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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia unsung heroes: Simon Pellaud the breakaway specialist

After being left without a team in 2016, Simon Pellaud moved to Colombia and found his happy place.

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Throughout the Giro d’Italia, VeloNews will be talking to some of the unsung heroes in the peloton – those riders that battle on each day without the recognition the major GC favorites or sprint stars receive.

Simon Pellaud has been on a journey over the last four years – both physically and mentally.

Pellaud achieved his dream with a place at WorldTour squad in 2015, but it all came to a halt the following year when the team folded. The rider market at the time was overly saturated, and the Swiss man was ultimately left with few options.

In the winter of that year, he set up a crowdfunding campaign to secure himself a spot on the American Team Illuminate squad and traveled to Colombia for the first time for some warm weather training.

It was a difficult time for the Swiss rider, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Also read: Giro d’Italia unsung heroes: Cesare Benedetti, the tireless team player

“When I was a WorldTour rider with IAM I wasn’t happy at all. I was looking for myself and trying to find myself as a human being and as a cyclist. It was not easy for me,” Pellaud told VeloNews. “I had some dreams, I reached my dream to ride in the WorldTour and in some of the biggest races but still I couldn’t find my balance.

“I went down at cycling level and, at some points, in my head, it was difficult times but I restarted everything and I really rebuilt myself. I fell in love with Colombia, and found living with less the happier you are.”

After his first trip to Colombia, Pellaud decided to leave everything he had come to know in his native Switzerland and move to Medellin. When he returned to the South American country, all he had was a contact and a desire to do something different.

He had no Spanish language skills to speak of and no idea what he was letting himself in for, but he knew he couldn’t stay where he was.

In the end, taking himself to Colombia and beginning his life from scratch proved to be the right decision for Pellaud.

“For sure, it was scary. The first time I left Switzerland I really felt like I was leaving my comfort zone. I really left everything. I had no idea where I was going to,” he said. “I just had one contact that a future colleague gave to me and said it was ok to stay at that place. I had no idea what I was going to find down there. It was scary but I was more excited about it. I felt I really needed to leave Switzerland.

“I was living in a place in Colombia with one toilet, one bed, and one room, and I was riding my bike and having fun like I’d never had fun before and being happier than I’d ever been. From that point, I restarted my cycling career and I rebuilt myself.”

Finding that happy place and screwing the system

From that tiny one-bed place, Pellaud has made a life for himself in Colombia and now has his own house. He hasn’t left Europe behind completely and he still spends time there, and his girlfriend is currently staying with his parents in Switzerland.

“I have my balance between Colombia and Switzerland,” Pellaud told VeloNews. “It’s something important for me and my personal balance. I have a small house in Colombia and I’m living my dream. It’s amazing to be able to live your dream because you’re not bad at riding your bicycle.

“I travel all around the world and I have met so many different people, and in the end when you have that view, when you open your eyes to the world like that and you can find what’s good for you and take the good of the people you are meeting.”

Also read: Giro d’Italia unsung heroes: Pieter Serry the farmer’s son

After two years of racing with Team Illuminate, Pellaud felt ready to search out a European team again. He spent a season with the Swiss continental squad IAM Excelsior before signing up with Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec in 2020.

It might seem like an unusual choice and Pellaud readily admits that he could have waited longer to find a bigger contract at another team, but Gianni Savio’s operation gave him a chance to race how he loves to race.

He has been enjoying it to its full at the Giro d’Italia, attacking wherever possible.

“I have some great freedom with Androni and I’m really using it as much as I can and enjoying it,” he said. “In a lot of other teams, they have a sprinter, someone for the GC, and then not everybody can be in the break as I can. As I learned from an ex-sport director, I like to ‘fuck the system.’ That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Pellaud still holds out some hope of returning to the WorldTour as a domestique but, as he has learned over the last four years, happiness is the most important thing.

“I just want to keep enjoying riding my bike as I’m doing at the moment and also maybe one day be able to have my girlfriend come to Europe,” Pellaud said. “Here with Androni, we are a small team with a small salary and being in Switzerland, it’s almost just half the minimum salary that someone would get working in a shop.

“It’s really hard and difficult and that’s why I’m in Colombia for half of the time, to have more freedom and independence. I also dream to become a great domestique and to be part of a big team and living as a cyclist for the next few years.

“But, as I say, it is more important for me to have a free mind and to feel good in my body and my mind than something else.”

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