Moreno Moser has never repeated the sparkling run of form that marked his opening months in the professional ranks, but the Italian is hoping to reboot his career in 2017 after swapping Cannondale for Astana ahead of the new season.
Moser won the Trofeo Laigueglia and the Tour de Pologne as a neo-professional in 2012 and the expectations around him rose still further when he claimed a fine victory at Strade Bianche early the following year.
Moser has failed to scale such heights since, however, though he has issued occasional reminders of his abilities, such as when he won a stage of the Tour of Austria in 2015, or when he was pipped for victory in Pinerolo during this year's Giro d'Italia.
"I think I've reached the right moment for a leap in quality. I feel ready and I'm certain that I'll manage to go well and certainly be more consistently at a high level," Moser told Gazzetta dello Sport.
Moser, who turns 26 on Christmas Day, turned professional with what was then Liquigas in 2012, and he was among the riders who remained put with Cannondale when it fell under the auspices of Jonathan Vaughters' Slipstream set-up in 2015.
"Everybody advised me to leave but I felt good there. It was a good experience, with a good staff, a nice group and people from different cultures, which enriches your experience," Moser said of the past two seasons. "And we're professionals, we're there to work, not enjoy ourselves. If a rider doesn't have the desire, there's no team, no matter how strong and organised, that can fix that."
Moser listed a second victory at Strade Bianche among his early targets at Astana, though he is aware that one of his primary duties will be to ride in support of his contemporary Fabio Aru at Giro in May. The pair are expected to begin their seasons at the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana, and could also line out together at Tirreno-Adriatico and Liège-Bastogne-Liège ahead of the Giro.
"I believe I'm capable of repaying Fabio's faith. You'll see me by his side a lot. I hope to be of help to him at the Giro above all," said Moser. Previously coached by Michele Bartoli, Moser will not share a trainer with Aru on his new team.
"The build-up to the Grand Tours will change and the trainer has already changed. I'm now coached by Maurizio Mazzoleni. I've already started working with him and it seems like there's harmony there."
After five years as a professional, Moser has yet to settle on a speciality, and even showed marked progress as a time triallist during his final two seasons at Cannondale, placing second at the Italian Championships in 2015 and then taking a bronze medal at the European Championships in Brittany in 2016.
"Potentially, I could do everything, and aim for all kinds of races. Maybe only victory in a Grand Tour is out of the question for me, even if I've always gone well in the third week, or at least, less badly than a lot of others. I like the Grand Tours, I don't fear them," he said. "I've won semi-classics, short stage races too, and I go well in time trials."
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