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LA SPEZIA, Italy (VN) — It didn’t take long for Cannondale-Garmin to get the monkey off its back. The U.S.-registered team started the Giro d’Italia with only two wins, languishing in last place in the WorldTour team standings.
On Tuesday, all that changed in a flash, as the team delivered on its pre-Giro promise to race aggressively. Tom Danielson and Giro rookie Davide Formolo snuck into the day’s major breakaway in the short, explosive stage over Italy’s Cinque Terre.
Formolo attacked just before the day’s final climb and confirmed his promise with a dazzling, solo victory, 22 seconds ahead of the chasing group led by Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge).
“I wasn’t sure if I had the legs to hold off the peloton, so I am ecstatic with the victory,” said Formolo, who jumped with 13km to go to gap his fellow breakaway companions. “I knew if I waited to attack too close to the top of the climb, I wouldn’t have a chance. I decided to go with a longer attack, and play my card.”
His gamble paid off in spades. The highly touted 22-year-old is just four days into his first grand tour, and already has a stage victory. Pretty heady stuff, but Formolo seems to be taking it all in stride.
“We will find out along the way how far I can go. I am only 22, my first Giro, my first grand tour. I will see how my body reacts over the three weeks, but today, we knew we it would hard, and we decided to take advantage of it,” Formolo said. “I am a climber, a pure climber. I can handle the changes of rhythm.”
Formolo is among a new wave of promising young Italian riders who are stoking interest in the Giro, and there is no question he has class.
In 2012, he was eighth behind now-teammate Joe Dombrowski and runner-up Fabio Aru (Astana) in the Baby Giro. After another solid season in the under-23 ranks, he turned pro last year with Cannondale, where he posted promising results, including seventh overall at the Tour de Suisse and fourth at the Tour of Turkey. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) had to go full gas to beat him last year in the Italian national championships.
“I cannot believe my job is to race a bicycle,” he said. “When you have passion for the bike, it’s very easy to make the sacrifices you need to be a professional. I am excited about what the future holds.”
When the Cannondale team shuttered last fall, and bike sponsor Cannondale linked up with Garmin, Formolo was one of the riders that team boss Jonathan Vaughters insisted on keeping. Some believe he could win a Giro d’Italia in the not-so-distant future.
Formolo said he’s had a relatively easy transition from an Italian team to the U.S.-registered squad with teammates from nearly a dozen different nationalities.
“Now I am on American team. For the first month, it was a little strange, to change to language, to join a team on the other side of the world, but it’s no problem, because our job is to pedal, and that hasn’t changed,” he said. “After one month, I have already improved my English. It’s very good for my future to be on this team. They are very professional, I am excited about the coming months and years.”
With his victory, Formolo is also the team’s best-placed GC rider, moving up from 47th to ninth overall, now just 31 seconds behind Clarke. Hesjedal suffered in Tuesday’s explosive stage, ceding 5:25 to Formolo, and slotting into 30th overall.
Cannondale-Garmin sport director Charly Wegelius said the team is putting no pressure on Formolo in his already-impressive Giro debut.
“The plan for Davide is really genuinely day-by-day. Everyone knows he has a lot of talent, and he’s here to learn how to do the job. We are putting no limits on it,” Wegelius said before the start of the Giro. “He has the chance to learn from Ryder Hesjedal, who’s won a three-week grand tour [2012 Giro]. The moment he’s in difficulty, we can give him a rest. We can improvise the plan, but we also don’t put limits on it. He’s excited to be here.”
And, so too, are the Italian tifosi. The post-stage RAI TV show packed its panel today with Italy’s old guard, with Alessandro Petacchi (Southeast), Luca Paolini (Katusha), Matteo Tosatto (Tinkoff-Saxo), Paolo Tiralongo (Astana), and Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini) all sharing the stage. Through they’re still active, and with the case of Paolini, winner of Gent-Wevelgem, still competitive, they represent the last gasp of Italy’s golden age.
Riders like Formolo, Aru, and stage 2-winner Elia Viviani (Sky) represent Italy’s future. And this Giro is already confirming that the future is now.