Matthew Riccitello was close to tears, sitting on the bare asphalt at the finish line atop the mountain, grappling with what had just transpired.
One would have to possess a heart of stone not to feel for IPT’s young American. Just three hours earlier, he was the dominant leader of the prestigious Tour de l’Avenir, on the cusp of securing the title, and suddenly, it was all gone.
He was well aware that such an outcome was possible. “It’s far from over,” he remarked the previous day after the double stages in the Alps. Regrettably, he was prophetic.
Tracing back to where things began to unravel, it was undoubtedly during the final approach to the HC category majestic climb of Col de l’Iseran. There, he was unable to match the pace of his main adversary, Mexican Romeo Del Toro. A few hundred meters of ground lost turned into almost two minutes by the time the nearly 40 km downhill was over.
Matthew still had plenty of fight in him, giving it his all on the subsequent ascent and narrowing the gap. However, it was ultimately in vain as he finished 2:52 minutes behind. Del Toro emerged as the winner of the Tour, while Mattew dropped to 4th in the overall standings.
Riccitello reflected, “Obviously, I’m disappointed. I wanted to win. But truthfully, my legs just weren’t there today. Still, I’m pleased with what both I and Team USA accomplished here.”
And he should be. He clinched a climbing TT with flair and led the race for three stages, showcasing his immense prowess as a climber and solidifying his status as a future GC contender.
So, hold your head high, Matthew; you’ve made the entire IPT family proud. As did Canadian sprinter Riley Pickrell, who is set to graduate from IPT Academy to the Pro Team in 2024, with his powerful sprint to claim the win on stage 2.
Kudos also go to the Israeli National Team IPT Academy boys, who shattered expectations with their remarkable, gutsy performances in their debut. Three top-5 finishes, plus a top-10, are testament to their prowess. The standout was undoubtedly Nadav Raisberg, who set a personal benchmark with his climbing skills. He secured 20th overall and made his ambitions crystal clear, stating, “I want to race in the TDF one day.”.
IPT owner Sylvan Adams was full of praise to his young crop of talents:
“We had a lot of belief in this young American, when we were actively recruiting him. Leading the Tour de l’Avenir, the most important race of the calendar for young riders-effectively their Tour de France-demonstrates that Matthew Riccitello is one of the best young riders in the world. He unfortunately was missing just a bit on the last stage and just missed the podium.” said Adams.
“Matthew is a real talent, and will perhaps one day soon be a leader on our team. In fact, Matthew decided to sign with Israel-Premier Tech because of the opportunities he will get on on our smaller team. This Tour shows that he’s ready to take the next step. He will grow from this experience of having been so close to winning this huge race.
I’m also proud of our Israeli national team, with Israel participating for the first time ever at the Tour de l’Avenir. We showed that we can race at a high level, In particular, Israelis Oded Kogut and Nadav Raisberg, who will be moving up to join Matthew on IPT next year, showed that they are ready.
All in all, a great race for Israel and its pro Team, IPT. I’m really, really proud of our unprecedented success here.”