Dubai: The likes of Mark Cavendish, Vincenzo Nibali, Elia Viviani and Peter Sagan are among his closest friends once. A professional rider with the Quick-Step Floors team till the end of 2017, Francesco Chicchi is now keeping in touch with the sport in a unique way after spending nearly a decade and-a-half in professional cycling.
The 37-year-old Italian rider was ‘part’ of the Dubai Tour as one of the drivers — transporting VIPs — in one of the cars supplied by event sponsors Audi. “When you stay 200 days of the year with no one else but cyclists, then the riders become part of one big family. I have shared rooms at times with Cav, with [Vincenzo] Nibali and [Elia] Viviani. But it is Peter Sagan who is the closest to me simply because I reached out to him when he first arrived in Italy,” Chicchi told Gulf News.
“I count him [Sagan] among my best friends. He is a very good guy. He calls me at least once a week even now and that makes things special between us,” he added.
Having seen a career in pro cycling, Chicchi now wants to spend some quality time with his girlfriend of five years Martina and their two dogs, a Pit Bull called ‘Hartu’ and a Cane Corso named ‘Hera’. He spends time shuttling between houses in Spain and his native Italy and spends a lot of time like going for long drives in his orange Lamborghini Gallardo.
The Chicchis deal in window manufacturing as their family business, but young Francesco decided to pursue a career as a pro cyclist starting with the Fassa Bartolo team in 2003. By the time he had stopped with Quick-Step Floors, Chicchi had 32 pro race wins, notable among these Stage 5 of the Tour of Britain in 2006, Stage 6 of Tour Down in Australia, two stages of the Tour of Qatar in 2010 and Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California the same year.
Less than a year into his sabbatical, Chicchi could not stay away from his first love as he offered his services as a volunteer at the 2018 Dubai Tour. “I would have loved to race here, but here I am making my debut in a different way,” he mused.
“It’s a hard life in cycling. It’s too much time on the road. I wanted family time,” he said.
It will be tough to wean him away totally from the sport though. “Maybe, I will still volunteer at 45 races this season … that would be around 70 days out. But then, I can eat anything I want and there will be no stress other than just driving guests around,” he shrugged.
“Maybe I will join in the family business after three or four years, but I want to get a sports marketing degree first and then also start a family,” he signed off.