Italian cycling is undergoing a generation change and Daniel Oss, with his long curly hair, his horns victory salute and love for rock music and the Classics is leading the way.
Oss will be just 24 on January 13 but is about to start his third season with Liquigas after turning professional in 2009. He has already shown his potential with some classy rides and results plus has earned a place on the Italian national team for the world championships.
In 2009 Liquigas let Filippo Pozzato go, allowing the younger riders to emerge. This winter Manuel Quinziato and Daniele Bennati have also left, meaning Oss, sprinter Jacopo Guarnieri, track sprinter Elia Viviani and the hugely talented Peter Sagan and Kristjan Koran will form a young but highly ambitions squad for the cobbled Classics.
Oss is not scared to lead the group from the front with his friendly, laid-back but focused nature. He was fifth in this year's Ghent-Wevelgem after making it into the key breakaway that decided the race and finished fourth on the opening stage of the Driedaagse De Panne, confirming his credentials and desire to race on the cobbles.
"I've always liked the Classics. Everyone gets excited about the racing in Flanders and I really like the passion they have for the sport," Oss told Cyclingnews recently.
"For us Italians it's a real adventure to go away for almost a month and live the Classics in Belgium. I hope to get better and better as I race more and more as a pro. I think I'm on the right track but I've still got a lot to learn."
Oss comes from the northern Trentino region of Italy, like former riders Francesco Moser, Gilberto Simoni and frequent training partner Quinziato. The weather can be cold and wet, even in the valleys between the Dolomite mountains, but Oss is used to it and has the build to handle the cold and the pave.
Oss won the Giro del Veneto, his first professional victory, in pouring rain this past September to clinch a place on the Italian team for the world championships. He attacked through the last corner of the race with teammate Peter Sagan and then stormed to victory. He crossed the line with his arms in the air, making a horn gesture. He is proud to be different and resists the calls to respect the traditional unwritten rules of cycling.
"Some people in Italy think cycling is an old man's sport but hopefully we're helping to change that," he said.
"I think there's a new generation of riders coming through in the peloton. We're not like the old school. We've grown up like normal people and we're bringing normality into the sport. We're dedicated and serious about our training but we're not afraid to shake off the old stereotypes. I think it's good. We've nothing to hide and we're being true to ourselves."
Oss's horns gesture hit the headlines after he won the Giro del Veneto. In Italy it is considered offensive but Oss just wants to show his rocker attitude and enjoy his career.
"It's just a way of being yourself, of showing who you are. It's just my way of celebrating a win. If people get upset, that's there problem."
Oss is not afraid to speak his mind and on his personal web site (danieloss.it) he blasts people who know little about cycling but make accusations about doping. His New Year message perfectly sums up the way he approaches his sport.
"We're ready, we're off, we're on the road. Our guitars are really to attack again. And for those about to rock, I salute you!"