Back in April, with his Crotone side sitting five points from safety in Serie A following their first away win of the season, Davide Nicola made a promise to his team: if they survived relegation, he’d cycle the length of Italy.
Eight games after that 2-1 win at Chievo, Nicola’s team beat Lazio 3-1 on the last day of the season, surviving by two points.
Crotone, a team from the south of Italy that won promotion to Serie A in 2016, had just 14 points from their first 29 matches, before 20 points from their final nine saw them safe against all odds.
Today is a rest day in Davide Nicola’s Giro d’Italia. 781 of 1524km done. Keeping promise to bike from Crotone to Turin after great escape— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) June 14, 2017
A vital 2-1 win against Inter Milan followed, before important draws against AC Milan and Joe Hart’s Torino kept the momentum going.
However, a 3-0 defeat against Juventus in Crotone’s penultimate league game meant that Nicola, 44, needed results to go his way on the final day of the season – relegated Palermo gave them a helping hand by beating Empoli 2-1.
So the manager, at Crotone for less than a year, set off from Crotone on his bike and arrived in his home town of Vigone nine days later, having covered around 1300 kilometres.
But the ride took on extra meaning. In 2014 Nicola’s 14-year-old son Alessandro was killed in a road accident while riding his bike.
In an open letter to his late son, ESPN reported that Nicola wrote: “Your energy gave me the strength to keep fighting and pursuing the impossible.”
The manager finished his ride across Italy in the town where the crash occurred: “With the help of many people, we have also attracted the attention of many people to the question of safety on the roads,” Nicola told reporters, as reported by the Guardian.
Crotone will take their place among Italy’s elite once again when the 2017/18 season begins – they will hope another miraculous escape such as last season’s will be unnecessary.