Bahrain-Victorious has not stolen its name. The team has undergone a stormy metamorphosis in the spring and is piling up the victories. At the European Championships in Trentino, Sonny Colbrelli was the best student in the class, albeit in his Italian shirt. Who is the 31-year-old Italian European champion who would rather have the Tour of Flanders than Milan-Sanremo on his honors list?
Sonny Colbrelli is of course no unknown soldier for cycling enthusiasts. In 2017 he already left his mark on the spring classics with numerous top 10 places in the Flemish work and a victory in the Brabantse Pijl as an outlier.
But the pocket sprinter and puncher has kicked down the gate to the absolute top hard this year.
6th in Kuurne, 8th in Sanremo and 4th in Wevelgem, it was the harbinger of a brilliant summer with the Italian title in Imola – a decoction of the World Cup course where Julian Alaphilippe won – as the national highlight.
Colbrelli had already impressed in the Dauphiné in the same June with a stage win and 3 second places and was also announced as one of the potential stars in the Tour de France.
In the sprints, however, he destroyed himself far too often, but the checkered Colbrelli proved with a 3rd place in the Alpine stage to Tignes that he climbs better than ever before.
It is an extra trump card that Colbrelli has played with verve in recent weeks. In the Benelux Tour he was outstanding in the Ardennes stage and secured his overall victory with a 2nd place on the Muur van Geraardsbergen.
Yesterday the apotheosis with the European title in Trentino followed for its own people. Colbrelli, as the best Italian adhesive tape, was the only one able to hold the wheel of an unleashed Remco Evenepoel and dried our compatriot with his fingers in the nose in the sprint.
First bike thanks to savings campaign at the supermarket
The cycling future of Sonny Colbrelli was not written in the stars, however.
Papa Federico Colbrelli was all about the 80s TV series Miami Vice, where actor Don Johnson portrayed agent Sonny Crockett. In 1990 his son was given the flamboyant first name Sonny.
Colbrelli readily admits he wasn’t a modeling apprentice in his youth, but the glitzy glamor life of his TV inspirational character wasn’t for him either.
“My parents always taught me that I had to work hard. I was allowed to do everything, but certainly not with my fingers,” Colbrelli told the Italian press about his childhood.
Colbrelli spent a lot of time with his father and rolled up his sleeves. The bike came across his path by accident. In his case after a collection campaign at a store.
“I had played football and skiing until then, something I was quite good at. And in my spare time I went fishing.”
And yet the seed was planted during an MTB race in the province of Brescia, where Colbrelli won to everyone’s surprise.
“I was quite a chubby boy with a few extra kilos. A week later I was not bad in bad weather conditions. And when I saw Marco Pantani’s performance, I wondered why I shouldn’t try it on the road myself. “
My parents always told me to work hard. I was allowed to do everything, but certainly not with my fingers.
Papa Colbrelli chooses between two outfits
The love for the bike grew, but Colbrelli’s family put the brakes on. “I started working in the factory, where I did the morning shift: from 6 am to noon. I brought in some money and I was satisfied.”
But Colbrelli forced a choice on the padre familias. “Would you choose my work outfit or my cyclist’s clothing?”
Years later, the decision turns out to have been the right one, but Colbrelli is only too happy to emphasize that it takes patience and time to mature. He does this with the Bardiani training team, until he celebrates his promotion to the WorldTour in the Bahrain camp in 2017.
At 31, Colbrelli seems to have reached his peak, although – also because of his admiration for Tom Boonen – he still dreams of the Tour of Flanders, even more than of Milan-Sanremo.
Vittoria’s dad (there’s the seal again) and Tomaso doesn’t hide that the nomadic life as a cyclist sometimes weighs heavily on his mind, but keeps on impressing himself with the same message.
“When I’m homesick, I keep repeating that I’m actually doing this for them. We’re doing it for the future of my family, which is actually the future of my children.”
“My parents have always kept my feet on the ground”
Despite all the successes, the superstitious Sonny Colbrelli will never deny the life lessons of his youth.
“As a junior I could count on a lot of interest from various teams and I listened to their proposals. There were strong offers and that is very tempting as a young rider, but my parents have always kept my feet on the ground.”
“I followed my own path and continued to work with a limited salary. I am now grateful to my parents for that, because other boys – who were better than me – made a different choice and are no longer riders today.”
Or how the Italians label their new chouchou: a top cyclist, but above all an ordinary boy with his feet on the ground. “Un ragazzo con i piedi per terra.”
A few more did you know about Sonny Colbrelli
- Colbrelli has a fan club in Belgium, which used to be called Daytona. Whence that name? Sonny Crockett, after whom Colbrelli is named, drove a Ferrari Daytona in the Miami Vice series.
- If Colbrelli hadn’t become a rider, he would now be a garage owner. Colbrelli studied mechanics and tinkered with old cars for a year, a passion of his.
- Colbrelli’s nickname is “the cobra”. But that has nothing to do with doping sinner Riccardo Ricco, who was also known as “the cobra”.
- Colbrelli feels like a fish in water when it rains. “That has a lot to do with mental strength. Many riders lose their nerve when it rains, which has an impact on their performance. I always coped well with rain and cold,” says Colbrelli.