The past two seasons have been testing ones for Italian rider Nicola Conci but the Italian has recovered from iliac artery surgery and the demise of his team to make a quick comeback of sorts, one cemented by a podium finish at the Arctic Race of Norway on Sunday.
Conci, who this month signed a deal with Alpecin-Deceuninck for next season, was forced to cut his 2021 campaign short in a contract year with Trek-Segafredo to undergo iliac artery surgery. He landed at Gazprom-RusVelo this season but only got five race days under his belt before the team's ban and eventual disbandment in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Through the spring, Conci represented the Italian national team at several stage races in the country (he was sixth at the Giro di Sicilia), before Alpecin-Deceuninck threw him a lifeline in May, signing him to their Continental Development Team.
After an aggressive race by the team on Sunday's closing stage in the Arctic Race of Norway, Conci scored his best result of the season, taking third overall, and now there's a sense that his troubles are behind him for good.
"Yes, the last years were not so easy for me," Conci told Cyclingnews after his and his team's appearance on the podium in Trondheim. "Also, because I had the surgery for the iliac artery and then the story with Gazprom went that way.
"In the end, I was really happy that I could join Alpecin because I knew it was a great team. Now I know that it's a great team and the feeling is really nice. So, we are looking forward to the next races and we are happy about how we raced today."
Alpecin-Deceuninck enjoyed three men in the chase group behind eventual stage and overall winner Andreas Leknessund as they raced around the closing circuits on stage 4, with the team seeking to move up from the eighth, ninth, and 10th positions they found themselves in after three days of racing.
Conci was joined by Kristian Sbaragli and Jason Osbourne in the move that started 20km out with two runs of the hilly closing circuit left to go. Conci would eventually attack over the day's final climb before soloing in for second place on the stage, jumping six places up the standings into third overall.
"The goal for us was to avoid sitting in the peloton and they're trying to defend our eighth, ninth, 10th place in GC," Conci said.
"We said that we have nothing to lose. We wanted to risk losing everything, but we also wanted to try to win and that's what we did. We attacked from already three laps to go and in the final we were three of us and we did well.
"But of course, Leknessund was really strong, and I think he has a good TT skill. So, he kept staying away and he rode really well. In the end, it's a little bit of a pity for the stage but we worked really well together, and we are happy about this."
Conci will now head straight to the Tour of Denmark, which starts on Tuesday, to help Tour de France stage winner Jasper Philipsen in a quest for stage wins. The 25-year-old, who is edging closer to his first win as a professional, reiterated how happy he was to be at his new squad.
"I started doing many races and team camps already with a team," Conci said. "Until the day before coming to Norway, I was in La Plagne with the group of riders who do the Vuelta and that was also nice.
"Instead of being at home, I had the chance to meet a lot more people from the team and train with them. As I said, I'm happy to be here."
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