As he bagged the queen stage and the overall classification of the Arctic Race of Norway, Gianni Moscon put an end to a five years drought for Team Sky. Alex Dowsett was their last neo-pro to win a race (the individual time trial at the Tour de Poitou-Charentes and the Tour of Britain in 2011). Since then, the British squad had mostly focused on strengthening their Grand Tour line-ups.
It didn't stop Moscon from choosing the team of his dreams although he was courted by a few others. "Sky was my favourite team even before I got the chance to join them," the 22 year-old Italian told Cyclingnews in Bodø at the end of the Arctic Race of Norway. "My idols were Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas. From the outside, they might look chilly but that's possibly the image given of them by the media. In reality, they are fantastic people. Maybe Italian riders look friendlier but some of them are also unfair and they don't give a positive example. Cycling was probably more romantic before we, as Italians, have to adjust to the new mentality. I haven't seen everything of this world yet but I completely embrace the philosophy of Team Sky and I feel good there."
"It's very organized," Moscon continued. "I believe it's the best environment for a young rider to improve his cycling. I've had the chance to play my cards in my first pro year and I'm glad I repaid them with these victories at the Arctic Race of Norway. Leading a stage race and winning the overall was something new to me. It's amazing."
He hadn't raced since the Italian championships (4th in the time trial, 5th in the road race) but he trained for five days at the Stelvio. Team Sky's Norwegian sports director Kurt Asle Arvesen told Cyclingews: "I was hoping for something big from Gianni here. We knew that he was in a really good condition. But the overall victory was maybe a bit more than we hoped for. It's very exciting to put together a group of young riders like him, Sebastian Henao and Danny van Poppel and deliver victories. I love working with those guys, it's very interesting."
"I wasn't given a career plan when I joined Team Sky," Moscon said. "At every race, I discover myself as much as they discover me. I'm yet to figure out my potential and which races will suit me the best."
"For the moment he's an all-rounder," Arvesen noted. "He's a strong climber, very strong on small climbs. He's strong in the sprints, he's a good time trialist too. He's a complete bike rider. Let's see in the future what he turns in to. I think he can focus on the classics for the moment but it's a bit early to tell. He might be good in stage races as well."
Moscon hails from Livo in the Val di Non near Trento, a region that has produced world champions like Francesco Moser and Maurizio Fondriest. "I started riding a bike when I was six or seven year old", he explained. "At the time, Gilberto Simoni [also from Trentino] was winning the Giro d'Italia in 2001 and 2003. It gave me the passion for cycling but only for fun, I didn't intend to turn pro until I finished school and I really became a rider after that and a pro in two years times.
"I'm not sure how much the Arctic Race of Norway will change my career but it's an important step. It's a very nice race with great landscapes. The most important memory will be the feeling I got when I crossed the line of the queen stage as a winner. I'll remember it for a long time."
Arctic Race of Norway stage 4 highlights - Video