The beauty of fatigue and the thrill of conquest
   Edition 2024

The confirmation of my doubts about my latent misogyny came one Sunday in October at L'Eroica, the day of my first Eroica.

There were people around me, a lot of people, and my attention was essentially focused on two things: the bicycles and the caps. What was above the saddle and under the cap was of far less importance to me than the bicycle and the cap. 

I've always been an admirer of bicycles. Ever since I was a child, I have attached a lot of importance to those eight tubes and two wheels: I looked at them, I dreamed of having loads of them, especially those ridden by the pros. But I rode bikes that were nothing like them. They had straight handlebars and big wheels, rather than curved handlebars and thin wheels. My parents never bought one for me, they always said that dirt and gravel were safer than asphalt, that there was less risk of meeting cars when pedaling through the fields. It took me decades to get myself a bike like those used by the pros, to then understand in far fewer years that, all things considered, riding on dirt and gravel wasn’t so bad after all. 

But that day, the day of my first Eroica, I began to understand that there was another thing I really liked about the bicycle, or rather what surrounded the bicycle: the caps. 

Before that I had a couple of caps, but I never used them. That’s what a helmet is for, I thought. And then I was a bandana guy, or so I had convinced myself. Marco Pantani fans are always bandana types. I'm still a Marco Pantani fan, but since that day I've become a cap guy. 

I had never noticed that cyclists have a cap of their own, different to all others. That there are so many caps, some elegant, others noble, there was a time then sporty, baseball caps, which were so American, took over. Cycling caps, on the other hand, have never gone out of fashion, although now they are seen on those who don't cycle a little more than in the past, or at least on those who are not actually in the saddle of their bikes. Because it has always been a habit of cyclists to remove their caps when getting off the bike. On the other hand, the cycling cap is bizarre, a kind of segmented skull cap with a short peak that doesn't help much if you're not in the saddle. 

And the story of the cap, or rather casquette, given that they are French by birth, is also bizarre. A guy from Paris invented them in the early 1900s thinking he'd had the brilliant idea that would make him rich. It was a resounding failure. He sold so few that he didn't even bother to patent their shape and design. Who it was is uncertain. Some say his name was A.J. Chasse, some O. Lepper, some O. Petit. Some spoke of a certain A. J. Moreau, claiming he was the uncle of Jeanne Moreau who had a hat shop in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, near the Gare de l'Est. There are no historical certainties, only winners make history and the creator of the casquette was not among them. Who knows what he thought when, after the Second World War, the casquette began to be seen in the peloton. They were a great success, above all because sponsors adored them, because they gave visibility to the brand in all the photos, even those with close-ups of the riders. 

I have often asked myself why they weren’t an immediate success, but who knows? Who knows what mistake was made by Monsieur Chasse or Lepper or Petit or Moreau or whatever the heck his name was. 

On that Sunday in October, when I did my first Eroica, I came across a light blue and white cap with the words BIANCHI in large letters and, below, in small letters, PAOLO, CONSTRUCTION COMPANY. MILAN. There was also a telephone number. It seemed to me to be a bad marketing stunt, because when one sees BIANCHI on a bicycle, one doesn't think for a second of Bianchi Paolo, a construction company in Milan, but of the other Bianchi, the bicycle brand. I wondered if the idea was good, if it worked, if at least one of those caps had brought him a customer. But then, I immediately forgot about the cap with the writing on it: 




Giovanni Battistuzzi 

But now that it somehow came back to my mind, I would like to have it. Because, whether the marketing gimmick was good or not, it was a nice cap, the kind with embroidered lettering. 

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