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Smiles all round after Mattia Gavazzi (Androni Venezuela) took out the Giro della Toscana
Italian sprinter back to his best after overcoming cocaine problems
The 29-year-old Italian sprinter, the son of 1980 Milan-San Remo winner Pierino Gavazzi, has had a troubled career and life, testing positive twice for cocaine and struggling to overcome his problems with the drug.
Cycling has helped him and an offer from Gianni Savio and a place in the Androni Giocattoli team have allowed him to resurrect his career. If he wins the sprint on the Naples seafront, he will also pull on the pink jersey and become the first rider in Savio's team to ever wear the leader's jersey at the Giro d'Italia.
Gavazzi is a pure, explosive sprinter and one of the few riders able to take on Mark Cavendish in a sprint. And he has a real chance of winning stage one in Naples if he can time his sprint to perfection. Last weekend Gavazzi showed he is on form by winning the Giro della Toscana.
"I'm in the right place at the right time because I've never been as strong in my life," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Winning gave me a lot of confidence because I won the sprint after getting over two climbs. It was the best possible build-up for the Giro d'Italia. I've done everything I could and that only makes me feel more confident."
How to beat Cavendish
Gavazzi is convinced it is possible to beat Cavendish. He knows that position will be vital because he will also have to take on Matt Goss and his Orica-GreenEdge leadout train, as well as fellow Italians Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida).
"It's going to be a complicated, difficult, hard sprint," he said, showing the lack of fear every sprinter needs to win.
"It's not impossible to beat Cavendish. If I'm in the right place, I'm one of the few who can beat him. Perhaps I haven't got the quick reactions in a sprint that I once had but I can climb better and I'm sure I'm stronger. At the Tour de San Luis, my first race, other riders were coming past me left, right and centre but then I got things right. I'm not a dangerous sprinter but I'm also not afraid of anything."
Gavazzi also has the raw power needed to sprint and the ability to read an sprint and make instinctive decisions.
"Last week I set a new record: 1792 watts after a 198km training ride," he revealed.
"It's easy to say to follow Cavendish but I'll decide in the race. Ermeti will look after me until 2-3km to go and then I'll look after myself. I've got the legs to do it and when I get a sniff of the finish, I'll get everything out."
Gavazzi wants to wear the pink jersey and also wants to make it through the Giro to Brescia.
"The maglia rosa, even one, for a day, changes your life. It'd be incredible considering what I've been through," he said.
The Giro finishes in my home town of Brescia with a sprint and I'm willing to die to be there. I will be here. Once getting to Brescia was a dream, now it's an objective."