New signing Giovanni Visconti has insisted that he is happy to share the reins of classics leadership at Movistar with Alejandro Valverde. The Spanish rider returns from suspension for his part in Operacion Puerto on January 1, and Visconti believes that the pair can dovetail their efforts next spring.
“For me it’s better to have him as a teammate than as an adversary, the problem is going to be [Philippe] Gilbert,” Visconti told Biciciclismo. “It’s an honour to be at Valverde’s side, he’s a rider who shines from February to October. I really want to learn the tricks of how to ride the classics to win. It’s a unique opportunity.”
Like Valverde, Visconti will build his spring around the Ardennes classics, but the Sicilian is also aiming to make an impact on the cobbles as he returns to a top flight team for the first time since 2008. “My objectives will be Amstel, Flèche and Liège, but this year I think I might also ride Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders. I want to try,” he said.
The triple Italian champion turns 29 in January, and he is well aware that the time has come for him to make a serious impact in races longer than 200km, especially in April, and he believes that he has improved significantly since his last spell in the ProTour.
“I feel that I have matured physically and mentally, I feel like I’m another rider,” Visconti said. “I think I can compete [in the Ardennes], if not win. I can be at the front right to the end and try to win.”
Visconti joins Movistar from Farnese Vini, and he finished top of the UCI Europe Tour rankings in each of his three seasons at Luca Scinto’s squad. However, he dismissed the idea that he was wasting his talent at Pro Continental level and said that that 2012 simply felt like the right moment to make the step back up to the highest level.
“I don’t think I lost years at Farnese,” he said. “It was like a school, I learned how to be a leader, which is something I know I won’t be at Movistar. I won’t be the absolute number one.
“If I was only thinking of the economic side of things, I’d still be with Farnese. They gave me everything I asked for, but I feel I’m a rider who doesn’t only think about his salary, even if that’s important too. It was the right time to move.”
Visconti will begin his campaign at the Tour de San Luis in January – “that way I can avoid a period of cold in Italy” – and then make his European bow at the Challenge Mallorca. The Ardennes Classics and the Giro d’Italia are his primary aims for the opening half of the season. “I hope I can finally win a stage after being second so many times,” he said.
Visconti admitted that it will be difficult to make the Italian squad for the London 2012 Olympics, and his sights are instead trained on the world championships in Valkenburg, on a course better-suited to his characteristics.
“To be honest, I have the Worlds in mind more than the Olympics. Only five riders will go to London and it will depend on whether I’m in form, but I’m certain I can get to the Worlds at 100%.
“The finish is right for me. It’s even better than Amstel, because that finishes on top of the Cauberg, whereas at the Worlds, the line is two kilometres after the summit.”