The rich history of the Sudbury Cycling Club is very well documented.
It would be awfully hard to hide the exploits of the SCC when you produce Olympians Gary Trevisiol, David Spears and Eric Wohlberg, along with an absolute glut of provincial and national caliber riders.
And that doesn’t begin to factor in the general health benefit for those who have those non-racing folks who have trained faithfully at any point in the past fifty years with the group that assemble weekly, every summer, on the Delki Dozzi track.
Certainly, there is no denying the impact of the head coach and club catalyst Battista Muredda, revered by so many who have enjoyed both his teachings and jovial personality over the decades.
But a club, any sports club, cannot run on the efforts of one man alone.
“Eli (Girolametto) was one of the founders of the club,” noted Muredda earlier this week.
In fact, the often repeated story confirms that the club was created in response to the fact that Sudbury was playing host to the 1974 Ontario Summer Games. A largely Italian-based group of youngsters and families decided that it would make a great deal of sense to enter a local crew.
“Our kids were all novices and lo and behold, we cleaned up the opposition,” recalled Girolametto, now 89 years old and living in the Niagara region, having moved from Sudbury some five years ago.
A successful summer naturally gave way to an interesting fall.
“We were trying to form an executive because we had just started the club,” said Muredda. “We had a meeting with maybe 10 or 15 of us; each one of the guys there ended up with a position on the club. Eli, being educated as he was, he gladly accepted the position of treasurer.”
Roughly 35 years later, long after his eldest sons (David/Paul) had stopped competing on the road circuit for the SCC (David continues to race on the provincial mountain bike circuit, now 61 years of age), Girolametto would finally step away from the board.
And while the ancestry might suggest that he came from a cycling background, nothing could be further from the truth. “I didn’t have a lot of sport involvement, growing up in Coniston,” noted the eldest of four children in the family, born of Italian immigrants who moved to the area in 1922.
“It was mostly skiing, primarily, that was about my only sport. There was no organized ski trail in Coniston. At the base of our property, there was a small hill and we would go over the hill and over the next hill and then back. It wasn’t an organized club or anything.”
In fact, pretty much every that Girolametto did at that time, athletically speaking, was quite informal in nature. “We would have the odd baseball game, just a bunch of us,” he said. “In the winter time, we would play hockey on the road and clear the way when a car came by – but there weren’t many cars in those days.”
His memories of the time are the stuff nostalgia gold is made of.
“I was fortunate. My parents ended up buying me a pair of downhill skis – I don’t know where we got the money,” recounted the man who would attend the Coniston Continuation School (grades 9-12), finishing off his secondary schooling at Sudbury High before completing five years within the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto.
“One of my closest friends, his parents couldn’t afford skis, but being a good Italian, he had an old wine barrel lying around. So he took two of the planks off the wine barrel, smoothed them out and waxed them and those were his skis. Can you imagine?”
Folks made due, MacGyvering together whatever they could, long before that verb even existed (yep – it’s in Mirriam-Webster!).
“When we played hockey on the road, the goalie would use a couple of Eaton’s catalogues and strap them to their legs,” said Girolametto. “Those were the days when the Eaton’s catalogues were really thick.”
Though both David and Paul would enjoy a degree of success in the sport – Paul represented Ontario at the 1977 Canada Summer Games in Newfoundland, along with SCC teammates Gary Trevisiol and Claudio Venier, also attending the World Junior Championships in Austria – Eli would never pick up the European passion any more than for the occasional neighbourhood ride with Marlene, his wife of 63 years.
But make no mistake about his level of involvement.
“Initially, I was the chauffeur,” said Girolametto. “I went through two station wagons. We had roof racks and with those, we could carry four bicycles on them. We made numerous trips to southern Ontario, with three to four riders travelling with me.”
Closer to home, it was time to focus on the dollars and cents needed to operate a club at the level to which the SCC operated, especially through the 1970s and 1980s. “Every Thursday night, we hosted an early bingo at Roller Country on Notre-Dame, and in the process, you would get to know all of the previous (SCC) presidents and riders.”
“I enjoyed their company – and of course, being a little selfish, having two of my boys involved was great.”
Muredda’s admiration for the Girolametto clan runs well beyond his friendship with Eli. “Paul was competitive with Gary Trevisiol for a while, but he focused on university,” said the Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame coach. “And David was my captain for years.”
“In those days, I could not attend all of the out of town races because I had a small family. But David, being such an organized and responsible kid that he was, he could take care of things.”
Those kind words pale in comparison to his thoughts on Eli Girolametto.
“He is the kindest, most sincere guy that you can find,” said Muredda. “Very honest, with high moral values – his position (treasurer) never came up, nobody ever ran against him.”
“We would meet at least once a month and talk, but we never ever talked about his kids or cycling. He was the most super parent you could find. It would have been a big loss for me had I not met this guy.”
And, safe to say, it would have been an even bigger loss for the Sudbury Cycling Club.