Once in a lifetime: Damiano Caruso gets closer to the Giro d’Italia podium


Damiano Caruso would usually be in bed by this time on a day off, not sitting in front of a computer screen answering questions from the Giro d’Italia press room. Not that he was complaining.

“I’m really not used to having a press conference on the second day off. At 3 in the afternoon, I would normally take a nap,” Caruso joked. “But I’m glad I did this.”

At this point in the Giro, meanwhile, the attention of the sala stampa would usually be trained squarely on another Sicilian, but it has been a tough race for former Caruso teammate Vincenzo Nibali, who broke his wrist in training last month.

Caruso, meanwhile, came here with the task of supporting Mikel Landa in Bahrain Victorious, to be elevated to the role of team leader when the Basque was sent off by an accident at Cattolica in opening week.

Caruso, one of the most reliable Gregario for much of his career, has been a reliable presence at the head of this race. He was second best on Monday’s Passo Giau for short tappone and, by the finish line in Cortina d’Ampezzo, he finished second overall, 2:24 behind Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), who gives the impression of being in a race entirely of his own.

“At the moment I don’t think Bernal can be beaten. I don’t see any other runner who can do it,” Caruso said on Tuesday.

“The heart says one thing, but the legs decide everything. I would like to put him in difficulty but for me it is obvious that he is the strongest, especially in the climbs, and he has a strong team to support him. I have a lot of other options than just following him and hoping something might upset the race. ”

Caruso has already suggested it throughout this Giro. A week ago, when asked if he would already settle for a podium place in Milan, he was admirably blunt: “Who wouldn’t?”

If this apparent lack of ambition against Bernal risks disappointing the neutral, finishing on the podium of this Giro would mark the peak of Caruso’s career. Five days, three top finishes and a time trial from Milan, he is in a good position with 1:54 in hand over Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech), fourth.

Two years ago Caruso said Cycling that a stage victory in a Grand Tour was the only personal ambition he had left, although he added that achieving it would not change the tone of his career in one way or another. A podium at this Giro might not change Caruso’s life, but he acknowledges it’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

“I feel good because I have a great opportunity,” he said. “I have the opportunity to crown my career. It’s the kind of opportunity that doesn’t come very often to a runner like me. It might only happen once, so I’m very determined. to achieve it. “

Ride alone on the day off

Getting on the podium in Milan next Sunday would therefore represent a victory for Caruso, although in this interview with Cycling, he also explained how much more cycling is than just winning. He gently mocked the way cycling coverage, in Italy and elsewhere, focused on the champions while forgetting the thousands of simultaneous stories that sank beneath the surface of the field.

“It’s almost always the same trivial questions with the runners who win: “What are you expecting from Thursday’s race?” ‘What do I expect? Well I expect to have a great race, I would like to win ‘, “ he impassive then.

Caruso’s position on the overall standings means he’s now the subject of these questions and almost forced to trot these answers, at least for this week.

“I’m focused and I’m just going to follow the best riders in the GC,” he said of Wednesday’s summit finish at Sega di Ala, while also thinking of the Tokyo Olympics, where, under this form he might just be Italy’s best hope for a medal in the road race.

“I’m not doing the Tour de France so I will only be able to train instead of racing ahead, but I hope that doesn’t have too much of an impact on the end result.”

Despite this, there was still time at Caruso’s press conference to discuss the recent anniversary of the 1992 assassination of anti-Mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone. Caruso’s father, Salvatore, a policeman, had been in Falcone’s security service earlier in his career, giving personal resonance to an event that marked a turning point in Sicily’s history.

“It’s just to remember this moment. The important thing is to study what happened and continue teaching it to the next generation, so that the same things don’t happen again,” Caruso said. , which made it a point of honor to be based in Sicily. rather than on the Italian mainland or in a tax haven abroad during his professional career.

The 33-year-old also went his own way on Tuesday’s rest day. Although he placed in the top 10 of the three Grand Tours, he never faced this kind of daily attention and responsibility. While the Giro broke up for his last rest before his passage through the Alps, he opted for a rare moment of solitude.

“I rode alone today because I wanted to take a different route and I didn’t want to sideline my teammates,” said Caruso. “I rode the Passo San Pellegrino on my own. It was nice and calm to ride up there. It was a moment of relaxation, a moment to listen to my emotions and let go of a little stress.”

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