Following a disastrous spring Classics campaign, Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport has tried to understand why riders from the Bel Paese failed to live up to expectations.
Italian riders have not won a major Classic- one of the five monuments- since Damiano Cunego won the 2008 Tour of Lombardy.
36 year-old Luca Paolini (Katusha) was the best Italian at Paris-Roubaix. He was in the decisive attack but punctured and finished 21st. Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) had a disappointing spring and was rarely competitive when it mattered. He finished 22nd at Paris-Roubaix and was outside the top ten placing in all the Classics this spring.
Gazzetta dello Sport spoke to two former Paris-Roubaix winner: Francesco Moser (1978, 1979, 1980); and Andrea Tafi (1999) to try and understand why Italy has lost its love for the Classics. Both suggested that Italian riders need to get a taste of the cobbles at a young age, in the hope they learn how to take on the best Belgian, French and Dutch riders in Northern Europe.
"I think it's a question of conviction and having the right mentality. Some riders probably think they're always going to be beaten by riders from the north, who have more experience of the cobbles and racing in Belgium. But that's the wrong way of thinking," Moser said.
"I'll tell you an anecdote. My son Ignazio was close to quitting cycling as a junior. Guess how he rediscovered his enthusiasm? We went to watch Paris-Roubaix together."
Ignazio Moser seems to be following his father's advice. He has quit Italian cycling to race for the BMC development team. He rode the Under 23 Tour of Flanders at the weekend and went on the attack, being caught just a kilometre from the finish.
"Riders have to get a taste of the cobbles when they're still young, as juniors or even younger. Belgium is a long way to go for a race but that can't be used as an excuse," Moser concluded.
I discovered the world by riding Paris-Roubaix
Tafi's nephew Umberto Orsini won the Italian Junior national road race title in 2012, He's more suited to the Ardennes Classics but Tafi will take a team of local junior riders to compete in Belgium in the summer.
"We can't keep hoping the same riders will do well or expect the young riders to suddenly start winning. But we've got to reignite a culture and love for the pave and the Muur," he said.
"We've got to start with the teenagers and then they've got to keep fighting, even if they struggle in the early years. It won’t be easy but I'm sure we'll bounce back."
"The riders have to realise that the atmosphere at the spring Classics is unique and it helps you give your very best and even a bit more. I discovered the world by riding Paris-Roubaix. It's a special race, where every domestique is cheered as if he's a champion."
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