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These are excerpts from my Cochise Biography . I added nothing new for those who had already read it.

See also my Camaiore GP Preview of this year:

1973 to 1975: At Gimondi’s Service

In May 2013 – in the heat of a Colombian Renaissance during the Tour of Italy – Felice Gimondi accepted an interview for Revista Mundo Ciclístico during which he was asked about his memories of Cochise: (in Spanish)

“He was a great rider, a multifaceted man. He had different characteristics from present-day Colombian riders who are pure climbers. Cochise was a complete rider with extraordinary physical strengths. We also called him Coco Bill.”

The Italian champion also wished to greet him. He called him a great friend, with whom he made an excellent team and built up a friendship which he has fond memories of.

At the end of the 1972 season Salvarani stopped. Instead, 1973 saw the return as a team of the legendary bikemaker Bianchi 7 years after Salvarani took it up. Bianchi remained in the peloton until 1989 (until 1984 as main sponsor) but Cochise only raced three seasons for them.

According to another article from Revista Mundo Ciclisto , Claudio Costa and his brother Guido were the one who contacted Bianchi for a contract for Cochise. It’s of course very much plausible. However if the info given by that he signed a contract for Salvarani before, it might be that his two friends had contacted the previous structure, before. The mystery remains that we could find no report that Cochise ever raced for Salvarani on the road – the World Championship being raced per team. 

Ole Ritter  *dk also joined Bianchi from Dreher in 1973 and hence met with his old Colombian friend from 1968, whom he partnered for the Six Days of Milan, first race Cochise entered in 1973. Since both are rather ‘rouleur’ you couldn’t expect a great result from them, in a Six where you need complementarity “Sprinter/Rouleur”. They were dead last 13 laps behind the winning pair Sercu/Stevens.

Racing for Gimondi was a huge boost Cochise’s bank account. However he would rarely be free to race for himself. Italian cycling and team strategy is traditionally an all for the campionissimo strategy and in the Bianchi team, the leader was Gimondi and no one else. Hence Coco Bill usually had to work for the man of Sedrina, like anyone else.

Yet as his Dutch Wikipedia page ( ) – probably based on the article from De Muur “De Fietsende Apache” – says that many observers in the 70’s judged that the gregario was the better of his leader in the Grand Tours that he rode (the page even said he simply was the best rider of all, which seems a bit over the top … or not?). Only he literally had to sacrifice himself up for Gimondi. In every climb Gimondi had to hold him off with a push on his thigh when he climbed too fast for him. Cochise then almost stood still. When back on the move, Gimondi called him back again. The Colombian raced for two. Nobody could ever notice how good he was, it was too “underground.” Years after this Cochise still giggled at the situation, says the Wikipedia page, but he has no regret about it. He had a great time. 

The Bianchi boss asked him to settle close to where Gimondi was living and train with him whenever he felt like. If he was hungry he had to eat with him.

1973: The Forte dei Marmi win

“In order to win in Forte dei Marmi, the Colombian Rodriguez cleverly continued his effort at the moment a 15-man breakaway was caught again by the peloton” remembered Merckx in his diary (“Mes 50 victoire en 1973”, Arts & Voyages). In this 15-man group you had fast men like Ercole Gualazzini and Michele Dancelli or André Dierickx, Roger Swerts and Jos Huysmans among others.

The Colombian knew that he could not get to the line with Gualazzini and that is why he had to attack. Only 4 km remained when he took some hundreds of meters over from the group that was caught by the peloton. He kept 3 seconds over the peloton outsprinted by his teammate Basso.
That was the first stage win by an American rider on the Giro. The joy was complete for Bianchi when the next day Gimondi finally beat Merckx in an ITT, teammate Ritter was even 2nd. Cochise did not appear in the top10 of that ITT, probably exhausted from his ride of the previous day.

1974: “The Greatest Show on Earth”
The 1974’s Tour of Italy was the object of a famous German cycling film called “Giro d'Italia : die hartest Show der Welt” *de directed by Michael Pfleghar and dubbed into English with Michael Jayston’s voice.

The documentary showed very well how much, in the early seventies, Torriani designed his routes in a way to favour climbers, the aim obviously being to make Merckx lose. Merckx was not a climber (he clearly said it in an interview showed by the documentary). The route included but one ITT, on the same circuit as the previous year, (40km around Forte dei Marmi) but also numerous mountain top finishes, usually short and steep, where Merckx always was in trouble. The mountain stages were usually very short in length and nervous in order for Merckx not to capitalize from his tremendous stamina and Torriani also planned one short mountain stage very early in the race (extensive footage of that one in the documentary) in order for Fuente and the Spaniards to capitalize on their form for the Tour of Spain, that they had ended a few days before the start of the Giro and served as a build-up for it. All this makes the route biased towards climbers, which does not mean to say it’s harder.

