Ahead of the 100th Giro, Black Sheep caught up with Kamps to discuss Alfonsina and to help her share this wonderful, inspirational story.
When did you first hear about Alfonsina Strada?
I was at Madonna del Ghisallo (the chapel on Lake Como which houses a cycling museum) where Alfonsina’s bike is. When I discovered her story I thought to myself ‘wow’. After that I read Paolo Facchinetti’s book on Alfonsina and I found the story resonated with me. It was more than about cycling, there were many sides to it.
How easy was it for you to reconstruct her story?
I went to all of the places she spent time in. I took pictures and thought ‘what would this have been like in the 1920s?’ I built the story from there.
Where did her passion for cycling come from?
She came from a poor, rural family. Her father managed to buy a bike by selling chickens. When her father was not on the bike, Alfonsina was on it. First simply racing through her village. At the age of 13 she was already competing in races around the Bologna area. At the age of 16 she went to Turin and started competing in the club scene. It was there she learnt to race and in a few months became the best. She broke the world record for 500m, and later the hour record.
How was she treated by the other riders during the Giro?
In the beginning they didn’t like it at all. It was hard for her. Journalists made a caricature of her. Nobody was very positive about it. Later when she stayed in and men dropped out of the race, she got more attention and a positive reaction. She became quite famous out of the Giro and made good money from it.
What happened to Alfonsina after the Giro?
She continued racing on the track and had a lot of success, becoming almost unbeatable. She went around Europe including to Paris where she spent months at a time racing.