Riccioli al vento

By Piero Poggio

The only give-away is the blonde clump of the pony-tail poking from under the back of the helmet. When the bike is weaving through the corners or speeding down the straight at over 200 kmh, it streams a little in the wind and you get the suspicion that women may have found their breakthrough in motorbike racing, too. The commitment is the same, and the will to win when riders such as Francesca Giordano race each other, or their male confreres. "The challenge is the same," says Giordano, a Roman-born architecture graduate and art restorer, who has had a passion for motor-powered, two-wheeled vehicles since her early 'teens. " You put everything you've got into getting the result. Otherwise, where would the fun be?" Another good measure of commitment to hiking may well be how you come back after the accidents that must enter any racer's daily calculation of risk. Three years ago. Giordano broke a leg at the Vallelunga racing circuit just north of Rome. Then, during a race in January last year, she had, as she puts it, "a problem with the front fork and the wheel went its own way. I flew a bit, and three bikes went over me. Result: ten broken ribs and the left fore-arm smashed, ulna and all. They operated, on me at the Rizzoli Hospital in Bologna, and I was in plaster for three months. I did some hard work in the gym, and was back riding again a couple of weeks after getting rid of the plaster cast." For most people, male or female, that might have been enough to end the chapter on motorbike racing - or, at least, to approach the issue with prudential fear. "Well, I felt a bit worried during the first few laps," Giordano admits. "I couldn't keep my eyes off the front fork. Then, the feeling disappeared, and I stepped on it."
How did you get involved with motor-bikes? And what started you racing?
"When I was 14, I had a Vespa, and I liked poking around inside it to keep it tuned up. I used to swop it with my friends' motorbikes when they had to go to the center of town. Only scooters without numberplate where aloud in the city centre. And I would speed off into the suburbs on their 250cc's. Sometimes, I went down the main highways out of town, the Via Flaminia or Via Cassia, and I always hoped that, down the road, I would meet up with another bike I could latch onto."
How come?
"To race. It wasn 'I easy, and I was driving other people's machines, so I couldn't take risks. I finally managed to buy a Ducati 600. My first time on track was at Vallelunga. That was some experience! I immediately knew that bike racing was what I wanted to do, and it's what I've done. I spend more and more time with bikes, less and less on my profession."
The change in her perspective on careers may have been made easier by her father, Antonio, an architect, who is only rarely heard to complain that she ought to be looking for something more steady when she disappears towards one of Italy's many race-tracks. After all, it was he who tried to persuade her to take up parachuting, saying he would come along, too. In the Giordano household, the ideas are clear, and they tend to get put into effect. Francesca Giordano's sister is the actress, Domiziana. She has made few films, but the directors have been chosen among the best: Andrei Tarkovsky, Jean-Luc Godard, and Bernardo Bertolucci's brother, Giuseppe - a career in the take-off mode, like Francesca's. "If you want to know whether I've ever won a race, I haven't," Francesca says, "but I've placed well in several and, in many cases, I was the only woman in a field of men. I'm still learning for the big time. Motorbike racing is a sport in which you only turn professional when you get a big sponsor, and you only get a sponsor if you're really good. Now, I want to set up a team with another girl, a young male rider and a mechanic. Sponsorship is easier to get if you have a team."
What do people think of women bike racers? And your male colleagues? What happens when you race?
"People outside the world of motofbiking look at us - and I say 'us' because there are now a good number of women bikers - with a vague suspicion and a shake of the head. But that doesn't worry us. The men riders? They've now accepted us. They also give us a hand, for example, in unloading the bikes from the camper or the trailer when we get to the track. But there are no privileges once the race is on; we're all equal, just as we women riders are among ourselves. We're good friends; we help each other and talk about our problems. We organize together to run a race or take part in a championship, but as soon ay we are in the saddle, we're rivals. It's each for her own, and your own wheel over the line first."
What do you feel when you 're traveling at 200 km/h?
"It's fun, it's a magnificent emotion, and it's also a great physical strain. You have to make

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