Gianni Moscon has suggested that he and Team Sky have been the target for criticism during 2017 because their rivals are envious of the way the British WorldTour team is leading the way in the peloton.
Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport during a long interview at home in the Val di Non apple orchards, Moscon revealed he will have a leadership role at Team Sky for the cobbled Classics in 2018 and is likely to ride the Tour de France in support of Chris Froome as he continues to understand his own Grand Tour potential.
"I can't accept that people say we're arrogant, everyone has to do their own thing. They're envious but as the [Italian] saying goes: It's better to make people envious than to seem pathetic," Moscon is reported as saying in La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We're leading the way and perhaps people don't like that. An example is using the rollers after a race. People laughed when we did it, now the ones who laughed take their bikes to the podium area."
Moscon is still only 23 but again showed his prodigious talents during the 2017 season. He finished fifth at Paris-Roubaix after being in the decisive attack of the race, won the Italian time trial title, played a key role in Froome's victory at the Vuelta a España, and then was third at Il Lombardia.
However, his season also included several controversies that have raised questions about his behaviour. He was suspended for six weeks by Team Sky after racially insulting FDJ's Kevin Reza in the spring. He was disqualified from the World Championships road race in Bergen for taking a tow from the Italian team car, and he has been accused of "dangerous behaviour" that caused Reichenbach to crash during the Tre Valli Varesine race in September.
Reichenbach suffered a fractured elbow and hip in the crash and claimed that Moscon "intentionally put me on the ground" as retribution for Reichenbach's comments about the Reza incident. Moscon admits that he is 'transformed' when racing but denies being overly aggressive. He confirmed he is ready to defend his name regarding the Reichenbach accusations.
"These things make you more mature. I really get fired up in races, I feel the adrenaline. Perhaps that's why I also get the results I do," he said. "If I was more surrendering, I'd give up sooner but I put in a lot of passion. I let myself get drawn in as if I'm in a sort of agonistic trance. I change on the bike but I'm not nasty.
"I'll learn to manage certain situations better. However, I want to make clear that I made a mistake by saying what I did to Reza. I admitted that and I immediately cleared things up with him."
And with Reichenbach? "A lot of people who saw it came to me and asked: 'What's his problem?' I've got witnesses too. I didn't do anything wrong and didn't do anything on purpose. I'm sorry that he set off in fifth gear with his accusations. I'll decide how to respond because my public image has been damaged."
Staying with Sky
Moscon describes himself as a farmer who has become a cyclist and believes that the physical hard work needed for apple farming has taught him the importance of sacrifice, dedication and passion in cycling.
Moscon's fifth place at Paris-Roubaix was the fruit of his hard work. "Roubaix is a unique race. I don't love another race in the same way. It was the first confirmation and not just talk that I could be competitive at a very high level," Moscon said.
Moscon missed out on a possible victory and a podium spot at Paris-Roubaix due to his poor sprinting. He knows he has to reach the velodrome alone if he wants to win in 2018.
"I'd hope to finish alone because my sprint is a problem. Compared to the pavé specialists I'm a lightweight. And I'm slower [in a sprint]. I've got to attack and hope to have better legs at the decisive moment. But I don't know if or how that will happen," he explained.
Moscon is under contract with Team Sky until 2019 and is already talking about extending his contract as he understands if he can become a Grand Tour contender in the future.
"I'm happy at Team Sky, it's the place where I think I can best develop," he said. "For anyone in our trade, winning a Grand Tour is the highest ambition but for now the Classics are within reach. I rode well at the Vuelta but I was working for Froome. When I'd done my job I could sit up and then it was up to him. If I'd been the leader I wouldn't have even finished in the top 10.
"In 2018, I'll have a leading role for the Classics. I'd like to ride the Giro d'Italia because from what I've heard, there's a time trial in the Trentino area and so I could show off my Italian champion's jersey. However, it seems the team want me to make my debut at the Tour de France. The Tour is something special."