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We recently asked a leading authority on Italian cycling Herbie Sykes to give us some background on the team.
The owner of JolljCeramica, Franceschini, was a cycling nut from Padua, in the Veneto. His idol was the Padovano Olympic and World champion pursuiter, Leandro Faggin. Through him he became involved in the sport, and ultimately started sponsoring an amateur team.
Faggin died in 1970, aged just 37, but Franceschini carried on regardless. Jollj made it their business to find the best young riders from the Veneto, one of the bulwarks of the Italian cycling industry. In 1972 they engaged a new DS, a former pro’ named Marino Fontana. He’d been working at Molteni, but had fallen out of favour when new signing Eddy Merckx brought his own cadre along.
That June, one of Fontana’s new charges, a brilliant 20-year-old named Giovanni Battaglin, stormed to the amateur Giro d’Italia. Prodigious against the watch and untouchable in the mountains, Battaglin was pure class on a bike. He looked for all the world the stage racing prototype, and promptly became the hottest property in Italian cycling. The pro’ teams started lining up for his signature, with Bianchi at the head of the queue. Battaglin had taken to training with their new world champion, fellow Veneto Marino Basso. He and DS Vitorio Adorni convinced Battaglin that he ought to join them at Italy’s most famous team. That way he’d learn the mestiere in the company of the great Felice Gimondi, now entering the autumn of his career. Then, in a year or two, he’d supplant him at the top of both the Bianchi hierarchy and that of Italian stage racing.
Three days before Bianchi’s great coup, however, Battaglin took a call from Fontana. He’d convinced Franceschini to put the money up, he told him, and to build a new pro’ team around him. He needn’t play second fiddle to Gimondi, but would instead lead the team at the Giro. Moreover his gregari from the amateur Giro, Bazzan, Conton and Baldan, would follow him into the pro’ ranks. They’d grown up together as cyclists, and now they would ride the corsa rosa together…
The rest, as they say, is history. Battaglin rode superbly in finishing third at the Giro, a race otherwise notable for Merckx’ utter domination. He was promptly installed as the next big thing (think Fabio Aru, only more so), but would be usurped by a team mate two years later. Fausto Bertoglio had the head and heart of a gregario, but the legs of a champion. Detailed to work for Battaglin at the Giro, he couldn’t stop winning time trials, and when Battaglin collapsed found himself wearing pink. He sealed victory in an epic final day dual with the Spaniard Galdos on the Stelvio, and the legend of the Jollj Ceramica cycling team took flight.
Our sincere thanks once again go to Herbie Sykes - whose books Coppi and Maglia Rosa are both extremely well-researched books - especially if you want to do "the knowledge" on all things Italia