Riccardo Riccò is back after his crash in the Tirreno-Adriatico that forced him to skip the Milano-Sanremo. The 24 year-old Italian from Formigine (Modena) is participating in the País Vasco stage race and building for the Giro d'Italia, where he will lead the Saunier Duval team.
"To be the captain gives me pride and motivation. I like the responsibility," he said of his new responsibility La Gazzetta dello Sport. Since the end of 2007, the team no longer has two-time Giro d'Italia winner Gilberto Simoni and it is putting its faith in a sometimes erratic Riccò.
He displayed power, but also immaturity at the Tirreno-Adriatico last month. In stage two's finale his bike bumped against Linus Gerdemann's and spokes were broken in his rear wheel, which led to him tossing his race machine through the air in frustration.
He has received some advice from his girlfriend, Vania, an ex-cyclo-cross racer. "For example, she told me that I made a mistake to throw the bike at the finish line in Gubbio. ... I acted upon my instincts."
Riccò has had his run-ins with other cyclists for his actions on and off the bike (read Riccardo Riccò gains exposure - ed.), however the rider known as 'Il Cobra' claims he is liked within the peloton. "Everything is fine. I am only being myself," he responded to the suggestion that he is trying create an image for himself. "Even my team-mates want to see me go well, and they help me willingly."
One day after throwing his bike on the line of stage two, he was involved in a crash while taking a right-hand turn. The incident left him with pains in his right gluteal muscle; however, he is showing form in the País Vasco race, which concludes this Saturday. "I am getting better. Even if with the change of temperatures I still feel some pains. I suffered more psychologically than physically. I passed a week arguing, and very nervous... I wanted to ride Sanremo."
In his build-up to the Giro d'Italia he will ride the Ardennes Classics, pointing towards the Flèche Wallonne. "The Mur de Huy excites me; wait for me at the top," he continued of the climb that concludes the mid-week Classic, April 23. "And if I win in Flèche, I will be up front in Liège [-Bastogne-Liège] as well."
For the Giro d'Italia, May 5 to June 1, he has been working on his time trial skills, even if he "plans on dropping everyone on the climbs." This year's Italia Grand Tour has more time trial kilometres than normal, and Riccò will have his work cut out for him if he is to move up five places from last year's sixth overall.