Simone Petilli: “I’d like to race the Giro d’Italia next season”
If you check the stats, you can see that Italy is the country with the most general classifications wins in Grand Tours, and this is not by chance, as the country’s always had great cyclists for this kind of races, beginning with Alfredo Binda and Learco Guerra, going through the times of Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali, until the years which was Giovanni Battaglin and Giuseppe Saronni stamp their authority on Grand Tours. Nowadays, Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru are the top two Italians for three-week events, but the future could be Simone Petilli’s, the 22-year-old who signed a contract with Lampre-Merida, a team who had a more than interesting transfer campaign, as it decided to invest more in young riders.
Hailing from Bellano (a small town in Lombardy), Simone came into cycling thanks to his father, who loved this sport, and began racing at 15, in cyclo-cross and later on the road. His enthusiasm standed out from the first races, as he attacked flat out all the time, eager to always be at the front and get a good result. The first team he joined was Pedale Morbegnese, which was followed throughout the years by Capiaghese, C.C.Canturino, Delio Gallina, Area Zero and Unieuro-Trevigiani.
The latter is the one which helped the young Italian to get into the spotlight and emerge as one of the most promising U23 cyclists for stage races. In 2015, after a rather quiet start to the season in Argentina’s Tour de San Luis and on home turf, he won big in May, at the 38th Ronde de l’Isard, where he took the inaugural stage finishing on Goulier Neige on the road to claiming the overall victory and becoming only the second Italian rider to crown himself as champion in the French race.
A memorable win which was followed not only by two other important results in top races of the U23 calendar – Giro della Valle d’Aosta and Tour de l’Avenir – but also by a contract with Lampre-Merida, Italy’s sole World Tour team, where Simone Petilli is hoping to make himself noticed quickly, even tough he’ll be a neo-pro in 2016.
– Simone, this season was your best as an U23 cyclist, the main highlight being the win you got in Ronde de l’Isard. What meant that victory for you?
To finish first in Ronde de l’Isard was very important, because up until that point it was a long time since I’ve last won a race, despite some excellent performances. Taking a stage victory and the general classification proved that I can hope of becoming a good rider in stage races one day. The expectations I have were underlined also by two other races in which I was strong and finished in the top five, Giro della Valle d’Aosta and Tour de l’Avenir, later in the season.
– Speaking of L’Avenir, what’s your opinion on the UCI’s decision to give green light to World Tour riders for this event?
For me it was not a problem. In fact, it was a good chance to race against some very powerful cyclists. I thus realized that they aren’t invincible and alsso that I have a lot of hard work to do in order to beat them.
– After your impressive string of results, you signed with Lampre-Merida for the next two years. What’s the story of this transfer?
During the season I did a test with Lampre-Merida, and following the Giro della Valle d’Aosta, where I came third in the general classification, I received a phone call from the team to schedule an appointment. After that, they put a contract on the table, which I immediately signed.
– What means for you to go World Tour?
Joining a World Tour team is a dream come true, and now that I’m realizing it, I have to give my best to achieve new goals. I have many new dreams that I want to turn into reality, and I will not stop here and think about what I did. Instead, I will focus on my future and on what I can do from this point onward.
– How was the winter training camp with your new team?
It was really great. I met the riders and staff, we carried out all the tests and we talked about the plans for the new season. I had a very busy schedule, but between the many appointments I managed to do a solid block of training on the road and I’m super happy for that. I’m glad the team believes in me and I’m ready to prove what I’m worth
– What are your personal goals?
I want to prove that I deserve this chance that I got and to show my potential by working for the leaders and even take advantage of an opportunity in one arises. I want to be useful to the team and find my place in top level cycling. Another goal for next season is to ride the Giro d’Italia, because this is the race that every Italian kid dreams of when he gets into cycling.
– Until the Giro, do you know what races you will do?
I’ll make my debut at the Dubai Tour, in February, after which I should take part in Trofeo Laigueglia and Gran Premio Lugano. Then, there’s a big chance I will ride Vuelt al Pais Vasco and the Tour of Turkey.
– And what do you hope to improve?
Overall, I hope for a major improvement in all areas, but if I have to be specific, I would like to work on my time trial, a discipline which I have never gave enough attention. Now I’m prepared to improve my skills in the time trial, as this is crucial in nowadays’ cycling.