It’s a life shared between skating and cycling for Giuseppina Micheloni, the first winner, in 1974, of one of the oldest races of the UCI Women's WorldTour calendar, the Trofeo Alfredo Binda - Comune di Cittiglio.
“That day was exciting,” she told us. “I felt a very strong emotion when I managed to go away and arrive alone. The route was different at that time, it was intertwined in and out of the old city.”
The 2020 edition has been postponed from its original date of March 22nd due to the pandemic of the coronavirus COVID-19, which, in Italy, has its epicentre in Bergamo – Giuseppina’s home. Her story is reminiscent of the careers of other champions who perform between two sport specialties, like the Slovenian Primož Roglič who won in ski jumping then became a formidable rider on the road.
“I started skating at the age of 13 and I joined the team sponsored by Pirelli, the company where my father worked. At the time it was one of the best teams, a nest of great professionals, even World Champions. I started winning immediately.”
Her skating palmares counts 32 provincial and regional victories, four Italian and two international competitions (in Nantes, France, and Bologna, Italy) for a total of 120 races. “But I started losing motivation,” confesses Micheloni, who in the meantime was spending more and more time on her bike for training.
From skating to cycling
“On the roads I met several Lombardy champions such as Giacinto Santambrogio and Tino Conti and, more rarely, also Felice Gimondi. I often challenged myself on the ascent of Ghisallo and occasionally I also came across some Spanish riders such as José Manuel Fuente. Skating provided me with a good athletic base: the long internal muscles are stimulated with the external sliding movement. Something comparable to the effort on the bike uphill. That is why I became a very strong climber, I could go solo quite easily and that’s how I got so many victories.”
Giuseppina was also an excellent sprinter, albeit for a short time: “I was very fast and competitive in pack finishes, but I was conditioned during a race in Settala, when I crashed very badly with other girls and I woke up the next day in the hospital with a head injury. I was no longer able to play in peloton sprints, but only in small groups. Every time I found myself in the last kilometre with too many colleagues around, I was worried and I had to get out of the way.”
In 1972 came the farewell to skating: “In the morning I won a bike race in the area between Ferrara and Reggio Emilia and in the afternoon I ended my career with a nice placement on skates. It was enough.”
Micheloni’s first cycling team was Robbiate's Alba and in the first year there she already achieved six victories, starting to compete with some very well known riders such as Elisabetta Maffeis.
Unforgettable UCI World Championships
Just one year later Giuseppina had the chance to wear the national team jersey for the 1973 UCI World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. “I was part of the Italian expedition. They were exciting days, I travelled with my parents and already at the airport I found myself surrounded by great champions such as Felice Gimondi, who then won the men’s race, and Gianbattista Baronchelli. An amazing feeling,” she recalls. “In the race I gave my best and despite it being my first participation I ended in 20th position. In 1974 in Montreal in Canada I reached the fourth place and in 1975 in Yvoir, Belgium, eighth.”
But the edition of the UCI World Championships she would never be able to forget was in 1977 in San Cristobal, Venezuela. Not only for the exotic charm of the route and for the large presence of Italian fans on the roads: “I broke away with the French Genevieve Gambillon, a very strong girl, but the team manager asked me to wait for our captain Luigina Bissoli, who, at the most important moment failed to stay ahead. I tried to recover by myself, but it was too late. It became my biggest regret, I had great legs that day and I could do very well in the sprint with a small group. I could have redeemed an entire career.”
In the meantime, Giuseppina had also started competing on the track. “My first time was at the historic Vigorelli velodrome in Milan, I was impressed by the slope of the curves, while my baptism was at the Italian Championships in Lecce, on the newly inaugurated track. I managed to get two second places behind champions like the record holder of the hour, Mery Cressari, and Bissoli herself. Unfortunately, I finished second in the national championships also on the road in Lissone (Milan) and Potenza.”
The Women’s Giro d’Italia first edition
Giuseppina's career ended for the first time with the 1980 UCI World Championships in Sallanches, France: “An important chapter of my life finished, I stopped when I could still do something good. Shortly after I got married and I split between home and work as a cashier in a hypermarket. But in 1985 I decided to back to racing with a new team named Cantine Piovene until 1990 when I decided to finally quit, because cycling had changed.When I started it was a pioneering sport, over time it became much more professional with very hard and demanding workouts, which were little reconciled with my work in the supermarket. However, I had the exciting opportunity to race the first two editions of the women's Giro d'Italia in the midst of the Maria Canins era.”
Giuseppina also had a brief career as a journalist and then retired in 2014. In 2016 she received the diploma for sporting merits from the municipality of Carinate and for a short period she taught skating at school. “Now I live right in the centre of the national emergency, it's a dramatic and tragic situation, we all try to stay safe at home, waiting for better times. Everything will be fine, as it will be with the Trofeo Binda and all the cycling movement,” says Giuseppina.
“I hope many girls will decide to get closer to the bike as I did, to write new beautiful pages of sport.”