This route being designed against Merckx also means that Torriani sacrifices Gimondi’s chances (but also favours other Italian climbers like Gibi Baronchelli), who was unlucky enough to be the same type of riders, a complete ITT rider. And so was Cochise too ! Therefore, and given all the work he had to deliver for Gimondi, his 18th place in the final GC should be seen as a very good performance, though 26’36” behind Merckx.

Cochise came into the picture during the documentary. That was when he came 2nd in the 8th stage to Macerata (see Appendix 3). The Bianchi rider tried to surprised the sprinters with a late attack before the last turn. The documentary shows an extremely stretched peloton coming to the last line, Cochise ahead. However the sly Bitossi followed the move, himself being a ‘kilometer flight’ specialist. He easily outsprinted Cochise, while some fast men like Gavazzi, Francioni or even F. Moser stayed behind him.

In that Tour of Italy Cochise made another good performance in stage that was not shown by the documentary “The Greatest Show on Earth”. That occurred during the 15th stage from Sanremo to Valenza. A group of 5 men separated themselves from the peloton, with about 15km to go (around Alessandria): Gualazzini, Simonetti, Zanoni (neo-pro), Cochise and the New-Zealander Bruce Biddle  *nz . Their lead went up to 25”, no more but eventually they resisted the return of the peloton, for 5”. This time, Cochise could not surprise the very fast Ercole Gualazzini who logically won the sprint. Cochise was 4th. (Italian)

The 1974 season also saw the coming to Europe of a 3rd professional Colombian rider: Rafael Niño Munévar  *co . He was contracted by the team Jolly-Ceramica: Battaglin’s team. His performances on European soil however proved much poorer than Cochise’s. He ended that Tour of Italy at the 41st rank, 1h28'58" behind Merckx. His own best performance in Europe was a 17th place at the Tour of Switzerland, 13’22 behind Merckx. Niño raced only that season in Europe.

In 1970 Niño had made a sensational performance by beating Cochise at the Tour of Colombia, the first of his record six victories.

1975: Second Tour of Italy stage win

The 1975 Tour of Italy was again designed to favour the climbers in order to make Merckx lose. Torriani could not anticipate Merckx’s withdrawal due to sickness. No wonder however that on such route, Gimondi lost to Bertoglio and Galdos  *es against whom he normally never would have lost on a well-balanced route. The Phenix needed to wait for another year before he could win again, in controversial circumstances but that was another story and no longer with the help of Coco Bill !

Cochise won the 19th stage (antepenultimate one), 175km between Baselga di Pinè and Pordenone. The Colombian was part of a 7-man breakaway, also including Marcello Osler and Davide Boifava who was the best ranked in the GC. At a given moment the group had a 13’50” lead ahead of the peloton but Boifava was 30th in the ranking barely 16’43” behind Bertoglio. That is why the domestiques from Jolly-Ceramica (Bertoglio’s teammates; as well as Battaglin’s) shook the peloton in the finale in order to reduce the gap. At the same time in the lead group, Cochise started being more passive (in order to protect Gimondi’s ranking) as well as Vicino – a Jolly-Ceramica rider.

With 6km to go Boifava tried to escape but was caught and Cochise counter-attacked along with Adriano Pella whom he eventually outsprinted. Boifava was eventually 7th, 9” behind Cochise. The peloton came 11’37” behind the winner, outsprinted by Rik Van Linden. Boifava could not take pink, he was 7th at the GC too, that day, 5’15” behind leader Bertoglio.

Boifava did not appreciate Cochise’s win. He argued: “They all worked together… And you [to Cochise]? Are you conscious of winning without having pulled one meter?”

Cochise’s reply: “And tactics, whichever change I gave it, I have to obey team orders.”

All this description of the race comes from Gino Sala, journalist from L’Unita: (Italian).

It is also worth mentioning that one week before that stage, Cochise for the first time entered the top10 of the ITT had for the last three years had become a classic around Forte dei Marmi:

1.   Giovanni Battaglin en 47'04"
2.   Felice Gimondi +13"
3.   Luciano Borgognoni +16"
4.   Roger De Vlaeminck *be +18’’
5.   Gibi Baronchelli +36"
6.   Fausto Bertoglio +41"
7.   Knut Knudsen  *no s.t.
8.   Louis Pfenninger *ch +1'07"
9.   Roland Salm *ch +1'36"
10.   Martin Emilio Rodriguez  *co +1'38"   


Part V of the German documentary “Giro d'Italia : die hartest Show der Welt” (commentaries in Portugese). At about 1.55, you can see the sprint between Franco Bitossi and Cochise in the stage to Macerata

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