By Jean-François Quénet in Adelaide
It's common now for young Italians to discover Australia at the beginning of their pro career, but for a very determined 23 year-old Giovanni Visconti, it makes no doubt: "It's much better here than racing in Qatar, as I did last year," he said. "I expected to find another desert in Australia but I was wrong. It's a marvelous place. I've fallen in love with this area."
From the start, he raced very well indeed. He was a member of the winning breakaway on day 1. "But it could have been better," he recalled. "With 20km to go, I went hunger flat, I couldn't see the road anymore. I'm mostly here for preparation. I'd like to do well for my debut in Italy, especially at the Trofeo Laigueglia. I wouldn't mind to keep a spot in the top 10 of the Tour Down Under but I'm doing this race with no pressure at all."
Visconti is one of Italy's biggest hopes for the future. "But the world of professional cycling is totally different from the U23 category," he commented. "U23, that's only for the memory. As a pro, you can't save a situation; if you do something wrong, you go home and that's it."
Visconti hails from Palermo in Sicily where he goes back once a year, but now his life is in Tuscany. He calls San Baronto home and thinks of moving even closer to his mentor Luca Scinto, who lives about 5 km away in Quarrata. "Luca has done so much for me," Visconti said. "He has given me a lot without asking for anything in return, that's why I can see how good friends we are."
Luca Scinto was Michele Bartoli's garden angel at MG, ASICS and Mapei. He's now the coach of amateur team Finauto-Quick Step and his other pupil is the U23 world champion Dmitro Grabovski. Scinto reckons Visconti is definitely "the new Bartoli". Giovanni demurs: "If I become half of Bartoli, I'll be happy. Like him, I love the classics in Belgium, I also won the Tour of Flanders but only as an amateur, it doesn't count. Michele is also a good friend of mine. He'll give me a hand for my training this year."
In his first pro season with Domina Vacanze, Visconti came third in Firenze-Pistoia (ITT), and fourth in Larciano, Giro del Veneto and Coppa Placci. He's an extremely promising one-day rider. Now defending the colours of Milram, he's "looking forward to racing Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Italy with Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi."
With so many good teachers, he'll learn the job quickly!