The Italian athlete Franco Collé, born in 1978, currently lives in Gressoney-Saint-Jean in Valle d’Aosta, at the foot of Monte Rosa. By profession he is a hydraulic engineer who works on river and dam projects in Valle d’Aosta.
With regard to his sporting life, Franco is an athlete who specializes in ultra trail running in the summer and ski mountaineering in the winter — his two great passions. So in the fall and spring, he switches between the two sports, which are complementary to each other.
Ski mountaineering first, then trail running. It was his sister Sonia who signed him up for the Tor des Géants. To achieve this goal, Franco purchased trail running clothing and shoes to start training. To prepare for the race, he also participated in the 60 km Trail Oasi Zegna and the 57 km Gran Trail di Courmayeur.
Franco participated in the Tor des Géants for the first time in 2012, taking fifth place overall and first among the Italians. Since then, his palmarès has been constantly expanding. Without a doubt, Franco is one of the best Italian ultra trail runners.
To begin the interview, we’d like to know more about your experience as a soccer player. You practiced that sport as a child, but the day came when you decided to put away your soccer cleats to pursue your dreams: ski mountaineering and ultra trail. What do these two sports give you?
Soccer was the sport that introduced me to the spirit of competition and teamwork. But when I discovered the mountains, I didn’t think I could stay confined to a soccer field anymore. The urge to go up and down the mountains was too strong — in the summer with trail running shoes and in the winter with skis and boots because the peaks are covered with snow. A passion that made me set my soccer cleats aside.
Your transition to the world of trail running took place in 2012, and it was by chance. Tell us what happened.
The Tor des Géants passes in front of my house, in Gressoney, and it was my sister who signed me up, in 2012, for this race that I thought was crazy. Her words were: “I think you can do it.” That’s where it all started. I got involved with this fantastic sport, and now I can’t let it go. A month later I won my first race, and three months later at the Tor des Géants I finished fifth overall and first among the Italians. A dream come true!
You’ve never stopped participating in the highest-profile races since then. How do you balance work, family, training, and racing?
It’s true! Since 2012 I’ve started participating in increasingly important races, in increasingly beautiful settings and in places that are increasingly distant from my mountains. Without a doubt, it’s not easy to balance sport, work, and family. Over the years, I’ve learned to optimize my free time more and more, training in the evenings or in my spare moments. I feel very fortunate to have a family that fully understands my passion and is always ready to help me achieve my goals. My work colleagues are patient and understanding with me, so I can adopt flexible working hours. I have to make many sacrifices to be able to reconcile these commitments, but with passion you can do anything.
You’ve participated in five editions of the Tor des Géants. Do you think it’s the greatest trail running race?
The Tor des Géants is not a race, but the greatest adventure. An extraordinary journey immersed in nature. A 350 km succession of emotions, through woods, hills, ridges, villages ... in the shadow of the giants of Valle d’Aosta: Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, and Gran Paradiso.