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MTB World Champion Dario Acquaroli opens up: living after the success
Two-times MTB World Champion Dario Acquaroli tells about his career after quitting professionalism. Interviewed by Vittoria staff, Dario talks about how he managed to start a new career and find new motivations.
Let’s start with the usual questions: Can you tell us about your career in short?
I signed my first contract as pro rider at 16 years of age with Team Bianchi. I took part to 19 mtb World Championships with the Italian National Team – cross-country and marathon – winning 2 World Champion titles (1993, 1996). I also won 2 European Championships (1992, 1993) and 5 Italian Championships (1992, 1993, 1996, 2000, 2005) racing with different teams: Team Bianchi, Full-Dynamix and Sintesi Larm. Another victory – I don’t know if this is the proper term – I am proud of is being honored with the Golden Collar for Sports Achievements from the President of the Italian Republic.
No doubts your career is full of great successes. But how was your life after? How did you feel the day after you got to the peak?
The climax of my career was in 1996, when I won my second World Champion title at 23. I have to say it was definitely not easy to manage the aftermath of that victory. I’ve never had people in my life helping me to manage my career, not even among my family – my father passed away the day before my debut race when I was 16 – and I never wanted to rely on sport agents whatsoever. Being a World Champion in my twenties, and having to take care of the economic and professional side of it completely alone, forced me to make many wrong choices. In the following years, I managed to find new motivations to keep on going: to become the number one in the world in what you love doing is something amazing, a unique feeling that makes you a more narcissist and exhibitionist person unfortunately, but it’s still a feeling you want to pursue. My intention was to confirm myself again as the best mtb rider globally. In the years that followed my second World Champion title, I collected good results until I decided to retire in 2008.
Let’s stick to this point. How did you come to the decision to retire? How did you reinvent yourself?
Since I started my career as a professional mtb rider, I was aware I could do this job for not more than twenty years. Fortunately, a person’s life lasts way more than that, and I knew that sooner or later I had to choose what to do in the future. I decided to retire although I was still fit: at 33 years of age, I was still in shape and I could have continued for other 5 years as a pro rider; but racing became a bother in that time. I hadn’t motivations anymore, I wasn’t hungry anymore. I felt the need of doing something different, something new. Back then, I was in the Sintesi Larm team and they offered me to become the team manager. Successively, Larm involved me in other projects and I ended up representing the company with dealers. I have to thank Massimo Biagini – Larm Director – to have helped me in such a crucial period of my life.
After being a professional rider, having won so much, how do you find motivations in your new job? What is your current job by the way?
Since 2013, I work for Vittoria as brand ambassador. First, I’m proud to be part of the Vittoria family, an iconic company in the cycling sector. I tried to convey everything I learnt during my pro rider career in my new job: resilience, perseverance and determination. In Vittoria, I find really interesting the fact that I have the chance to uncover other sides of cycling besides competition, such as the commercial and technical side of it. Every day, I deal with people of the industry (shop dealers, sales agents, distributors, entrepreneurs) and I’m inspired by the fact that they “ride” fast towards their goals, pushing to the limit to win their “championships”, with passion and dedication. In most of them, I can see the same values and hunger that took me to the World Champion title in the past, Vittoria ambassador today, and tomorrow … who knows? I’ll tell you next time.