After 11 runner-up spots in Giro d'Italia sprints spread over an eight-year period, Italian sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo took a long-awaited stage victory in Verona midway through last year's race. He's in Hungary this weekend to add more to the list.
After early promise, the 33-year-old Italian has endured a tough spring season after fracturing a bone in his wrist at Milan-San Remo, but he's looking to bounce back starting in the Giro's first week with opportunities in Hungary, Sicily, and Calabria.
"The main goal is to go for stages, but obviously we're also looking at the points jersey if things go well in the first sprints," Nizzolo said at a pre-race press conference on Thursday.
"Honestly, I think it's too hard for a sprinter," he added, referring to stage 1, which concludes with a 5.5km, 4.2 per cent hill in Visegrád. "For me at least. I don't know about the other ones.
"But we have nothing to lose on the first day. I think everyone is going to try because there's a pink jersey to win."
Despite downplaying his chances on a stage where fast-finishing all-rounders such as Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) are among the favourites, Nizzolo did say that he has been working on his climbing in the build-up to the Giro.
"I worked before the Giro to improve my climbing skills. So that's one of our objectives – to climb better than someone else and maybe go for some hard stages," he said.
"The Giro is always special. Sometimes you start with a certain feeling, and they can change day by day."
Nizzolo heads to the Giro having returned to racing in mid-April, taking part in Brabantse Pijl, the Tour of the Alps, and Eschborn-Frankfurt. Despite not yet scoring a top result, he said that he feels like he's in good shape despite missing a win or podium in the past month.
"Performance-wise I'm happy. I felt good many times," he said. "Results-wise not really. I couldn't take what I wanted to. Hopefully we can change this at the Giro.
"Obviously, we had some issues at beginning of the year that we couldn't race together all the time," he said, referring to his new lead-out train, which includes Alex Dowsett, Matthias Brändle, and Rick Zabel.
"It's a nice chance to be together again and I'm pretty confident they can support me at the best level. I'm super happy to have them next to me."
In addition to that task of gelling as a team and hopefully scoring stage victories along the way, the team is also under pressure to win UCI points critical to Israel-Premier Tech's battle to stay in the WorldTour.
The squad has been hit by illness and injury through the spring and they now find themselves 19th on the UCI team ranking, with only 18 spots set to be available for the upcoming 2023-25 license period.
"Obviously, that's one of your goals to score points," Nizzolo made clear.
"As I said I have a few missed chances in the first part of the season, with the San Remo crash, the fractured wrist and then missing the chance to take results and score points in Classics.
"That's the situation right now, so we'll try to do our best from now on."
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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.
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