Danilo Diluca: Gets PEZ’d!
You get a sense of a champion by how he rides: from an action in the mountains, to a great sprint after a long race. Today we got an even better picture of the ProTour champion by talking with him. In our first PEZ-Clusive interview with Danilo Diluca, we talk about his awesome season, chasing Giro glory, and of course Daily Distractions…
PEZ: Ciao Danilo, many thanks for your time. How’s it going?
Danilo: Fine, I’m with the team in Terracina [south of Rome- ed.] for a camp. We’re starting to work for next season. My legs are ok and I’ve already ridden 1000 km up until now. The temperature here is ok 10 -12°C, so we can get in some good work on the bike.
PEZ: You had a long and great season this year. The new one is waiting for you now!
Danilo: It’s true , was my best one. I felt so strong for a long time. After two difficult seasons I can tell you that during this one I never felt in difficulty. It sounds strange, but it’s true!
Forget about the ProTour, winning in L’Aquila was Danilo’s favorite moment of 2005.
PEZ: Which was the best moment, your best victory in 2005?
Danilo: I’ve no doubt. The stage of the Giro [Stage 5] I won in L’Aquila. Inside my land, the Abruzzo region, in the southeast of Italy. I’ve had many other important moments during my season and during my Giro, for example the pace I did during the Finestre climb was a great action. But that moment in L’Aquila, when I won the stage and I got my first pink jersey in my land was fantastic!
PEZ: Maybe I’m wrong to ask, but was there any ‘easy’ triumph during your gold 2005?
Danilo: No, no, it’s okay. There was a race I won in easy way… the Fleche Vallone. I know it looks impossible to win easily on such a climb as the Huy, but I was so strong that day – that all happened without suffering too much.
The 2005 Fleche Wallonne went down as an ‘easy’ win for Di Luca.
PEZ: You wore two important jerseys last year. The white one of the Pro Tour and the pink one of the Giro. You were also the final winner of the Pro Tour standings. Which one for you was more important?
Danilo: No doubt, the Pink one. I’m Italian, the Giro for me is the most important. My popularity also increased by my performance during the Giro 2005. The Pro Tour success is really very important for me – for my future, but nothing can be compared to the Pink jersey.
Unfortunately, the Maglia Rosa does not free the wearer from suffering.
PEZ: After one year, what is your opinion about the Pro Tour?
Danilo: It’s a great project. Cycling needs this kind of selection. It’s the future. We cannot go ahead without a serious organization of international cycling. It’s the right answer for an elite sport.
Diluca rode an impressive season into the first ever white jersey of ProTour champion.
PEZ: So what do you think about the Grand Tour organizers decision to separate from the Pro Tour?
Danilo: I hope they will think about it. I hope they will change their position.
PEZ: What about your plans for next year. Is the Pro Tour final standing again your target?
Danilo: The Pro Tour final standing is just the result of a whole year of work. I’ve already fixed my target on the Giro. I will sacrifice the first part of the season for it.
PEZ: When did you realize you could win a Giro?
Danilo: This I knew from the beginning. I never had any doubt, but I knew I had to wait for the right moment. I knew that it is difficult to make a result in a three weeks race before 28 – 30 years of age.
But since my first season I felt like I was in the right place at the ‘Pink Race.’ At the Giro in ‘99 I was second in Monte Sirino – a mountain stage, in the Giro 2000 I won in Peschici, and the year after I won again in Mercogliano, another stage with a final climb.
Danilo counts his win in Peschici as one of his most important early wins.
PEZ: Which is the most important moment for you during these first experiences?
Danilo: For sure the stage I won in Peschici. That day I made a great action. I was late at the last kilometre and I remember now that I did three sprints (three!) to find the first position and win the race!
Di Luca followed his 2000 Giro stage win with another in 2001.
PEZ: Another important moment that we remember of that Giro was your break with Basso on the Gavia during the stage to Bormio. What did you do? A sort of test for the future?
Danilo: Me and Basso have always been competitors, since we were under 23 riders. We’ve done so many races together!
PEZ: So you two should be ready for 2006. Which is your favourite stage of the Giro for next edition?
Danilo: There are so many stages waiting for me. It’s difficult to choose. But the stage of Passo Lanciano again in my land, the first finish on a climb is the stage that I’m dreaming of, even if that day will not change the overall classification of the Giro too much.
Diluca likes Stage 8 in the ’06 Giro… it passes through his home province.
PEZ: But the Passo Lanciano will be the first important climb and mountaintop finish
Danilo: Normally it should be a “five star” stage but not for this year. In the Giro 2006 there will be so many mountains during last week that the favourites will keep quiet for more than half Giro. The real battle will start during last week.
Sorry, during the ITT in Pontedera, because more or less all the climbers of the Giro have the same difficulties with the time trial stages… but with Basso…
Di Luca was an honored attendee at the 2006 Giro Route Presentation.
PEZ: By the way, I remember that at the Giro presentation in November you were the only one that I spoke with who though Basso would do the Giro in 2006. At that time the official position of the CSC rider was to renounce the Giro. Were you well informed or just…lucky?
