Among the few Lucca cyclists who became pros, Stefano della Santa, the climber – now 55 years old – who preferred the Spanish tracks and climate, and indeed in the Iberian lands has the most satisfaction of his 12-year career , from 1989 to 2000.
A cyclist who put his best foot forward in short stage races, preferring hard-hitting finishes where he could vent his winning idea. Of the 13 successes in his career, the most important for him was the final classification in the Vuelta a Andalusia – Ruta del Sol, thanks to the impressive double he scored in 94 and 95, winning on both occasions over local idol Francisco Capello. 94 has been his magical year since then, also in Spain, he also won the final classification of the Catalan week after winning the third stage of Torrelavet to Andorra la Vella, as well as Euskal Bizikleta in the Basque Country with the time trial in Jaén. .
The history of the climber from Luca is connected with Ivano Vannini and his nursery, from which Mario Cipollini, Michel Bartoli, Andrea Tavi and Rolf Sorensen grew up. For others, the explosion occurred in Vanini’s shirt at a slightly older age, and among these we remember the names of the three world champions on the track such as Giulinelli, Brogna and Villa, the current Italian coach.
“I can’t forget my origins in a Vanini shirt – I was eight when Lorenzo Vanini, Ivano’s father, put me on the bike for the first time,” says Della Santa. Lorenzo then had a small bicycle workshop in a garage on Via Bocchi di Segromigno Piano, a street known as the headquarters of Fanini’s amateur teams. Then it was the brothers, the three brothers Ivano, Pietro and Michele, who took over the leadership of the amateur teams called Vannini: with this name on the shirt I did the whole process up to the junior class, then I passed the amateurs to Alessandra Fellati headed by Fabio Pistolisi with Dies Ettore Giglioli, while always keeping in touch with Ivano Vannini, who at the time had created his first professional team.”
dilute. In the three years as an amateur with Filati Alessandra, there was a real explosion in the sound of the results: his best season of the three years was in 1987, the second year. He won seven races, six of them solo and among them the Del Rosso Grand Prix, GB Furniture International, and the Matteotti Cup. He was the only player to win the race in a small group of 13 athletes at Monteviaconi, a race that Della Santa participated in by chance upon his return from GB Librazione.
In 88 Masterpieces by Climber from Luca: He won the FOTA time trial which is the best time ever. A record robbed of it a few years later is none other than the great Marco Pantani.
professionals. “The family friendship that connected me to Ivano Fanini and the persuasive program led me to sign my professional contract with Ivano’s Pepsi Cola – Fanini in 1989 and renewed in 90-91 with Amore e Vita.” Directed by Franco Ginni, the successes were not long in coming.
“In 1990 I won the Trofeo dello Scalatore in Brescia and for the first time in my life I entered the front page of Gazzetta dello Sport. Huge joy: Vincenzo Torriani was organizing it and seeing him with the Race Director’s car behind me gave me a feeling I had never seen before. But in 91, when I won my second race in a Vanini jersey, the joy was even greater. I took them all off and arrived on my own at the finish line in Ciocco in Castelvecchio Pascoli, in front of Davide Cassani, at another stage of the Climber Trophy. I entered the stadium and got goosebumps when the crowd chanted my name. My family, my girlfriend at that time and all my friends from school were waiting for me there. Winning in the streets near my house in front of my family was the best I could ask for.”
In 93 he moved to Eldor-Wiener and then to Mabe in the same year, Merkaton Ono, Rose Marie, Amika Chips and Alexia Alumino. In Italy, one of his most important successes was the Melinda Cup in 1993 which had a special flavor as it was the first ever victory of the Mabe squadron of that era, so much so that in the volume “Copetti di Gloria” dedicated to the history of Mapei that success is on the front pages. Back in 93, he also won the Giro di Campania in a Mabe jersey. He was unlucky enough to take part in the Giro d’Italia. Azzurro from 93 to 95, participated in the World Championships in Agrigento in 94 but retired. “In those years, in order to gain confidence and thus to call coach Martini, it was necessary to do a good job in the pre-world indicative competitions. In addition to pressuring us to be selected for the World Championships in Agrigento, on race day, Cassani was a victim of a fall. Together with Podenzana, we are ordered to shoot to return him to the group. As the hardships increased, I could not take it anymore and had to retire.”
A bike suitable for short stage races. But why did his qualities not appear in the Giro d’Italia?
“Unfortunately in the many days of racing I couldn’t stand it on a psychological level. This was my fault. The problem was mental and I couldn’t stay focused and not lose motivation in difficult moments.”
However, at some stages he was among the champions as in 1993 when the Giro d’Italia started well, putting himself in the spotlight in Calabria’s fifth stage from Paestum to Terme Luigian, touching victory after a triple escape with Russian winner Dimitrij Konchev and Flavio Geoponi.
Ninth and eleventh place in the Giro de Lombardy.
“The Lombardy Tour changes course every year. When I ran, the climbs were at the start of the race and then there was an easy 100km before the finish, so the route wasn’t right for my means. In Spain, the tracks were more suitable for me with the finals that suited my characteristics. When I won the Giro dei Basque Country Euskal Bizikleta in 1994, Russian Eugenij Berzin, who had just won the Giro d’Italia, finished second in the general classification. “.
His last season before hitting the bike was in 2000 with Alexia Aluminum. Certain physical problems influenced his decision to withdraw: he was particularly bothered by the thickening of tissue in the femoral artery. He retired and then spent years coaching Michela Vannini’s women’s team for a year, headed by Brunello Vannini, Ivano’s brother. He finished his three-year career on the GS Gragnano amateur team.
“I completely changed my profession, now I work in the marine sector and I am in close contact with the sea and boats. The passion I had as a cyclist and which I am happily practicing today as a profession”
Your relationship with the bike?
“When I have time I don’t give up. Especially in the winter, I go out almost every day without worries because the passion is always there and I do it in the company of my friend Michel Bartoli ».
Yes, Bartoli…another runner shot by Ivano Vannini…
From La Gazzetta de Luca