24–Hours of “Push scooters”

by Rodolfo Carrera with the contribution of Maurizio Bruzzone

Photo by Maurizio bruzzone, Rino Pascarella, Niccolò Benetton

Think about dozens of young well-built men hurling in a daring run along the narrow alleys of the historical centre of Cervinia riding rudimentary scooters. For 24 hours straight.

In these pages Rodolfo Carrera will tell us about “a summer in the shade of the Cervino”, in 1982, when he took part in the legendary “24–hours of push scooters”. An event everyone recalls with a smile on their face and that someone, like him, had the pleasure to attend in person.

It was the 80s, and after the intense winter seasons the Breuil Basin offered its affectionate regulars calm summers between trails, retreats and the 9 holes of the golf course. Art exhibits, cultural conventions and public encounters with en-vogue personalities filled the days, waiting for the Great Party of Ferragosto that saw as main characters the Cervino’s tourist guides, in their traditional costumes. Not–so–content of the placid and dignified stride of summer in the shade of the Gran Becca, the guys of the “Scotch” came up with an event that, because of the following years’ success, acquired the recognition of World Championship: the “24-hour of push scooters”. The idea and the formula got repeated in 1970, 1971 and 1972, organised by Rudy Platzgummer, the ‘Stache managing the Scotch Club, that at the time proposed and organised a race (in which the “Compagnoni–Pellissier” team stood up) reserved to the guys from Breuil, having the clear intent to animate the plain life of tourists. At the time it was a short race, lasting only 60 minutes.

In the 80s the event was re-written and re-proposed in a way more articulated and vigorous form by Rudy the ‘Stache and, officially, a circuit of races strolling through the Canavese, Cuneese and Liguria was included, which crossed national borders to Switzerland, Germany and Finland. Breuil—Cervinia represented the last leg and, thanks to its unique context, it came out as the most prestigious and most desirable among the attendees. The 24 hour scooter run was a race where teams, formed by five athletes taking over at scheduled times, that for a day pushed their two—wheelers along a 550 metres circuit running through the centre of Breuil.

Starting point ascending from Via Carrel (in front of the Scotch Club). From here it was all going up towards Piazzale Planet to then run down in a reckless descent along Via Bich, along the Marmore, up to the treacherous parabolic curve of the Ski School, scene of numerous and spectacular incidents all mercilessly captured by Maresciallo Guidetti’s camera. From here the race merged onto another climb up towards Via Carrel, reaching the “take over point”. Everything was tackled with professionalism, the teams taking part to the race set up their pit stop box with a full repair workshop and cots where the athletes could rest and, in case of necessity, intervene onto the vehicles for repairs. Many teams competed to conquer the highly-aspired trophy. The ones from Cervinia were, of course, the fiercest: they would never give in to improbable “foreigners” and for this reason the competitors used to train all summer, pushing up and down the streets of the village on their carefully made and hand-assembled scooters. Everything had to be perfect, and not even the slightest detail could be overlooked.

The three push-scooter wizards, Franco Rocchetta, Domenico Gallina and “Granpa” Micheletti were challenged to find technical solutions that could best adapt to the exhausting rhythm of the race. During the first weekend of August, Cervinia’s centre transformed into a proper circuit fenced and closed to traffic to leave room to the fearless athletes, undertaking a 24 hour race worthy of the best of Le Mans or Daytona, with an ever-numerous number of attendees, galvanising the sportsmen from the side of the track.

San Gratowith Rino Pascarella, La Contea, Ski School, Grivola – Yeti – Gran Beccawith Maurizio Bruzzone and Ennio Fosson, Team Perrinwere the historical teams, competing for victory and running to be crowned World Champions of Pushscooter. Unforgettable was the “pink” team of Team Dandalo’swith Brunella and Mirian Meynet, Wanda Barmasse, Manuela Pizzini and Marina Perron.

Me too, for a single year, experienced the emotion and the madness of partecipating to this reckless race with the “Meteora Team”, taking the name from Bob Club Cristallo.It was 1982. The team I was racing with was strengthened from the fundings of Maurizio Gamba, Livio Barmasse, Ettore Bellotti and boasted the technical assistance of Gallina and the exuberant remedies with grappa, grolla and vin brulè of Pippo Marcantoni.

To this day we all remember the nightmare ascend to the Hotel Punta Maquignaz, where a fence in the middle of the road was an obstacle to the rhythm of the climb and made the last 50 meters absolute hell.

The exhortation of the crowd packing the edge of the track, comforting and inciting to us athletes. The nightmare of the never-ending night, pushing our scooters in the cold. The first lights of dawn lightening up the point of the Cervino. Feelings that at each edition renewed to mark, until the end of the 90s, a period full of happiness and carefreeness in the shade of the Gran Becca. In the following years, until 2004, the scooter tradition in Cervinia went on with a race-sprint format, loosing a bit of that charme and appeal that the 24-hour casted. Nostalgia of the past? That’s for sure, but in the serene conscience of having lived an amazing period and met people that managed to write a piece of history, in a summer in the shade of the Cervino.

Rodolfo  Carrera