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Silvia Persico thought she was a classics specialist, now she wants to win the Tour de France Femmes

The Italian hadn't raced a grand tour since 2018 but she finished in the top 10 of the Giro d'Italia Donne and Tour de France Femmes this season.

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A year ago, Silvia Persico thought she was a classics specialist and didn’t see herself as a potential grand tour GC rider, but she’s now dreaming of an overall victory at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.

Prior to this season, Persico had not ridden a grand tour since the 2018 Giro Rosa and her best result at the event was 94th, but she decided to take a stab at two this year. She went on to take seventh at the Giro d’Italia Donne and went two better a few weeks later to take fifth at the Tour de France.

Following a big summer of success, Persico has reconsidered herself as a rider and what she can do. Now she would love to win a Tour title, but she knows that it will take some work to climb up the general classification standings.

“One of my goals in the next years is that I want to win one Tour de France,” Persico told VeloNews. “I know that then maybe the next year is early because I’m a little bit young. And I know I must work a lot for this because I never worked much with the time trial. So I think that this is one thing that I must improve next year. But yes, but in general, I think I prefer now the stage races.

“Before that, I was a girl for the classics, because I didn’t like stage races too much but this year I decided with my coaches to do both Giro and Tour, and also the Vuelta. It was hard in my head because it was like some years that I didn’t race [a big stage race]. Maybe the longest race I did was Simac Ladies Tour maybe six-day.”

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She didn’t forget her one-day roots and took bronze at the road worlds in September to go with her third place at the cyclocross world championships in January.

Persico crowned her summer with a big ride on the Planche des Belles Filles on the final stage of the Tour de France. She beat some of the peloton’s best climbers on that day and made up one spot in the overall classification, too.

After a busy month of racing, she had to dig deep to find the performance and she surprised even herself with what she was able to do.

“My favorite moment was on the last stage of the Tour de France on La Planche des Belles Filles because when the race started I was really tired, and in my head, I wanted only to stop because I was too tired,” she said. “When I arrived on the last climb, I don’t know what was happening in my head, but I was thinking ‘okay, the last climb and then you go on holiday so you must push.’ I arrived third but I really don’t know how because I was so tired.”

Persico hadn’t planned for such a big year in 2022 and she originally aimed to race just the Tour de France in the summer, but her coaches decided to add the Giro d’Italia to her calendar after she put in a strong performance to finish seventh overall at the Vuelta a Burgos in May.

Despite that result, she wasn’t supposed to be going for the general classification — that was meant to be Canadian rider Olivia Baril, who had recently taken the youth classification at the Tour de Suisse. However, Baril crashed on stage 2 and would pull out the following day, forcing Persico into the leadership role.

Persico was thrown in at the deep end and, while she had some moments of worry, she stepped up to the plate. However, it was tough to do with a team that was not geared toward supporting a

“The coach said to me, ‘okay, you must do GC now because she can’t race.’ I was thinking, ‘okay, I must do but I don’t know how I can do because I had never done it.’ But when I was there, I lived day by day, because for me it was important not think too much about the GC.

“One day I had a crisis but was really one big crisis. I went there to [the sport director] and I started to cry because I was always alone. When you have one teammate that is close to you, it’s more easy for you because you hang with her. If something happens, she can help me. But not when you’re alone, it’s not good to suffer alone.”

Stepping into the WorldTour

Persico should have a little bit more help next season as she heads to UAE Team ADQ after agreeing a three-year deal with the squad back in March, long before her breakthrough performances. Baril is following her to the team, while other new signings Mikayla Harvey and Lizzie Holden should also be good back-up when it comes to the more mountainous days.

It is the first time that Persico has changed teams since turning professional back in 2017, having grown up with the Valcar-Travel & Service team. However, it won’t be a completely new environment with three of her Valcar teammates moving over in Baril, Chiara Consonni, and Eleonora Gasparrini, as well as sport director Davide Arzeni.

Persico is confident that she has made the right choice for her first WorldTeam and hopes that she can put in some even bigger performances in 2023.

“I think that I choose the one team that really believes so much in me and I really believe so much in them,” she said. “This is the reason that I choose UAE because they believe so much in us and we went in in a bootcamp in Abu Dhabi and it was amazing. I find really good people and we did many activities together and they believe in the power of coming together. I hope that we can do a really good season and I’m happy that also Valcar teammates came with me.

“I didn’t know that they come up because when I choose to go in UAE it was March. So I didn’t know because they decide later. When I discovered it I was happy, because when you change teams it’s better not to change too many things. I’m happy that they come with me because we can work together also for the next year. And also with my teammates, because the before being teammates we are really friends. Chiara, she’s my best friend.”