Danilo: I know Basso very well, that’s all!
PEZ: What do you mean…exactly?
Danilo: I mean, that all of this story about him not doing the Giro was for him to just take some time and think about it.
He thinks for a moment. I feel that between the two riders there is a great competition….
Danilo: Basso was well hidden since the presentation of the Giro. Not too much pressure on him. He has had time to carefully check the route and take the final decision quietly.
I know that also for him the Giro is so important. It’s normal, he is Italian like me. Only an Italian can understand what it means to wear the pink jersey. His popularity grew so much last year. The Tour is always the Tour but there is not competition with the Giro in terms of popularity for the “tifosi”.
It appears that Basso is the main difficulty of the 2006 Giro – the man can climb with the best, and is finally a feared time triallist.
PEZ: And what does it change with Basso?
Danilo: All. The grimpeurs will have to defend their position during the ITT. We will spend so much power that day… it’s five kilometres longer than last year. Five kilometres are many. Basso is my favourite together with Simoni.
PEZ: How will you prepare for the Giro? What are you plans for the spring classics?
Danilo: I will ride them of course. Starting with Milano-Sanremo I will later ride all the Northern Classics except maybe for the Amstel. But I will use the classics only in preparation for the Giro. I cannot miss a target like the Giro. The Spring Classics will just be a passage of my season toward the greater goal of the Giro.
Di Luca counts his pace-setting on the Finestre as one of the better moments in his impressive 2005 campaign.
PEZ: Also the Milano Sanremo?
Danilo: That one is one of the most important. It would be so beautiful to win, but to win the “Primavera” you have to be ready for it and it’s so far from the Giro. She arrives too early.
PEZ: The other classic you love is the Lombardia. You were second at ’99 edition and first on 2001.
Danilo: But Lombardia is the last one and I can think to be competitive for it. It comes after the World’s.
PEZ: It is now two years that you are missing from the Italian team.
Danilo: My feelings for the National team are difficult to explain. I experienced great moments with the team in Zolder where we were a great team. During the last few years though, the National team has been just a sad page in my seasons.
The truth is that I didn’t find good luck in the World’s since the beginning. In Plouay I thought I was going to be World Champion with a long break, but I was apparently delusioned at the time.
One has to wonder, how a rider who had such an impressive season would not make the Italian National Team selection.
PEZ: What is your relationship with Ballerini? Do you speak with him?
Danilo: Our relationship is normal. I know he already checked the 2006 edition route and me and Bettini will try also the route as soon as possible. If Ballerini will call – be sure that I’ll be ready!
PEZ: Speaking about Bettini: do you feel any particular competition against him during the classics?
Danilo: Bettini is one of the guys you have to control during the classics. But I think I answered this question during last Giro when we battled every day… this year I will have to watch my resources particularly during the first days of race.
It appears, like many others, that Di Luca thinks Bettini an early threat in the race, but not an overall GC contender.
PEZ: And when will you try to ride the Tour for an important general standing position?
Danilo: … it depends on the 2006 results.
PEZ: What are the differences between the Giro and the Tour?
Danilo: No main differences, just the preparation. You have to plan your season in a different way. They are similar because both are difficult. Maybe the climbs of the Tour are more easy on paper, but you have to fight with the warm sun of July.
The drawing of the Giro is more difficult. The ‘everyday’ battle makes the Tour difficult. Of course we are speaking about the Tour without LA. With the American it was another story. You start the Tour thinking to be second position!
The Giro has dirt road Hors Categorie climbs – nuff said.
PEZ: Can I write down that you followed some main chapters of the LA training philosophy? The high cadence, the check of the route…?
Danilo: Concerning the cadence – it’s my attitude during climbing. High cadence is natural for my legs. Of course I’m not able to do the same during time trials. What he did was… just for him. Concerning the route checks it’s true, it’s so important to know the climbs and the descents.
PEZ: What about Christmas. What are your plans?
Danilo: We (riders) are all year far from our families. I cannot see my Christmas far from my family.
PEZ: What about something special you like to do that day?
Danilo: … nothing special
Di Luca was a double dipping stage winner at the Giro in 2005.
PEZ: any particular tradition…?
Danilo: We all stay together, no, nothing special, I like to open the presents.
PEZ: Have you seen PezCycling before?
Danilo: Honestly no, but I will click on it as soon as I can.
Now that Danilo knows about PEZ, perhaps he’ll drop by to have a gander at his PeloPics, like this one from his 4th Place at Zurich in 2005.
PEZ: So you have to check our Daily Distractions….
Danilo: What’s that?
PEZ: Listen to me, it’s something to try! By the way, many of our readers are convinced that the Italian women are the most beautiful and sexy in the world? Do you agree?
Danilo: Oh, I must say they are true. First of all my wife is Italian and I think she’s very beautiful, and also I think the Italians are not only beautiful but also… sunny.
We wish Danilo the best of luck next year, and you can check out his website at DaniloDiluca.it