SportsThe joy of the fearless Eros Poli

The joy of the fearless Eros Poli

Eros Poli, climbing Mont Ventoux in 1994 in the Tour de France.Pascal Rondeau / Getty Images

All Italy cried for the ponytail of Roberto Baggio, number 10 of the Azzurra, and for his sky-high penalty at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. And for the also high shot of Baresi. The 1994 World Cup had escaped the National and had flown to Brazil for the fourth time. A country in depression, a Monday with a hangover. Only Eros Poli, a cyclist with an evocative name, born in a town called Isola della Scala, the body of a basketball player, 1.94 in height, smiles, cries with happiness when entering Carpentras after breaking down the Ventoux wall. He had never won anything as a professional, always at the service of others, of the most gifted cyclists, and there, on the mountain that Petrarca ascended in 1336, simply because he was there, he wrote his name in the history of the Tour.

It was also there for Eros Poli, who if it had been up to him would have surrounded her to reach Malaucene and then take the road to Carpentras, but he could not after escaping more than a hundred kilometers before. Hard days after the Pyrenees, from the Bergerac time trial in which Indurain dubbed Lance Armstrong at 15 kilometers, the cyclist who never existed, at least for the Tour’s record, and who retired before the Ventoux, of those five last exhausting and emaciated kilometers, moonstone, in which the observatory at the top is always in the background, which you never seem to get to.

It was the least expected day for Eros Poli, a percherón not very gifted for the mountains, so perhaps the platoon let him go. In Hautacam he had arrived 12 minutes from the first; and in Luz Ardiden, 40 minutes late. He was a wheeler, Olympic team time trial champion in 1984. He had caressed the yellow jersey in a breakaway between Rennes and Futuroscope after gaining an 18-minute lead, but was caught by the peloton 34 kilometers from the finish and that day ended. wasting more than 14 minutes. It was ranked 173 out of 177 participants.

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But that hot day at the Ventoux was inspired, he tried again. It did not disturb anyone in the platoon; no one trusted the success of his madness. In Bedoin, at the foot of the colossus, he was 15 minutes apart. Then Pantani, the great climber of that year in the Giro, stirred. He wanted to go ahead at the top and took advantage. The calculations spoke of a minute lost per kilometer for Eros, but the calculations sometimes fail. In the 20 ascent they cut him ten minutes and he arrived at the observatory with five on Pantani, a little more with Indurain, whom Echavarri rebuked for pulling the group. Poli launched himself into the very long descent, keeping the difference with Pantani, who adopted dangerous aerodynamic positions, but Eros weighed much more and the law of gravity was working in his favor. In Malaucene he already looked the winner, just as Indurain skidded around a curve and was about to go into the ravine. He controlled the bike and got back on track.

Nobody could with Eros Poli. Indurain got Pantani back into the fold when the 1.94 Percheron, who was crying with happiness, bowed to the cheering crowd at Carpentras after beating Ventoux. Like the poet Petrarca, or like Lazarides, like Bobet, like Robic, Gaul or the very champion Merckx, who took off his cap to honor Tom Simpson as he passed his monument.

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