Cioni set for busy spring

Dario prepared for Paris-Nice tester

By staff   Last updated: 8th March 2010

Dario Cioni is a key Team Sky man for the stage races, and his programme over the coming months reflects that. First up are Paris-Nice and the Tour of Catalunya, then Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, the Tour of Romandie, and finally what is likely to be the focal point of his season, the Giro d'Italia.

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After what felt like a long time waiting in the wings, Cioni got his race season underway last month in the Tour du Haut Var and followed that up with encouraging performances at both the GP dell'Insubria-Lugano and GP di Lugano. "It's been fun to watch the guys around the world," says the 34-year old Anglo-Italian (he was born in Reading), who spent much of January and February in Valencia, on Team Sky training camps.

"The great results they've had have given morale to all the team, and it's very important to get off the mark, so you're not stuck on zero victories. But the most impressive thing is that all the victories so far have come through team work. I'm sure that sometimes the plan hasn't worked to perfection, but it looks as though the team is always working as a team.

"Those early races for me in February were just about getting my feeling back, the feeling of being in the peloton.

"Paris-Nice is a good stage race, and I hope I'll be able to do some good work for the team, helping Simon [Gerrans] in the overall, and Greg [Henderson] in the sprints. Castilla y Leon will be my first big test before the Giro."

The training camps have allowed Cioni to get to know the team's staff, which he says has been beneficial. "I've been working most with Nigel [Mitchell, the nutritionist], but with Matt [Parker], who has helped me with my time trial positioning. Rod [Ellingworth] has also been very supportive in training, and the training camps have had a clear structure, which is important.

"The coaches have been very good for my body, and Steve [Peters, the team's psychiatrist] for the mind," he adds with another smile.

Cioni says he is a little lighter than in previous seasons, something which he credits to Mitchell. "It's the first time I've worked with a nutritionist inside the team," he says. "It makes it a lot easier, because he looks at menus, and makes sure they have a structure according to what you're trying to do."

Well oiled

A sideline for Cioni is the production of his own line of olive oil - he owns five hectares in his native Tuscany, producing 1,000 litres of oil a year. He supplies Team Sky with his olive oil, just as he has supplied previous teams (Cadel Evans is reputedly a big fan).

"For cycling teams olive oil makes sense," says Cioni, "because you need some fat, and this is real olive oil, not what you find on the shelf of a supermarket. Nothing is added. The riders like it. And Nigel likes it!"

But Cioni hasn't been signed to Team Sky to supply them with olive oil... as a rider, he is expected to share his vast experience with some of the younger riders, and to provide strong support in hilly races. He isn't someone who is likely to feature in a sprinter's lead-out train, however.

"At Fassa [Bortolo, one of his old teams] I used to try and stay with [sprinter Alessandro] Petacchi's train in the finale but when it got really fast I didn't have the punch. I can chase breaks all day. But once the break is caught, and we hit the last 5km, it becomes a bit too fast for me.

"On harder stages, when people are more tired, I am OK. But it is on the climbs I can really help - and that's what I want to do with Team Sky in the big races for me: Castilla y Leon, Romandie and the Giro."

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