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Aérogramme 2016

Aérogramme: The Ageless Wonder

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July 21st, 2016 – Age is of a premium when it comes to the Tour de France and 22-year old Sondre Holst Enger attracted added attention when he finished third on stage 16 into Bern. The youngest rider in this year’s Tour de France, Enger’s performance was full of promise. In contrast, the value of the older riders in the Tour is less tangible, but every bit as valuable.

Words & images: James Startt – European Associate to peloton

From: Megève, France

Enger was barely two years old when Matteo Tosatto lined up for his first Tour de France in 1997, but the 42-year old Tosatto is a crucial member of the powerful Tinkoff team. “This is my 12th Tour de France and my 34th grand tour,” Tosatto said before the start of stage 17 in Berne. “It’s too much, no?”

Well, according to members of his Tinkoff team, it is not too much at all. “I rode with Matteo 15 years ago on Fassa Bortolo and work with him now as a director, and the one thing that has not changed is his professionalism,” says recently-retired professional Ivan Basso. “He just leads by example. He is just really professional in his training, his diet and in the recovery, just everything. He pays attention to all of the small details that are so crucial to being a successful professional and that’s why he is still competitive at 42. It’s amazing!”

Aérogramme presented by Giordana #GiordanaCycling

Although the years and the races melt together in his 20th year as a professional, Tosatto remembers his first Tour de France vividly. Just a first year professional on the MG-Technogym team, Tosatto was one of the rare neo-pros to be selected for the Tour team that year.

“Oh, the racing was so fast,” Tosatto remembers. “I’ll never forget the stage up the Alpe d’Huez. “The climb to the Alpe is hard enough, then we were just flat out for the three hours before we even got there. And then there was the stage to Andorra. It was like 7 hours and 35 minutes! Yeah, I was in the gruppetto that day!”

In the early years Tosatto was a well respected breakaway rider, winning stages in both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. Over the past decade he has focused his attention and is now a coveted road captain or what is sometimes called a super domestique.

stg17_tosatto_tdf_2016-(1-of-1)

And Tosatto is nothing if not versatile and there are few professionals—if any—that have led out sprinters like Alessandro Petacchi in the sprints, chaperoned classics specialists like Tom Boonen over the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix and GC riders like Alberto Contador up the climbs of the Tour de France. Tosatto is dynamic as they come and has done all three. He rode for the Quickstep team from 2006 to 2010 before moving to Saxo Bank and Tinkoff in 2011.

“The thing about Matteo is not just that you can count on him to finish, but also, you can count on him in the crucial moments,” says Steven DeJongh, who rode with Tosatto on the Quickstep Roubaix teams and is also a sports director at Tinkoff.  “I remember last year in the Giro. Alberto Contador crashed, and immediately Matteo got of his bike and ran back to Alberto and gave him his bike. Such things are just crucial. He has all the skills to be a super domestique. He may not be the strongest any more, but he makes up for it in other ways. “

Tosatto says that his role at the Tour de France this year was to help Contador position himself before the climbs and help keep the race together so that Peter Sagan has the best chance in the final kilometers. Contador of course, was forced to abandon after crashing early in the race, but now Tosatto also gives a helping hand to Rafal Majka, who is now wearing the polka dot jersey. “You know we came her looking for three jerseys, yellow, green and polka dot. I guess two out of three is not bad!”

Check back daily as Startt brings a different personality to Aérogramme.