Giacomo Nizzolo is the nearly man of the Giro d’Italia. He has notched up nine runner-up spots and five third places there between 2012 and last year.
The cruellest defeat was arguably the most recent. He crossed the line in first place – at last – on the final stage of the 2016 Giro d’Italia in Milan, with his friends and family in attendance. Within minutes, delight turned to disappointment as he was relegated to twelfth, judged to have deviated from his line in the sprint for the line. So near, yet so far.
However, Nizzolo is not an eternal second for the rest of the season. 2016 was a step forward for the Trek-Segafredo sprinter. It was his most prolific year to date with seven victories, including a classy Italian national title, and the points competition at the Giro d’Italia.
He had consistent results throughout the year, taking third place at the Cyclassics Hamburg, fifth at the World Championship road race and a top-10 stage finish at all nine stage races he started.
But that missing home tour stage victory is still nagging away at him. His resolutions for 2017? “It’d be good to take that Giro stage win, then we’ll talk again,” he says, laughing.
Rouleur: Nine new riders have joined Trek-Segafredo for 2017, which is a big change of personnel. How was the first training camp?
Giacomo Nizzolo: The atmosphere was great, we already felt like we’d known each other for a long time. When you see motivated guys coming into the team, it’s normal for the level to go up. Atmosphere and motivation, those are the two things we need to have a good season.
Are there going to be any new guys in your lead-out train?
We have Koen de Kort with John Degenkolb, a very experienced lead-out man, who can help us to improve our organisation in the last kilometres. We have Brändle and other strong guys for the finale too.
On one hand, you had seven victories last year and won the maglia rossa; on the other, there was stage win disappointment at the Giro (above). How do you reflect on 2016?
I’ve talked about this Giro stage so much, it’s passed. I feel like I got this victory, but on the other hand, that day gave me extra motivation for the Italian championships.
Of course, it was a good season. I cannot say it was the best: you can always get more, for example, a stage in the Giro and probably something else.
Maybe this is a question you’ve asked yourself before: you’ve been second nine times and close many times to Giro d’Italia stage victory. What is this small difference between second and first place for you?
It depends. Sometimes I miss luck, sometimes somebody in front of me is stronger and sometimes maybe we lack a bit of organisation. Of course, I’ve made some mistakes sometimes. But in the end, I always did the best I could.
Anyway, every time I cross the line, I think ‘what could I do better next time?’ Hopefully this season will be the time when everything goes well to get the victory.
Are you a pure sprinter or more of a passista-veloce?
I don’t think I’m a pure sprinter because of my physique. I’m not so heavy and it’s clear that some riders are more powerful than me on the flat stages, so I have to look maybe for stages that are hillier.
When I was younger, I had Mario Cipollini as a reference point; I remember the challenge between him and Ivan Quaranta, that was one of the most exciting things about the Giro d’Italia [in 1999 to 2001] for the sprinters. Then I had McEwen, Petacchi and Boonen too, but more as a classics rider.
Cipollini won Milan-Sanremo, and it seems like it’s the perfect race for you too.
You’re right. Until now, I could never get to Sanremo in good shape, I always had small physical problems I just hope to get there in good condition one day and show, first to myself, that it’s a race that suits me. I love Milan-Sanremo and I hope to be there fighting for the victory one year.
You’re a man who likes his style and fashion. Have you made any design changes with your Italian national kit?
If the team let me, I’d try to do something new or different every time! But of course, I also understand they have some rules, which have to be respected.
[Ed: a few weeks after we conducted the interview, Nizzolo revealed a snazzy new lid.]
— Giacomo Nizzolo (@Giacomonizzolo) February 7, 2017
What are your interests outside of cycling?
Motorbikes; I have more of those than bicycles. I have a need for speed and for travel! In the off-season, I had time to visit some motorsport events. I live close to Monza and its track, then for motocross, there are many places. I’m a close friend of the owner of Ottobiano track, south of Milan, which has a motocross park. I enjoy spending time there when I can.
Being local to the region, what does the Tour of Lombardy mean to you?
To be honest, because it’s very hard, it’s not suited to my characteristics. But my training is often around here so I know everything about the race. I’ve been up the Ghisallo at least 50 times, though I try to avoid it as I don’t love the climbs.
In 2015 after the World Championships, I asked the team if I could do Lombardy because a lot of friends were coming to watch the race. On the descent of the previous climb, to Onno, I attacked with a few Etixx riders. The bunch caught us on the Ghisallo but I rode to the top with the leaders.
That was a special feeling, because ever since I was a junior, me and my friends went to the second-to-last corner of the Ghisallo to watch the race. They were there again; it was like being in a stadium. It gives you a lot of adrenaline, you don’t feel the pain in your legs.
The church on top protects all riders, from school kids to amateurs and professionals. I think that every cyclist feels a spiritual attachment there, not only me.
Ghisallo Winter Socks by Rouleur + The Wonderful Socks are available here.