Stefano Garzelli still believes he can be a factor in the Giro d’Italia.
The 36-year-old veteran and leader of the Acqua e Sapone team wants one more crack at the overall at the race he once won, all the way back in 2000 when he was heralded as the newest Italian GC star.
“I would like to race another Giro as a protagonist,” Garzelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Three years ago, I won two stages and last year, I won the mountain’s jersey. This year, we’ll see.”
Garzelli turned pro in 1997, riding as a domestique for Marco Pantani’s Mercatone Uno club. He soon mimicked Pantani’s look with a bandana and won the 2000 Giro.
“Pantani was the ‘pirate’ and I was the ‘bambino.’ Every time I think of Pantani, I get goose-bumps. Our careers were linked in so many ways,” Garzelli said. “Pantani was my captain, (Miguel) Indurain was my hero. He retired when I started to race, but it was an honor to win his race (GP Miguel Indurain) and to have him present me the trophy.”
His star faltered in 2002, when he tested positive for a masking agent during that year’s Giro and was removed from the race. Garzelli denied the charges and came back to finish second in the 2003 Giro and has since been a steady if unspectacular performer, mostly in Italian races.
Garzelli is entering his 14th season as a professional and said he’s still motivated to train and race.
“The secret is to begin again, as if each year is your first,” he said. “I am old pro and I want to share my knowledge with others, assuming they are prepared to listen.”
Garzelli admits this is probably his last season. He said he’s thankful to the support he’s received from Italian pro continental team, Acqua e Sapone, which he joined in 2007 after an unproductive, two-year stint at Liquigas.
“I want to stay in the world of cycling,” he said. “I am not sure that I want to be a sport director, though. We’ll see what happens. Right now, I am still a racer.”
He’ll make his season debut at the Tour de Mediterranean in France next month and race Tirreno-Adriatico, with his top goal for the season the Giro d’Italia in May. Garzelli said the climbing stage up l’Aquila near
his hometown will be one he will target.
“It will be beautiful. I’ve ridden the final 60km and there’s a climb with 50km to go, so there will be some selection,” he said. “It’s a stage that’s tailored to my characteristics, at least when I am in