The Baracchi Trophy Reimagined – A race before Rock’ n’ Roll

Gary, harder than a man.
Gary Neff, where is Gary now?
What’s Gary doing now?
Just, where is Gary now?
Come aboard.

It should come as no surprise that OldVelos still have their old valve radio.  The one that would allow them to listen to their favourite stations or to tune in to the chat of passing taxi drivers or even aeroplane pilots’ overhead.  The type of radio Van Morrison sang about ‘In the Days before Rock’ n’ Roll’.

Van Morrison was right.  In the days before rock’ n’ roll heroes would not have come through without the turning of radio knobs.  Not Fats, Nor Elvis, nor John Lee.  For cyclists it was slightly different: Not Fausto, nor Eddy, nor Jacques Anquteil.  News of these heroes was not available unless you paid a visit to the high shelves, in the newsagent, that held the international cycling magazines.  What do these three greats and Gary have in common?  The Baracchi Trophy. And what’s this got to do with Van Morrison exactly?  OldVelos’ reimagination of the Baracchi Trophy honours our 75 year old songster.

“Come aboard” we said to our friend Gary Neff, “to the Ballinaracchi Cup, a reimagination of the Trofeo Baracchi two-man time trial”.  The Trofeo Baracchi traces its history to long before rock’ n’ roll.  There were only 4 teams at the first edition of what was once called the Giro della Provincia di Milano, in 1917.  Gary was given the dubious honour of a place on the 5th and final team in 2020. To put our event into perspective; there were 25% more teams in our event than they had in 1917! A slow burner definitely but it is a positive growth.

To maintain the spirit of the original event this also is run at the end of the season and is by invitation (and coercion) only, not unlike the event of similar name instigated by Mino Baracchi, who recreated the original two man team event (in honour of his father) in 1949.   With some imagination OldVelos (dressed in their fetching blue jerseys which are available from our website!) appointed team members and applied their handicaps.  

The handicaps were worked out using a very complex, but as we will see later accurate, algorithm which involved a knowledge of form, many pieces of paper, tea leaves and possibly an abacus.

The links to the race’s old and the new Italian heritage doesn’t end there.  One of Italy’s oldest bicycle manufacturers, Bianchi, was represented by ‘the old’, a Columbus tubed 1983 Bianchi Specialissima, and ‘the new‘ it’s baby sister carbon lightweight descendent.  So what were the differences?

Rather than a simple time trial over 60 miles, this was a 23 mile handicap event, with 3 minutes separating the teams and the clear instruction that first over the line wins.  The motivation was homage to cycling history and a way to bring passionate racers of different abilities together.  Why the name Ballinaracchi? – because it was run on a hilly course between the East Cork villages of Ballinacurra and Ballinrostig. 

Why was Gary harder than a man?  Well, with no training to his name he took the call, accepted the invite, and with just 3 hours’ notice togged out on the start line.  During the race he did say to me though “could you have not just called to say hello!”.  

Reminds me of the time, on another OldVelos day, when I said to Gary there would be ‘a few hills’.  “They’d call them hills in Kathmandu” he fumed at the end of the spin. Yet acquiesce he did, and in acquiescing he joined the following old fellows racing, starting in this (dis)order.

Team Start Line Time Total Time** Finish Line Time Avg. Speed**
Gary & Brendan 16:57 1:14:50 18:11:50 18.2mph
Tony & Eoin  17:00* 1:05:53 18:05:53 20.7mph
Pádraig & Cian 17:03 1:02:52 18:05:52 21.6mph
John & Daire  17:06 59:53 18:05:53 23mph
John & AJ 17:09 56:53 18:05:53 23.9mph
* A gagging order prevents OldVelos Racing giving anything other than official start times nor using the words ‘jump’, ‘the’ and ‘gun’ in any communication, written or verbal. ** No such problems with Strava Labs though!

How did we do? Well Gary and Brendan finished to honour the event.  The other two-man teams took it more competitively.   Some took turns, others hung on.  Some went through, others went around.  Some shouted support, others hurled abuse.  Some were caught, some were on the run. 

Strava says, there was only one second between the four teams on the line.  Not bad when there was nine minutes between them at the start. About the time it will now take you to listen to Paul Casey’s birthday version of In the days before Rock’ n‘ Roll, OldVelos’ favourite from the Hot Press music magazine’s ‘Rave On Van Morrison’ YouTube series.

So just like Van re-imagined, those were the five teams of the Baracchi Trophy re-imagined.  The Ballinaracchi Cup. But what ever happened Gary?

Gary, harder than a man.
Gary Neff, where is Gary now? [Ed.- At home, listening to Van Morrison, in contemplation.]
What’s Gary doing now? [Ed. – Changing his phone number]
Just, where is Gary now? [Ed. – Just leave him alone]
Who won? [Ed. – Not Brendan, Not Gary, Not Eoin, Not Tony]
Happy Birthday Van.
Come aboard.

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