Matthew Riccitello is one stage and one hundred kilometers away from achieving his dream of winning the most prestigious U23 stage race in the world, the Tour de l’Avenir.
Today, he moved two steps closer to that goal during a double stage, where he dominated the time trial (TT), but later faced a challenge to maintain his lead in the mountains.
The eleven kilometer climbing TT, carried out in pouring rain, was a spectacle, with Riccitello excelling despite the conditions. “It was fun,” he said afterward. “I love time trialling, and I love climbing, so it was the perfect combination.”
He finished first, with a thirty nine-second lead over his closest competitor, Italian Davide Piganzoli, and entered the afternoon’s seventy kilometer stage with a significant advantage.
However, as he later admitted, “things got complicated.” The aggressive pace set by various riders, including the Israeli team’s leader, Nadav Raisnerg, who attempted an early breakaway on the first climb, reshuffled the deck. Most of Riccitello’s USA teammates fell behind, leaving him isolated in a twenty five rider lead group. The twenty-two-year-old emphasized the importance of staying composed, especially when faced with attacks from his Italian and Mexican rivals towards the end.
Riccitello reflected, “It wasn’t the ideal situation, but I was aware of the significant lead I had. I knew if I stayed calm, I could retain the jersey. In the end, I succeeded in minimizing my losses.”
Heading into the final stage, which concludes with a climb favorable to him, he has a fifty-four-second lead. However, Riccitello is not resting on his laurels.
Matthew stated, “It’s definitely going to be another challenging day. The race is far from decided.”