Gianfranco Zilioli: Ready to lay his mark on the Giro d’Italia
When he was just 6-years-old, Gianfranco Zilioli has started cycling out of fun and to spend more time to his friends. Also back then, he used to play football a lot, which wasn’t recommended for a rider, as it was (and still is) an injury-prone sport. He mixed the two for a couple of seasons, but eventually, in his second year as a junior, the young Italian shifted his priorities, burned out some kilograms and decided to focus only on cycling, which turned out to be the right thing to do, as he became a pro with Androni Giocattoli, in 2014, after taking an impressive solo win as a stagiaire in the Gran Premio Industria & Commercio di Prato.
His first year in the pro ranks was equally impressive, with top 10 placings in stage races (Tour de Langkawi, Sibiu Tour) and one-day races (Giro dell’Emilia) alike, proving that he can become one of the most important Italian cyclists coming from the new wave. These results, alongside the determination displayed and his continuous development, have helped Gianfranco Zilioli make the team for the 98th running of the Giro d’Italia. Just before going to San Lorenzo al Mare, the rider of Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec sat down and talked for Café Roubaix about his season and expectations ahead of the Corsa Rosa.
– Gianfranco, you are a pro since 2014. How was the transition from the amateur ranks?
Can’t say it was easy, as I had difficulties with the changing of pace. I began the season with many kilometers under the belt, so the rhythm looked ok in the first months of the year, but once I took part in bigger races, where the peloton was much stronger, I found it hard to blend in and find my pace. On the other hand, I must admit I’m happy with the top 10 placings I got.
– What did you improve in the past year?
I became much stronger on the flat, but without losing the power I have on the climbs. And this was very important for me, as I’m a passista-scalatore.
– And on what do you still want to work on?
I’m very keen on improving my sprint. It doesn’t matter what type of rider you are, fact is that when you hit the final meters of a race and you’re not alone, it’s very important to have that extra kick that can help you take the win.
– You have 23 race days in 2015. Are you satisfied with the way things went so far?
My preparation for the first half of the season was a quiet one, which was very important. During the winter, I stayed in the gym and went trekking on the mountains, so that I can have a nice fitness level for the start of the season. Eventually I took my bike out for a ride, because I couldn’t stay any longer without it, as my first race of the year – the Tour de San Luis – came early.
– Recently, you finished 17th in the Giro del Trentino, after an aggressive display. How was the race?
The Giro del Trentino is an important event for the teams and riders alike, in order to find out where they stand before the Giro d’Italia. After the Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali, in March, I went at altitude together with Franco Pellizotti, in order to be well-prepared for the start of Trentino. During the race, and especially in stage two, I tried to stay with the best, and in the last day I wanted to keep to the team’s philosophy and go in the breakaway.
– Last season, in May, you raced the Tour d’Azerbaidjan. Now, one year later, you’re going to make your Giro debut. How do you see this experience?
I’m nervous and excited, and can’t wait to get to Sanremo to be with the team and support it. For me, as for many Italian cyclists, this is a dream come true. When I was just a kid, I was glued to the TV every day to watch the Giro d’Italia stages. After the stage was over, I used to take my bike to the garden and pretend I’m attacking during a Giro stage. Now I’m going there and I’m prepared to help the team and also go in some breakaways.
– What do you think of the course?
I think it’s a difficult one, but a very good thing is that there won’t be any long transfers, as this would have made a negative impact on the riders during the three weeks of the event. In a Grand Tour, it’s very important to get some rest and be fresh at the start of each day. If you get an extra hour of sleep a day, this means that at the end of the Giro you have one extra rest day in comparison to your opponents.