Gianni Moscon is hoping his move from Ineos Grenadiers to Astana Qazaqstan for 2022 will mark the start of a new chapter in his career as he overcomes a minor heart scare, finds motivation from his Paris-Roubaix performance and continues to ignore social media criticism.
The 27-year-old Italian has raced with Team Sky and Ineos Grenadiers since 2016. He seemed perfect for the cobbled classics and is also a solid time trialist but his results were often overshadowed by controversy.
In 2017, Moscon was suspended by Team Sky [although he was kept in the race] after racially abusing Kevin Reza at the Tour de Romandie, and was also disqualified from that year’s World Championships road race for holding onto a team car. He was disqualified from the 2018 Tour de France for aiming a punch at Elie Gesbert and in 2020 he was disqualified from Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne for throwing his bike at Jens Debusschere following a crash.
His final spell at Ineos Grenadiers was often tense, and Moscon appears happy to have more opportunities in the Classics in 2022, with special mentorship from veteran directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli.
"I feel it's a new start. I've often worked for the team in the last few years but they [Astana Qazaqstan] keep telling me that they want me to be the captain of the Classics squad," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport in an interview.
Moscon accepts that he could have done better in recent years but tried to avoid any criticism of Ineos Grenadiers, while hoping for better with Astana.
"I'll never say that these last few years were wasted. I gained a lot of experience and had some good moments: I raced four Grand Tours and we won them all," he said. "I know I didn't win much but if that's too little or not, we'll find out in the next few seasons.
"There are some moments when you lose the pleasure of riding your bike, but I enjoyed myself this year. I think I can be even more carefree at Astana and when you race like that, you get your best results."
Moscon was back to his best at this year's October Paris-Roubaix. He attacked alone with 50 kilometres to go, looking set for victory but then was slowed by a puncture and a crash after a bike change.
He was overtaken by Sonny Colbrelli, Mathieu van der Poel and Florian Vermeersch who went on to fight for victory but salvaged fourth place. A few weeks later he was hit by a heart scare, which may still need minor surgery.
"I was diagnosed with an extra electrical connection, a kind of short circuit," he explained. "I was a little worried. But when I realised it wasn't life threatening and knew I could keep racing, it was a relief.
"They've implanted a loop recorder under my skin to register everything, so that the next time it happens, they'll know where to intervene."
Moscon spent the off-season at home, helping his father with the apple harvest at home in the Van di Non. He has started working in the gym and is awaiting a new training bike from Astana Qazaqstan. He admitted to thinking back to his Paris-Roubaix attack during his time off the bike.
"I've thought about it a lot but there's nothing I could have done. It was nobody's fault," he said, seemingly referring to reports that the tyre pressures on his spare bike were not suited to the wet race conditions.
"It's far easier to lose bike races than win them. In the final of the race, when they passed me, I was so tired that I couldn't think of anything but to get to the finish. I hoped Sonny Colbrelli would win to ease the pain of my day."
Moscon admits he is envious of Colbrelli's win but intends to return to Paris-Roubaix in 2022 despite a love-hate relationship with the cobbled Classic.
"I don't know why I like Paris-Roubaix, it's like when you instinctively like someone. Perhaps it's because it's a unique race. Or the fact it's for hard riders."
When Moscon was on the attack at Paris-Roubaix, social media lit up with reaction. Some were highly critical, returning to his actions and racist behaviour of the past, and even suggesting that karma intervened when he crashed.
The Italian media rarely asks Moscon about his past and he has shown little or no regret. He insisted he is not affected by social media comments.
"It's perhaps natural due to my past," Moscon suggested.
"But I'm not interested in what people write on social media about me, I don't feel offended by them, I prefer to feel good with the people I love, those who know me as I really am. On social media I just look at tractors, that's what I'm really passionate about."
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