State of the Nation: Analysing Italy's men's 2021 World Championships team

2021 UEC Road European Championships Trento Elite Mens Road Race Trento Trento 1792 km 12092021 Sonny Colbrelli Italy photo Dario BelingheriBettiniPhoto2021
Sonny Colbrelli (Italy) taking victory in the European Championships road race (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Ahead of the 2021 UCI Road World Championships elite road races, Cyclingnews is taking a deep dive into the key teams. We have analysed the men’s teams from the United States, Australia, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium

Here is a look at the Italian men's team for the road race on Sunday.


The World Championships have always been a major goal for Italy, with the azzurri winning the men’s road race world title 19 times with 16 different riders. 

Alfredo Binda won three times in the early years of the World Championships in 1927, 1930 and 1932 and was the first ever winner of the rainbow jersey when it was introduced in 1927.

Gianni Bugno (1991 and 1992) and Paolo Bettini (2006 and 2007) won the world title twice, while Learco Guerra (1931), Fausto Coppi (1953), Ercole Baldini (1958), Vittorio Adorni (1968), Marino Basso (1972), Felice Gimondi (1973), Francesco Moser (1977), Giuseppe Saronni (1982), Moreno Argentin (1986), Maurizio Fondriest (1988), Mario Cipollini (2002) and Alessandro Ballan (2008) have all won the ‘maglia iridata’ for Italy over the years. 

Italy have won several medals since Ballan’s win on the roads of Varese but failed to win the world title. Filippo Ganna has recently won back to back time trial world titles and the women’s team has been hugely successful but the tifosi are hoping Italy can end their lack of recent victories on the roads of Flanders on Sunday.  

Italian national coach Davide Cassani will end his time in charge after a new president was elected in the spring. Cassani has overseen four consecutive victories in the European championships and a world title would be a perfect end to his excellent work.

2019 Road World Championship Yorkshire Men Junior Road Race Richmond Harrogate 148 km 26092019 Matteo Trentin Italy Sonny Colbrelli Italy Davide Cimolai Italy Salvatore Puccio Italy BettiniPhoto2019

2019 Road World Championships Yorkshire (Image credit: Bettini Photo)


  • Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) 
  • Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates)
  • Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Next Hash)
  • Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates)
  • Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
  • Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers)
  • Davide Ballerini (DEceuninck-QuickStep)
  • Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation)

Key riders

Sonny Colbrelli earned his protected leadership with a string of impressive rides this year that included the Italian National Championships and the European Championships, with a recent win at the Memorial Marco Pantani confirming his end of season peak.

Colbrelli has more than 30 placings in his palmares but has slimmed down and become more self confident in 2021 to confirm his status as a World Championships contender. Like many of his Bahrain Victorious teammates, Colbrelli has found a rich vein of form.

The 31-year-old rider from Brescia can sprint as fast as most of his rivals, can handle the climbs of the Leuven course and has also improved his ability to read a race as Remco Evenepoel found out at the European Championships. If anyone can beat Wout van Aert on Sunday and so break Belgian hearts a second time, Colbrelli has the skills to do it.

Matteo Trentin went close to winning the world title in Yorkshire in 2019, only to fade in the rain-soaked sprint and was beaten by Danish rider Mads Pedersen. He is determined to one day make amends and this year’s World Championships seems the perfect opportunity.

The likeable 32-year-old played a road captain’s role in Trento but will have the freedom to ride for himself in Flanders on Sunday. He is perhaps not as fast as Colbrelli in a sprint but is a master race tactician and so is suited to the complex Leuven course and the absence of race radio.

Trentin built his form via the Vuelta a España and finally won a race at last weekend’s Trofeo Matteotti in Italy after a two-year wait.    

Giacomo Nizzolo is Italy’s sprint card in event the 268.3km race comes back together for the finish. He was overlooked for the European Championships, which he won in 2020, but is keen to prove his worth in Flanders. Nizzolo is a sprinter that can also handle the climbs and twisting roads of Flanders. 

Diego Ulissi is also a threat if the race is especially selective, while Andrea Bagioli is a real dark horse if an early break somehow stays away.   

PLOUAY FRANCE AUGUST 29 Giacomo Nizzolo of Italy and Team Qhubeka Nexthash prepares for the race prior to the 85th Bretagne Classic OuestFrance 2021 a 251km race from Plouay to Plouay OuestFrance on August 29 2021 in Plouay France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Giacomo Nizzolo at the Bretagne Classic (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)


Italy has a favourite in Colbrelli but also one of the strongest and united teams in Sunday’s race, confirming their major nation status. 

Cassani has transmitted the values of legendary national coach Alfredo Martini, who was able to bring Giuseppe Saronni and Francesco Moser together in the eighties, so there is no room for team interests and egos and strong sense of unity in ‘La Squadra.’


Italy has Colbrelli and Trentin as leaders and a strong core of domestiques, so perhaps their only weakness is their experience at winning the biggest races. 

The likes of Van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Peter Sagan are perhaps individually stronger and most of all more used to the pressures and expectations of the World Championships road race.

A view from Italy 

This is what La Gazzetta dello Sport's cycling correspondent recently told Het Laatste Nieuws, no doubt hoping that it turns out to be a pessimistic assessment.

“I don’t think Sonny Colbrelli can do it. He’s an excellent rider but is not at the level of Wout van Aert, the difference between the two is huge,” he said. 

“Colbrelli won the European title but the level wasn’t that high, van Aert, van der Poel and Alaphilippe weren’t there. The Danes and the British were absent too. I don’t know if he has a chance of victory.”

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Stephen Farrand
Head of News

Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.