In this interview, two hugely influential figures in Italian cycling, Andrea Tonti and Passoni, sit down to discuss bikes, Tonti's career, and Italian cycling. We hope you enjoy!
Meet former racer and Passoni bicycle owner, Andrea Tonti. Andrea is an Italian bicycle racer and a great friend of Passoni. His career involved runs at the Giro and Vuelta, plus several of the Classics. He also competed with the Italian National Squad at the World Championships. A dedicated worker, he rode alongside some of the era’s greatest racers as a trusted lieutenant at teams including Cantina Tollo, Acqua & Sapone, Saeco, Lampre, and Quick-Step, as well as the Italian National Squad. We caught up for a chat regarding his history with our bikes.
How did you come to collaborate with Passoni?
I’ve known Passoni bikes since the nineties when they were used not only by professionals and bicycle lovers but also by a Tuscan youth team called Pitti Shoes. I still remember it, an all-titanium bike with minimal yellow graphics. They were spectacular. Since then, I’ve always thought of Passoni as the pinnacle of Italian craftsmanship. Years later, I met Passoni’s Matteo Cassina at an event and established a friendship. During my pro career, I couldn’t use a bike other than the one the team provided me with. But as soon as I could choose for myself, the choice was easy.
What bikes did they make for you, and how were you involved in their design?
The first was an all-titanium bike, and then I switched to a carbon and titanium Fidia. My most recent Passoni is a Titanio Classica Disco. The approach to getting a new bike is always professional, with a bio-mechanical visit where there’s a real examination of the rider’s needs. Then we look at the choice of tubing and geometry before moving on to components and graphics.
You’ve worked alongside some great riders. Who was the most exciting to ride with?
That’s true! I was lucky to ride right next to great champions, such as Gilberto Simoni, Damiano Cunego, Danilo Di Luca, Tom Boonen, Paolo Bettini, and Davide Rebellin. They’re all very strong people with incredible qualities. If I had to choose one, it would be Paolo Bettini.
Could you explain the role of the domestique and how you balanced the desire for personal freedom with the benefits of working for a stronger team?
It’s a very clear professional choice. When you’re a professional, the lower placings don’t count. Either you win, or you help to win. I had the chance to win races, but my characteristics as a long-distance climber weren’t so successful. I didn’t have a great change of pace or great power, and I wasn’t very strong in sprints. So the choice was always to be part of great teams and to fight and win important races by supporting the leader.
What’s your happiest memory as a racer?
My victory as a professional at the Gran Premio Fred Mengoni. It was held in Castelfidardo. It’s the place where I grew up, and the race came just a few months after the birth of my first son Daniel. All the support was for me. To ride there and win was an incredible emotion.
How many kilometres do you ride each year now, and how does it compare to when you were a professional?
Now I ride up to 10,000 kilometres a year, certainly much less than in my pro years. Back then, I would reach 35,000 kilometres. But above the changes in distance, what varies the most is the intensity of the training. Before, I used to ride to train. Now, I take the bike around to enjoy myself.
What motivates you to ride since you retired?
A strong passion for this sport. And the pleasure of being an athlete and the ambition to achieve great goals, both personally and as a team. It takes a lot of determination, constancy, discipline and mental strength.
You now help people explore Italy by bike. What are your favourite places to ride and why?
Italy is the most beautiful place in the world to ride a bicycle, that’s for sure. Where to choose depends on the seasons. In spring, the regions of Tuscany and Marche, where I live, are my favourites. Then in summer, the Dolomites are the perfect choice.
What elements of Italian cycling style distinguish it from the rest of the world?
Going around the world, you recognise an Italian from 50 metres away precisely because of their style, the combination of the clothes they wear, the colours chosen not by chance, and the elegance and quality of the materials. I think that all this is also transmitted from the cycling world. Passoni bikes are like works of art used by cyclists. There’s no problem recognising them, even from 50 metres away.