Coach Davide Cassani announced the 11-rider long list that will compete in the azzurra jersey of the Italian national team in the men's road race at the World Championships held in Doha, Qatar on October 16. The sprinter-friendly course will be suited to the team's co-leader Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and road champion Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo).
Viviani kicked off his season this year with two stage podiums at the Tour de San Luis and won a stage at the Dubai Tour. He also had a podium at Tirreno-Adriatico and won a stage at Three Days of De Panne. He was second in stage 3 at the Giro d'Italia but then didn't make the time cut on stage 8. He continued to bring in good showings at the Tour of Poland in July with a stage podium.
The Team Sky sprinter divided his time between his road responsibilities and his Olympic Games track goals, and found much success winning the gold medal in the men's Omnium in Rio in August.
Likewise, Nizzolo has proven to be one of the world's top sprinters. This season alone he had stage wins at the Santo Tour Down Under, Dubai Tour, where he finished second overall, a win at Tour of Croatia and four stage podiums at the Giro d'Italia. He also won the Italian road title and GP du Canton d'Argovie before placing third at Cyclassics Hamburg.
During the late-September series of Italian one-day races, Nizzolo won Coppa Bernocchi and today's Giro del Piemonte.
Cassani made the long-list team announcement directly following Nizzolo's win in Piemonte. The team will also include Daniele Bennati, who was third iin Piemonte and won Giro della Toscana, Fabio Sabatini, Jacopo Guarnieri, Matteo Trentin, Manuel Quinziato, who will also race the time trial, Daniel Oss, Sonny Colbrelli, Marco Coledan and Filippo Pozzato. Although Cyclingnews understands that Coledan and Pozzato will most likely not make the final nine-man team, and will be reserve riders.
"For sure we have one of the strongest teams. A lot of leadout men in the WorldTour are Italian," Viviani said at the Tour of Britain when asked about Italy's potential Worlds team earlier this month. "Guarnieri, Oss, Sabatini, they're the biggest names so we have a strong team. Then if there's some cross winds we can be ready. We're not the favourites because I'm not the best sprinter in the world but we can battle. Sometimes I've beaten the strongest sprinters in the world and maybe this could be another chance."
Nizzolo and Viviani attempted to stake their claims on a leadership role for the World Championships at the Tour of Britain, though neither of them got a podium finish during the nine-stage race.
"As far as leadership goes, to be honest we've not talked about it yet," Nizzolo said in September. "I'm just focused on being there with the best form and then we'll see. It's crucial that we have a clear situation. I also want to be the leader and everyone is going to go for their chance. Once we decide on who the leader is then we'll work to get the best result."
At the World Championships, the men will race 151km in the desert before seven laps of a technical 15.2km circuit in Doha, with a finish on The Pearl of Qatar after 257.5km. The route is considered both technical and tactical, suited to one-day specialists and sprinters. Cassani ultimately decided that the team would best benefit from having two leading sprinters.
Italy has not won a men's road title since Alessandro Ballan and Damiano Cunego took gold and silver in Varese in 2008. Furthermore, the team will no doubt hope to improve on their subpar performance at the World Championships held in Richmond, Virginia last year. Nizzolo was the nation's highest placed finisher in the men's road race in 18th.
The team is expected to leave for Qatar on October 10.