It would be something of an understatement to say that Davide Formolo’s victory on stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia has stoked the enthusiasm of the local media, the majority of whom had eschewed the press conference of new maglia rosa Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) to watch the young Italian’s ongoing television interviews.
When Formolo’s own arrival in the press centre was heralded shortly afterwards, a large local contingent rose en masse and trooped upstairs to the small conference room, where Clarke was finishing off his media duties in precise Italian.
For most 22-year-old Giro debutants, a stage win would mark a more than satisfactory beginning, but the expectations surrounding Formolo seemed to ratchet up by the minute in the frantic hour of podium ceremonies and mixed zone interviews he faced after crossing the line in La Spezia.
By the time Formolo settled into the freshly-vacated hot seat in the press centre, the line of questioning had already moved beyond the details of his victory and on to his prospects of a high overall finish in Milan on May 31.
“We’ll find out what my limits are as we go along,” Formolo said matter-of-factly. “I’m still only 22 years old and this is my first Giro, so I don’t really know what I can do over three weeks. I need to see how my body reacts. I mean, I actually didn’t want to expend too much energy in the first week but I found an opportunity today.”
Formolo’s potential as a climber has been apparent since his performance at the tough Giro della Val d’Aosta as an amateur in 2012 – when he finished fourth in a race won by Fabio Aru – but this being his first close-up at the corsa rosa, he was asked to define himself as a rider for the benefit of the mainstream press. “I’m a climber,” he said simply. “I think I’ve got a good change of rhythm, like a climber.”
Indeed, it was precisely that change of pace that allowed Formolo to forge clear ahead of the final climb of Biassa at the end of an intense day of racing on the fringes of the spectacular Cinque Terre. A survivor of the large early break that formed in the opening hour of racing, Formolo made light work of the last ascent – far tougher than its third category status – to solo to victory.
“I’d already tried to get away on the penultimate climb but they came back up to me,” Formolo said. “I decided to try again on the last climb but I went a little bit early because I wanted to anticipate Roman Kreuziger, since I thought he was stronger than me.”
Formolo crested the summit with over 30 seconds in hand on the chasers, and despite the arrival of some redoubtable reinforcements, including Aru, Alberto Contador and Richie Porte, he still had 22 seconds in hand by the time he reached the finish in La Spezia. It was hard to tell if Formolo was prouder of his fleet-footed climb or his rapid descent.
“When I turned professional I only weighed 60 kilos and I’ve had to put some weight on because you can’t last on the flat as a pro when you’re at that kind of weight,” Formolo said. “I’ve worked a lot since turning pro to increase my power, though I couldn’t really tell you how many kilometres I’ve done this year. I just know that I had 23 days of racing before the Giro.”
As ever in such situations, the press conference was a somewhat staccato one, as questions on the race were interspersed with more general demands about Formolo’s life outside of cycling. There was considerable mirth when he declared himself a supporter of both of Verona’s football teams, fierce rivals Hellas and Chievo, admitting sheepishly that calcio wasn’t a priority.
Formolo was surer, however, of his cycling hero, citing Ivan Basso, who won two editions of the Giro either side of his ban for his links to blood doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. They were teammates last year during Formolo’s first season as a professional, though before that, the youngster said that he had already consumed Basso’s 2011 autobiography, the loftily-titled Climbing Into the Wind.
“I always admired Basso because he gave his soul for the sport. I haven’t read many books but I read his book in three days flat,” Formolo said. “They were three special days, I still remember them.”
Formolo has since moved on to pastures new, following the merger of the Cannondale and Garmin teams, and one senses that the transition has been easier for him than some of his fellow Italians. “I learned English in school, but at a basic level, although it’s improved a lot since coming to the new team,” he said. “Although when it comes to things like conjugating the future tense, I’m still not great.”
There will, of course, be plenty written in the future tense in the pages of Gazzetta dello Sport, Tuttosport et al on Wednesday morning, though Formolo seems to carry the burden of expectation rather lightly.
“I live day by day,” he said. “I don’t put any limits on myself but I don’t put any pressure on myself either.”
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