Tasmanian cycling legend Michael Wilson was a 1982 Giro D'Italia stage winner, so there would have been few cyclists more fitting to join our ride in honour of the Grand Tour. A cold Melbourne morning with the outlook of a balmy afternoon meant careful kit selection for most, but for the hardened veteran lacking even in gloves, the solution was simple: cram a bidon of hot black tea into your jersey pocket and hope for the best. “I added some cold water to prevent scalding”, Wilson said with a wink.
His was an illustrious and well-documented career, galvanised by his stage win at the Giro - which was a surprise even to the man himself. Outstripping Laurent Fignon in a sprint after a gruelling 234km stage, his victory forever cemented a love for living and racing on the continent, reciprocated by fans throughout his time in the region.
As we snaked free of the city’s inner limits - and the mercury crept into double digits - the rolling hills around Diamond and Arthur’s Creek set the scene for misty, breath-taking views. The early morning’s promise of pizza and beer after the ride clearly rang loud in the minds of the forty-strong group, the pace quickening as Melbourne approached.
Though enamoured with the beautiful lifestyle offered by Italy and France, Michael eventually gave in to the allure of home. Returning to Tasmania in 1991, he set about channelling his race-winning focus into winemaking, and gained experience at the Moorilla Estate in Hobart before buying his own vineyard a decade later. The bold move, and arguably bolder career change, paid off. “I’m still chasing medals”, says Wilson, albeit for his abilities as a viticulturist rather than cyclist. Wilson still competes in local masters races, likely to the chagrin of his fellow racers, and at 58 has broadened his love of the sport to include mountain biking.
Our group rolled into the city through glorious sunshine to our final destination of Bistro Lupino, greeted by smiling owner Marco Lori and his army of gamely pizza chefs. Our appetites and twitching legs were met with welcome Italian fare - pizza, Chianti and continental lager. Salute!