Davide Formolo: "Expectation is like an extra gear to me"
The 22-year-old with a Giro stage win in his pocket and the advice of Ivan Basso to call upon is far from content to believe the hype. Hard work is the mantra of Davide Formolo
Davide Formolo is a picture of both youth and calm. That the two qualities are mutually exclusive in most cases says much for the Italian’s much-praised maturity.
The mantle he has taken on by winning the fourth stage of the Giro with a solo victory built on the attractive foundation of attacking flair is no less than “the new hope of Italian cycling”. He wears it lightly.
Today, Formolo is fulfilling a commitment to team sponsor Cannondale: riding out with journalists at the launch of two new models in Austria.
He descends back to the hotel from a presentation at a mountain-top café in carefree fashion, riding on the tops, chatting to the rider next to him, while I am hunched on the drops, fingers resting in readiness on brake levers, eyes on stalks, raking the road ahead for the sight of traffic rounding the hairpin bends.
There is nothing studied about Formolo’s indifference to the clear and present danger of riding into a blind bend on the wrong side of a road at 50kmh; only that, to his brain, events are unfolding at a far slower pace than those of the riders who surround him, and who, in all probability, present a greater danger to Formolo than traffic.
An hour later, in the hotel lobby, the impression gained of a pleasant and relaxed young man is confirmed. A mix up over our appointment, which has kept him waiting half-an-hour, is clearly of little concern. He is polite, friendly, open and, for a man forced the previous day to abandon the Italian national championships by a bout of diarrhoea, disconcertingly fresh.
“I was sick, so I did not do so well,” he smiles ruefully, brushing aside the disappointment that might be expected to accompany the misfortune of illness on a course he says suited him well. Corroborating evidence might be found in a repeat victory for Vincenzo Nibali. Formolo was second to the Astana leader last year, and might have expected to do at least as well again.
There is a knock-on effect, too. Formolo’s secondment to the Cannondale gig in Kitzbuehel was arranged to coincide with his participation in the Tour of Austria. This has been abandoned in light of his illness. Again, if there is disappointment, he hides it well. His programme has already been revised, and, most importantly, continues to offer a ride at the Giro di Lombardia.
The Italian public, one suspects, would accept nothing less. The boy from Negrar, a village in the Veneto with a population Formolo estimates at less than 200 people, was propelled to the front page of La Gazzetta dello Sport by his heroics on the road to La Spezia. A similar showing at the Tour of Lombardy might be too much for his supporters to take, though Formolo, one suspects, would not break stride.
“I don’t feel pressure. I like to be my best every day and to improve my power every day; in the end, we will see how the race goes. For me, it’s not pressure: it’s having one more gear. When I feel all of Italy with me, when you are at full gas, you need to do more.”
Formolo is a rider emerged from humble beginnings, even if the childhood he describes sounds nothing less than idyllic. The bike has been his single obsession since the age of five, and he would ride around the village beneath the windows of neighbours who gathered around a single television in May to cheer him to victory in Italy’s biggest race.
“It was an incredible stage. Everyone knew it was really, really difficult, never flat, so nervous, so many corners, so many climbs.”
Formolo took it well, thriving on the fast pace of the first climb of the day and paying close attention to a break from team-mate Tom Danielson, Tinkoff-Saxo’s Roman Kreuziger and Astana’s Dario Cataldo. When Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) jumped after them from a rapidly splitting peloton, Formolo followed.
The pair would spend some time together, cooperating at first, but when Formolo felt able to press on without his more experienced and accomplished rival, he did just that. He says he rode free from fear, pressure or limits. “I remember when I turned the corner, it was about 600 metres to go and I saw this red line on the horizon. ‘There is the finish. I can’t stop now.’ I was sprinting and after [I won] it was amazing.”
By winning, Formolo, touted by many as a future Giro winner, has announced himself on a stage that is likely always to be the most important in his career.
People who admire Formolo (and we can count Ivan Basso among that number), respect his work ethic most. He confirms this in the clearest statements. If he is obliged to do something, he must do it well, Formolo tells us. His motivation is to improve every day. Sacrifice brings rewards.
If these mantras sound pat, they are delivered with sincerity and a smile. He is not a dull boy; the bike is work and play to Formolo. He continues to work with coach Sebastian Weber and to that extent the merger of Cannondale and Slipstream to form Cannondale-Garmin has caused little disruption.
It has, however, brought him into contact with Charly Wegelius. The directeur was handsome in his praise of Formolo after the Giro stage win, attributing it to the rider’s instinct, even if the youngster himself is quick to credit Wegelius’s encouragement to attack in the pre-stage briefing.
“Before the start, [Charly] Wegelius [Formolo’s DS] said to me, ‘If 20 riders get away in a breakaway, that’s going to be your opportunity.’”
Formolo has spent the early part of the season improving his English, but is ready again to focus solely on the bike. There are many areas still to work upon, he admits, especially his time-trialling. He hopes to develop into a GC rider, and this skill will be essential.
“If you do this job, you need to love it, not like it,” Formolo says. “For me, riding a bike every day is another guy’s cup of coffee. If I don’t ride a bike, I feel tired all day, or not [fully] awake. I think: ‘I need something’. For that reason, the bike came to be my life. I can see my improvement every day. With some sacrifice, you can make a big difference. I like that.”
It’s a curiously technocratic statement of intent, but there is nothing of the geek about Formolo; nothing joyless about his pursuit of excellence. The photographer positions him artfully in front of Cannondale’s poster, an exercise that reduces Formolo to laughter. There is nothing of the prima donna about him, even if his talents might justify such behaviour.
The boy from the village has already made good, but, more importantly, is already wise enough to realise that he has much still to learn. With supporters like Basso, and a directeur as accomplished as Wegelius, he should attain still greater heights. His talent and work ethic are already beyond question.