A few months ago Podia travelled to Italy to meet with Italian cycling legend Francesco Moser at his vineyard in the Trentino region in the North.
Francesco boasts an impressive palmarès as a one-day race specialist including the World Championships as well as a Giro d’Italia pink jersey from 1984 on top of numerous points jersey wins in the same race. In 1984 he also broke Eddy Merckx’s Hour Record twice in a week.
Known as ‘The Sheriff’ during his racing days, Francesco retired from professional racing in 1987 and turned his hand to a family tradition of producing wine.
We arrive at the Moser vineyard surrounded by mountains and rolling hills of vines. We catch a glimpse of Francesco as he speeds past on his tractor and are told he will finish off a few things before joining us. In the meantime we meet another member of the Moser family. An elderly man who wanders out of the vines and is introduced to us as Aldo Moser, Francesco’s older brother, who has his own impressive palmarès with numerous Giro finishes.
The Moser’s are the Italian royal family of cycling; at one stage four brothers raced in the same Filotex team and now Moreno, Francesco’s nephew, continues the tradition with Cannondale Garmin Pro Cycling.
Aldo takes us through to the wine tasting room, which is neatly connected through a set of doors to the private Moser cycling museum. A light controlled room, filled with bicycles, trophies, jerseys and all other kinds of memorabilia from the Moser racing past. We get the feeling Aldo enjoys the opportunity to tell us about his own racing years before his brother’s arrival. He takes time to show us the bikes he rode in the Giro d’Italia where he wore the Pink Jersey for a number of days, beating Coppi in a sprint.
It isn’t long before Francesco shows up and Aldo quietly leaves, as we are given our second guided tour of the museum before sitting down to sample some of the wines and talk.
In light of his son recently deciding to walk away from racing with BMC and joining his father on the vineyard, we ask Francesco what he thinks of modern racing. In my time there were only European’s in the peloton, these day’s it is harder because there are guys from all over the world. It makes it much harder and you have to really work hard to be there, you have to want it deep in your heart. Francesco agrees that racing has changed in other ways too. When I raced, those at the very top had to have brains and strength. These days racers can be a little like remote control cars with radios in the ears being told what to do by a director.
During his days as professional racer Francesco Moser was embroiled in a bitter rivalry with fellow Italian, Giuseppe Saronni. What made the rivalry really interesting was how it polarised the Italian cycling fans, with fan groups even going as far as to hold back their favourites rival. There aren’t the same rivalries these days, Moser points out, the closest we get is between Froome and Wiggins; they are on the same team but the rivalry is off the bike.
Moser has also been critical in the past of the lack of real champions in modern cycling, although he believes in the last year Nibali has proven himself as a champion by winning the Tour de France.
Francesco, it seems, is always in motion and we leave the tasting room table to be shown around the rest of the vineyard. There is a noticeable change in his mood when he starts talking about wine, as he enthusiastically explains the wine making process and shows us the wine bottling machine.
The Moser vineyard was started in 1976, almost ten years before Francesco retired in 1987 and boasts a number of white wines as well as a Trentodoc (a sparkling wine) named after his Hour Record, ‘51,151’. He jokes that he never had a major injury during his cycling career, but since he has been farming, he hurt his hand rather badly.
He also started a brand of bikes called F.Moser, which were originally produced in Italy before he sold the company. We are shown some of the bikes he has left, as well as a more modern one that he excitedly races around the courtyard.
Before we leave, Francesco takes us around the grounds of the vineyard and this is the point that we see him at his happiest. He wants to show us the views at a special place behind a field of vines, but keeps running off into the trees to find mushrooms and reappearing with a youthful grin clutching what will become the afternoon’s supper. We make it to the viewing platform where Francesco stands looking out across Trento, still ‘The Sheriff’.
Special thanks to Giorgio Gelmetti and his son for introducing us to Francesco Moser and making this visit possible.
Podia also spoke with Francesco about his Hour Record. We will soon publish this conversation in a new series called ‘The Hour in 30 Minutes’.
The Moser Family Winery and Museum in Trento, North Italy is open for visitors and wine tasting, see website for details.