Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) will defend his Italian champion’s jersey in Aci Catena on Saturday, and the Sicilian has identified Lampre-ISD as the team to watch, citing the recent form of Diego Ulissi and Damiano Cunego.
“Lampre will be the strongest team at the race,” Visconti told Gazzetta dello Sport. “Ulissi is going very well and so is Cunego, so all eyes will be on them. But it’s a one-day race, so there are a lot of factors that could have an impact on it.”
Visconti took a break from racing after the Giro d’Italia, but returned to action at the Tour de Slovenie last week in order to get in some racing miles ahead of the Saturday’s race in Sicily, which is set to see riders who have previously served doping suspensions excluded from participating.
“I wasn’t supposed to ride in Slovenia but then I decided to go because after the Giro I needed to get some race rhythm back,” he said. “It went well. I didn’t expect to be competitive on all of the stages, including the one with the difficult finish that Ulissi won.”
Visconti shared a fractious finale to stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia with Ulissi in May. Although Visconti was first across the line in Tirano, he was relegated to third place after pushing the young Tuscan in the final sprint.
The pair are currently at an Italian national team training camp in Sicily, and Visconti insisted that they had put the matter behind them.
“I travelled here to Sicily with Ulissi and we could even be friends now,” he joked.
While Ulissi’s name has been inscribed in the record books as the stage victor, Visconti admitted that he still considers himself to be the winner.
“I’ve won two races this season and half a stage at the Giro d’Italia,” he said. “Deep down, I know that I won it, so for me it’s been a fine season.”
Visconti has finished in the top three on no fewer than twelve occasions to date this season, and although he has tasted victory just twice in 2011, he is satisfied with his showing so far.
“Obviously, a stage win at the Giro would have changed my season, but I’m still happy to have finished on the podium so often,” Visconti said. “It’s indicative of my consistency. I think I’m one of the few riders who is always at the front from February to October, and there are some wins in there too.”