Every evening, when the dark skies fall after these never-ending Corona days, and the Italians are taking to the balconies with their songs of unity facing disaster, Davide Cimolai feels the pain a bit more.
Our lone Italian rider lives somewhere between Venice and Slovenia in a new house he just moved to, a house he dreamed about for a long time. But being remote, he cannot hear the anthems of hope and strength that stream from the balconies.
“It pains me that I cannot be part of that,” he says sadly. “I am so proud of my people’s ability to unite like that facing adversity and disaster. We Italians are now suffering mightily like most of the world facing this virus that hit us – but it’s so touching to see that my people can find a way to say: We will overcome!”
Italy is now the center of the Corona virus pandemic and nobody is immune. Nobody can afford to live in a bubble. “Cimo” is no different. “These are hard times for me too, but I always remind myself that there are so many people around me who are paying the ultimate price: their loved ones dying alone in hospital beds, not even able to say goodbye, to hold the hand of a mother or a grandmother… it’s horrible.”
He wants to emphasize that he is not complaining. “Look, yeah, I am a bit lost. Our season in danger… races canceled…you are left confused… will we race again? How can I continue with no specific goals and motivation? But at the end of the day, it’s all nothing compared to the tragedies that hit so many others in Italy and around the world.”
Nobody thought it would come to that. On Feb 24th, he completed the Algarve one-week tour with ISN. It was kind of a warm-up race for him to get into top shape for Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-San Remo. Even when they were canceled, he still hung to another race. Catalunya. “I was going really hard in training,” he recalled. “But a few days ago, when they canceled that race too, I felt empty. Confused. What do I do now? I need motivation to train. It’s races that motivate me, and for the first time in my 11-year career, I was suddenly left with no goal….”
He called his coach. “What do I do now?” he asked. His coach advised him to take his foot away from the gas pedal. “Go easy for a week,” he was instructed. So, he works in the gym at his new house and occasionally goes out for short rides – pro riders are allowed to ride in Italy – with some hope that he will find a way to re-start again. “You need focus to push yourself,” he explains. It’s not easy. He feels a bit trapped. “I wanted to go to altitude training in the Sierra Nevada. But now it’s no longer an option.”
So now he sticks to his daily life, trying to occupy himself with the simplest of tasks and finishing the renovations on his new home. Taking care of the garden. Trying his skills preparing dinners. “I am not a very good cook,” he admits. “I love going out for a good dinner, but now I need to adapt. Last night I tried preparing a pizza. Was it good, you ask? Not really… but I will get better.”
He can find solace in the smallest things. Coffee is his passion. “An espresso break during a long ride was always a great treat for me, but now it’s gone too, with the closures. Luckily, I have two coffee machines at home, in case one breaks down. And of course, an unlimited supply of coffee.”
He is a social fellow, so being unable to meet friends and family is especially difficult. “I saw my parents ten days ago. My grandmother is 93, and I would never dare to visit her now. The elderly are the most vulnerable.”
He understands the severity of the crisis in Italy, hit more severely than any other country in the world, except China. “The big problem is that our hospitals are not prepared to treat so many people. That is the most significant problem, and that’s why we need to adhere to what we are told to do and keep all social contacts to an absolute minimum and stay home.
His girlfriend helps him cope. “I am not a TV person and not crazy on Netflix like everybody else, so sitting around and talking is my thing. Quality time.”
Of course, he would give it up in a minute. “Racing is my passion. What I miss most. And being around my teammates. I miss that so much. ISN is such a warm and close-knit family team, it’s tough not to have it.” He hangs into hope: “I want to believe that the season is not over. I want to think that maybe we will be able to go back to racing in mid-May. April is gone. It’s not realistic. But by May, we would possibly be over the worst of it, and it will be safe to race again.
“Is it realistic? Am I fooling myself? I don’t know, but I need to hang my hopes on something. Don’t we all?”