Type of Rider: Hilly classics
Biggest Success: 1st U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen
Team 2011: Team Hopplà
Team 2012: Team Sky
Best Mock List-placing: new
Does somebody still remember the last Italian U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen winner before Salvatore Puccio? Right, that was Giovanni Visconti back in 2004. But this win is almost the only thing that these two gentlemen have in common. At that time Visconti already established himself as a star in the Espoirs category by winning the U23 national and European championships – he was even more popular than half of the Italian pro peloton. In contrast Puccio was not even a potential candidate for a spot in a second level pro team before this season.
But times are changing. The 22-year old Sicilian will ride next year for the (according to CQRanking) best cycling team of the world, Team Sky. Already in June, as one of the first U23 riders at all, he came to an agreement with the British team, which also has strong interest in the Italian market. Team manager Dave Brailsford announced having “uncovered a real gem”, but at this time the “gem” was already well known to everyone who has at least little knowledge of the U23 category. Puccio had an unbelievable month of April in which he secured top results in several prestigious races.
In the junior ranks, Puccio was one of the best of the 1989 born in Italy. A fact which under no circumstances should be underestimated, because with the likes of Ulissi, Ratto, Appollonio, Guardini, Viviani or Fellini this generation is fully packed with promising talents. However in his three recent years in the U23 category, he showed little of this potential. Many of those who he was on a par with back then are already successful in the Pro ranks. It was not until 2010 that his performances reached again a noteworthy level, which some decent results in Italian amateur one day races indicate. For 2011 he switched teams to Team Hopplà, which according to him was one of the main reason for his leap forward in this season.
Already in March 2011 he caused some excitement with his win in a tough one day race, the Giro delle Colline Chiantigiane. Because of his early season form, he was nominated for the U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen (1.NC) – which signified his first ever appearance in the U23 national team. With an attack on the last Helling of the day, the Eikenberg with 9km to go, he was able to win this talent studded race. It was the kick-off for a sensational month of April. At the next U23 Nations Cup race, the Giro Toscana (2.NC), he again pedaled to a solo stage victory and snatched the fourth rank in the general classification. On the last weekend of April he additionally placed two times second in the rock-hard one day classics Giro del Belvedere (1.2U, behind Boem) and GP Palio del Recioto (1.2U, behind Preidler). Though the rest of the season was not quite at that level it was still good, among others with the wins of the Trofeo Adolfo Leoni in June and Firenze-Viareggio in August.
If you want to describe the type of rider that Puccio is, than you will after all find again some similarities with the above mentioned Visconti. Like the current Italian champion, Puccio is a good climber and really excels at hilly one day races, although he is a little less explosive in sprints. If he is capable of being similarly successful in the Pro ranks – this he can prove from 2012 on.
Nominated by chreezer, written by chreezer, translated by chreezer