FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet take all the attention these days in the classics, but some of it should fall on the 22-year-old from the apple farms of northern Italy, Gianni Moscon.
The Sky rider surged to the leading trio in Paris-Roubaix last Sunday and placed fifth. The result is even more impressive, considering he was one of the race’s youngest competitors. You have to go down to 50th position to find a younger rider, Cannondale’s Ryan Mullen (22).
“I saw him last year on the first recon on the cobbles, [and] I said, ‘This guy has talent,'” Sky sport director and former Paris-Roubaix winner Servais Knaven told VeloNews. “How he handles the bike. He has a big engine.”
Italians love their nicknames, and so they call Moscon “Il Trattore,” which translates to “The Tractor.” He grew up in the Apple farms north of Trento in Trentino that produced Francesco Moser and Gilberto Simoni.
Bike manufacturer Fausto Pinarello saw Moscon winning amateur races and spoke to Sky sport director Dario Cioni. The Tuscan took note and the team signed Moscon for 2016.
In his Paris-Roubaix debut last year, Moscon rode deep into the final before a crash ended his chances. It wasn’t until the final 20 kilometers of this year’s race, on the famous Carrefour cobble sector, that he started to fade.
“It’s a pity that he missed a little bit on the Carrefour when the big guns went, but it’s normal. I think he has a bright future for the cobbled classics,” Knaven added.
“The most important thing in my eyes is that he loves it. He’s made for these races, and he’s still young and can learn a lot. He has to try to crash a little less and then he can win every single one of these.”
Moscon continues in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège this week for team Sky. The British super team expects that more results will come as Moscon matures as a racer. He won the Arctic Race of Norway in his rookie season last year.
“I think Gianni still races like a U23 rider, he just rides and races. He loves racing but sometimes he can save some energy. He’s dealing well with it, but in a race of 260 kilometers, you start to feel it after 240. That’s the thing that he can work on,” said Knaven.
“And of course, he’s in a different situation because he’s not the leader, it can be different if one day he’s the leader and guys are riding for him, then he can be more tranquillo and relaxed and just ride on the moment he has to ride.”
Team boss David Brailsford told VeloNews Moscon is “100 percent” on contract with Sky for 2018. Given his age and time for improvement, it bodes well.
“I don’t think at such a young age, I don’t think too many people have performed as well as he has,” Brailsford said. “Gianni is so strong, he has that never say die attitude. He never gives up.
“Every time you see him, you see him pulling, he’s on the front, or he’s doing something, and you think, ‘Just save your energy.’ He just keeps going and going.”