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“We must keep the Italian tradition alive in the northern classics. Maybe it’s up to me. Today’s young riders in Italy are looking more toward stage racing. But for me, classics racing is the best of cycling. I love it.&rd...

Photo: Etixx - Quick-Step/Tim De Waele








30.03.2016 @ 11:24 Posted by Joseph Doherty

While Davide Fromolo and Gianni Moscon appear to be the future of Italian cycling while Nibali and Aru remain the clear present, there is still a worry that Italy will struggle to produce Classics riders.


Since Pippo Pozzato won the 2006 Milan-Sanremo, there have been no Italian winners and only Nibali (2012) and Petacchi (2010) have made the podium in that period. Alessandro Ballan was the last Italian to win Flanders in 2007 and he and Pozzato were on the podium in 2012 behind Boonen, the only time Italians have made the podium since the turn of the century.


Roubaix is even worse, with no Italian win since 1999, with Dario Pieri (2003), Ballan (2006,2008,2012) and Pozzato (2009) to only podiums in that period. 2007 was the last Liege win with Danilo di Luca and the podiums since are only Rebellin (2008,2009) and Nibali and Gasparotto (2012). Nibali won Il Lombardia in 2015, their first since 2008. There was just one podium between 2009 and 2014.


Even in semi Classics, since 2006 there has been just two wins and three podiums in Amstel and the same in Fleche. Aside from Paolini winning the 2015 Gent-Wevelgem, there has been just one podium there and just one win and three podiums in E3.


In the 90s, Italians could challenge on all terrain and were regularly winning Monuments through Franco Ballerini, Andrea Tafi, Moreno Argentin, Gianni Bugno, and Michele Bartali. Amstel Gold winner Stefano Zanini spoke to Velo News about this.


“It was like the ‘golden age’ for Italian cycling in the 1990s in the classics,” Astana sport director Stefano Zanini told VeloNews. “Now the young riders want to be climbers. They train with the SRM, and maybe they are too soft to suffer like it takes to win a race over the cobbles. There is a high level for the classics these days, but none of them are Italian.”


Oscar Gatto of Tinkoff has won Dwars door Vlaanderen and says there is no real passion in Italy for the Classics anymore. He himself will not get a chance to try and win with Peter Sagan as his leader.


“There are not many Italians who like the northern classics,” Gatto said. “This year, everything is for Peter. We need to be present in the key moments, and maybe if something bad happens, I can try, but this year, we ride for Peter.”


Daniel Oss and Matteo Trentin are the only real riders who have achieved results in cobbled Classics since 2012. Both have been third in E3, although Oss has top tenned just one Monument of the 17 he has started and was just outside the top ten in another. Trentin has just one top ten.


“We must keep the Italian tradition alive in the northern classics. Maybe it’s up to me,” said Trentin, who was third in last year’s E3-Harelbeke, the best Italian result in the northern classics in nearly a decade behind Paolini’s Gent-Wevelgem win. “Today’s young riders in Italy are looking more toward stage racing. But for me, classics racing is the best of cycling. I love it.”


Echoing Zanini’s statement about wanting to be climbers, Fabrizio Guidi, Cannondale DS, says everyone wants to be Pantani but no one wants to be Tafi.


“Everyone wants to be like Pantani,” said Cannondale sport director Fabrizio Guidi, an ex-sprinter who raced the northern classics throughout his racing career. “I think part of it is coincidental. Now, we have very good Italian climbers, and that’s how Italian cycling is going. We need to build the riders when they are young, but the young Italians don’t seem interested in the classics.”


“Italy is not taking its young riders to Belgium to race or anywhere else. They only race in Italy now,” Zanini said. “Racing in Belgium is like the university of cycling. It is there where you learn everything about being a professional. Until the riders can taste this style of racing, they will focus on the stage races.”


Looking at the state of Italian cycling, it is hard to see where the next Monument comes from. Nibali can always win Lombardy and maybe Liege. Diego Ulissi and Andrea Fedi appear to be his heir apparent in the hills. Ulissi is the king of small Italian one-day races, having won Milan-Turin, Memorial Pantani, GP Camaiore, Giro’dell Emillia and GP Industrio. But he has just one Fleche top ten and has never been inside the top 20 in a Monument. It seems his legs run dry after 200km. Fedi is showing the same aptitude for smaller races at home, but rides with a Pro Conti team so he needs to move up soon to see how far he can go at almost 25 already. Young Formolo could win one of these races, but he needs to arrive solo and is still just 23. The same can be said for his teammates Alberto Bettiol and Davide Villella. 


On the cobbles, Oss and Trentin are riders who could potentially win races, with fast finishes being packed by both, but the duo are key helpers for bigger riders on some of the strongest teams so chances are very limited. Factor in that they are currently 29 and 26 and time is perhaps running out. 


Enter in Gianni Moscon. The 21 year old is just a neo-pro with Sky, but who his team is says it all. Sky don’t let guys go pro easily so when they do, they must be good. Moscon has already impressed in smaller races, having won the U23 Lombardy race and was 18th in his first Strada Bianche and 23rd in Omloop. He certainly has the ability to go well on both cobbles and hills, and for now that’s the only chance Italy has at winning a Monument and continuing its rich history.




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