Alessandra Cappellotto: racer and roll model
Former world road champion Alessandra Cappellotto is an energetic woman. She claims to be old for cycling (33), yet a normal February day for her consists of a five-hour training ride followed by an afternoon spent driving all around the area near Bassano del Grappa visiting suppliers for her bike shop.
As she dashes from place to place in her silver Mercedes wagon, she handles calls on her cell phone regarding her bike shop, her teams, and the wellness center she will be opening in the fall. Her final meeting at saddle manufacturer Selle San Marco behind her, she rushes north to Bassano to meet my family and me at a location also organized en route via cell phone.
Smartly dressed and wearing a broad smile, she meets us at a gas station, and we head to a nearby cafe. Despite the demands on her, her generosity is astounding. She called and arranged to meet us after hearing from a mutual friend that our oldest daughter, Emily, is a bike rider who would like to meet more Italians her age. Cappellotto sponsors two women’s racing teams, both of which include juniors. As telephone communication is complicated due to language differences, Alessandra has come to meet Emily to see if either team would be a good fit for both cycling and meeting Italian friends.
Perhaps racing for 25 years (since age eight), much of it internationally, allows the 1997 world champion to empathize with a young woman in a foreign country, and she has gone well out of her way to be of assistance. Although 33 may seem old to Cappellotto, it seems young for a woman who has already been quite successful in business.
In addition to her other going concerns, the GAS team she races on is of her own creation. She arranged the title sponsorship from the large Italian clothing and accessory company three years ago that made it one of the top three or four women’s teams in the world. While the leg speed and stamina that brought her to the line first in San Sebastian world’s was a critical piece in convincing jeans executives of the value of sponsoring the team, one can be certain that her charisma and straightforward style played an important role as well.
The GAS team will be yet stronger and more international this year, as Cappellotto will be joined by current world road champion Zinaida Stahurskaia of Belarus, World-Cup runner-up Pia Sundstedt of Finland, 4th-place Grand Bouclé finisher Séverine Desbouys of France, as well as top Italians Gabriella Pregnolato and Roberta Bonanomi. Former Giro and Tour winner Fabiana Luperini will leave the team for the Edilsavino formation.
Cappellotto herself is looking forward to the season with some trepidation because of the knee injury she sustained crashing in the rainy Olympic road race in Sidney. She is able to put in some long miles on the bike now, but she is concerned about how it will hold up to the strain of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour (the Grand Bouclé Feminín). The Milan-San Remo World Cup next month will be a good indicator of the knee’s progress.
Nonetheless, she is still quick to laugh and is right now focused on improving her English, insisting on resorting to Italian only when absolutely necessary. She is direct and able to stay on track despite numerous cell phone interruptions regarding her various business interests. Satisfied that we have come to an arrangement everyone is happy with, she concludes the meeting in time to drive home for the 7:30 p.m. closing time of her bike shop, which bears the Alessandra Cappellotto name and is managed by her husband. Dinner will not be completed until well after 9 p.m., at which time perhaps this blonde bundle of energy can relax before another day on wheels.