Crotone boss faces Italy odyssey after relegation vow

Serie A

Crotone boss faces Italy odyssey after relegation vow

Crotone boss faces Italy odyssey after relegation vow

CARLO HERMANN

AFP

Davide Nicola told his players that if they avoided the drop he would cycle the length of the country - a pledge he intends to keep in memory of his son.

Crotone coach Davide Nicola is to keep his word to players and fans after his side’s spectacular rally in Serie A ensured another season in the top flight -- by cycling from the 'sole' of Italy to Turin this summer.

Crotone's debut season in Italy's top flight looked destined to end in a quick return to Serie B after they spent most of the campaign in the bottom three.

But with the clock ticking down, Nicola told his underperforming side he would cycle the length of the country if they managed to upset the formbook and maintain top flight status.

Crotone's players, remarkably, rose to the challenge.

Crotone's historic run

In their last nine games Italy's southernmost Serie A side lost only once -- a 3-0 reverse to Juventus that handed the Turin giants a record sixth consecutive title.

Yet the Calabrians kept the best till last, stunning Lazio 3-1 on the final day of the season on May 28 to send Empoli, who lost 2-1 at already-relegated Palermo, back to Italy's second division.

Nicola will now honour his pledge, albeit travelling much slower than the professionals of the recently-completed Giro d'Italia, won by Dutchman Tom Dumoulin.

"I'm really doing it, but without going at a crazy speed," said Nicola, who has refuted suggestions he could part-cycle, part-drive the route.

"Maybe I will take long rests to eat, but come what may, metre by metre, I will arrive at each of my destinations. I'll take as much time as I need. In fact, it will be a little bit like my summer holidays."

Nicola's message: respect cyclists

Nicola, a former defender who scored a crucial goal for Torino in the Serie B play-offs that secured promotion to Serie A for the 2006-2007 campaign, is an avid cyclist.

But the 44-year-old's personal odyssey will also be tinged by the memory of his son Alessandro, who was killed aged 14 after being hit by a bus while cycling near his home in July 2014.

The sport of cycling has recently been hit by tragedy.

Weeks before the start of the May 5-28 Giro d'Italia, Astana team leader and former race champion Michele Scarponi, 37, was killed in a training ride accident.

Days later 21-year-old American Chad Young died after he suffered head injuries in a crash at the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico.

Nicola, who is set to be given roadside assistance during a nine-stage trip that will see him average 150 km daily, said he hopes his initiative promotes road safety awareness.

"I hope this crazy idea of mine helps remind everyone that cycling is a great, and environmental way of getting around while exercising," he added.

"So I'd like to remind anyone who is behind the wheel (of a car): respect cyclists."

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