Davide Formolo will take his second run at the...

Formolo earning his doctorate in the peloton

Davide Formolo has immersed himself in the sport, learning from pros like Basso and Hesjedal, with a promising future ahead.

Cannondale’s Davide Formolo never went to university, but he’s getting a doctorate in professional racing. Now in his third year as a pro, and with his second career grand tour on tap at the Giro d’Italia on Friday, the 23-year-old Italian is proving to be a quick learner.

“I didn’t study a lot when I was child. I was always outside, riding my bike,” Formolo told VeloNews. “Now I am a good student. I learned a lot of Ivan [Basso], last year from Ryder [Hesjedal], and now I am learning from Rigoberto [Urán]. In the future, this experience will help me.”

For this year’s Giro, Cannondale’s “here and now” is all about Urán, who hopes to win the Italian grand tour after two times finishing runner-up, but the team’s Giro future lies in Formolo. Still only 23, the team sees big things for the 6-foot-1 climber.

“He’s like a sponge. He keeps absorbing everything,” said Cannondale sport director Bingen Fernández. “He’s a rider who is doing everything that needs to be done to be at a top level in the peloton. He’s young, but very mature for his age, and he has a clear vision of what he wants, and that’s to be a top professional, and he’s doing everything the right way.”

You notice that attitude when you watch Formolo interact with his teammates and staff. When VeloNews visited Cannondale on the Teide volcano in January, Formolo was going through the paces on sprinting drills on a 2km climb. Naturally inquisitive, he doesn’t sit back and wait to be told what to do. After Liquigas merged with Slipstream in 2015, he quickly taught himself English. He engages and asks questions. For Formolo, racing alongside such riders as Basso, Hejsedal, and Urán is an opportunity to learn.

“From Ivan, he taught me how to be very professional. When I saw him and raced with him, I realized I was not even close to being a real professional,” Formolo said. “From Ryder, I learned that it’s important to be relaxed in the head. He never felt pressure. Last year in the Giro, he lost time, but he was patient, and he never gave up, and he was almost on the podium. This can give you one gear more. If you stress your head too much, you can lose it in the legs.”

From Urán? Formolo just laughs, and said that the Colombian is very professional and very funny at the same time.

“It is easy to work for Rigoberto,” he said. “In the Giro, we will be riding for Rigoberto, and my first focus will be to help him. If I can have a chance, I will take it. I am still young. I am not always consistent. Sometimes I am one day good, one day not so good. I have no problem to help.”

Formolo’s path the big leagues came thanks to the former Liquigas team. He hails from the Verona region of northern Italy, and was a top junior in the thriving amateur scene there. Some strong results drew the attention of the Italian outfit, and after a try-out period, when he trained alongside Basso and others in 2013, the team gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“Roberto Amadeo saw me, and he said to me to come to the team training camp, so I could learn, and they could look at me, to see how I handled myself, my character, and they took my blood tests and checked my levels,” Formolo remembered. “Then they offered me a two-year neo-pro contract. I said, ‘sure!’”

Formolo put aside his book studies, and dedicated himself to peloton. Cycling was always part of his DNA, and the chance to turn pro was too good to pass up.

“My father was a fan of cycling, and he rode his bike, but he was never a racer. My brother was a biker, too, and I grew up on a bike,” he said. “Maybe I learned to pedal before I learned to walk.”

Everything is coming quickly to Formolo. In his Giro debut last year, he won a stage in the first week when he attacked out of a breakaway group to win stage 4. For this year’s Giro, Cannondale manager Jonathan Vaughters said Formolo will get his chances as well as serving as Urán’s helper in the mountains.

“He rode the Giro last year, but I’m expecting a much different Davide this time around,” Vaughters said. “He’s got a shot at the young rider jersey, sure, but that’s a byproduct of riding well. He’ll be a super-domestique for Rigo, but I’d look for him to take some chances, too. The Giro’s an exciting race for a young Italian rider like Davide. He’ll ride accordingly.”

If Formolo has his way, it will be another big three weeks, perhaps with Urán on the podium in Torino and another stage victory for himself. It’s all part of the process of learning to race with the best in the world. Like a good student, he’s been taking notes ahead of the final exam.

“To win the Giro someday? Sure, why not?!” he said with a laugh. “I was not a good student as a child because I was always on the bike. Now I am studying now a lot. Maybe this experience can help me win the Giro someday.”