By Tim Maloney, European Editor
After 18 seasons of racing in which 39 year old Daniele Pontoni won two World Championships, one World Cup, two Superprestige and 15 Italian championships among a total of 255 wins, including 215 in cyclocross, Daniele Pontoni has finally finished his career at the GP Mosole-Trofeo Triveneto in Pieve di Soligo, Italy. Last month, Pontoni made a trip to Japan for a final appointment with international mud. After his return to Italy, Pontoni decided to bid his cycling career adieu at the regional Italian race, where he was surrounded by friends like his long-time team manager Armando Zamprogna and other Italian greats like five time World Champion Renato Longo and two time World Champion Vito DiTano.
"Yes, after I came back from Japan it was supposed to be over; it was a good trip and I even won there. But when I came home, they had already organized this goodbye day for me." The diminutive (1m69cm / 56km) Pontoni explained in his distinctive, high piping voice about his long love affair with cyclocross, saying, "the art of cyclocross is to find your balance. It's a fusion between man, bicycle and the terrain... cyclocross is a little bit of all of it. The bicycle is a constant, as for the man, it depends on his form and the terrain is always changing. It can change not only day by day but also lap by lap during the race. You always have to find the right way to go, kind of like a surfer who finds the perfect spot on the wave." After his great career, Pontoni sees Enrico Franzoi as the inheritor of his mantle of top Italian cyclocross rider.
"Franzoi has it all... I've never seen a young rider that was so strong. But he has a lot to learn and have more discipline in the races. But (new coach) Erik DeVlaeminck will be the right coach to help him."