Ivan Basso tipped Davide Formolo to win the Giro d’Italia within the next three years in a recent interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport and the 24 year-old Cannondale-Drapac rider showed his Grand Tour credentials on the climb to Blockhaus on Sunday, finishing a solid eighth and also pulling on the best young rider’s white jersey.
Formolo’s biggest rivals for the maglia bianca include Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) but both finished behind him. Jungels cracked earlier and lost 55 seconds to Formolo at the finish in the Abruzzo mountains, while Yates was caught up in the crash sparked by the police motorbike, losing 2:04.
Formolo may have to hand the white jersey back to Jungels after Tuesday’s 39.8km Sagrantino time trial but is ready to fight for it in the mountain stages of the final week.
"It’s always nice to pull on a jersey and especially the white jersey because I’m getting old and won’t be able to go for it next season," Formolo said after the Blockhaus finish.
"My form is good but I just hope to have some good legs all the way to Milan. We’ve done a lot of flat stages and so I expected to suffer on the Blockhaus. I did, but I’m also optimistic for the rest of the Giro. I hope to go better as the race goes on."
Climbing talents, working with Piepoli
Formolo showed his climbing talents as an under-23 rider by finishing second overall in the 2013 Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta Mont Blanc to now teammate Davide Villela. He won a stage of the 2015 Giro d’Italia and has specifically prepared to target the overall classification this year with new coach Leonardo Piepoli, while teammates such as Pierre Rolland, Joe Dombrowski and Michael Woods target stage victories.
"Who knows if I’ll ever be as strong as he was on the climbs but I’d sign up straight away to win half as much as he did," Formolo said of Basso’s comments, which appear to have acted as extra motivation rather than a weight on his young shoulders.
During a recent interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, Formolo was happy to talk about his decision to have Piepoli as his coach. The Italian was a teammate of Riccardo Ricco at Saunier Duval when both were caught for a third-generation form of Erythropoietin – CERA – at the 2008 Tour de France, but he is now a trained coach and also works with Filippo Pozzato, Andrey Amador, Angel Vicioso and Alberto Losada. He has spoken openly about his doping, served a ban and apologised.
"I was worried at first but I changed my mind when I met him," Formolo said of Piepoli. "I hope the people who have yet to accept his past will do so soon. He’s a special person. He was part of terrible system but has managed to change his mentality. That deserves recognition."
Formolo showed his endurance and aggression by making a late attack at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He is naturally confident and upbeat, an important characteristic when fighting for a place in the top ten of the Giro d’Italia.
"If you have good form you can be up there overall and I think I’ve proved I’ve got good form. That’s boosted my confidence. We’ll see how I get on in the third week," Formolo told Cyclingnews at the start of the Giro d’Italia.
"I’ll try to save energy as much as possible and then try to get some results in the mountains. I think I can be up there with other outsiders for the GC. The final placings will be decided in the final week."
Formolo admitted he was fortunate to miss the crash that took down Geraint Thomas, Mikel Landa and so many others before the climb to Blockhaus. Such is the cruelty of Grand Tours that their crashes have helped Formolo chances of finishing in the top 10 overall.
"I was a little bit back in the peloton and so almost hit them. Fortunately there was a hole on the right and I managed to get through and miss it all. It was a matter of a split second," he said.
"Even before the climb you could see Quintana wanted to do something special by the way the Movistar team worked for him. I thought he’d be a little behind cautious early in the Giro because he’s going for the Giro and Tour double but he’s shown he pretty good already."
Formolo will try to limit his losses and then look to the mountain stages to target a stage victory and a place in the top ten.
"There’s still a lot of climbing to do in the Giro, we’ve still got about a hundred climbs to cover. Well maybe not a hundred but I looked at the race manual for the last week and I lost count trying to add them all up. That’s how hard it is going to be," he concluded.
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.