Gianni Savio is scouring South America for the next climbing sensation after his success in bringing through Egan Bernal and Ivan Sosa to the WorldTour. Both riders graduated through Savio's Pro Continental squad, Androni Giocattoli, and signed with Team Sky. Sosa is in his first season with the British team and is still finding his feet, but Bernal has been nothing short of sensational since stepping up in 2018.
The Colombian made Team Sky's Tour de France squad last year and was pivotal in several mountain stages as the team secured first and third overall. This month, Bernal won Paris-Nice and is set to lead his team into the Giro d'Italia in May. At just 22 he has all the makings of a Grand Tour winner.
"He's not too young to lead. He's got that equilibrium, both physically and mentally of a rider who is 30 years old," Savio told Cyclingnews this weekend at Milan-San Remo.
"I'm sure that he's very strong in the head and he has a good mentality. There are no problems with him when it comes to pressure."
Bernal signed for Androni in 2016 and Savio was immediately impressed with the rider's talent, having scouted him the previous season. In Bernal's first European outing for Androni, he finished 18th in La Mediterraneenne.
"Three years ago, when I took him as a pro on our team, he was just 19 years old. After the first race, the La Mediterraneenne, he finished on GC in the top 20. I said then that in some years he would arrive on the podium in a Grand Tour, either a Tour a Giro or a Vuelta. I'm sure that this year he will have a very good race. Maybe he can win but I'm not sure. He certainly can do a podium," Savio added.
Bernal's winning ride in Paris-Nice was capped with impressive rides in the mountains, but the foundations for overall success were laid in the opening stages when cross-winds battered the peloton and the Colombian - despite his inexperience - excelled beyond all expectations.
"He's started well this season, and I saw in Paris-Nice that he wasn't just strong on the hills but also in the wind. I sent him a message: 'many compliments, you are very strong not only on the hills and the time trial but also in the wind.' He replied: 'I learned in Androni.'"
Savio's next task is to uncover the next Colombian sensation. At present, he is in Italy but his frequent trips to South America always include spells of talent spotting. According to the Italian team boss, Bernal is a rare find but the next talent could be just around the corner.
"I can answer you in four or five months. I don't have another Egan Bernal. There's only one Egan Bernal, and riders like that only come around every 20 years. But give me another four or five months and I'll be able to answer you."
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