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"It will be different for me this year because we have a strong team with [Michal] Kwiatkowski and [Peter] Kennaugh - so many good riders. I will ride a different race."






04.03.2016 @ 23:09 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Salvatore Puccio (Sky) can't wait to race on home turf again at Strade Bianche on Saturday, and is relishing the opportunity of doing battle on Tuscany's white gravel roads.


The Italian is hoping to improve upon his 13th-placed finish in the same race last season, and knows he'll be cheered on by a whole host of family and friends who will make the short trip from his home town near Assisi. caught up with the 26 year old just before he reconned the final 50 kilometres of the route with the rest of the team on Friday, and found him in great spirits.



"At the moment we have good weather - the sun is out and it's not too cold - but it looks like there's going to be rain for the last two hours of the race," he said. "If it comes down a lot it could make the course really dangerous. For sure, it will become a different race - the white roads will be very tough."


Puccio was the highest-placed finisher for Sky last year.


"We only started with five riders and I was the race leader, so I had a chance to show what I could do," he said. "Every year the race is quite similar, with the long gravel sector up the Monte Sante Marie the most crucial point. It is around 10km long and the peloton always splits there. The best riders are always at the front - and from there we still have one and a half hours of full gas riding to go! It will be different for me this year because we have a strong team with [Michal] Kwiatkowski and [Peter] Kennaugh - so many good riders. I will ride a different race.




"This race is different because the terrain isn't like the cobbles - it's totally different and it feels very different on the bike. All the Classics riders are still here, and they are the types of guys who tend to excel here, but this race requires a different style of riding to the cobbles.



"We're staying less than an hour from my home. A lot of people will come out to see me at the race - family, friends… so many people. Every time I ride in Italy there are people around the bus - it's great. These Italian races are always big moments in the season for me, and the support I get gives me a lot of motivation.


"I'm riding Tirreno-Adriatico next week, and then I have Milan-San Remo after that, so it's a nice block in Italy. All the races are on TV, and if you're an Italian rider, you become more popular if you stay on the front, give it your best shot and race well. Of course, it will be great to go back to Northern Europe for the cobbled classics, but for us Italians, this is a really exciting time."


Puccio is also looking forward to Tirreno-Adriatico.


"One stage there also finishes close to my hometown - stage four in Foligno," he said. It's just 20km from my house. Again, there will be so many of my family and friends there. They don't get many chances to see me during the season because we are always racing so far away - Belgium, France, Spain… So they make the most of seeing me when they can."



Puccio is mostly known as a domestique but also has personal ambitions.


"I would love to get some race wins. I've done a lot of work for the other guys in the four seasons I've been at Team Sky, so I would love to get some results in 2016. I am still pretty young at 26, but I know I'm coming into the prime years of my career now, so it's a great time for me to push on," he said.


Last weekend he was in action at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.


"It was two days of hard riding! Especially Saturday, the parcours was hard, particularly during the second half of the race. On Sunday there was so much wind and people were always attacking. At the end I was really tired," he said.



"I raced two stages of the Tour Down Under but fell sick and was forced to abandon. I recovered in time to ride the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and Herald Sun Tour though, and it was great to help Pete Kennaugh and Chris Froome to their wins. I went into those races feeling good - I'd had a long month of training before them - but it was just bad luck that when the racing started I got sick. Sometimes that happens.



"It's great to ride over there in January. For preparation it's much better than the cold temperatures over here. Your body is happier and reacts much better than in the cold. I rode over there for five weeks and it has stood me in great stead for these races which are coming up."



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