An interview with Claudio Corti, February 4, 2008
Claudio Corti is truly a respected name in the world of cycling thanks to the likes of Gianni Bugno, Mario Cipollini and Gilberto Simoni. The Italian will manage Team Barloworld for a third year, but this year there is an interesting prospect under his wings, son Marco. Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown sat down to speak with the two during the teams training camp in Marina di Bibbona.
Twice Italian Champion (in 1985 and 1986), Claudio Corti has been directing teams since shortly after his retirement, beginning in 1990 with Chateau d'Ax. He was there with Bugno's famous wins in the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Tour of Flanders, and later, as a team manager, he saw to Simoni's year 2000 Giro d'Italia win and some of Cipollini's most spectacular victories when in Saeco red. During those years his second youngest son, Marco, was watching at home, following with hid dad in the team car and even taking to the bike, aspiring to one day be a professional.
"I have there children: one girl who is 27, Marco who will be 22 this year and a small boy who is seven years old," stated a proud Claudio while Marco quietly sat beside him.
"I started young, when I was seven years old," the neo-professional added in a hushed voice. Marco is at his first camp as a top-level rider, amongst the likes of Robert Hunter, Baden Cooke and Enrico Gasparotto, and, yes, his dad. "One of the early memories of him was when he was already a directeur, and there were cyclists, like Gianni Bugno. I remember Bugno would pass by the house and I had a chance to know him."
"He has already beaten me by becoming professional one year younger than me." -Claudio Corti, on whether Marco would race the Giro at 22, one year younger than Claudio was during his first Giro d'Italia
Claudio reflected of those days, "Bugno would pass by the house before long training rides, when I would follow him up to six to seven hours. Marco would accompany me in the car sometimes." Claudio also took Marco along to the races, where his boy became fascinated with the world of cycling. "I went along in the team car in some stages of the Giro d'Italia and also a few times at the Giro di Lombardia," he recalled. "I remember being in the long line of team cars, and the inner workings. Watching him handing the water bottles, changing tires and the attention he gave to the race. I was there taking it all in."
Marco 'took it all in' because he knew that one day he would be there racing. "I always had the idea of wanting to become a professional. While at secondary school I studied languages – English, Spanish and German." The languages paid off, and now he find himself in an international team, here even his papà has to learn a new language. Claudio interjected, "I started studying English when I started with Barloworld, and I can carry on simple conversations. Unfortunately, I had only previously known French and Spanish. There are twenty cyclists, and with six of them I am obliged to talk in English."
Ten years later Marco will find himself grabbing water bottles from his dad as he races his first professional races. The two agreed that working in the same company would mostly be a positive experience. "It has its advantages and disadvantages," Marco reckoned. "It is not a heavy burden. In the last few years I had my own directeur sportifs, and he kept about his own business and was not calling me everyday to give me directions."
"I would talk to the directeurs but that is it," Claudio confirmed of his sons amateur racing days. "He had some problems in 2007 but I think that he is going well, and now I try to stimulate the directeurs [of Barloworld] to work well with him, just like with the others. It is not only good for him, but also good for the whole team. I am able to talk very clearly with him, and I hope it goes on like this."
The conversation became still, especially on the part of the elder Corti, when the discussion of turning professional for another team besides Barloworld was mentioned. "Yes..." confirmed the seasoned manager. "But the object was just that he arrives at the professional level." Marco filled the gaps, "Yes, there were others but we are not saying who. This team is a young team and you are able to grow well within this team – it serves the young. Even though we are not ProTour we are doing all the important races."
Claudio is proud of the team that Marco has joined. It is a team that he guided to two Tour de France stage wins with Mauricio Soler and Robert Hunter, and the mountains classification thanks to the former. "If you organise the team well then the riders are thankful, and the riders want to ride for you. I have to thank the sponsor to give me this opportunity after the years I had with Saeco. It is only that we are a smaller team, we don't have the rights to some races and have to rely on invites, but the organisation is there. We have fewer cyclists, but this also permits the directeur sportifs to follow the riders better. Probably Marco saw these things, and that he could grow with tranquillity... 'step by step.'
Marco will start his career with typical Italian early-season races. "I will start off with Donoratico [February 9], Challenge Calabria [11 - 13], Laigueglia  and then Lugano [March 2]." He is not kidding himself when it comes to riding the Giro d'Italia in his first year, as Claudio did. "We will see. I think here are many riders who are a lot stronger than I am. However, who knows."
"It is a very, very difficult," confirmed his dad. "First we have to have a wildcard as a team to go, and so then will have our goal of the Giro and the Tour. I think we have to see that Marco has the potential to resist in a three-week race. Above all, the directeurs have to evaluate his growth. I did my first Giro at 23, in my first year as a professional. He has already beaten me by becoming professional one year younger than me. With a young rider you have to be concerned if they not only have the legs but the head to handle the experience."
"My dad has taught me that the head matters so much in racing," added Marco. "It is important to have the head when you start to become tired. ... I go well in the hills, and I hope that later in this year I can do well in some of the Italian races." Claudio had ideas for his young charge, "like the Giro dell'Appennino, Coppa Agostoni... Maybe we could take him to the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, after Sanremo, and then Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège," he said with a smile, noting the team will need a wildcard for the final two races.
Shortly after the interview, Team Manager Claudio Corti officially received the news that his team would be participating in the 2008 Giro d'Italia late in the evening on Friday, February 1. "We already knew about the intention of the Italian organisers to invite our team," he noted after hearing the news.
"We will don't want to hide our enthusiasm in facing this new challenge after the extraordinary experience we had last year in the Tour de France. For sure, to be competitive in both of the most important stage races will be really complicated, even though we worked a lot during the winter to make our team stronger."
His son Marco has now moved one step closer to surpassing his dad in riding his first Giro d'Italia at age 22.