My journey started with the first race at the age of 8, and thanks to those who supported me and to those who work alongside me today, I managed to achieve almost all of the goals I dreamt of as a child – Winning 54 professional races, including; the Giro d’italia in 2007, Liege Bastogne Liege, Giro di Lombardia and Flèche Wallonne. All of these races have helped cement my pedigree and experience of cycle racing at the top level, it has allowed me to fully understand the needs of a cyclist. Today I am able to design, conceive and create everything related to cycling, from bikes to shoes, clothing to the most sought after accessories, all with the collaboration of market pioneers and designers from Velobici. Along with my personal experience, highly skilled clothing designers/manufacturers in England, and Italian masters of the footwear trade, we have created a new innovative brand for the Global Cycling Market.
Can you tell us about your partnership with Velobici and what it means to you?
Di Luca: Chris and I met three years ago, I was visiting the shop at Market Bosworth and knew then we were going to get along very well! VB produce the finest roadwear i’ve ridden in and the attention to detail is second to none. Over time we decided to collaborate, I made a personalised bike for Vélobici (the Continental) and Chris asked me if I could help develop a collection of clothing. Now together we have created the DL Killer collection, a new brand that produces road shoes that are handmade in Italy, and roadwear that is made by Vélobici, plus we have a lot of plans in the future to expand the collection! I believe in a very short time we will be recognised worldwide because we are able to create more and more exclusive, cutting-edge, technically superior products. These are some reasons why Vélobici means a lot to me, as well as my personal friendship with Chris.
What lessons do you feel cycling has taught you about the importance of teamwork?
Di Luca: Cycling can seem like an individual sport, but instead it is a sport also as a team. It is true that you are the only one riding your bike and you have to face all the difficulties to reach the finish line, but the team is fundamental in any individual riders success. Their help and support gives you protection and confidence in your own ability to succeed. If you are a good captain you do everything to create a team around you that is motivated, encourage your team mates and you get the best from them. The beauty of cycling is that you have to think for yourself, and as a team.
What does success at the top of your sport feel like? Can you tell us about the feeling of winning the Giro?
Di Luca: For me one of the most difficult thing as a professional cyclist was being away from your home and family at least 200 days a year. On the road It can be punishing when you face a Spring Classic or a Dolomiti stage in the heat, cold, wind, rain or snow! But as cyclists, we’re used to riding 330 days the year in all conditions – it’s all part of our job. A victory makes you forget about all the sacrifices you have to make…
What does success at the top of your sport feel like? Can you tell us about the feeling of winning the Giro? How will Froome be feeling now?
Di Luca: In my opinion winning the Giro d’Italia as an Italian is very different to a non-Italian cyclist. For an Italian rider, it is the pinnacle of your career, the thing you dreamt as a child, very few ever mange to achieve that dream and i’m very thankful to be one of those riders. For Froome I think it was still very special, because after two weeks nobody gave him a chance, the stage over the Colle delle Finestre was an incredible, heroic ride to watch (where at one point I saw myself in 2005), and above all because I think he appreciated the love of the Italian Tifosi compared to the reception he receives in France – the Giro is unique!
What has cycling taught you about your own body, fitness and nutrition? What advice would you pass on to readers in terms of good health for cycling?
Di Luca: Cycling focuses hugely on nutrition these days. My personal experience and one which I still adopt today even though riding now is only for fun. I always have two main meals, lunch and dinner. I always try not to mix carbohydrates and proteins, lunch carbohydrates only and protein for dinner or in reverse, of course eating healthy is essential. Fried foods, gassy drinks, alcohol etc… should be avoided as much as possible, but when you are professional athlete they are absolutely prohibited. For amateur or just social riders it’s important to always try and eat a balanced varied diet and not always focus on the same food.
How has your ban affected you personally? What do you feel you have learned from the whole episode? How has it affected your relationship with others in the sport?
Di Luca: My two positive tests have been very difficult to deal with, especially people dearest to me turning their backs. Yes I made mistakes and I don’t condone anyone taking drugs to enhance performance – It is very difficult to understand unless you were part of that era of professional cycling. The most painful thing for me is being given a lifetime ban from the sport I adore, it has been my world since I was a very young boy, to not be able to remedy my mistakes over time and give back my experiences, good and bad, to help make the sport better and stronger in the future weighs very heavily on me. I still have friends in the sport but some old friends abandon you and pretend like you never existed which is painful to deal with. Fortunately life moves on, very very slowly at the beginning, but then over time you realise the people that you’re close to now are not there because of your achievements, but the man you are.