By Gregor Brown
Italian Riccardo Riccò has already reconnoitred all of the decisive stages of the 2008 Giro d'Italia. The 24 year-old, winner of this year's stage to Tre Cima di Lavaredo, attended the recent presentation of the 38th Nove Colli Gran Fondo where he noted his familiarity with the Italian Grand Tour.
"I have already evaluated with attention the route of the next Giro d'Italia," said Riccò. 'The Cobra' (Riccò's nickname in Italy) and neo-pro Ermanno Capelli tested the 228-kilometre stage 19 on December 8. "I already went and tried the never before used stage of Monte Pora, in the Brescia-Bergamo zone.
"The last week will be very demanding with the queen mountain stage [stage 20] and the time trial into Milano [the Giro's final stage] – and maybe it will be on the very last day that the Giro is played out."
Riccò lives in Sassuolo (eastern Emilia-Romagna), an area that will host a key portion of the 2008 parcours. The Terra Romagnola will be visited for three days: following the Giro's first rest day in Pesaro, there will an individual time trial run on Tuesday, May 20, to Urbino, and a mountainous run to the hometown of Marco Pantani, Cesena. "There will be the crono of Urbino and the stage to Cesena with the climbs of Carpegna, Perticara and Sorrivoli," said Riccò. "The stage – another never before used – is very demanding and not to be undervalued. You will need to be very attentive. For my part, I am at a little bit of an advantage with respect to the others because I know the zone well. I will try to make a good impression in front of my tifosi Romagnoli..."
Riccò looks forward to his third professional season as the leader of Saunier Duval. "I will start the Giro d'Italia as a captain, and with [Leonardo] Piepoli we will lead the team in the fight for the classification," he said.
Gilberto Simoni, Riccò's former team leader, left Saunier Duval this winter to join Gianni Savio's Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia team, but the two-time Giro champion continues to rank his former protégé as a true threat. "He is the person who can create the most fear," said Simoni today to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Because he's a madcap and has the courage to attack."
Riccò was impressed with the parcours of the cyclo-tourists' Gran Fondo that will be run on May 19. Though he has ridden the climbs, he has never done them all in one day. "I prepare for the Giro using the climbs – they are hard - and it is true, it will not be for everyone. Honestly, I have never done the entire route in one day only."
For more read Riccardo Riccò: too much like Pantani?.