By Jean-François Quénet at the Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Since Riccardo Riccò started making headlines in March this year when he won two stages in Tirreno-Adriatico, it was questionable whether or not the 23 year old from Formigine in Emilia was overly confident. After Riccò's win of the 15th stage in the 2007 Giro D'Italia, the answer is clear - he's not just an attraction who got the nickname of the cobra; the Saunier Duval rider is a true champion.
"It was a dream for me to win the hardest stage of the Tour of Italy," Riccò said. Riccò says the team gave him the green light early in the day. "On the first hill of San Lugano, it was Gilberto Simoni telling Leo (Piepoli) and I: 'guys, go for the stage win'. So we asked the team to make it hard on the San Pellegrino. We went really strong. David Cañada did a good job on the false flat section as well."
Riccò and Piepoli made it into the leading break of the long stage with Panaria's Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio and Ivan Parra from Cofidis. The two South Americans were former stage winners in the Giro. "Their cooperation was close to zero," said Riccò, who was the only one from the front group who had yet to win a Giro stage in his career.
"As soon as we were away, Leo and I made an agreement: 'if we arrive together, it's your turn', he told me. "Parra accelerated with 800 meters to go. I chose to go steady and sprint at the end."
Despite his notorious vocal confidence, Riccò had nothing but humble comments after the stage. "This is the most beautiful day of my life," he said. "I'm only 23, there is still a long way to go in my career, and many other Giri d'Italia to ride."
"No later than next year," he added, "I hope to ride the Giro for the overall win," he said, adding that Simoni has already told him that he doesn't want to do another Giro as captain of the team. It's also rumoured that Riccò is being courted by other teams (among them Milram) but he's under contract with Saunier Duval for one more year with a buyout option.