Salvatore Puccio is back in training and raring to go after a special 2017 both on and off the bike.
Life is good for the Italian, who recently got married and managed to squeeze a honeymoon into cycling’s ever-decreasing off-season. After three days in Cape Town, a safari in Kruger Park and a trip to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Puccio is now firmly in pre-season mode.
Catching up with TeamSky.com the 28 year old explained: “I came back from my honeymoon a week ago and went straight back into training. I’m starting a few days later than I have in previous seasons, but you have this one opportunity in your life to get married and go on a honeymoon, so I think it’s okay to change your training routine just once! I’m back on the bike now and pushing all the way through to Mallorca training camp in December.”
2017 in general has been a year to remember for Puccio, who played a key role in Team Sky and Chris Froome’s first Vuelta a Espana victory.
“Of course the Vuelta was the highlight of my season and an awesome experience, both for myself and the team. I had some really good form there and it’s the first time I’ve been part of a victory in a three-week Grand Tour. Everything went perfectly and as a team we did an amazing job for Chris across the three weeks. Everyone was there until the end. From a personal point of view it was really good for me as I was able to perform really well on the climbs. Every day I was able to give support to the team and to Chris. It was one of the best performances of my career.”
Vuelta victory did not come easy, with Froome’s early adoption of the red jersey on stage three meaning Puccio and his Team Sky team-mates had to shoulder the pressure of riding on the front for almost the entire race.
It’s really something I’ll never forget.
Remembering back Puccio added: “Chris took the jersey after three stages and we took it all the way to the finish. That was really hard and certainly when you get into the last week you become more and more scared to lose the jersey in the final few days. So as a rider you feel more stressed for that reason, as it would really be a shame to lose the jersey so late after all those days as a team working on the front. Obviously you never know what can happen and one day can change everything. So to arrive in Madrid with the whole team and cross line, and take that picture together on the podium – it’s unbelievable. It’s really something I’ll never forget.”
Puccio also lined up at his home Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia, in 2017. In his six seasons as a pro it’s the third time he’s tackled multiple Grand Tours in a season. Despite the relentless nature of three-week races, Puccio thrives in the endurance.
He admits: “I like to do the Grand Tours as it suits me more when I can recover day by day. I feel much better doing a Grand Tour than a one-day race from this perspective. On a Grand Tour you have a routine every day and for that reason I like to do two Grand Tours in a year. I also find doing two Grand Tours helps you going into the next season. If you can do the Giro and the Vuelta it works really well. Taking a rest after the Giro allows you to do another Grand Tour, and honestly I feel better in myself and my body doing a Grand Tour rather than some one-day races.”
Puccio witnessed first-hand the highs and lows of cycling in his two Grand Tour outings. The success and champagne of the Vuelta was contrasted with a crushing Giro d’Italia, which saw Team Sky’s two co-leaders, Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa, taken out in a crash along with most of the team.
“In the Giro we had a lot of bad luck there losing two leaders in one day. Just one crash, and in less than the space of one minute our GC challenge went away. After that stage we had to make a different plan with Landa. For me it was like the season before at the Vuelta, where we were in a position to win and then we lost everything at the start of stage 15. It was the same disappointment and these things definitely leave a scar. At the start of every Grand Tour you try to do your best and not make any mistakes, because you know that just a few minutes can change everything in the race.”
Despite this year’s bad luck at the Giro, Puccio has seen enough to believe Team Sky will be able to claim the pink jersey in the coming years.
“I think in the last few years there has always been something during the race. But I think in the future we will be able to win the race, hopefully a few times. As a team we have a long project and one year we are definitely going to win the Giro! Every year it seems like we’ve had something. A crash, some illness or an injury. I really hope soon we will win the Giro. To the domestique riders like me it means a lot and to ride for leaders and to win these big races gives me so much motivation.”
With that motivation now being translated to some hard pre-season miles, Puccio has two tough but simple goals in mind for the season ahead.
“The main goal for me is to step up again in 2018. Every year I have always tried to progress with my performances. I think in six years I have always managed to make a step up – small steps, but always upwards. I always try to continue that, and the aim is to be really efficient for the team. I want to be one of the best domestiques on the team and that means being consistent, and in the same condition from January to September/October. That’s my goal, to be in really good shape all season!”