It’s not unusual for journalists to tell the manager of the local football club, ‘on your bike’ – but in the case of new Swansea City boss Francesco Guidolin, it’s not a case of wanting him out, instead it’s an invitation to explore some of the best cycling South Wales has to offer.
Former Vicenza and Udinese boss Guidolin, who took over the reins at the struggling FA Premier League club last week, hails from one of Italy’s cycling heartlands, the Veneto – and it turns out he’s a bit of a bike nut.
That point wasn’t lost on Wales Online journalist Andy Howell, who has put together a 107 kilometre route the 60-year-old keen roadie may want to have a crack at including the climbs of the Cimla, Bwlch and Rhigos, all of which feature on the route of the Dragon Ride.
The itinerary Howell has devised starts and finishes at the Liberty Stadium and also includes the cobbled one in three climb of Constitution Hill in Swansea, memorably climbed during the 2010 Tour of Britain with Michael Albasini claiming the stage on his way to the overall victory.
The Wales Online article reveals a rather arresting piece of trivia about Guidolin – apparently, he was responsible for one of professional cycling’s most feared climbs, Monte Zoncolan, being included in the Giro d’Italia.
The story goes that during a training camp shortly after taking over the helm at Udinese in 1998, Guidolin went for a bike ride with a friend who led him up the Zoncolan.
He was so enthused about it that he told TV commentators about it and word soon reached the Giro’s organisers RCS Sport, who first included it in the 2003 edition of the race.
There’s another anecdote about Guidolin’s love of cycling that may sit uneasily with Swans fans but will be welcomed by fans of other teams battling to avoid the drop in the coming months (not to mention those of Championship side Cardiff City).
Apparently, there is a joke in Italian football that the best time to play a team he manages is during the cycling season.
With nine matches remaining when Tirreno-Adriatico gets underway in early March and the Giro d’Italia in full swing come the climax of the football season, the quicker the team secures the 40 or so points usually seen as guaranteeing top-flight safety, the happier Guidolin is likely to be.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.