Giro d’Italia: Matthew Riccitello lines up at debut grand tour as youngest in the pack
Israel-Premier Tech has the youngest and oldest riders at the 2023 Giro d'Italia with Matthew Riccitello and Domenico Pozzovivo.
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When Matthew Riccitello lines up for his time trial effort Saturday afternoon at the Giro d’Italia, he will do so as the youngest rider in the peloton.
The 21-year-old is the only member of the Giro d’Italia bunch born in 2002 and he is just over three months younger than the next oldest rider, Alessandro Verre of the Arkéa-Samsic squad.
Riccitello turned pro this year with the Israel-Premier Tech squad and has quickly settled into the season with victory in the youth category at the Vuelta a San Juan, and 16th in the main GC at the recent Tour of the Alps, just behind Geraint Thomas. He wasn’t originally supposed to be riding his first grand tour so early, but he got a surprise call-up to the Giro and he’s ready to take it on.
“I’m excited, I’m a bit nervous, and I don’t know what to really expect but mostly, excited,” Riccitello said. “I think my selection took everyone by surprise because it wasn’t the original plan so everyone from the U.S. has been super supportive and I have been getting lots of messages. I think it’s a really cool opportunity that I didn’t think I would get at the beginning of the year so to be here now is exciting.”
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Taking on a debut grand tour is a ride into the unknown for any rider with other races usually tapping out by the stage 10 mark. Fortunately for Riccitello, he has some deep experience alongside him in the team.
In contrast to the American, Domenico Pozzovivo is the oldest rider in the race by a full year aged 40. The Italian climber was a late signing to the team after Intermarché-Circus-Wanty chose not to give him a new contract, but he’s proved to be a deep well of knowledge for Riccitello to dip into ahead of his first three-week race.
“The advice I have been given is just to take it day by day and not think about it too far in advance. Just approach it the same way I have the other races, even if it’s three weeks instead of one week. One day at a time. Expect the unexpected. Everybody says the same,” he said.
“Domenico throws in bits and pieces of advice here and there. Not just related to cycling, but little bits about everything, the weather, the area we are in, the food. He’s a really knowledgeable and wise person. It’s my first Giro and his 17th so it should be pretty easy to pick up a few things from him as the race goes on.”
Riccitello and Pozzovivo rode together as teammates for the first time at the Tour of the Alps, which was the latter’s second race for the team after his late deal. The elder rider hopes to help guide his younger companion through the big mountain days.
“When I look at Matthew, I really see a lot of me in my first year in him. Like me, he won’t be very comfortable in the flat stages at the start of the race, and I think I can help him there and his confidence. When the mountains arrive, with his skills on the bike he will be able to go in the breakaways and show how strong he is on the climbs,” Pozzovivo said.
Riccitello is one of three grand tour debutants on the Israel-Premier Tech squad at the Giro d’Italia with the 25-year-old Canadian Derek Gee and the 22-year-old Italian Marco Frigo also riding a three-week event for the first time. Meanwhile, Stevie Williams and Sebastian Berwick riding their second grand tours.
“Cycling is so different now and is still changing a lot. To be able to see so closely how these guys are able to be so strong at this young age is really interesting. I appreciate how much they can help me and I think we are going to have a really nice race,” Pozzovivo said.