Gianni Moscon: I’ve matured, but fundamentally I’m the same person

Gianni Moscon during the 2021 Paris-Roubaix
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Gianni Moscon was within touching distance of winning Paris-Roubaix in October when a puncture and then a crash swept the race from under him. The Italian had spent the day off the front and then forged clear alone with 50km remaining, holding a seemingly unassailable buffer prior to his double misfortune.

The career of cycling’s great pantomime villain has been pockmarked by episodes of very public rage, but Moscon was a picture of resigned calm when he reached the velodrome in fourth place, 44 seconds down on winner Sonny Colbrelli. As a scrum of reporters knotted around him on the infield, he had no complaints. Asked if he would have won without the crash, he shrugged. “Who knows? We cannot say this. I don’t know. The race went like this.”

Moscon knows, of course, that there was no shortage of schadenfreude at how the race slipped from his grasp. His rap sheet includes the lamentable racial abuse of Kevin Reza at the 2017 Tour de Romandie, expulsion from the 2018 Tour de France for aiming a punch at Elie Gesbert, and disqualification from the 2020 Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne for dumping a bike on Jens Debusschere.

Despite the repeated controversies, Moscon has always given the impression that he views himself as a man more sinned against than sinning, and that apparent lack of contrition has hardly helped to rehabilitate his reputation. 

His dignified response to his Paris-Roubaix heartbreak did, however, jar with the popular image. And when Moscon sat down for a video call from the Astana-Qazaqstan training camp in Altea this week, it begged the question: has he changed?

“I think that the people who really know me also know what I’m like,” Moscon said. 

“And maybe what came through at Roubaix was an aspect of me that the people close to me were already aware of. Obviously, over the years, some episodes happened and they were presented in a certain way. And the context in which I found myself also contributed to creating an image of me that doesn’t correspond with the reality.

“Unfortunately, many times it’s difficult for journalists to understand what the situation really is. Everybody writes what they feel, and sometimes the situations were described in the wrong way. It was a series of things, but I never changed. The person you saw at Roubaix is who I am. Obviously I’ve matured, but fundamentally, I’m the same person.

“Maybe five years ago, I would have reacted differently to what happened at Roubaix, but in a situation like that, a puncture, there’s nobody to blame and there’s no point in getting angry, either with somebody else or with myself. I think there’s anger when the responsibility lies with somebody in particular. But if nobody is at fault, then it’s pointless. It happened like that and now I’m just thinking about the next Paris-Roubaix.”

Moscon arrives at Astana-Qazaqstan after spending his entire professional career to date at Ineos Grenadiers, previously Team Sky. His six years on the team included a podium at Il Lombardia, two top-five finishes at Paris-Roubaix and a sparkling sequence in late 2018 that included a dominant win at the Tour of Guangxi, but those successes were hardly commensurate with his talent.

The 27-year-old may have been often deployed in the service of others, but it is clear that the greatest impediment to his career to date has been his disciplinary record rather than any team duties. At times, perhaps most notably after his abuse of Reza, Moscon was also somehow permitted by his team and those around him to believe himself to be a victim, which hardly helped his cause in the long term. This week, however, he said he had no particular regrets about his time with the British squad.

“No, I see them as six years that still gave me a lot. I felt good at Sky and then at Ineos. It’s just that the moment to change has come,” he said. 

“In the past years, I didn’t collect much in terms of results, but I gained a lot of experience. I had some personal satisfactions, but obviously the team decided my role and I often had to ride in support of leaders, especially in the Grand Tours. I often built my season around those races, so the races that suited me were often sacrificed. But in any case, I’m happy with those six years.”

Moving to Astana-Qazaqstan

The ink had barely dried on Moscon’s Astana contract when it emerged that he would have to undergo testing for a heart scare that manifested itself during the World Championships in Leuven in September, a week before his Paris-Roubaix ride. 

“My heart rate rose suddenly during a medium effort on the climb, and I realised it was a bit of an anomalous situation so I knocked off my effort straight away,” he said. “But the problem went away and my heart rate stayed stable for the rest of the race.”

It was, Moscon explained, the fourth or fifth such episode during his career. Previous checks had revealed a minor genetic defect but he underwent further testing in Ancona during the off-season to make sure that the issue would not trigger tachycardia under specific conditions. 

“The problem is already behind me,” Moscon said. “The tests proved the defect was minimal, so the ablation surgery wasn’t necessary. It was good to do all the tests just to be sure that everything will go well for the start of the new season.”

Like his fellow countryman and new arrival Vincenzo Nibali, Moscon has yet to define his precise racing programme for 2022, but directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli has already outlined that he will be given the chance to race as a leader in the Classics. A return to Paris-Roubaix is inevitable, but Moscon’s dexterity means that he could be a realistic contender in just about any one-day race on the calendar.

“Long distances are what suit me. I’m an endurance athlete. After five hours, I can be up there with the best,” he said. “But I always say that the most beautiful race is the race that you win. It doesn’t matter which one: the important thing is to win something.”

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Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.