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04 Aug 1932
Los Angeles 1932

Pavesi crowned king of the road

If the columnist of Pennsylvania newspaper The News-Herald is to be believed, Italian cyclist Attilio Pavesi came well prepared for the 100km road race.

The journalist claimed that Pavesi had with him on his handlebars “a bowl of soup and a bucket of water. In his bib that hung from his shoulders were a dozen bananas, cinnamon buns, jam, cheese sandwiches and spaghetti.” For good measure, the article continued, “around his neck were two spare tires.”

While that report was perhaps guilty of artistic embellishment, whatever provisions Pavesi brought with him provided a recipe for success.

Born in 1910, the 11th child in a family from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, Pavesi first gained attention in 1931 when he won the Coppa Caldirola race. Early the following year, he came second in the Giro di Sicilia, which proved enough to secure him a spot in the Italian team to compete in the Olympics.

The 21-year-old showed his form in Los Angeles in two selection races and was moved onto the team to compete in both the individual and team road races, in which much of the route skirted the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

”The road race, while on a surface unfamiliar to all the contestants, was ideal from the standpoint of smoothness and lack of obstructions, and unusually good time was made by all the contestants in this event,” the Official Report comments. “Careful regulation of traffic through the services of hundreds of police enabled the participants to travel the distance of 100 kilometres, or 62 miles, without interruption or accident.”

Cycling along the picturesque course, Pavesi won two golds, helping the Italians to thrash defending champions Denmark by over 11 minutes in the team competition, and beating his compatriot Guglielmo Segato by 1 minute, 16 seconds to claim the individual title with a time of 2 hours 28 minutes. It signified a resounding triumph for the Italy team, who topped the cycling medals table.

Following the Games, Pavesi briefly turned professional, but his only subsequent success was a stage win in the 1934 Tour of Tuscany. In 1933, he placed 62nd at Milano-Sanremo, before finishing 52nd in the Giro d'Italia a year later.

At the beginning of World War II, Pavesi emigrated to Argentina where he opened a bike shop and organised bike races. At his death in 2011, two month’s short of his 101st birthday, he was thought to be the oldest living Olympic gold medallist. 

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