares? Marangoni is bike racing’s textbook breakawayeur.
* This is not true.
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