Davide Formolo will ride in Cannondale-Drapac colours for the last time at this weekend's Japan Cup, ending his four years in various shades of green argyle before starting a new chapter of his career with Bora-Hansgrohe next year alongside Peter Sagan.
The 24-year-old Italian seems genuinely sorry to leave but is convinced the time has come to make a change. He wants to further test his ability in the hilly Classics and Grand Tours and believes Bora-Hansgrohe is the best place to do it. They made him an offer that was difficult to refuse, and he was one of the German-based team's first signings for 2018.
"It was a hard decision to make, but I think I've made the right decision for my future. I had to change things, to continue to push my limits and try something new," Formolo tells Cyclingnews as he tries to control the long curly locks he's grown in recent weeks.
"I was lucky that I'd ridden well at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and then at the Giro d'Italia, so there were a lot of teams interested. I chose Bora-Hansgrohe. It's a young team but has some long-term goals. Sagan is the big, big name; he's the biggest rider in the sport right now. But Bora-Hansgrohe has signed riders like Pete Kennaugh, Daniel Oss and already has the likes of Leo Konig and Rafa Majka. Now they've got me too."
Formolo secured his spot alongside Sagan at Bora-Hansgrohe during the summer but was saddened by the news that Cannondale-Drapac faced potential closure. He turned professional with the Italian-based Cannondale team and stayed when Jonathan Vaughters and Slipstream Sports took over in 2015. He saved the team's pride when he won a stage in the Giro d'Italia and has continued to develop his hilly Classics and Grand Tour skills.
"When I heard that the team could disappear it was a really painful moment for me. I had a new team, but I knew that some riders and staff would struggle to find a new team at such short notice. Fortunately, they managed to save the team and find a new sponsor. I'm happy for everyone," Formolo says.
"This team is different to most others. People don't always understand and appreciate it, but this team always puts you in a position to perform at your very best. That's the key to success, everything else can just be a source of stress and a distraction. Cannondale-Drapac likes to keep the stress to a minimum, while keeping expectations high.
"Cycling is not about team rules. If you walk around with one red shoe and one green shoe, that's not going to affect your performance. Cannondale-Drapac understands that and lets you be yourself. There's an interesting mix of cultures in the team too. Everyone has chances to get some results, and then we also helped each other. I like all of that."
Formolo sprints to the line at Blockhaus on stage 9 of the 2017 Giro d'Italia. (Getty Images Sport)
Finishing on a high
Formolo is still a young rider and has yet to fully mature. He has shown his potential and is one of the favourites with the Italian tifosi for his friendly, relaxed and happy demeanour. Despite a difficult second half of the 2017 season, hit by illness and limited racing, he refuses to be downbeat.
He did what he could for Rigoberto Uran in the final Italian races and will no doubt do the same in Japan.
"I wanted to finish on a high with Cannondale-Drapac, on a high by doing some racing and helping the team," he says. "I'm happy to be racing because it's been a difficult season for me. It's been a year of two halves, with the second half a lot more difficult than the first half.
"I had a good spring and a good Giro d'Italia, but after I took a break following the Dauphiné, things started going wrong. Whenever I trained for a week I was hit with a temperature. I'd get better, get going again and was hit again. I thought it was because I'd trained in the rain or got cold at altitude, but my body was showing me that something wasn't right.
"I had to miss the Tour de Pologne but still hoped to do something at the Vuelta, but in the end I had to miss that too. I did some blood tests and they showed that while I hadn't come down with mononucleosis, I had the anti-bodies for it, so something had hit me. It's difficult to say what caused it, but it took me the rest of the summer to recover, wrecking the second part of my season."
Formolo looks beyond his problematic summer to remember the good times at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro d'Italia, although the death of close friend and inspiration Michele Scarponi hit him hard.
"It was only the second time I'd ridden Liège and only the second time I'd targeted the classification in a Grand Tour, so I have to be happy with my performances," he says of his season.
"Liège was perhaps one of the best moments of my career while also being a very sad moment after Michele's death. We rode the Tour of the Alps together and then suddenly he was gone. It was hard to take. I raced in a state of shock but then on the Saint-Nicolas climb I felt good. I felt inspired to do something for Michele and realised it was the perfect moment to try something. It almost worked out.
"Unfortunately I didn't know the descent and the final corners and so I lost time a chunk of time, otherwise who knows ... I could have stayed away or fought for a place on the podium. Despite being caught, it was a great lesson and I learnt a lot. It was a big step for my future. I took a big step forward as a rider."