30-year-old Italian National Champion, Noemi Cantele, is one of the major motors in the Garmin-Cervelo women's team. The Italian has raced as a professional since 2004 starting first with the Safi-Pasta Zara team, then moving to Bigla, and following a dazzling display at the World Championships in 2009 (2nd in the TT, 3rd in the RR), to HTC-Columbia in 2010. After a quiet year in the ranks of the HTC women, Cantele moved over to Garmin-Cervelo for 2011.
Following Cantele's monster Worlds performance in 2009, there were a lot of expectations on the Varese native. 2010 didn't live up to those expectations, but 2011 certainly has. Cantele stormed the Italian National Championships in June to take both the road race and the time trial titles. Those two triumphs nicely complement a string of solid performances all season long. peloton recently caught up with the powerhouse rider and talked about all things from food to racing to dreams to cars.
Do you have any nicknames?
Nuwanda. Nuwanda is the general in a movie that I can't remember off-hand. You know the one, carpe diem? It has Robin Williams as the teacher. Dead Poets Society, that's it! I don't know why I got that nickname. When my brother watched the movie they started talking about this name, and then it became my nickname.
Do you prefer coffee or tea?
Beer or wine or something else?
I don't like wine or beer so much. We have a sparkling drink in Italy called chinotto. It's a little bit sour. Between orange juice and cola cola. It's a mix. I like that a lot.
Do you have a favorite pre/post race meal?
I always eat white rice before races. After, if there is something to celebrate, I like to celebrate with ice cream.
What would you choose as your last meal?
What kind of car do you drive? What is your dream car?
I drive a Fiat 500. I would like to have an electric car. I think it would be nice to drive a car that has a really low impact on the environment, especially now with so many issues with petrol.
Do you train with power?
We have the new Garmin and SRM cranks. That's what I train with.
Do you have a favorite workout?
We train around the world. I think the best workout is when I come home and can train on my home roads.
What's your favorite music/artist?
I like Italian music, and my favorite artist is Vasco Rossi.
Do you have any secret talents?
I don't know. [Laughs] If it's a secret then I don't have to tell you! I'm a really sensible person, and I think that can be a talent sometimes.
Where is your favorite place to ride?
On my home lake, Lake Lugano. It's in the north of Italy very close to Switzerland. I love the riding here.
What was the first bicycle you had?
I had a Palmarin. It is the brand of a bike shop here where I live. It had many colors. In the 80's they used lots of colors on the frame. I had it for four years. My grandfather gave it to me as a present.
How did you start racing?
I started when I was thirteen. My father was a rider and my grandfather, well, he was never a rider, but he had a big passion for cycling and always brought us to the races. I got my first bike when I was really little, because my brother was racing. When my brother, who is two years older than me, started to race, I was so jealous. I really wanted to race. I soon started to race, and I still am. My brother stopped when he was 22 though.
What place did you finish in your first race?
9th, I think. It was a sprint, and I'm not a good sprinter.
What race are you most proud of?
The World Championships in Mendrisio when I was third in the road race and my teammate on the national team won the gold, so it was really big. It was a big team win. It was not only the medal, but we rode so well as a team that day.
If you weren't racing your bike what would you do?
I studied Economics in university, and I finished school in 2005. If I had to come back and do it again, I would choose Psychology and do something like sports psychology.
When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you 'grew up'?
I always wanted to win something at the Olympic Games. I used to always watch the Games on TV when I was young. I still have a book on the 1992 Barcelona Olympics with all the pictures of all the sports. I craved to one day be in the Olympic Games. I wasn't a cyclist at that point!
Are the 2012 Olympics a goal for you?
Yes. I will probably do both the TT and the road race. I have the possibility to really improve my time trial between now and then. We've already done some specific training, and this is something that will help me for sure.
Do you like being attached to a ProTour men's team?
I think it's really important for women's cycling. We need more visibility. To be together with a men's team gives us more attention. More people recognize us and want to know more about us. This morning, I was looking on the Slipstream site, and there was a picture of Emma Pooley. I think most of the people that look there will of course be interested in the men's team, so to have a woman on this site is helpful to us, to get people to pay more attention to what we're doing. We lack a little bit in media coverage.
What can be done to bring women's racing forward?
I think the UCI has to cover at least the World Cups on TV. Maybe they could show it without extra expense. When we have some of the World Cups with the men, instead of showing the podium for three seconds, they do the podium together with the men, but they don't show our race. They do maybe two hours of coverage of the men's racing. For some of those races, only the last 45 minutes are executing, perhaps they could include a 20-minute summary of our race during the quieter moments of the men's race? The UCI could also oblige the ProTour teams to have a women's team. The budget is nothing compared to a men's team, and immediately, you have the infrastructure of a top end men's team built in. They could then bring the opportunity to race as a top professional to a lot more women, not just a few teams.
If you could have dinner with any person alive or dead, who would it be?
What advice would you give to a young rider?
To ride a bike is a passion. Understand if you have this in your heart. It's a really hard sport. It's why I train every day and try to find a new goal every day.