Flavio Zappi plays down his own career on the bike but in a time and place where it was hard to get a pro contract and then sometimes even harder to achieve contract renewal after one season, if the results weren’t there or your face didn’t fit, he rode numerous seasons at the highest levels of Italian cycle sport.
Zappi had some strong amateur results in 1980 including third place in the prestigious GP della Liberazione and a win in the Coppa Bologna.
He turned professional with Hoonved-Bottechia for seasons 1981/82 and there was a stage win in Trentino in ’81.
Metauromobili-Pinarello was the sponsor for 1983/84 with his best results coming in ’84 with 12th in La Primavera in the same time as winner Francesco Moser, Kelly and Vanderaerden.
That same year he held the lead in the Mountains competition in the Giro for two weeks, only losing late in the day when he got caught in the crossfire of the Saronni/Fignon feud, finishing an eventual second in the competition.
He was with Murella Rossin for 1985 and Veloforma for ’86.
But nowadays he’s better known as the man behind the ‘Zappi Racing Team’ based in La Bella Italia where young ‘Anglo’ men can serve a proper apprenticeship with a view to moving up to Pro Team or World Tour level like his boy, Englishman James Knox – now an integral part of the mighty Deceuninck QuickStep team – has done.
We last spoke to Flavio in 2017 but with two of my fellow Scots on the team for 2021 I felt a chat with the now 60 year-old Italian was overdue…
As a man who always has his boys on a healthy diet of plenty fresh vegetables and fish I kicked off by asking the obvious question…
Have you still got the boys eating them sardines, Flavio?
“Actually, they can have whatever fish they want – we’re next to the fish market here in Cesenatico on the Adriatic, but they have to get used to real world fish with bones in them, not those fillets they’re used to back home!”
How many years is that you’ve run the team now?
“It’s 10 years now.
“Originally I raced with them but the programme was much smaller than it is now.”
And with Holdsworth providing the hardware again?
“Yes, over the years we’ve built up a good relationship with the company principal of Planet X (the parent company of Holdsworth) Dave Loughran but his plan is that the company will become employee owned so we’re uncertain of what will happen in the future.
“Dave likes what we do at Zappi Racing, the passion, the 80’s vibe, the Italian connection…”
How many riders this year?
“Originally we had 12 for this year but lost one over the winter and then in January I began to worry about the lockdowns and travel restrictions so I reached out to people I know and we’ve actually added two guys from the Caribbean and two from New Zealand as well.”
And two Scots, Hamish Strachan and Matthias Barnett?
“That’s right. Hamish reminds me of Calum Johnston, he’s a very light rider, in the low 50 kg range, but very passionate. I think it will be difficult for him to shine straight away but I think given a few seasons he can get the results.
“Matthias was a British Criterium Champion as an U16 but since then has had university and there have been crashes too – but he’s here to make a fresh start.
“Calum has moved up to the Caja Rural Seguros RGA team in Spain for this season, the percorso there will suit him and he’s generating 20/30 more watts now… watch out for him this year!”
Paul Double – who our readers will remember for his medal in the CTT Hill Climb Champs