A 38-year-old amateur cyclist from Italy who only began riding five years ago claims that he is in talks to join a WorldTour team after they were impressed by the time he posted to Strava after tackling one of the sport’s toughest climbs – although the fact his father is a sports doctor who has worked with some of cycling’s most controversial figures could thwart his dreams.
Despite taking up cycling in his mid-30s, Stefano Cecchini has built a fearsome reputation on Italy’s ultra-competitive Gran Fondo circuit, with three high-profile victories this year – and he says he gifted another five to his team mates.
Cecchini, who in his youth was a competitive runner and skier, discovered cycling in 2011 on a training camp on Gran Canaria run by ex-pro – and now, Italian national coach – Davide Cassani. There, besides discovering a passion for cycling, he also met a woman called Chiara, whom he would marry.
Five years – and 10 Gran Fondo victories – later, he says he was approached by a WorldTour team after the noticed that he had set a time on the Passo di Giau in the Dolomites that was just a minute slower than Vincenzo Nibali had tackled the same ascent during this year’s Giro d’Italia.
He also holds the fastest time on Strava for the Gavia and the second fastest in the Stelvio – ahead of pros including Sky’s former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski and Orica-BikeExchange’s Adam Yates.
“They asked me to do three climbs they showed me and to send the files,” said Cecchini in an interview published in yesterday’s print edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport and subsequently reported on by Tuttobici.
“We talked a bit and then they disappeared because of the name I bear,” he added.
His father is Luigi Cecchini, the controversial sports doctor whose clients include former riders who have admitted doping, including 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis and 2004 Olympic time trial winner (but later stripped of that title) Tyler Hamilton.
But the younger Cecchini revealed that the top-flight team, which he hasn’t named “recently reappeared, and we’re talking about it. I don’t hide.”
He added that anyone who doubted his times could check them out on Strava.
His family certainly believe he has what it takes, with his brother Ansano saying: “He rides really strongly, much more strongly than some professionals.”
And his father Luigi added: “The lad has talent. He discovered it late and at an age when someone is more likely to climb off a bike than get on one.”
The rider had told La Gazzetta dello Sport that he had spoken to second-tier Professional Continental teams including Nippo-Vini Fantini, but they decided not to follow up on him because they were worried that the association with his father might see them denied wild card entry to the Giro d’Italia.
In a statement, however, Nippo-Vini Fantini team manager Francesco Pelosi said that while he had gone to dinner with Cecchini at the invitation of his agent, there was “no chance” of him being signed since its goals are to develop young Italian and Japanese riders in a team led by experienced pros.
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.