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With a new UCI calendar now in place riders can finally set their sights and goals for what they hope will be an action-packed end of the season. And Italian Giacomo Nizzolo, one of the hottest riders in the beginning of the 2020 season, has set his sight high, as he hopes to win Milano-Sanremo.
Nizzolo got off to a great start, winning a stage in the Tour Down Under. And the results followed when he returned to Europe, with a strong second place in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne as was an impressive stage in Paris-Nice.
“It was a great start for me. Results-wise it was good, of course, and the best feeling that I had was that of simply being competitive again,” Nizzolo said via a NTT Pro Cycling team press release. “That feeling when you know that in the final (parts of a race) you can be one of the guys that can win – often. You feel strong and you feel you can do it, and not that everything has to fall [fortuitously] in place for a victory, but rather that you are always able to contest even if you aren’t necessarily in the best situation.”
For Nizzolo, who has twice won the points jersey in his native Giro d’Italia as well as the Italian national championship, 2020 has marked a real return to form after several injury-filled seasons. And after his first injury-free winter in several years, he finally feels that his true colors are once again flying.
“I could see physically that not losing any weeks of training gave me the shape that I wanted. There was a confirmation mentally that I was there and having a good winter was such an important point as to why I was performing well at the start of the year.”
Winning bike races also has a way of instilling confidence, and his victory on stage two in Paris-Nice was particularly impressive, as it came after a brutal day of racing in crosswinds, with the pack continually splintering. “To get [the stage victory] after such a crazy day was something special and that gave me the extra boost to reach the end of the race. It was a great week.”
In normal situation times, such a win would have given the 31-year-old real confidence going into Sanremo, a race he has always dreamed of winning. But already the COVID-19 pandemic crisis spreading, it became increasingly clear that there would be no Sanremo this spring. “I’m not sure but at the time I think Milano-Sanremo was still on, so for me Paris-Nice was the final step towards that event.”
“I have to say for the first few days I was pretty disappointed as I could see that I was at a good level and I was asking myself how is this possible?” he said regarding his initial reaction to the ensuing race cancellations. “Once I’m at the level that I want to be, everything is shut down again. But I have to be honest it was just for a few days and then I realized the bigger picture, what was going on and that was so much more serious than just a bike race.”
But while Nizzolo had to put his Sanremo dreams on hold, they are still very much intact, little matter that it will be in the summer instead of the springtime. “It would mean a lot. I think it’s the best race for a rider with my set of characteristics and it’s a race that starts in the city that I was born – which already gives me a special feeling. This year will probably be sunny but most of the time you start in a grey Milan and then finish in the seaside sunshine of Liguria, which is Sanremo; so after 300km it’s unique. It’s such an iconic race, to win it would be super-special especially, sorry to say it again, but for an Italian rider.”
And while Nizzolo admits that he has “never been at the start line in the condition I wanted,” he remains confident that he can now make his mark in Sanremo.