The 95th edition of the ISDE International Six Days Enduro, the “Olympics of off-road discipline,” has been held since 1913, but last year the race was cancelled for the Covid situation. This year, Italy was ready to receive the hundreds of riders coming from all over the world.

Italy, which boasts a tradition of important victories, managed to win both the main Trophy and the Junior Trophy event, reserved for riders under 23 years of age. However, along with some of the most acclaimed athletes of this sport, there was a small team of 3 riders whose courage and sheer wit made it worth attending at the event.

The Bolman Team (that’s how they were called) members were no amateur riders though. The peculiar name of the team derives from the union of the names of two very important international motorcycle competitions, in which two of the three riders had competed in the past: Bol d’Or and Isle of Man TT.

The team: Paolo Bergamaschi and Vittorio Veggetti were riding the custom made BMW R80 Six Days (tuned up to 1000 cc) and Giovanni Bussei rode the completely customized Harley-Davidson XR1000, which grabbed firmly the attention and curiosity of the American spectators.

Bergamaschi, ex Italian Enduro Champion, was riding pretty much in his backyard, being resident of the same Rivazzano Terme that held the event. Veggetti, the youngest of the trio, is no newbie himself, being an enduro/offroad teacher in the nearby Enduro Republic school. And Bussei is an ex Superbike and TT racer. Someone would say he is “Guy Martin’s father” for the same irreverent and odd personality.

The riders, regardless of the fact that the bikes weren’t obviously able to compete with the more modern antagonists, took risks, suffered, struggled and sweated in the hot Italian summer, trying at least to bring their bikes to the paddock every evening.

The Bolman team wasn’t aiming for a simple parade run at ISDE. They were focused, like all the other riders, to get the best result, asserting not only their expertise as pilots, but also their value as men.

Veggetti was interviewed at the end of the race. “Our training together, during the previous weekends, was always so cheerful and fun. In the evenings, we always ended up in one of our garages, or around the fire, cooking pasta and talking shit; for the whole day there was an atmosphere of true friendship. It is therefore logical that we had the desire to bring this fun to an event like the Six Days, as we could stay together for a week, ride, have fun and entertain.”

The final result of the race did not matter much. Of course, being an international race, the athletes competed to bring some sort of “badge” home, but the meaning of having these 3 legendary bikes at the ISDE transcended the final outcome. The public, the journalists, and the fans were all waiting for the Bolman team to show up at the start of the Special Stages and upon arrival at the Parc Fermé; people wanted to see those three crazy people riding their bikes.

One could hear them coming from far, with their twin-cylinders screaming and an entourage of followers that were tagging along in case they needed spare parts. There was certainly something magical in waiting for the arrival of those old knights. It was a true experience to witness those machines, ridden by men in some sort of stylish and elegant outfits, blasting through that beautiful Italian countryside. There was something poetic about it.

Veggetti, Bergamaschi, and Bussei, together with a cloud of dust and rocks, left the spectators with a sense of joy, the excitement that comes when you see somebody doing something crazy but absolutely cool.

Veggetti said, “For me it has been the hardest race of my life, so far. I liked everything about this Six Days. I enjoyed preparing it, spending most of my August in the paddock, racing with my old friends, repairing the bike to the limit of the maximum time and now pushing it to the parc fermé. But one thing pleased me more than everything: the enthusiasm and support of every person we met. I couldn’t have expected it to this extent and it was a great thing! ”

One of the big challenges of ISDE, compared to other races, is the time limit that each rider is allowed to have to work on the bike. Each rider is allowed only 15 minutes per day to work on his or her bike without assistance and with tools that technically have to be carried at all times on the bike. Hence the riders have only few minutes to change tires, perform repairs and take care of the machine before bringing it back to the Parc Fermé, before start of the next day. Mechanics are only allowed to refuel the bikes and clean visors (and sometimes pass tools and point out what to do).

The overall race was long (six days) and extremely hard especially after day 3. Veggetti was doing quite well overall and was even going faster than some other participants with brand new bikes.

One of the biggest challenges of the riders was to actually “stop” the 160+ kg bikes, equipped only with drum brakes.

On day 2, during a liaison, Veggetti went straight at a turn. “It sank in the creek and won’t fucking start again!” he shouted in the Whatsapp group assistance chat. The whole crew tried to help and with a bit of luck the bike started again and Veggetti was able to complete the day.

Bussei, not properly accustomed to the dynamics of enduro racing, arrived at full speed on his Harley-Davidson at the start of a stage; without waiting for his entry time (usually 20 seconds between the start of each rider) and without even looking at the race marshalls, he thew himself onto the track and started to overtake other riders, who were patiently waiting for their turn.

It matters little that Bergamaschi and Bussei had to unfortunately withdraw from the race on the second day, due to mechanical problems. Veggetti fought hard to keep his BMW in the race, sometimes literally pushing it, up to the fourth day, when he had to retire as well for bike issues. The punishment that those bikes took during those days were absolutely beyond what their structure could take.

The whole world had fun, was moved and admired those three Italians who brought back, to an international enduro race, the twin-cylinder BMW and Harley-Davidson. Riders who have entered the history of motorcycling such as Herbert Schek (who personally came to greet the riders during the event), Rolf Whittoft, and Lazslo Peres were their predecessors, but then nobody else dared to try.

And in this regard, a special mention is due to Paolo Bergamaschi, builder and trainer of the two BMWs; a very fast rider, but, above all, a true gentleman.

Those riders made history. They brought back memories that will last forever. The spectators will always remember the sound, the smell, the elegance of those three gentlemen riders blasting through those valleys.

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