The 65th edition of the Gran Premio Liberazione will be presented tomorrow in Rome, Italy, and while the event is a celebration of the nation's freedom, it boasts an Australian flavour that has been cultured recently.
Australians have enjoyed plenty of success in the race during the past five years. Team Sky rider Chris Sutton won it in 2005 (beating Riccardo Riccò) while HTC-Columbia professional Matthew Goss took the title the following season and ISD-Neri rider Simon Clarke finished third in 2007.
The likes of Mario Cipollini, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, Steve Bauer and Gianni Bugno also feature on the race's palmares and each of these four went on to successful professional careers. It's proven to be part of the breeding ground for the next generation of stars, and the progression of last year's winner, Sacha Modolo, is another example of this trend.
Last season young Australian Michael Matthews took second behind Modolo, who recently finished fourth in Milan-San Remo riding for Colnago - CSF Inox. Whilst Matthews won't be joining the pro ranks yet, spending at least another season in the Jayco-Skins Under 23 development outfit, he has already shown his form thus far in 2010 and it bodes well for April's GP Liberazione.
The 19-year-old from Canberra won two stages of the Tour de Langkawi earlier this month, and explained that he discovered an improved sprinting ability throughout the week-long race. And while Jayco-Skins team manager Brian Stephens said Matthews is known as a time trial rider rather than a sprinter, his form in the fast finishes must be encouraging.
And he's aware of the recent history at the race held on Anzac Day, a national holiday in his home country. "I heard that after I got second in it last year," he said. "I sort of let the team done a bit because those guys [Sutton and Goss] had won it and I got second; this year I'll try and get the win in it, for sure."
He needn't worry about missing out last year however, with another bite at the cherry in exactly one month's time. Meanwhile, Matthews and the Jayco-Skins team recently arrived in Italy for the next part of its racing schedule, which includes the Trofeo Edil Collechio, Trofeo Piva Banca Popolare di Vicenza, Giro del Belvedere and GP Palio del Recioto before the young riders head to Belgium and France ahead of the GP Liberazione.