The new Italian wave of climbers and other riders are somewhat perplexing to the tifosi. The Under-23 nazionale squadra at the Tour de l'Avenir includes one who is "too friendly", one who "cries all the times" and "one who is "absent minded".
Yet, with three contenders in the top ten ahead of final stage on Saturday, Italians have the best potential to overturn the race in the mountains and beat Spanish yellow jersey Marc Soler, a member of Movistar Team.
Simone Petilli is one of the rockets ready to be launched over the Alps' climbs to les Bottières, near la Toussuire. And, to tell the truth, he is “the too friendly” rider in the list.
A placid face, often laughing, the 22-year-old talent is always available to talk to supporters, journalists and other riders before a race start. His colourful English and, according to his accent from Dervio, a small town in the area of Lecco, Lombardy, he has an interesting ability for cycling: he is as he says a "clember".
Petilli "clembed" very well indeed at some professional events this year, such as the Giro del Trentino, taking seventh on final stage 39 seconds after Astana's Paulo Tiralongo. At the Settimana Internazionale Coppi & Bartali he took the best young rider classification in the past two years and also proved himself on some notorious U23 races such as the Ronde de l'Isard (winner) or the Giro della Valle d'Aosta (3rd overall).
"It has been a pretty good season so far," says the strong man of Continental team Unieuro-Wilier.
Asked about his main asset in cycling, he says: "I never 'mollare' – I never stop. In a climb I can attack as many times as needed to make a difference."
It took time for Petilli to join the club of the best riders of his generation – a very select club which becomes the national team at the Tour de l'Avenir. When he was a Junior, Petilli was still not successful but he knew he had to wait. "If you work hard it pays off sooner or later," he tells Cyclingnews.
He trains gladly in the hills of Valvarone, near his home, or on the iconic Stelvio. At the end of July he spent two weeks in Livigno to sharpen his cadence in the mountains.
"I try to be very professional," he says. "I usually go to bed at 10:30pm, I am strict on my diet and avoid sweet things. This is not boring because it helps to do something good in cycling. I even enjoy this life pretty much. I like cooking and I share my meals with my parents and young brother."
Following the family's tradition, Petilli might have been a pizza maker. This is what he father and brother do everyday in a restaurant. "But I prefer eating than making pizzas," he laughs. "My favourite one is prosciutto e funghi – ham and mushrooms".
Instead of the art of making the base and topping, the science of the oven use, the Ronde de l'Isard winner studied accountability.
His professional career will go through cycling, though, first as a cyclist and then, he hopes, as a coach or sports director. "I did basketball, football and kick boxing until I started with cycling aged 14," he recalls. "My dad used to race as an amateur and he passed the passion to me."
His dream will come to next year when he will be part of WorldTour as a member of Lampre-Merida. Petilli was also in touch with Tinkoff-Saxo Bank but the Russian squad was taking long to issue a contract. "I didn't want to wait any further to secure my 2016 season and I am very happy to join Lampre-Merida next year.
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