By Susan Westemeyer
Andrea Moletta of Team Gerolsteiner is looking forward to riding Milano-Sanremo next month, a year after he was seriously injured in a crash in the race's finale. "I have put the crash behind me," he told Cyclingnews. The Italian returned to the scene this week to preview the finale.
The Italian, who last week celebrated his 29th birthday, was in a three-man escape group descending the Cipressa with about 20 kilometres to go in the 2007 edition when he lost control of his bike and smashed into a telephone pole and stone wall, breaking his femur. He underwent surgery a few days later, and although the doctors had originally said that his season was over, he was able to make his return to the peloton in July at the Brixia Tour.
Moletta went on to ride the Vuelta a España, where he finished 107th, over two hours behind winner Denis Menchov. However, his final placement was not the motivating factor. "It was important for my morale, that I could ride the Vuelta 2007 and finish it." (See related interview: Coming back one day at a time.)
During the Vuelta, he discovered how much recovery he still had to do. "The injured leg was noticeably thinner than the other one. During the Vuelta I painfully noticed the difference in strength. After my season ended, I spent nearly five months doing concentrated strength training and special exercises for my leg." He also made a return to the hospital to have the screws removed from his leg, although he still has "a piece of steel about 30cm long in my thigh."
He trained at home in Tombolo, Italy, over the winter, except for a training session of 25 days with Davide Rebellin in Malaga. Moletta opened his season with the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto, where he finished seventh in the first stage. "Grosseto went very well. In Haut Var we had an optimal result and I could ride for Davide up to the absolute finale." Rebellin won the Tour du Haut Var on Sunday.
Moletta is looking towards Paris-Nice, Milano-Sanremo, Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco, Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, GP Frankfrut, and "of course, the Giro d'Italia."
He will have a special motivation for the Giro. The 13th stage ends in Cittadella, with "the finish line only two kilometres from my house! Unfortunately, it is a flat stage and a sprint finish is nothing for me. Maybe we can help Frösi [team-mate Robert Förster - ed.] take the win."
He has his eyes firmly on a victory of his own this year. He has only one win in his six-year career, a stage win in the Peace Race in 2002, when he was a neo-pro with Mercatone Uno. "An early win this season would be good. Maybe a stage in Paris-Nice, or in País Vasco?"
Looking further into the season, Moletta noted that the Tour de France "isn't on my programme this year. I want to ride the Vuelta and then take part in my 'home' World Championships" in Varese, Italy.