Ulissi aims to push on in 2012

Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD) is aiming to continue his progress next season after a successful 2011 that saw the young Italian talent take a stage victory in his debut Giro d’Italia.

“I’m asking for another step forward from myself,” Ulissi told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I know that people expect a lot. But I must continue with calm, without disappointing and without overdoing it.”

A double junior world champion, much was expected of Ulissi when he turned professional with Lampre at the beginning of the 2010 season, but he recognised that it was an opportunity to learn.

“The first year as a professional was like being in school,” he said. “I reset everything I’d done in the underage categories and put myself at the disposition of the leaders. I covered and I helped, and all the while I looked to learn some of the secrets of the masters. Not only from Scarponi and Cunego, but also from Mori, Righi and Spezialetti, all people who live in the peloton.”

Ulissi’s second campaign in the peloton was “like university,” he continued. “I raised the standard of the quality of my races and adversaries.”

Most famously, Ulissi took Giro stage victory in Tirano after Giovanni Visconti was disqualified for impeding him in the final sprint, but the Tuscan had already been encouraged by a strong showing on the final day of Paris-Nice, when he finished second behind Thomas Voeckler.

“I was in a two-man break with Voeckler, the wrong person at the right time. Or maybe the right person at the wrong time,” he said. Overall victory in the Tour of Slovenia in June was further confirmation that the 22-year-old had adapted to live in the professional peloton. “That was thanks to Petacchi, who had made me swear to hang tough.”

Ulissi’s 2012 season will get underway on home roads in Tuscany at the GP degli Etruschi, before he fine tunes his winter preparation with a spell at altitude at Mount Etna. Like last year, he will race Paris-Nice before Milan-San Remo, and then head to the Ardennes Classics, but his Grand Tour plans have yet to be decided.

“We’ll see. It’s more likely to be the Giro than the Tour, it depends on what the leaders want to do,” he said. “I should be in the group that escorts Scarponi, either towards a pink jersey or yellow one.”

In the second half of the season, Ulissi will aim to do enough to book his spot on the Italian team for the world championships in Valkenburg. Part of Paolo Bettini’s experimental selections for the 2010 Giro del Veneto, London-Surrey Cycle Classic and the GP Prato, Ulissi’s ambitions have been scaled upwards for 2012.

“After three starts in friendly matches, I want a first team jersey,” he said.

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