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De Marchi: Feeling the wind on your face is never to be taken for granted

BRIOUDE FRANCE JULY 14 Start Alessandro De Marchi of Italy and CCC Team during the 106th Tour de France 2019 Stage 9 a 1705km stage from Sainttienne to Brioude TDF TDF2019 LeTour on July 14 2019 in Brioude France Photo by Chris GraythenGetty Images
Alessandro De Marchi is one of the peloton's breakaway artists (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

If stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia had been held on Tuesday, Alessandro De Marchi (CCC Team) would have been giving his all to be in the breakaway of the day on his home roads around northern Friuli and through his home village of Buja. 

He would have worked tirelessly and generously to ensure the move stayed away and then tried everything he could to attack alone on the hilly finishing circuit to win alone in San Daniele del Friuli.

The 228km stage is made for a breakaway and De Marchi lives for that moment of pure emotion, freedom, and pride that only a successful breakaway can produce.

"Going on the attack, playing my cards and seeing if I can pull off victory is the thing I love the most about bike racing," De Marchi tells Cyclingnews via telephone after a long ride on his home roads.

"It's hugely satisfying and is what makes me happy. I think every job has parts that people love and for me it's going on the attack and in the break."

Speaking to Italian newspaper il Foglio, De Marchi expanded on his definition of his personal cycling satisfaction.

"Being the hare, on the run from the peloton, is a way to fight off the boredom of obviousness. It's about not giving up," he says.

"It's a feeling of precariousness that forces you to dig deep so you don’t give up. Going on the attack is a way of loving cycling. There's far more chance of losing than there is of winning but when you pull it off and cross the finish line victorious, there's nothing like it."  

CULLERA SPAIN FEBRUARY 06 Alessandro De Marchi of Italy and CCC Team during the 71st Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2020 Stage 2 a 181km stage from Torrent to Cullera 181m VueltaCV VCV2020 on February 06 2020 in Cullera Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images

De Marchi on the attack earlier this year (Image credit: Getty Images)

34-year-old De Marchi has been a professional for a decade, earning his first step on the professional ladder the hard way, via Gianni Savio's Androni Giocattoli squad. That encouraged him to be aggressive and instilled in him a sense of defiance, of David racing against Goliath. It has stayed with him.

He has been in the break of the day numerous times and managed to take victory five times, the latest being the hilly 2018 Giro dell'Emilia on the San Luca climb that overlooks Bologna. He has won three stages at the Vuelta a España and one at the Critérium du Dauphiné as well as being a key rider for the Cannondale and BMC teams before swapping red and black for CCC Team's bright orange. 

The closest he has come to victory during his four rides at the Giro d'Italia is second place to Ion Izagirre on a mountain stage in 2012 - of course from a breakaway.

"I started to understand the emotions of going on the attack at the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France when I saw the effect it had on my family and friends. That inspired me even more," he says.

"Giving them the emotions of a win or a result but also the emotions of disappointment, of defeat. Whichever it was, I enjoyed offering them some emotions. I think this could be the real meaning of cycling, it's not only about winning; it's about always trying to win, about giving your all."

'The redhead from Buja'

A strong connection to his roots in the Buja hills has meant De Marchi never thought about fleeing to a tax haven or high altitude location away from his family and friends. He prefers to train on the local roads he first discovered as a boy or go for a long ride into the high pastures to buy some local cheese than own a sports car and drive along the Cote d'Azur. He is nicknamed 'il Rosso di Buja' - the Red one from Buja' - for his bright red hair and his links to his village.

He has embraced the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown as an opportunity to spend time with his wife and young son in Buja, while staying fully informed of the tragedy that is happening to the world. De Marchi's social media posts (@ADM_RossodiBuja on Twitter and @alessandro_demarchi on Instagram) confirm he is one of the most informed and considerate riders in the peloton.

On Tuesday he posted a superb first video of his life and riding in Buja on his Instagram account. Others will follow as part of a special series produced with the CCC Team.

"I love this area, it's my home," De Marchi says simply. "Cycling can mean you never put down roots or it can make you realise you feel good at home and so really want to stay there and enjoy it all. I feel lucky to be tied to my home town.

"Going for a ride seemed so natural before the COVID-19 pandemic but now, after being in lockdown for so long, you really appreciate the beauty of going for a ride and just how fortunate I am to be a professional cyclist, earning my living by riding a bike.

"There were and are so many bad aspects to the pandemic but I consider myself lucky. It made me realise that life can be full of problems but that feeling the wind on you face is something we should never take for granted."

2020

De Marchi has been shooting video footage as he clocks up long base training rides in Friuli during May. He will return to racing with CCC Team in the summer and is likely to ride the Giro d'Italia in October. With the CCC shoe brand struggling to respect its sponsorship of the WorldTour team, De Marchi has faced a pay cut and doubts about his future. 

When he eventually pins on a race number and perhaps tries to go on the attack, he'll be riding for his future. Yet, he manages to put the immediate problems and the financial aspects to one side.

"I can't control them and there's not much I can do to change them," he admits. "I had a difficult 2019 season after my crash at the Tour de France and time away from racing and so 2020 was always going to be about making a strong comeback and showing everyone what I could do and that I was still competitive. It still is.

"I like my job because I like riding my bike and because I especially love racing. That's why I really hope we can race again later this year. There are moment when I have some doubts but we've got to be hopeful and optimistic, so that when can overcome our doubts and the problems.

"I've got to admit I'm starting to really miss the racing, in a really visceral way. The problems at the team are an economic blow of course but I'm ready to race aggressively just like always and problems won't stop that. 

"Indeed, if I'm on form, I'll be more aggressive than ever."