REGGIO CALABRIA, Italy (VN) — Manuel Quinziato stepped out of the BMC Racing bus on Thursday braced for a hard day in the saddle.
Quinziato was appointed to protect Tejay van Garderen across the Giro d’Italia’s transition stages. With two island transfers and six intense days of racing, Quinziato has been busy in what is the final grand tour of his career.
The 37-year-old Italian “gregario” and time trial specialist will hang up the cleats at the end of 2017, yet he will remain close to the pulse of the peloton as he shifts from one of the sport’s most dependable helpers on the road to becoming their man in the thick of negotiations as a rider agent.
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“This is my last grand tour,” Quinziato said. “Next year will be a big change for me. I am going to take the best from this racing career, and I am going to put all my motivation and energy into my new challenge.”
Quinziato is deep into his 16th pro season, with huge success in the spring classics with Greg Van Avermaet and now at the Giro with van Garderen, but he will soon swap his cycling cap for a lawyer’s more formal outfit. Throughout his long career, he squeezed out time to dig through the 1,000-page law books and completed his law degree last year, just in time to begin working as a rider agent in 2018.
“Earning my law degree was a big achievement,” he said. “I consider that on the same level of the races I’ve won on the bike.”
Quinziato almost gave up on his law studies, but friends convinced him to persevere. Other professional riders have completed their university degrees while racing — including Romain Bardet (marketing) and Domenico Pozzovivo (economics) — and now Quinziato is ready to share everything he’s learned as a rider to help younger pros navigate the treacheries of the peloton.
“In today’s world, it is important for riders to complete their studies,” he said. “Life doesn’t finish after cycling, but your racing career does. The vice president of the cycling federation told me in 1986 when I was junior that a racing career can last 15-20 years, but a man lasts the whole life, so I decided to go to law school.”
While Quinziato has one eye on his future, he’s all-in for his final Giro d’Italia. His principal task is to guide van Garderen through the dangerous transition stages.
“I take care of him and keep him out of trouble. These days are pretty busy,” Quinziato said. “The classics were incredible with Greg [Van Avermaet], and now we are here with a strong team for the Giro. I am excited to race the final time trial in Milan with the national jersey.”
Quinziato forged a 16-year career by specializing in helping others. A powerful time trialist and rouleur, the Italian rode on Lampre, Saunier Duval–Prodir, and Liquigas before joining BMC in 2011. He won only three pro races, but he was a key member of Cadel Evans’ Tour de France victory and part of BMC’s two world team time trial championship squads. In fact, Quinziato is hoping that the worlds will be his final race, lining up for BMC in the TTT while wearing Italy’s national TT jersey following his 2016 world title.
“I am ready to move on,” he said. “I decided last year that this would be my last season, and I am savoring every moment. I have always loved cycling, and I am going to stop cycling while still loving the sport.”