Neo-professional Giacomo Nizzolo (Leopard Trek) will replace Robert Wagner in the team for Sunday’s Tour of Flanders after the German was ruled out through injury. He was hit by a commissars car in last week’s E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and suffered a broken leg.
Wagner's poor fortune, however, gives 22-year-old Nizzolo his first taste of the Spring Classics as Leopard Trek aims to fire Fabian Cancellara to victory.
“I’m extremely happy to be riding Flanders for the first time. Honoured, actually, to be able to help the team in this extremely important race,” Nizzolo said.
“I was in Milan when Luca Guercilena called me. At first, I thought he was joking. I couldn’t believe it.
“This is my first year as a pro and this might be the highlight of my maiden season. Still, it’s unfortunate that I get this chance at the cost of my teammate, Robert Wagner. I feel sorry for him, because he has been working for months toward this goal.”
Nizzolo has only raced over cobbles as an under 23 rider – Paris-Roubaix 2009 – but will put that limited knowledge to one side as he goes into Flanders full of enthusiasm.
“I think Flanders is one of the most beautiful races on the calendar. Probably the most historic and heroic one, after Milan-San Remo. I’m Italian, you know…The steep climbs, the cobblestones, the crowds: it all adds to the value of a race like Flanders. I think it’s fascinating,” he said.
“Still, I’m not afraid, not at all. I know I’m in the best team imaginable when it comes to cobbles. Fabian Cancellara and Torsten Schmidt will tell me all I need to know.”
Cancellara heads into Flanders as the undisrupted favourite after a crushing display in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen. According to Nizzolo the Swiss rider has every quality needed to repeat his win from 2010.
“To win Flanders, one needs to be powerful on the climbs, agile on the bike and still full of power after 200 kilometres. Fabian is all this, in the most perfect way imaginable. He’s rightfully the number one race favourite for Sunday. He reminds me of Johan Museeuw and Michele Bartoli, who were masters in the spring campaign. I loved their aggressive style of racing a lot.
“I hope I can be a great help to the team and to Fabian in particular. It’s going to be a hard day for me. I hope I can stay in the front and help as long as possible.”