After soloing to victory on stage two of the Settimana Coppi e Bartali in Sogliano al Rubicone on Thursday, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) issued a pointed reminder to the Italian press regarding his own standing.
Junior world champion in 2006 and 2007, Ulissi turned professional in 2010 and won a fractious Giro d’Italia stage in Tirano the following year. With Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Moreno Moser (Cannondale) dominating the headlines in Italy over the past twelve months, however, the 23-year-old Ulissi admitted that he has felt overlooked at times.
“I’m either neglected or forgotten,” Ulissi told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’m not looking for headlines, the wins are enough. I’m not looking for invitations on stage, the road is enough. But when people talk about points of reference for the new Italian cycling, I feel excluded. People talk about Nibali, about Moser and about others who are younger than me. Nothing against them, but in my own way, I don’t feel inferior. I don’t think I’m strongest, but there are some races where I am.”
Hailing from Cecina, near Livorno, Ulissi has enjoyed a consistent start to the new campaign. He lost out only to Peter Sagan (Cannondale) at the GP Camaiore, placed 4th at the Trofeo Laigueglia, and is fresh from a solid 7th place finish at Paris-Nice. “My condition is growing. At Paris-Nice, I got some big results: I was 5th on two stages, 7th in the Col d’Èze time trial and 7th overall,” he said.
Gazzetta colourfully noted that “Ulisse has an epic surname, and every one of his victories is a little Odyssey” and so it proved on Thursday. After Damiano Cunego stretched the leading group on the final ascent of the Ville Monte Tiffi climb, Ulissi took flight and won the stage, 34 seconds clear of Miguel Angel Rubiano (Androni-Venezuela). He leads the Colombian by 58 seconds overall, with Cunego third at 1:17.
“I was aiming for this stage, it was the one best suited to me, and I succeeded,” Ulissi said. “But the more important appointments for me are the Tour of the Basque Country and then the Ardennes classics. I know them will by now. Flèche Wallonne is the one that suits me best. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the one that will need the most time and experience. For Amstel Gold Race, I already feel like I’m ready.”