When the 2005 Giro d’Italia rolled out of Calabria, 22-year-old Domenico Pozzovivo set off on his first Grand Tour. IPT Sports Director Rene Andrlé was racing that year and so too was Erik Zabel, the father of Pozzovivo’s current teammate Rick Zabel.
His Giro ended with a DNF, just one stage shy of finishing in Milano, in the brutal and unforgiving circumstances so often seen in cycling with an unfortunate crash causing him to abandon. For Pozzovivo to think about his next Grand Tour was impossible, let alone what would come all these years later.
“I crashed hard two days before I abandoned and I only just finished the stage,”says Pozzovivo. “They took me in the ambulance after the stage and I didn’t have any fractures but many, many bruises. The day after was a time trial so I managed to finish within the time cut and the next day was a super hard mountain stage with Sestriere and Col de Finestre. When I was dropped by the main group and also the sprinters’ group, I was so disappointed. With experience, I probably could have finished that stage. But even though I was young, I was already a climber and to be dropped by those sprinters was really difficult. At the time, I was in the top-20 in my first Giro so I was already confident that I could be a GC rider. So this was an important moment in my career even if I didn’t finish.”
Fast forward 18 years and 23 Grand Tours later and he’s ready to embark on his 17th Giro d’Italia. Now 40-years-old, Pozzovivo is the oldest rider in the Giro d’Italia peloton. His lengthy career, never give up attitude, and reputation as the consummate professional has made him a crowd favorite in Italy, something that wasn’t lost at the team presentation on Thursday evening in Pescara where the crowd came to life as he was presented on stage, and fan after fan asked for an autograph or selfie. Domenico politely obliging every time.
“I could not imagine to have such a long career as I do now. When I was young, I was thinking that racing at 35-years-old was already a lot but I think the accident I had in 2019 gave me more motivation to continue as at the time I was feeling like I was missing something in my career. It was a very good moment for me to demonstrate my strength and continue my career.”
On the other end of the Giro d’Italia start list, IPT is also home to the youngest rider in the race in 21-year-old American Matthew Riccitello. The Arizona native stands out not only off the bike with his youthful looks, but on the bike with his impressive neo pro debut so far, which has included winning the young rider’s jersey at Vuelta a San Juan and, most recently, a strong performance at Tour des Alps in support of Pozzovivo. In what came as a surprise for most, Riccitello was named in IPT’s lineup.
“I’m excited, I’m a bit nervous, and I don’t know what to really expect but mostly, excited,” explains Riccitello on the eve of his Grand Tour debut. “I think my selection took everyone by surprise because it wasn’t the original plan so everyone from the US has been super supportive and I have been getting lots of messages. I think it’s a really cool opportunity that I didn’t think I would get at the beginning of the year so to be here now is exciting.”
Pozzovivo has done more Grand Tours than years Riccitello has been alive, a fact not lost on Riccitello as he prepares to roll out for the stage 1 time trial today.
“The advice I have been given is just to take it day by day and not think about it too far in advance. Just approach it the same way I have the other races, even if it’s three weeks instead of one week. One day at a time. Expect the unexpected. Everybody says the same. Domenico throws in bits and pieces of advice here and there. Not just related to cycling, but little bits about everything, the weather, the area we are in, the food. He’s a really knowledgeable and wise person. It’s my first Giro and his 17th so it should be pretty easy to pick up a few things from him as the race goes on.”
When he looks at Riccitello, Pozzovivo sees the same neo pro who lined up in 2005 all those years ago.
“When I look at Matthew, I really see a lot of me in my first year in him. Like me, he won’t be very comfortable in the flat stages at the start of the race and I think I can help him there and his confidence. When the mountains arrive, with his skills on the bike he will be able to go in the breakaways and show how strong he is on the climbs.”
While the likes of Pozzovivo, Simon Clarke, and Mads Würtz Schmidt bring a wealth of experience to the team, Riccitello is joined by fellow Grand Tour debutants Marco Frigo and Derek Gee, and Stevie Williams and Sebastian Berwick, both of whom have only one Grand Tour to their name. It brings IPT’s average rider age down to the younger end of the spectrum and as it turns out, the kids are more than alright.
“Cycling is so different now and is still changing a lot. To be able to see so closely how these guys are able to be so strong at this young age is really interesting. I appreciate how much they can help me and I think we are going to have a really nice race,”adds Pozzovivo.