A lot has changed since Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) bounded to two stage wins at the 2014 Giro d’Italia, a haul that was hailed at the time as confirmation that the coming man of Italian cycling was finally delivering on the promise he had shown in landing back-to-back world titles as a junior.
Ulissi would go on to test positive for salbutamol at that Giro, of course, eventually serving a reduced nine-month doping ban that allowed him to return in time to take another victory at the corsa rosa last season.
On Monday, the 26-year-old punched his way clear on the stiff, 18 percent slopes of the Fortino and then held off an elite chase group on the drop into Praia a Mare to claim yet another Giro stage win – the fifth of his career – but he is finding that the bar has now been raised a little higher as he approaches his prime.
No sooner than Ulissi had cracked open the celebratory prosecco on the podium than some quarters of the Italian press were placing his victory in an unflattering context. Tuttobici acknowledged that the Tuscan had impressed in bridging across to the leaders and then attacking on the final climb, but also pointed out that he had already fallen short of expectations in the Ardennes Classics.
“The descent was into a headwind and the first part was on wide roads, so the advantage was with the gruppo behind me,” Ulissi said, adding words of thanks for his trainer, double Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Michele Bartoli.