Piccoli the Stage Hunter
– Reported by Gazzetta dello Sport –
Now that the courses of the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and the Vuelta a Espana 2003 have been presented and he has resolved his contractual problems that began all the way back in the middle of January at the Tour of Qatar, his renewal with Lampre – he’ll meet tommorow, Friday, with the team manager Saronni to conclude the negotiations – the Venetian rider, 32 years old, can now seriously begin his preparation for his 11th season as a stage hunter in the grand tours. Because that’s his specialty, the characteristic that has made him famous in Italy, France, and Spain where he’s been given the nickname, “el Pistolero” because of his propensity to attacking.
“At the Vuelta they know me well and the public loves me – said Piccoli to Gazzetta.it – There I’ve won three times (in ‘97 at Almendralejo, in 2000 in Santander and Avila) and, other than the one in Santander, I arrived first at the end of a long break. This is how it was a the Giro, in ‘95 in Lenzerheide and in ‘98 at Cuneo. This year I also wore the ‘ciclamino’ jersey of the points classification and I was awarded for the longest break of the race (more than 200km during the 9th stage, from Tivoli to Caserta). Winning a stage in the Giro awards unique sensations, because you’re in Italy, and as I believe the Giro has nothing to be envious about in regards to the Tour. It would make me crazy to wear for even just one day the pink jersey: the course this year favors me for the first 10 days, I do well in the intermediate stages, ones that are hard, but not too mountainous”.
Giro equals the Tour, for Piccoli, but the Tour isn’t on the same level as the Vuelta, and he’s missing that. “At the Tour I’ve raced twice and I haven’t yet won a stage. In ‘96, at Lac de Madin, I came out of my cleat in the sprint, if not for that I would have won and taken the yellow jersey. I’ve been close at least 4 or 5 times, always second. I would like to return, also because the Vuelta, this time, doesn’t have lots of occasions for me, with 6 mountain top finishes and 4 time trials”.
In reality, a lot depends on whether or not Lampre gets an invitation to the Tour. “If we don’t get invited – concludes Piccoli – I will prove myself at the Giro and the Vuelta”. Maybe a short time to repeat ‘98 when Piccoli was the last Italian to compete in all three grand tours. “1998 seems to be a lifetime ago. But the want to attack and go on long breaks has not left me, far from it. So wait for me: you will hear them speaking of me again”.