After a 2021 season that ended with three victories and a near miss at Paris-Roubaix, there was every reason for optimism as Gianni Moscon went into 2022 with a new team. However, as a bout of COVID-19 at the start of the season spiralled into a year of initially unexplained fatigue and underperformance, it quickly became a campaign to forget.
“I couldn't train, I just got tired, every little effort I do made me more tired, instead of making me improve," Moscon told Cyclingnews on the sidelines of the final stage of the Tour de Langkawi.
The year started with COVID-19 and then a bout of bronchitis before the new Astana Qazaqstan rider – who had switched from Ineos-Grenadiers after six seasons where he often took a support role – could finally make his season debut at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in late February.
As he continued through March, instead of finding his way back towards the podium, Moscon's result sheet was littered with DNFs. After his sixth abandon of the season, at the Tour of Flanders, Moscon took a two-month break from racing, missing Paris-Roubaix, which had been a big target after a late crash and puncture destroyed his seemingly unassailable buffer in 2021.
There were, however, some positive signs when the 28-year-old returned at the Tour de Suisse in June. After a brutal start to the season, Moscon was heading into the Tour de France with some reason to hope that the worst was over.
However, it was clear that all wasn’t well when he finished in last place, nearly 30 minutes behind the winner, on the cobbled stage 5 of the Tour, one of the days where he would ordinarily have expected to excel. After two more days near the back of the field, another abandon followed, with the team citing long COVID as the cause and Moscon had another two months off racing.
The lay-off at least helped him get to the bottom of what was causing his problems.
“I'm looking forward to the next season because all this season I wasn't myself..,” Moscon said. "And now finally everything is normal again."
That return to 'normal' came when it was discovered that, in the aftermath of COVID-19, Moscon had also developed a bacterial infection in his blood, which was resolved with antibiotics and some further recovery. It was a considerable relief for Moscon to get to the bottom of the problems that had been plaguing him through the season.
"The feeling is the most important thing in our sport, because you base your training on the feelings and your programme, everything. And to feel good again good, that the body responds well to the training and to the workload. It's really nice.”
The change was evident on his return. By early October he was back in the top 20 at Coppa Bernocchi and Gran Piemonte in Italy before flying out to Malaysia for the Tour de Langkawi.
It was clear he was building, not falling back like he had at the Tour de France, as the race continued and he could repeatedly be seen pushing into the key breaks and finished fifth on stage 5 and then fifth on stage 7, two particularly hard fought stages where the field was ripped to shreds.
“I came here with a really little amount of training, just one month. But yes, I feel good and then I also feel every day better during this race, said Moscon. “It's a good way to restart my racing programme. Now, just a little break for winter and then straight over to looking forward to the next season."
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